Filed Under Architecture

Fenway Hall Hotel

On a chilly evening in November 1923, hundreds of Clevelanders gathered for a tour of Fenway Hall, “Cleveland’s New Exclusive Apartment Hotel.” The delegation “inspected everything from the Florentine furniture in the lobby to the nutmeg grater in the kitchen of an eleventh-floor suite” and “chatted in Peacock Alley,” a corridor offering interior access to a row of shops and services. Along with nearby Park Lane Villa and Wade Park Manor, Fenway Hall was one of three residential hotels that opened that year on the border between the Doan’s Corners business and entertainment district and the University Circle educational and cultural district.

Doan’s Corners had long been a focal point for development in what was East Cleveland Township. In 1799, Nathaniel Doan built a cabin with a pond for watering horses along the stage road between Cleveland and Buffalo, later named Euclid Avenue, just east of its intersection with Doan (later East 105th) Street. In 1817, Doan’s son Job replaced the structure with a larger tavern, later known as Jim Wright’s Tavern. In 1876, Liberty E. Holden and other investors erected the four-story, mansard-roofed Fairmount Court Hotel on the old tavern site. The hotel stood on the northwest corner of Euclid Avenue and the newly cut Fairmount (later East 107th) Street.

After World War I, dozens of storefronts, theaters, and apartment buildings sprouted along Euclid Avenue, turning Doan’s Corners into a veritable “second downtown.” In 1922 the Euclid-Fairmount Co. purchased the former Holden property (by that time owned by the nearby Case School of Applied Science) and commissioned George B. Post and Sons to design a new residential hotel. The New York-based firm had designed the Hotel Statler in downtown a decade before and was also designing Wade Park Manor just to the north. Post’s Georgian Revival design, prepared in collaboration with Reynold H. Hinsdale of Cleveland, guided construction of the thirteen-story, brick and limestone faced, steel-framed, “fireproof” Fenway Hall.

Like other residential hotels, Fenway Hall promised an elegant, convenient lifestyle, free of the burdens of housekeeping. Early ads contrasted its advantages with the headaches of owning a suburban home. “When you pay your rent at Fenway Hall,” one ad observed, “you have also paid the coal man, the ice man, the gas and electric light men, the plumber, the repair man and the electrician, as well as the maid, the flat laundry, etc.” Indeed, Fenway Hall offered all the services that defined hotel living. On its ground floor were a dining room, delicatessen, coffee shop, beauty and barber shops, haberdashery, and, by 1924, Fenway Hall Golf School, staffed by Canterbury Golf Club instructor Jack Way. What’s more, each of its 192 one- to three-bedroom “Bachelor and Light Housekeeping Suites” was amply furnished—right down to linen, silver, china, glassware, and kitchen utensils—by Albert Pick and Co. of Chicago, which did the same for Wade Park Manor.

More than an address for Clevelanders seeking an alternative to a home in suburban Shaker Heights, Fenway Hall was a part-time residence for some wealthy locals who summered in lakefront estates or wintered in Florida, as well as a fashionable destination for out-of-town guests. One hotel ad noted, “transient guests over the holidays are accepted,” adding, “their nearness to your home, while at Fenway, and the completeness of our facilities make this service of real value to those entertaining friends from out-of-town.” Hotel residents shared Fenway Hall’s dining spots with those from across Cleveland and afar. For its part, the dining room advertised Sunday dinners for $1.50 and, in one very detailed ad, highlighted its commitment to locally sourced foods: milk and cream from Maple Leaf Dairy, seafoods from Edward J. Metzger and fruits and vegetables from De Gaetano & Parrino (both in the nearby Euclid-East 105th Street Market), and meats and poultry from Brandt Co. in the Sheriff Street Market.

Within a few years, the dining room was remodeled as the Jade Room. Billed as a “metropolitan supper club,” the Jade Room, with its green walls, yellow tables and chairs, and blend of “Georgian style” and “Chinese ornament,” featured nightly dance band concerts broadcast on radio station WTAM. The Jade Room, later restyled the Coral Room and then the Conga Room, was a popular stop before or after vaudeville shows and movies at the nearby Alhambra, Keith’s 105th, and Circle Theaters. In addition, Fenway Hall welcomed conventions and numerous local club meetings and weddings, and it housed some of the players on the Cleveland Falcons hockey team, which played in the Elysium, a giant indoor ice rink across East 107th Street from the hotel.

In the hotel’s early years, ads had promised jobs for white bellboys, maids, and other staff positions, with the first apparent job open to African Americans—dishwasher—only appearing after three years. Although references to racial qualifications for hotel jobs disappeared by the 1930s, Fenway Hall continued to target the patronage of well-heeled whites. In 1942 the hotel manager grudgingly accepted eleven Black physicians and their wives from Philadelphia as guests while they were in town for a medical convention. But the hotel’s days of exclusivity and exclusionary practices were drawing to a close. The former Doan’s Corners, more commonly called the Euclid–East 105th area, stood on the northeastern fringe of Cedar-Central (later Fairfax), Cleveland’s largest African American neighborhood, and by the 1950s the business district was simultaneously becoming a rare nexus for interracial nightlife and facing the leading edge of disinvestment.

These changes added to the growing challenges residential hotels faced. Affluent Clevelanders’ preference for suburban homes meant that University Circle would not see its Wade Park become Cleveland’s answer to Central Park West. After having been operated by the same company for its first quarter century, Fenway Hall changed hands repeatedly in the two decades after World War II. Despite the modernizations made by each new operator, the hotel was no longer a fashionable address but it remained an anchor for an evolving district. In 1960, E. L. Koenemann, president of Carnegie College at 4707 Euclid Avenue (a training school for medical technologists, assistants, and secretaries), bought the Fenway with the vision of relocating the college to University Circle and housing its students in the old hotel. Instead, under the name Fenway Motor Inn, the property became an economy accommodation for overnight and transient residents.

In November 1966, Marjorie Winbigler, a Cleveland Orchestra chorister who lived in Shaker Heights, disembarked at the bus stop outside Fenway Hall. Before she could reach Severance Hall on foot, she was assaulted and murdered in Wade Park. Combining with white racial fears elevated by the Hough rebellion earlier that year, the crime alarmed University Circle leaders. Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University purchased Fenway Hall and the nearby Tudor Arms Hotel months before the schools merged in 1967. They sought these buildings to provide graduate student housing but also to remake the western fringe of University Circle. However, following a subsequent decision to build new dormitories on Cedar Hill, Case Western Reserve University divested itself of Fenway Hall in 1975. The City of Cleveland paid CWRU $840,000 for the hotel and then resold it to University Circle Inc. (UCI), for $710,000, thereby letting the university avoid a loss. UCI hired the Orlean Co. to turn the building into a federally subsidized elderly housing development named Fenway Manor, which reopened in 1978.

Today Fenway Hall sits in a very different context. The Euclid–East 105th district yielded to the transformation wrought by the Cleveland Clinic’s relentless expansion, leaving the old hotel as the lone survivor from the district’s heyday, although recent and planned high-rise apartment developments promise to create the apartment row that never fully materialized along Cleveland’s Doan Brook park belt a century before.

Images

Fenway Hall, Stokes Blvd. side This recent view of Fenway Hall's primary facade along Stokes Boulevard (formerly East 107th Street) shows the building from the parkland near the eastern end of Chester Avenue that formerly was the site of the Elysium, billed as the world's largest indoor ice rink. Creator: Tim Evanson on Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 Date: April 30, 2017
Fenway Hall ad This ad from just over a month before opening day shows the hope that Fenway Hall would attract an affluent clientele. As the hotel's National Register of Historic Places nominator, architectural historian Ted Sande, has observed, the hotel never attracted quite its share of the city's blue bloods, who gravitated to nearby Wade Park Manor. Demand for apartment living was never as strong in Cleveland as in New York, and most wealthy Clevelanders opted for suburban houses. Source: Plain Dealer Date: August 19, 1923
Doan Brook looking west Named for Nathaniel Doan, an early landowner and entrepreneur who settled in the area in the late 18th century, Doan Brook ran from present-day Shaker Heights northwestward to Lake Erie. At the time of this photo, Doan Brook had yet to be culverted as it flowed through the University Circle area and appears as the dark shadow in in the foreground. At the turn of the 20th century, the Doan's Corners district was still only a small commercial node. Within two decades it would become the city's "second downtown." The building at center (on the south side of Euclid Avenue) was then the home of the Western Reserve Historical Society. The Fairmount Court Hotel (on the north side) appears just to its right and was the future site of Fenway Hall. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: ca. 1900
Fairmount Court Hotel Liberty Emery Holden was the leader of a group of investors that built this small hotel on the northwest corner of Euclid Avenue and Fairmount Street in 1876 on the site where Nathaniel Doan, Job Doan, and Jim Wright had operated a tavern as far back as 1799. Thus, the future site of Fenway Hall, like that of the Renaissance Hotel on Public Square, is one of the two spots in Cleveland that was continuously occupied by some form of hostelry for the longest time. Nine years after building the hotel, Holden bought the Plain Dealer and built the Hollenden Hotel in downtown. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1922
Map detail of Euclid-E. 105th area This map shows the location of Fenway Hall in relation to the Elysium and the original streetcar turnaround that gave the University Circle district its name. Source: G. M. Hopkins, Plat Book of Cuyahoga County, Ohio, vol. 5 (Philadelphia: G. M. Hopkins, 1927). Date: 1927
Fenway Hall in its early years This view from the southeast side of the Euclid Avenue–East 107th Street intersection, shows that Fenway Hall originally featured a pair of block-letter scaffold signs on its roof. Later photos show empty scaffolds and eventually none at all. Source: Orlean Co. Fenway Hall Files (via National Register nomination) Date: ca. 1920s
When You Pay Your Rent... This early ad was one of a number that extolled Fenway Hall's purported ability to save residents money in comparison to the many costs associated with homeownership. One such ad went so far as to present a list of estimated costs of maintaining a $20,000 home (which meant a large and expensive one in 1920s dollars), concluding that living in Fenway Hall would be considerably cheaper. Source: Plain Dealer Date: February 21, 1926
Sunday Dinner at Fenway Hall On the menu: Fresh Shrimp Cocktail or Blue Points on the Half Shell; Fruit Cocktail or One-Half Grapefruit Supreme; Hearts of Celery, Garden Radishes, Stuffed Olives; Consommé Trianon or Potage Argentine; Choice of Sea Food a l'King in Casserole, English Mutton Chops Florentine, One-Half Broiled Milk-Fed Chicken on Toast, Filet Mignon Sauce Fenway, Calf's Sweetbreads Place Castillane, or Roast Stuffed Young Turkey, Cranberry Sauce; Mashed Potatoes, Candied Sweet Potatoes, Brussels sprouts in Butter, June Peas Auglaise; Head Lettuce, 1000 Island Dressing; Old Fashioned Strawberry Shortcake, Chocolate Parfait, Assorted Cakes, Assorted French Pastry, Apple Pie, Boston Cream Pie; Philadelphia Cream Cheese and Bent's Water Crackers; Coffee. Source: Plain Dealer Date: February 23, 1924
Fenway Hall Coffee Shop ad Midnight Specialties: Creamed Waffles and Syrup, Chicken a la King, Italian Spaghetti, Broiled Tenderloin Steak Sandwich and Onions, Toasted Cheese Sandwich, Welsh Rarebit. This was certainly some heavy food for midnight to 2 a.m.! Source: Plain Dealer Date: October 11, 1924
Browning, King & Co. University Store ad Browning, King & Co. was a prominent New York-based national retailer of men's and boys clothing, school uniforms, and accessories in the early 20th century. As the ad notes, in addition to its uptown store inside Fenway Hall, it had a downtown location on lower Euclid Avenue. The ad design's varsity pennants from mostly nearby colleges, high schools, and college-prep academies set the tone for the idea that this was the "University Store." Source: Plain Dealer Date: November 30, 1923
Jade Room ad The Jade Room became one of a number of East Side venues for live music in the mid-1920s. Eventually the space was renamed the Coral Room and later the Conga Room. In the early days, a house band played on weekends and gradually more outside bands and orchestras entertained there nightly. WTAM broadcast many of these concerts for radio listeners, adding to Fenway Hall's aura as an integral part of the Euclid-East 105th area's entertainment scene. Source: Plain Dealer Date: September 6, 1925
Temple Court Fenway Hall helped stimulate redevelopment in the Euclid-East 105th area in the mid-1920s, when much of the block was rebuilt in a more modern form. Temple Court featured a terra-cotta facade with bronze-framed plate-glass display windows. Its foundation was built with the idea of a future addition of up to four stories, which would have meant a seven-story building if the plan had been carried out. Other new additions in the block around that time were the Colonnade Building and a new location for Chandler & Rudd, a specialty grocery store. Source: Plain Dealer Date: August 23, 1924
Euclid-E. 105th district with Fenway Hall in distance This gelatin silver print shows a streetcar passing the north side of Euclid Avenue from East 105th Street, looking east, with Fenway Hall in the distance. The sign on the west side of the hotel reads: "The Coffee Shop, A Tasty Bite for Hasty People." Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1936
Euclid-E. 105th district with Fenway Hall in distance, 1956 In this 1950s view, one can see the north side of Euclid Avenue as viewed from about East 101st Street looking east. The view includes the Alhambra Bowling, The Algiers, Kinney Shoes, Record Land, Hoffman's, Alhambra Theater, and Cleveland Trust Co. in the East 101st to East 105th block, and Hotel Regent, Berger's, and Fenway Hall, along with other businesses whose signs are not visible, between East 105th and East 107th Streets. Source: Cleveland Public Library Photograph Collection Date: 1956
West Side of Fenway Hall from East 105th Street This more recent view shows how the former Euclid-East 105th district is completely gone, a victim of piecemeal "urban renewal" in the 1970s. The entire southern side (right) of the block that formerly belonged to Black entrepreneur Winston Willis was demolished for the W. O. Walker Center, while the north side of the street was obliterated for the American Cancer Society building and a parking lot, leaving Fenway Hall as the lone reminder of the once flourishing business and entertainment district that served as the East Side's leading destination. Source: Ted Sande, "Fenway Hall," National Register of Historic Places nomination, 2016, https://www.nps.gov/nr/feature/places/pdfs/16000845.pdf Creator: Ted Sande Date: April 5, 2016

Location

1986 Stokes Blvd, Cleveland, OH 44106

Metadata

J. Mark Souther, “Fenway Hall Hotel,” Cleveland Historical, accessed October 5, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/918.