The Leader Building

Once Cleveland's Largest and Most Elegant Office Building

In 1910, Daniel Rhodes Hanna, a wealthy industrialist and son of legendary political kingmaker Marcus Hanna, bought the Cleveland Leader, an historic, but struggling, daily newspaper. The Leader's offices were at the time located in a small two-story building on the south side of Superior Avenue, just west of that street's intersection with East Sixth Street. Directly across Superior, a massive five-story building was slowly going up.  Built in two phases, and stretching all the way from Superior Avenue to Rockwell Avenue, it was the new home of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, the city's leading morning newspaper.

Over the next three years, "Dan" Hanna would invest heavily in the newspaper industry in an attempt to increase the circulation of the Leader and make it, as it had once been in the nineteenth century, a viable competitor of the Plain Dealer. In 1912, he purchased the Cleveland News, giving him control of an afternoon, as well as a morning, daily. Then, from 1913 to 1914, he engaged in a nasty and costly circulation war with the Plain Dealer.  And finally, he tore down the Leader's two-story building and replaced it with an elegant, state-of-the-art 14-story building, which not only dwarfed the new Plain Dealer building across the street, but became the largest office building erected in Cleveland to date.  

Despite the magnitude of Hanna's efforts, and the long shadow which the new Leader-News Building cast--literally--on its competitor across the street, the Cleveland Leader continued to struggle in the newspaper industry and, in 1917, it went out of business. But, though the newspaper itself disappeared from the city, the building Hanna erected did not. Later renamed "The Leader Building," it has now stood on the corner of East Sixth and Superior for more than a century, and, though no longer downtown Cleveland's largest office building, it remains one of its most elegant and historic.

The Leader Building was erected in 1912-1913 on grounds that were already steeped in Cleveland history. Since 1854, most of the site had been home to Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, the place where many of the city's pioneer merchants and industrialists first worshiped. In 1902, after the Episcopal Diocese had relocated to its present-day site on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East 22nd Street, the Wardens and Vestrymen of Trinity sold the church's property on Superior Avenue to Ralph King, then downtown's largest real estate developer and a patron and future President of the Board of Trustees of the Cleveland Museum of Art.

In 1905, King built a small two-story structure--call it the first Leader Building--on the site of the old Trinity Cathedral, wedging it in between the Arcade Building to the west and the Samuel Raymond mansion, by this time a boarding house with a one-story commercial addition attached to its front, to the east. This first Leader Building was standing for only five years when Dan Hanna bought the Cleveland Leader and then arranged for the construction of the second and much larger Leader Building, which would cover all of the grounds once occupied by Trinity Cathedral and its Parish House, as well as those of the Samuel Raymond mansion on the corner.

The new Leader Building was designed by Charles A. Platt, a New York architect whom Eleanor Roosevelt once referred to as "an architect of great taste." Platt designed the Sara Delano Roosevelt townhouse in New York, which is now an historic landmark, as well as many other buildings across the country, a number of which remain standing, including the Smithsonian's Freer Art Gallery in Washington, D.C. Platt's plan called for the Leader Building to occupy nearly all of the large site at the corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. The rectangular-shaped Beaux-Arts style building with a limestone block exterior takes up 150 feet of the site's 160 feet of frontage on Superior Avenue and 215 feet of the 220 feet of depth on East Sixth Street. It has a total of more than 300,000 square feet of interior space, almost 250,000 square feet of which over the years has been built-out for offices. The interior of the building is constructed with many notable quality materials, and features marble walls, maple wood floors, a grand lobby with columns, wrought iron screens and other ornamentation, and bronze elevators said to have been designed by Tiffany.

When the Leader Building first opened in 1913, it housed the presses of the Cleveland Leader and the Cleveland News in its basement. Its first floor was entirely occupied by the business offices of the two newspapers and the fourteenth (top) floor by the staffs of the two separate editorial departments. The remaining 12 floors were leased to a variety of business tenants, including the prestigious law firm of Squires, Sanders and Dempsey, which rented the entire 12th floor. After the Cleveland Leader went out of business in 1917, the Cleveland News continued to occupy the basement, and first and 14th floors of the Leader Building until 1926, when it moved to a new and more modern newspaper plant building at East 18th Street and Superior Avenue. The basement, which formerly held printing presses, became home to the Colonnade Cafeteria, which served building tenants and others working downtown for the next 60 years.

As the years passed, the Leader Building became known not for the newspapers once printed there, but instead for the many law firms that continued to locate there. In the early years of the twenty-first century, however, a glut of available office space in the downtown area developed and tenants began to leave older buildings like the Leader Building. In 2014, with its occupancy rate declining, the building was sold to K & D Properties, a local company specializing in real property management. In 2016, K & D, in response to a demand for more residential units in downtown Cleveland, began converting the upper floors of the Leader Building into apartments. It is a process that, in recent years, has given new life to many downtown buildings, and now promises to give new life to the historic Leader Building.

Images

Grand Superior Avenue.

Grand Superior Avenue.

A 1920 postcard featuring three buildings on Superior Avenue in Downtown Cleveland. From left to right, they are: The Hollenden Hotel, the Leader Building, and the Arcade. The Hollenden Hotel was razed in 1962, but the other two iconic Cleveland buildings remain standing. | Creator: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

Trinity Church

Trinity Church

The first Episcopal parish on the east side of the Cuyahoga River, it was founded in 1826. Its first church was located on St. Clair Avenue. In 1854, the parish moved into a new church on the south side of Superior Avenue near Bond (East Sixth) Street. While on this site, Trinity Church became Trinity Cathedral when in 1875 the Ohio Episcopal Diocese was formed and headquartered in Cleveland. The church remained on this site for more than fifty years, before the parish and diocese relocated to Euclid's Millionaires' Row in the last decade of the nineteenth century. The Superior Avenue property was sold in 1902 and the church (shown in this 1876 wood cut print) torn down in 1904. The site is now occupied by the Leader Building. | Creator: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

1892 Map of Downtown Cleveland

1892 Map of Downtown Cleveland

The intersection of Bond (East Sixth) Street and Superior Avenue is identified by the red square drawn on the map. In this year, Trinity Cathedral and the mansion of Samuel Raymond occupied the site of the present-day Leader Building. | Creator: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection View File Details Page

Superior Avenue and Bond Street in 1902

Superior Avenue and Bond Street in 1902

The buildings shows are (from left to right): Hollenden Hotel, Samuel Raymond mansion (with small commercial building added to its front), Trinity Episcopal Cathedral, and the Trinity Cathedral parish house. None of the buildings remain standing today. The Hollenden Hotel was razed in 1962. Trinity Cathedral and its parish house in 1904. And the Raymond Mansion in 1911. The entire shown area west of East Sixth Street is now occupied by the Leader Building. | Creator: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

The First Leader Building

The First Leader Building

Erected in on the south side of Superior Avenue near Bond (East Sixth) Street in 1905 by Ralph King, a large downtown real estate developer and arts patron, the building was designed to be a temporary structure until a skyscraper could be designed and built on the site. The Cleveland Leader newspaper, and other tenants, occupied the building from 1905 until 1912, when it was torn down and the new 14-story Leader Building constructed. This photo was taken in circa 1905. | Creator: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

The Plain Dealer Building

The Plain Dealer Building

The Cleveland Plain Dealer in 1896 was the first city newspaper to relocate from the historic newspaper row located in the Warehouse District to the Superior Avenue-East Sixth Street area, which, in the early twentieth century, became Cleveland's new newspaper row. From 1896-1908, the Plain Dealer occupied a civil-war era building on this site at the northwest corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth, until a disastrous fire in 1908 destroyed that building. The new Plain Dealer building, shown in this 1924 photograph, was built at the same location,but on a larger site, in two phases between 1908 and 1912. The Plain Dealer remained at this location until 1932, when it purchased the Cleveland News and moved to the latter's printing plant and offices at Superior Avenue and East 18th Street. The former Plain Dealer building was sold to the Cleveland Public Library which used it as its annex building until 1994, when it was razed to make room for the new Louis Stokes Wing of the Main Library. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

Daniel Rhodes Hanna

Daniel Rhodes Hanna

Son of legendary political kingmaker, Marcus A. Hanna, Dan decided to enter the newspaper business in 1910, perhaps persuaded to do so by his brother-in-law Joseph Medill McCormick, owner of the Chicago Tribune. He invested a small fortune in the years 1910-1917 to make the Cleveland Leader the city's top daily newspaper, but in the end he failed to do so. The Leader, founded in 1846, went out of business under his watch in 1917. This photo of Hanna was taken in 1921, the year he died. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

Leader Building Footprint

Leader Building Footprint

This portion of the 1912 Sanborn Insurance Map of downtown Cleveland shows the proposed location for the new 14-story Leader Building on the southwest corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. Actually, by 1912, the building was already going up and was completed in 1913. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Map Collection View File Details Page

New Home of the Leader and News

New Home of the Leader and News

So proclaimed the Cleveland Leader on May 18, 1913, the day that it and the Cleveland News moved into the new Leader-News Building on the corner of Superior Avenue and East Sixth Street. The Leader would only be around for another four years, but the Cleveland News remained a tenant in the building until 1926 when it moved to a new location at Superior Avenue and East 18th Street. (The News was purchased in 1932 by the parent company of the Cleveland Plain Dealer and it continued to be published in Cleveland until 1960.) After the News moved out of the Leader Building, the building quickly became better known as an office building for lawyers than as the former publishing site of two of Cleveland's historic daily newspapers. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Newspaper Microfilm Collection View File Details Page

Early Exterior and Interior Photos

Early Exterior and Interior Photos

The June 1913 issue of the Architectural Record featured an article on the architectural significance of the new Leader Building in Cleveland. A number of photographs were inserted into the article, including these four which, proceeding clockwise from the one at the top left, show: (1) exterior of the building front facade; (2) Superior Avenue entrance way; (3) the first floor business office of the Leader and News; and (4) building elevators reputed to have been designed by Tiffany. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Collection View File Details Page

A Tall Building on Superior Avenue

A Tall Building on Superior Avenue

This 1913 photograph, taken in the year that the Leader Building opened, shows that, not only was it, by total square feet, Cleveland's largest office building, but it was also, at this time, the tallest building on south side of Superior Avenue between Public Square and East Ninth Street. | Source: Cleveland Public Library, Digital Gallery View File Details Page

Leader Building - 2016

Leader Building - 2016

A view of the Leader Building from the north side of Superior Avenue looking west toward East Sixth Street and Public Square. While the 14-story Leader Building, when built, was the tallest building on the south side of Superior Avenue between Public Square and East Ninth Street, today it is dwarfed by two much taller nearby buildings--the 28-story Fifth Third Center (left) built in 1991 and the 45-story 200 Public Square Building (right) built in 1985. In 2016, the current owners of the building, K & D Properties, began converting the Leader Building into a mostly residential apartment building. | Creator: Jim Dubelko View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jim Dubelko, “The Leader Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed July 24, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/770.

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