Van Sweringen Demonstration Homes: Philip Small

While most Clevelanders have never heard of the architect Philip Small, it is very likely that they have seen his work around town. In the 1920s, Small and his associate Charles Rowley became favorites of the Van Sweringen brothers, who commissioned them to design Shaker Square, the interior of the Higbee's department store on Public Square (now the site of the Horseshoe Casino), and the brothers' own Daisy Hill estate in Hunting Valley, to name a few. Separate from his work with the Vans, Small also designed nearby John Carroll University, the Cleveland Playhouse, the Karamu House, and a number of buildings on the Case Western Reserve University campus.

The Van Sweringens also entrusted Small and Rowley with the task of designing one of the four clusters of Demonstration Homes in Shaker Heights. Built early on in Shaker Heights's history, the Demonstration Homes provided potential home owners with examples of the high-quality type of home that could be found in the exclusive suburb. Indeed, the homes were a symbol of the dignified, up-scale community that the Van Sweringen Company desired to create, and they provided the foundation from which the city grew. The houses were designated as Shaker Heights Landmarks on June 27, 1983.

Small's five demonstration homes, built in 1924, lie along South Woodland Boulevard, just west of Warrensville Center Road at (from east to west) 20000 South Woodland, 19910 South Woodland, 19700 South Woodland, and 19600 South Woodland. The fifth is nearby at 3158 Morley Road. All of the houses were designed in various types of English style, are built of brick and stucco with wood shingle roofs, and feature Tudor half-timbering and leaded glass casement windows on their exterior. English architecture was popular during the development of Shaker Heights, and Van Sweringen Company newspaper advertisements from the 1920s favorably compared Shaker's ambience with the "charm of England." A 1926 ad even refers to Small's Demonstration Home at 19910 South Woodland Road as "a true modernization of the famous old country houses of Dickens' England." At this time, the idealized English countryside served as a symbol of peacefulness, beauty, and security to wealthy Clevelanders looking to escape an increasingly chaotic big city. Indeed, as the same 1926 ad asks, why "go to England, thousands of miles away, to visit that charm" when "we can live with it always in Shaker Village, thirty minutes away[?]"

Philip Small's masterfully designed Demonstration Homes helped further this conception of the English countryside in northeast Ohio, contributing to Shaker Heights' ultimate success. It is little wonder, then, that the Van Sweringens continued to turn to Small for the design of some of their most important construction projects.

Images

19910 South Woodland

19910 South Woodland

This English-style Demonstration Home at 19910 South Woodland road was designed by Philip Small in 1924. It became a City of Shaker Heights Landmark on June 27, 1983. Image courtesy of the City of Shaker Heights Planning Department View File Details Page

19600 South Woodland

19600 South Woodland

Philip Small designed this English-style Demonstration Home at 19600 South Woodland Road in 1924. It is estimated that it originally cost about $50,000 to build. The house was designated a City of Shaker Heights Landmark on June 27, 1983. Image courtesy of the City of Shaker Heights Planning Department View File Details Page

Newspaper Ad, 1925

Newspaper Ad, 1925

This 1925 Van Sweringen Company advertisement appeared in the Cleveland Plain Dealer. It described the Philip Small designed Demonstration Home at 19700 South Woodland Road as "a stone and stucco English country house." The ad also mentioned the "attached garage," "four master chambers," "two tiled baths," and "two maid's rooms with bath" that the house included. Historic image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections Color image courtesy of the City of Shaker Heights Planning Department View File Details Page

3158 Morley Road

3158 Morley Road

While the other Demonstration Homes designed by architect Philip Small sit along South Woodland Road, this English style house is located at 3158 Morley Road, about 450 feet south of South Woodland. Image courtesy of the City of Shaker Heights Planning Department View File Details Page

A New Euclid Avenue, 1927

A New Euclid Avenue, 1927

This cartoon, which is part of a larger Van Sweringen Company advertisement that ran in the Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1927, features three of the Demonstration Homes designed by Philip Small. In the lower right corner of the image is the house at 19700 South Woodland Road, followed by 19910 South Woodland Road, and then 20000 South Woodland Road. By the late 1920s, many of the mansions that made up "Millionaire's Row" along Cleveland's Euclid Avenue were being torn down as the street became increasingly more commercial than residential. Many of the city's wealthiest residents moved to the suburbs around this time. The dozens of mansions located on South Woodland Road in Shaker Heights would have been an attractive destination for Cleveland's elite. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. View File Details Page

"High, Wide, and Handsome"

"High, Wide, and Handsome"

This 1926 newspaper advertisement for the Demonstration Home at 19910 South Woodland Road touts its location -- "400 feet above the city's smoke and noise, bathed in clean sparkling country air" -- and praises the home's design, stating that its "English ancestry adds a grace and symmetry that assure for this a lasting place among the finer homes of greater Cleveland." Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. View File Details Page

"Is the fine art of living going out of stylez"

"Is the fine art of living going out of stylez"

This 1926 Van Sweringen Company advertisement compares the "whirl and turmoil" and "the roar and trampling rush of city traffic" to the "restful, peaceful atmosphere" of Shaker Heights, where there is "riding, boating, tennis, and golf at our very doors" and "working in our gardens and walking out into the countryside" keeps residents healthy and happy. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Division of Special Collections. View File Details Page

Shaker Square

Shaker Square

Philip Small designed Shaker Square for the Van Sweringens in the late 1920s. The "Square" -- really an octagon -- is actually located in Cleveland, just west of the Shaker Heights border. Its four American Colonial-style buildings have housed a wide variety of stores, restaurants, and offices throughout the years. This aerial view of Shaker Square from the 1950s looks west down Shaker Boulevard. In the top left corner of the image can be seen a section of Cleveland's Buckeye-Shaker neighborhood. Once home to the city's large population of Hungarians, this neighborhood is now predominantly African-American. Image courtesy of the Shaker Historical Society View File Details Page

Greenbrier Hotel & White House

Greenbrier Hotel & White House

In 1929, Philip Small designed the north entrance of the Greenbrier Hotel, pictured at left. Located in the southeast corner of West Virginia, the origins of the swanky Greenbrier date back to the 1850s. The Van Sweringen brothers gained ownership of the hotel when they purchased the Chesapeake & Ohio Railroad in the 1920s. They hired Small to renovate the hotel. Small's work on the Greenbrier's north entrance has been compared to the design of the White House's north portico (front entrance). Both are designed in the Federal style, an American style of architecture popular during the nation's early years which combines elements of Georgian and Classical design. The Federal style shares many similarities with the Georgian Revival architecture found in Small's Shaker Heights buildings, such as their porticoed entrances and symmetrical exteriors. Greenbrier image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons & Bobak Ha'Eri White House image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Michael Rotman, “Van Sweringen Demonstration Homes: Philip Small,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 27, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/431.
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