Shaker Heights

This tour was created in partnership with the City of Shaker Heights and the Shaker Heights Public Library.

As Shaker Heights celebrates its centennial anniversary throughout 2012, explore the history of the city's origins and its development into one of the nation's most distinguished planned communities. Using our surroundings as a departure point, we can discover stories of the region's founders and earliest settlers, the growth of Shaker Heights into the most prosperous and exclusive rail suburb in America, the rise and fall of the reclusive Van Sweringen brothers' real estate and railroad empires, and the social, cultural and demographic changes that have altered the face of the city. These stories are reflected in the city's impressive architecture and unique urban design. Inscribed into the landscape, the city's 100 years of history can be seen at every turn.

Although today the first sign of downtown that a motorist is sure to spot from any direction is the Key Tower, prior to its completion in the early 1990s the first sight was the Terminal Tower. Despite its eclipse by a later, taller skyscraper, the 52-story, 708-foot-tall Terminal Tower was an…
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The Shaker Lakes are man-made bodies of water created by the North Union Shaker Community in the mid-nineteenth century to power a series of mills. When the Shakers left and their lands became part of the suburb of Shaker Heights, the lakes remained, becoming the focal point of a series of parks.…
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On the north side of South Park Boulevard, just east of Lee Road, there is a solitary grave which is the final resting place of an American Revolutionary War soldier--Jacob Russell. Next to the grave is a large stone with a bronze plaque commemorating Russell's life. The plaque, placed there…
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In the late 1950s, the Shaker Historical Society undertook the daunting task of creating a memorial marker to tell the story of a small unmarked burial ground commonly referred to as the "Lee Road Cemetery" or the "Old Manx Cemetery." This graveyard, located at 3451 Lee Road,…
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Constructed in 1913, the Georgian Revival residence at 2931 Sedgewick Road was built as the home of the often-forgotten Van Sweringen brother, Herbert. Born in 1869, Herbert was the eldest son of James and Jennie Sweringen. James, an oil field engineer from Pennsylvania, was unable to perform…
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The 1920s witnessed a time of explosive growth and expansion in Shaker Heights. With the opening of the rapid transit system between Cleveland and the suburb at the beginning of the decade, the population grew from less than 2,000 to over 15,000 by 1929. As the transit system expanded, leading…
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The design of at least 27 homes in Shaker Heights has been attributed to the architectural firm of Howell and Thomas, including the grouping of demonstration homes on Parkland Drive. Formed in 1908 by Carl Howell and J. William Thomas, the Columbus-based business made its name designing Revival…
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Opened on April 11, 1920, the Lynnfield passenger station was constructed as the final stop along the South Moreland (now Van Aken) line of the Cleveland Interurban Railroad in Shaker Village. Besides a few homes located in the vicinity along Kinsman Road and Center Road, the area was completely…
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Added to the U.S. National Register of Historic Places on May 31, 1984, the Shaker Village Historic District was created to recognize Shaker Heights' significance as a planned suburban community. The designation of Shaker Heights as a historic district helped to redefine the community's…
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In the March 1963 edition of Cosmopolitan, a feature article titled "The Good Life in Shaker Heights" declared the spotlighted residential community to be the closest thing to a utopian society as could be found anywhere in the U.S. Using the most recent Bureau of the Census figures as…
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The oldest homes in Shaker Heights were not built by Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen. They were built instead by migrants and immigrants who came to Warrensville Township in the first half of the nineteenth century to farm. They arrived in large numbers decades before the Van Sweringen brothers…
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The Lee-Scottsdale Building, located at 3756 Lee Road in Shaker Heights' Moreland neighborhood, is one of the oldest commercial buildings in that neighborhood of the city. Over the years, visitors to this four-story Romanesque and Renaissance motiffed building located near Shaker…
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From its founding, Shaker Village was planned as a highly-regulated residential district. Promotional literature distributed by the Van Sweringen Co. offered prospective land buyers the security of a community that existed outside the influence of the urban environment. A strictly defined and…
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At an age that most men of his era did not reach, and when many men today are considering retirement, Revolutionary War veteran Moses Warren (1760-1851) left his native Connecticut for pioneer life in the Western Reserve. In 1815, at the age of 55, Warren, his wife, and their four children made…
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The house at 18829 Fairmount Boulevard is not only one of the oldest in Shaker Heights. It is also a house which has been associated over the years with a number of Shaker Heights most famous families. The Jacob Strong home is believed to have been built sometime during the years 1839-1847 by…
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Central to the success of the Van Sweringen brothers in the development of Shaker Heights was an understanding of the symbolic importance of both landscape and physical structures in defining a community. A marketable, utopian society was devised and created through a strict adherence to form and…
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On September 21, 1948, the Shaker Historical Society commemorated its one-year anniversary with the unveiling of a bronze plaque on the S.W. corner of Lee Road and Shaker Boulevard to mark the location of the Center Family of the North Union colony of Shakers. Five years later, a Shaker gate that…
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Accompanied by a photograph of the recently constructed home at what is now 17400 South Park Boulevard, a 1910 Cleveland Plain Dealer article muses: "Shakers Would Be Surprised Were They To Return and See The Van Sweringen Home". The image centers on a stone pathway leading through a…
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William J. Van Aken (1884-1950) served as Mayor of Shaker Heights from 1915 until his death in 1950, overseeing its transition from rural farmland to one of the nation's wealthiest and most well-regarded suburbs. The opening of a new city hall in 1930 symbolized a turning point in this…
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At 22300 Fairmount Boulevard there stands an old farmhouse that, according to County records, was built in 1877. As such, it is among the oldest houses in Shaker Heights. While a question exists as to whether it was built by Jacob Strong, Henry Corlett or John Sayle, Cleveland Historical…
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The path followed by the Van Sweringen brothers in developing a rapid transit system led to the creation of a vast railroad empire. While their foray into the railroad business may have begun half-hazard, it was a natural extension of their interests and efforts in securing the right of way between…
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In March 1850, just months months before passage of the Fugitive Slave Act, thirty members of Cleveland's Old Stone Church left their congregation to form what would later become Plymouth Church. The debate over slavery -- illegal in Ohio, but still a major source of conflict -- led to this…
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In January 1925, the Van Sweringen Company conveyed 113 acres of land to the University Realty Company. The land conveyed was located in in the villages of Shaker Heights and Idlewood--in the vicinity of the intersection of Fairmount Boulevard and Warrensville Center Road. This transfer of land…
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