Filed Under Architecture

The House That Brass Built

The Farnan Family builds one of Detroit Shoreway's Treasures

The yellow pastel colored, Italianate style house on the corner of W. 73rd Street and Herman Avenue, which in recent years has been restored to its nineteenth century grandeur, was built by a member of the family that pioneered Cleveland's brass industry.

Cleveland's first brass foundry was built in 1852 on Center Street (located in the East Bank of the Flats) by Irish immigrant Walter Farnan. The business quickly flourished as brass was a important metal alloy used in many products manufactured in the nineteenth century. It was especially critical in the construction of municipal water works systems, and thus Farnan Brass Works became an early supplier in the 1850s to the Cleveland waterworks system.

In 1860, Walter Farnan's oldest son James, now active in the family business, purchased 12 acres of farmland on Detroit Avenue in what was then northern Brooklyn Township. Today it is part of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood of the west side of Cleveland. According to county tax records, James Farnan, who became owner of Farnan Brass Works upon the death of his father in 1866, built the house which is the subject of this story in 1870. Unfortunately, James did not live long enough to enjoy his grand house. He died from cancer in 1875 at age 44. Mary Farnan, his widow, not only completed the task of raising the couple's four surviving children but, in addition, took over the reins of Farnan Brass Works, running the company for 36 years until her own death in 1911. She was so successful as a business woman that, in 1894, she was able to hire noted local architect W. D. Benes to design an extensive remodeling of her home.

The house that brass built was originally located on what is now the northeast corner of W. 70th Street and Detroit Avenue. Several years after Mary Farnan's death, the house was purchased by Thomas "Coal Oil" Masterson, an Irish immigrant, political activist and local entrepreneur, who, in 1917, moved the house to Kilbane Town. Masterson and his family lived in the house on the corner of W. 73rd and Herman for nearly 50 years. It was sold by the family in 1968 shortly after the death of Thomas Masterson's widow, Ida.

In the late 1970s and early 1980s, as efforts were undertaken by concerned citizens to revitalize Cleveland's historic Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, efforts were also made to restore the house that brass built. Those efforts received a significant boost In the early 1990s when the Cleveland Land Bank obtained title to the property and sold it to Tim and Mimi Elliot, two former suburbanites who had moved back into the City and had begun to restore a number of Cleveland's historic homes. It took years of patience, hard work and quality craftsmanship to restore the Farnan's Italianate mansion to its nineteenth century grandeur. Today, the house that brass built is once again a neighborhood jewel.

Images

The House that Brass Built The house at 7302 Herman Avenue was built in 1870 by James Farnan, scion of the family that operated Cleveland's first brass foundry. The house was originally located on what today would be the corner of West 70th Street and Detroit Avenue. This area of the west side was then outside the city limits and within Brooklyn Township. Creator: Jim Dubelko
On the Brink By the late twentieth century, James Farnan's home, which had been moved to its "Kilbane Town" location in 1917, was vacant and in peril of facing the wrecking ball. It was saved and restored by Tim and Mimi Elliot, two suburbanites who moved back into the City of Cleveland. Creator: Mimi Elliot
Cleveland's first Brass Manufacturer Walter Farnan, an immigrant from Ireland, who moved his brass foundry business from New York City to Cleveland in 1852, was Cleveland's brass industry pioneer. As the above article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer edition of December 31, 1862 , reveals, Farnan Brass Works was an early supplier of the Cleveland Waterworks system. By the early twentieth century, Cleveland industry was noted as producing the highest quality brass in the country. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Located in Old Cleveland Centre From 1852 until 1980, Farnan Brass Works was operated out of this industrial building on Center Street in the East Bank of the Flats. This area of the Flats was originally called Cleveland Centre or Gravity Place, and was intended by its early nineteenth century developers to be the center of Cleveland's international trade. Streets in the area bore names like China, Russia, German, French and British. Of these international street names, only French Street remains today. The above photograph was taken in 1922. Creator: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Pioneering Women Business Leaders In 1914, the Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article about the national success of Cleveland's brass manufacturing industry. Katherine Farnan, who took over the operations of Farnan Brass Works after the death of her mother Mary in 1911, was lauded for running the oldest brass manufacturing plant in Cleveland. Farnan Brass was controlled and operated by these two pioneer Cleveland business women from 1875 until 1929, during which time the business prospered. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
Thomas A. Masterson (1871-1965) Nicknamed "Coal Oil" because he supplemented his income in his early career by selling coal oil on the west side of Cleveland, Thomas A. Masterson, an Irish immigrant, saved the James Farnan mansion from almost certain destruction in the early twentieth century by moving it in 1917 from its original site on Detroit Avenue to the corner of West 73rd Street and Herman Avenue. Source: Cleveland State University Library Special Collections
A Stairway for Domestic Servants This photograph of the interior of the restored James Farnan Italianate mansion reveals the quality workmanship of the staircase built for the domestic help. In the late nineteenth century, the Farnan family employed a number of domestic servants. One of those was Ida King. In 1901, Ida married Thomas A. Masterson, who purchased the James Farnan mansion in 1917 and moved it to its current location. It must have been a sweet homecoming for Ida. Creator: Jim Dubelko
Quality Restoration Work In 1993, Tim and Mimi Elliot, two suburbanites who had moved back to the City of Cleveland, purchased the James Farnan mansion, and, as this photograph of the dining room reveals, restored the Italianate mansion to its nineteenth century grandeur. Creator: Mimi Elliot

Location

7302 Herman Ave, Cleveland, OH 44102

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “The House That Brass Built,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 29, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/524.