Coventry Village Library

Harry Potter and his friends would feel right at home in the Coventry Village Library, a brick Tudor Revival and Jacobean-style building that sits on a gentle grassy slope near the intersection of Coventry Road and Euclid Heights Boulevard. The building features many historical details, including a large fireplace, Arts and Crafts tilework, and medieval light fixtures.

Designed by John H. Graham & Co., which also drew plans for Fairmount Presbyterian Church nearly a decade before, the Coventry Village Library opened as the main library for Cleveland Heights in 1926. Built on land originally platted as part of Grant W. Deming's Forest Hill residential allotment, the library, along with Coventry School, were the only non-residential structures in Deming's development.

In 1961, the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Libraries system boasted the country's second highest book circulation among comparably sized municipalities. The growth of these two suburbs strained the library's ability to serve public needs, so in 1968, the library board opened a large new main library on Lee Road, demoting Coventry to branch status. The library languished and fell into disrepair after the Lee Road facility opened.

A new chapter in the library's history began with the building's sale in 1974 to the Fairmount Center for Creative and Performing Arts, a non-profit arts organization formed four years earlier in Novelty, Ohio. The Fairmount Center hoped to extend its reach to a larger population and used the library to provide fine arts services to the CH-UH and East Cleveland school systems, and to run dance programs for Cuyahoga Community College and Lake Erie College. The Fairmount Center leased two main-floor rooms back to the library, so Coventry remained open.

Residents expressed growing dissatisfaction as hours and services were pared back. After failing to secure a long-term lease, concerned citizens, rallied by Shirley Hyatt, gathered more than 2,000 signatures on a petition in 1979 to get the library to buy back its building. The library board, however, saw the building as decrepit and hoped to obtain federal Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding through the city to open a larger library in developer Lewis Zipkin's CoventrYard mall development across Euclid Heights Boulevard. Two factors--city council's refusal to allocate CDBG monies to the library and the Fairmount Center's worsening financial woes--combined to persuade the board to repurchase Coventry Library in 1980.

After an extensive renovation in 1981, Coventry Village Library reopened. Its role as a center for fine arts, however, did not disappear. The Pottery Cooperative of the Heights Guild of Artists and Artisans (later renamed Cleveland Clay Works) purchased ceramic studio equipment, including a kiln, from the Fairmount Center and continued to serve as a pottery-making center. Coventry Village Library has retained its longtime role as a community center, offering musical and theatrical performances (including those for the deaf), poetry readings, and a forum for community meetings and public lectures.

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High Ceilings, High Windows, Wooden Shelves
Dennis Coughlin fondly recalls the features inside the Coventry Library.
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