Cogswell Hall

For more than a Century Providing Affordable Housing for People at Risk

In Benjamin S. Cogswell's 1908 obituary, the Cleveland Plain Dealer noted that, following his election in 1875 as Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts, his wife "began one of the most vigorous liquor campaigns ever seen in this county. It resulted in the indictment of nearly 1,000 saloon keepers. Cogswell dropped out of politics at the end of his term." These few sentences say little about Benjamin Cogswell and more about his wife, Helen Marion Cogswell, the founder of Cogswell Hall and an early era activist in the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), the national organization founded in Cleveland in 1874 to promote sobriety and to lobby for the prohibition of the manufacture and sale of alcohol in the United States.

After her husband retired from politics in 1878, Helen Cogswell shifted her work at the WCTU into a different arena. She became a member of the Committee on Prison and Jail Visitation. She visited jails all over Cuyahoga County, speaking to incarcerated women, listening to their stories and providing them with moral encouragement. And she advocated that the WCTU establish a home for these "friendless" women so that, upon their release from jail, they could have a chance to become useful members of society. In 1892, acting on Cogswell's recommendations, the WCTU created the first "Training Home for Friendless Girls" in a rented space at Forest Avenue (East 37th Street) and Scovill Avenue (Community College Drive). While the home initially focused on the rehabilitation of young women already in jail, by 1897 it began engaging in more preventive action--providing a home and training that would keep young women without friends or family out of jail.

In 1899, the Training Home for Friendless Girls moved to the west side of Cleveland and into a large house at the corner of Duane Avenue (West 32nd Street) and Franklin Boulevard, after an anonymous donor purchased the house and donated it to the WCTU. The Training Home remained at this location until 1914 when the present larger house at 7200 Franklin Boulevard was built. It is three stories tall, has a brick facade and is English gothic style. The architect of the new house, which has 22 single rooms for residents, was Charles Hopkinson, who designed a number of buildings on Franklin Boulevard, including the Franklin Circle Masonic Temple. Helen Cogswell, who had founded the Home for Friendless Girls in 1892, lived long enough to see the home move into and thrive at its new location. She died four years later In 1918, at the age of 85.

Over the decades that followed, the names and residential policies of the Training Home changed as urban life in Cleveland threw different challenges at young women and others at risk in the community. In 1952, the house was renamed Cogswell Hall to honor its founder. In the same year, it became primarily a short-term residence for young women attending nearby trade or business schools, or working at low income jobs. Then, in the early 1970s, Cogswell Hall shifted its focus, and opened its doors to low-income elderly women, whom it determined were now the members of the community with the greatest need for affordable housing. In the 1990s, there was another change when Cogswell Hall began providing housing to single adult women of all ages. Two decades later, in 2009, when a new addition was added to the original house and separate men and women bathroom facilities installed, federal Fair Housing laws became applicable to Cogswell Hall and it began renting rooms to men for the first time in its history.

A Monument where Girls Cease to be Friendless. That's what the Plain Dealer called the Training Home for Friendless Girls in an article published on March 10, 1918, just a little over a month following the death of founder Helen Marion Cogswell. Nearly 100 years have now have passed since her death. Over those years, Cogswell Hall has evolved into a monument not only to the good work which she did, but also to the work which her successors have done and continue to do to this day, providing affordable housing to both men and women in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood.

Images

Cogswell Hall

Cogswell Hall

This three- story house of English Gothic design at 7200 Franklin Boulevard with 22 single rooms was built in 1914 specifically to become the new Training Home for Friendless Girls. It was later renamed Cogswell Hall, after its founder, Helen G. Cogswell. For more than 100 years now, the Hall has been providing services for women at risk, including low-income housing for elderly women, at this location in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. | Source: Cogswell Hall View File Details Page

Helen Marion Cogswell (1832-1918)

Helen Marion Cogswell (1832-1918)

Born Helen Gee, she married Benjamin S. Cogswell in Geauga County, Ohio, in 1855. In about 1860, the couple moved to Cleveland, where Benjamin obtained a job as a deputy clerk in the Court of Common Pleas. The couple had two children, who lived to adulthood, married and had children, but sadly who both died from illnesses before either Benjamin or Helen. In the 1870s, Helen became active in the Women's Christian Temperance Union, and, as a member of that organization founded what eventually became known as Cogswell Hall in 1892, a shelter for women at risk. The Hall, located at 7200 Franklin Boulevard in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood, is celebrating its 125th anniversary in 2017. | Source: Cogswell Hall View File Details Page

Golden Anniversary

Golden Anniversary

In 1905, Benjamin and Helen Cogswell celebrated their 50th anniversary, a rare occurrence in early twentieth century America. So much so that the Plain Dealer on April 2 published this article about the upcoming event. The Cogswells were marrired on April 4, 1855, the day after her 23rd birthday, and the day before his 24th. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

First West Side Training Home

First West Side Training Home

In 1898, the Women's Christian Temperance Union purchased this house--known as the Sheldon House--on the southwest corner of Duane Avenue (West 32nd Street) and Franklin Boulevard. It would be the organization's first west side training home for "friendless girls." This article from the February 2, 1899 edition of the Cleveland Plain Dealer announces the upcoming opening of the house. The WCTU later sold the house to German (Fairview) Hospital which used it as a nurses home. The house was later razed. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

A Monument to Helen Cogswell

A Monument to Helen Cogswell

Shortly after the death of Helen Marion Cogswell in January 1918, the Cleveland Plain Dealer published this article, calling the Training Home for Friendless Girls which she founded, a better monument to her life than any "tall marble shaft or weeping angel" in a cemetery. The Home is known today as Cogswell Hall and it is still located at 7200 Franklin Boulevard, where it has now sat for more than 100 years. | Source: Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library, Special Collections View File Details Page

1951 Reunion

1951 Reunion

On October 13, 1951, women who had at one time resided and trained at the Training Home for Friendless Women (Cogswell Hall), gathered together at the Home to celebrate their first reunion. Plans were made at the reunion to form a 7200 Club for all former residents. Honored at the reunion was Miss Elizabeth Fisher, seated second from the left. She was matron at the Training Home from 1924-1948. This photo was donated to Cogswell Hall by Viola Thomas Feazel, standing, fifth from the left. | Source: Cogswell Hall View File Details Page

Birthday Party at Cogswell Hall

Birthday Party at Cogswell Hall

In this photograph taken in 1955, young women, who resided at Cogswell Hall, some of whom attended nearby trade or businesses schools, celebrate one of their birthdays. | Source: Cogswell House View File Details Page

Renovation and Expansion

Renovation and Expansion

From 2007 to 2009, Cogswell Hall renovated its historic house, constructing an addition to it, and providing bathroom facilities for both men and women. When construction was completed, it opened its doors for the first time in its history to male residents. This photograph was taken in 2009. | Source: Cogswell Hall View File Details Page

A History Lesson

A History Lesson

Judge Raymond L. Pianka of the Cleveland Housing Court is shown in this photo giving a talk at Cogswell Hall on December 3, 2014. The subject was the history of the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. Judge Pianka was an active supporter of the work done at Cogswell Hall to provide affordable housing to low-income people in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. | Source: Cogswell Hall View File Details Page

Cite this Page:

Jim Dubelko, “Cogswell Hall,” Cleveland Historical, accessed June 28, 2017, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/803.
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