Filed Under Architecture

Fenn Hall

Imagine walking into this building located on Cleveland State University's campus near East 24th Street and Chester Avenue, and negotiating with a salesman to buy a Buick! Before it saw institutional use, this building constructed in 1924 was the Ohio Motors Building. It was a car showroom and service building, which sold and serviced Buick automobiles and, later, Lincoln-Mercury automobiles.

In the early 1940s, one year after Pearl Harbor was bombed and the United States entered World War II, the building's top floor was converted to a school to teach women hired by two local aircraft factories how to "help build the bombing planes that will rain destruction on Berlin and Tokyo."

In the 1950s, Fenn College, CSU's predecessor, bought the Ohio Motors building, renovated it, and renamed it Stilwell Hall in honor of Fenn College Board of Trustees' chairman Charles J. Stilwell. Ever since its acquisition by Fenn College, the building has been home to the Fenn School of Engineering. When the school was renamed the Washkewicz College of Engineering in 2013, Stilwell Hall was rechristened Fenn Hall to preserve the Fenn name's long association with the engineering program. The "Foxes' Den Lounge" located in Fenn Hall in what was formerly the auto showroom is the lone reminder of a time when the campus mascot was the Fenn "Foxes" rather than the CSU "Vikings."

For over half a century, Fenn Hall has provided training for area engineers and provided Fenn College--and now Cleveland State University--with much-needed classrooms, labs, a library, and an auditorium.

While Fenn Hall is located closer to Chester Avenue than to Euclid Avenue, it nonetheless is connected not only to Cleveland's early retail automobile industry, but also to Cleveland's nineteenth-century millionaires. Fenn Hall sits on a portion of what formerly were the grounds of the Tom L. Johnson mansion.

Images

Stilwell Hall - Entranceway Fenn Hall, formerly called Stilwell Hall, began as the Ohio Motors Co. building, built in 1924 as an automobile showroom and service department. It was purchased by Fenn College and substantially renovated in 1959. This photo of the entranceway to the new campus building was taken in 1961. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
Aerial view of Fenn campus This photograph taken exactly 50 years ago shows the Fenn College campus in 1962. Fenn tower is the most prominent building in the photograph. Stilwell Hall, now known as Fenn Hall, is seen behind it on the left side of the photograph. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections Date: 1962
Located on mansion grounds Fenn Hall, originally the Ohio Motor Co. building, was built in 1924 on the grounds of what was once part of the Tom L. Johnson Estate. The above 1898 Cleveland Atlas map shows the Johnson Estate grounds outlined in red. A part of Fenn Hall sits on grounds at one time occupied by a barn on the Johnson Estate. Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection
Tom L. Johnson Mansion The mansion of Cleveland's famous early twentieth century Progressive mayor was located on Millionaire's Row at 2342 Euclid Avenue. When the Ohio Motors Co. building was built in 1924, the mansion was located immediately to the south of the new building. Three years later, Tom L. Johnson's mansion, like most of the mansions of Millionaire's Row, was razed. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
Tom L. Johnson (1854-1911) Tom L. Johnson is best known to history as an early twentieth century Cleveland mayor who was considered to be one of the most progressive mayors in early twentieth century America. Johnson served as Cleveland mayor for eight years from 1902-1909, when he was defeated in his bid for another term. What is less well known is that Johnson was also one of Cleveland's richest men. He became a streetcar tycoon in the late nineteenth century and he built a mansion on the north side of Euclid Avenue which was second to none. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections
The Ohio Motors Co. Building From 1924 to1959 , Fenn Hall was the Ohio Motors Co. building. It was the site of a dealership which sold and serviced Buick automobiles in downtown Cleveland. Later, a Lincoln-Mercury dealership operated out of the building. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections Date: 1937
From Auto Showroom to College Lounge The Ohio Motors Co. building contained a showroom which displayed some of the finest automobiles sold to the Cleveland public from the 1930s until the 1950s. After Fenn College acquired the building in 1956, the building's showroom was converted into a student lounge, known as the Foxes Den Lounge--after the Fenn College mascot. It retains that name to this day, even those Cleveland State University's mascot is a Viking. Source: Cleveland State University Library, Special Collections

Location

Metadata

Jim Dubelko, “Fenn Hall,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 27, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/529.