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Brooklyn Centre Historic District

Cleveland City, Cuyahoga County, OH

Home on Archwood Avenue, Brooklyn Centre

Photo: Home on Archwood Avenue, circa 1870, located in the Brooklyn Centre Historic District, Cleveland. The District was listed on the National Regisre of Historic Places in 0000. Photographer, wikipedia username: Cricchetti, own work, 2014, [cc-3.0], accessed July 2022.

Brooklyn Centre Historic District [†] is represents in its street pattern and surviving building stock the transition from rural hamlet to late nineteenth century suburb to inner city neighborhood. In this growth and change, the district reflects the trend toward urbanization in America. It traces its roots, as reflected in surviving buildings, from the period when this was a small township center settlement, not unlike many rural hamlets that survive today in more isolated locations. It then entered into a period of growth around the time of the Civil War that was stimulated by its location near the booming industrial City of Cleveland. This small rural hamlet was one of a handful of mid-nineteenth century suburban towns in the state, as its development began to be shaped by booming Cleveland to the north. The neighborhood continued to grow as an inner ring suburban community, complete with its own schools, local government and local fire and police. It was finally integrated into the city and thus shares characteristics of other Cleveland urban neighborhoods in the years after its 1894 annexation. The district is also significant as a Cleveland neighborhood with a remarkable diversity of housing stock comprising a range of American architectural styles from the early nineteenth century up to the present. These landmark buildings are interwoven into a rich tapestry of historic properties that represent not only various styles but types of building, ranging from working class dwellings from the late nineteenth century clustered along the side streets to larger scale upper middle class houses along Archwood Avenue, the principal residential avenue in the district. Many of these properties have been rehabilitated and restored in recent years and complemented by new construction, beyond the edge of the district, which reinforces the historic character of the area.

The neighborhood has four distinct characteristics in its growth and development. They are as follows:

  1. rural township center, 1818-ca. 1830
  2. hamlet or small village, ca. 1830-ca. 1865
  3. inner ring suburb of Cleveland, ca. 1865-1894
  4. city neighborhood, 1894-present

The first was that of a small rural township center, which formed here in the early years of the nineteenth century. During this time, Brooklyn Centre was a rural township center much like any other in the region. Cleveland was a remote village to the north and did not yet exert a great influence on the development of Brooklyn Centre. During the second phase, which occurred after the Ohio and Erie Canal passed near the area, the community developed into a small hamlet, with some manufacturing activities in the Big Creek Valley to the south and with some commercial activity, influenced by the development of Pearl Road as a main route from Cleveland southwest toward Columbus. It also began to see residential growth along side streets, which were in place by 1850. After the Civil War, the area entered a third phase in its development as Brooklyn grew into an inner ring suburb of Cleveland. The semi-rural community became a haven from the increasing soot of industrial Cleveland. The final major phase of development began in 1894 when Brooklyn Centre was annexed to Cleveland and soon developed into a city neighborhood.

The first white settlers arrived here in May 1812 from Connecticut and erected cabins along an old Indian trail which was to become present-day Pearl Road, near the sites of Mapledale and Denison. Denison was initially known as the Mahoning Trail, leading from Lake Erie to Pittsburgh via Warren, the early seat of government for this region. Among these early settlers were members of the Brainard and Fish families. The Methodists began holding classes in the area in 1814 and by 1817a sawmill was established by Philo Scoville on nearby Big Creek. That same year the local government began the first efforts to improve Columbus Road, as Pearl Road was then known, as the first road west of the Cuyahoga River to penetrate into the interior of the state. On August 1, 1818 township government was organized and the name Brooklyn selected. A town meeting house was established on Denison just east of Pearl and it was here that same year that the Methodists formed their congregation, the oldest Methodist church in the county. The following year, the Congregationalists organized what was to become Archwood Church. In the summer of 1820 the first stage coach began regular trips to Columbus from Cleveland. From 1824 to 1854 a private company was organized to build and maintain Pearl Road as the Wayne, Medina and Cuyahoga Turnpike Company and this road became known as one of the better roads in Ohio. During the 1820s the area around Pearl and Denison began to coalesce into a small settlement or hamlet. Real growth began in earnest here in the 1840s as a wave of German migration began into Brooklyn Centre. The Brooklyn Academy was opened in 1841 as a private school with possible college aspirations. It became tax supported about 1851 and in 1869 came under the control of the local government and was located at the present site of Denison Elementary School.

By the time of the 1852 county atlas, Brooklyn Centre appears as a thriving hamlet, with merchants, manufacturers (particularly of shoes and other leather products). Mills were in place on Big Creek and on the smaller streams that once flowed eastward from here into the Cuyahoga River. The community's development began to become more heavily influenced during the 1850s by the industrial growth and expansion of nearby Cleveland. In August 1867 Brooklyn village was incorporated. Centered about the historic district, its boundaries extended from Sackett Avenue on the north about a mile south to Big Creek valley and from West 65th on the west to the Cuyahoga River on the east, a distance of about two miles. By 1873, all lands north of Sackett were incorporated into Cleveland, although much of it was then open farmland. The 1874 atlas depicts Brooklyn as a sizable village, concentrated about the comer of Pearl and Denison. Manufacturing establishments were in the Big Creek valley and along Pearl and businesses were concentrated about Pearl and Denison. Homes were on relatively large half-acre or more lots, often with small barns and large gardens. Archwood Avenue, then known as Greenwood Street, is depicted as the area's principal residential street and is shown with some larger and more widely spaced houses along its length. The generous distances between Pearl, Archwood and Mapledale reflect the large lot sizes.

The Big Creek valley became the site for two rail lines that pass just south of the district. They were part of the second wave of railroad building in Cleveland, that began after an upturn in the economy in 1878. The northern of these two nearly adjacent sets of tracks was the Wheeling and Lake Erie, which had its origins in this area as the Cleveland, Canton & Southern, a coal-hauler. The other line was part of the B & O system and was built in the 1890s as the Cleveland Terminal & Valley Railroad. Cleveland's tremendous growth began to be felt in Brooklyn Centre. The side streets between Archwood and Denison began to fill up with working class housing stock and Brooklyn Village began to take on the relatively rare role of an inner ring suburb during the 1880's. Brooklyn was somewhat larger and more developed than either West Cleveland Village or Glenville Village, which were both annexed to Cleveland about the same time, as it had earlier settlement patterns and an established role as the center of township government for many years prior to annexation. Its location upwind of the city's industrial valley made it especially attractive for residents. During this late nineteenth century timeframe, Brooklyn developed better linkages to downtown Cleveland. By the 1880s horse-drawn streetcars were making regular rus along Pearl into Cleveland. Central Viaduct opened in 1888, providing direct grade-level transit into central Cleveland.

After a local plebiscite, the village was annexed to Cleveland in May, 1894. Water and sewers were extended into the area and later that year a fire station was erected at Willowdale (part of the MRA). The post-annexation era marks the beginning of a fairly short and intense period of development. During the late 1890s and the first few years of the next century, the neighborhood developed rapidly, spurred by new civic improvements, such as paved streets with utility lines, the incorporation of the former Brooklyn Academy into the renown Cleveland school system and the extension of police and fire protection to the area. Cleveland during this period also experienced tremendous growth, which tended to be concentrated at its edges, including Brooklyn Centre. From a pre-Civil War population of just under 50,000, Cleveland began a period of tremendous growth which lasted up until the Great Depression. In the decade from 1890 to 1900 the city grew by 120,000 to reach a population of 381,000 and gain the title of Ohio's largest city. During this decade, the city annexed Brooklyn Centre and the area formerly within Brooklyn Centre grew tremendously. In the year 1895 alone, three houses were erected at the comer of Archwood and West 36th.

After 1900 the city's growth continued through annexation and also through more intensive development of lands previously annexed. In Brooklyn Centre, new streets were laid out between Archwood and Mapledale, on the site of a former stream, which was piped and filled. Chestnutdale, Kuchle (later Delmar), Virginia and Mack were all laid out in the space between the two avenues. These were then lined with tightly spaced working class housing. All streets were in place by 1906 and most of the housing stock was in place by 1915. Descendants of the pioneer families and early German immigrants, who made up the bulk of Brooklyn Centre's population, were joined by Easter European immigrants who came to work in the steel mills of the nearby Cuyahoga valley. The commercial strip along Pearl Road continued to grow in the years following the First World War. Some apartment buildings were also fitted onto vacant lots and an occasional house was demolished for commercial or multi-family development.

Change came to the area with World War II. After the stagnation of the Great Depression, the neighborhood began another, somewhat brief, boom. As industries geared up to fight the war, the neighborhood saw an influx of people to work in the steel mills and other industries. Large sigle family houses were broken up into doubles, apartments, or even rooming houses. Few new buildings were erected here, but many expedient changes were carried out on numerous buildings throughout the neighborhood. Then, in the years following the war, there began a great outmigration from the neighborhood. Greater mobility was brought about by the automobile and the new interstate highway system, which would slice through the neighborhood in the 1960s, cutting it off" from the rest of the city to the north. This led to population loss and the decline of the neighborhood's dense commercial district, which had developed in the streetcar era. The biggest change came along the commercial streets, especially Pearl Road, where many businesses changed hands and a number of older commercial properties were demolished to make way for automobile-oriented businesses such as fast-food restaurants and gas stations. Houses were demolished in places along Archwood and Denison and newer apartment buildings erected in their place.

Beginning about twenty years ago, the neighborhood began to undergo a renaissance. Local organizations were formed to promote the neighborhood, beginning with Archwood-Denison Concerned Citizens and Brooklyn Centre Historical Society in 1978. Older houses have been restored and the commercial area has been revitalized through the costructio of an architecturally sensitive new fire station. New commercial developments have been erected in conformance with the guidelines of the Brooklyn Centre Design Review Committee, formed in 1985 when the core of the neighborhood was designated a Cleveland Landmark District,

William Coates was mayor of Brooklyn Village prior to annexation in 1894 and was notable as the author of a three-volume history of Cuyahoga County. He also served as Cuyahoga County Clerk of Courts. His magnificent Colonial Revival style residence stands at the northwest comer of West 33 rd and Archwood. Harry Farsworth was president of the Brooklyn Savings and Trust, located in the building at the southwest comer of Archwood and Pearl, designed by noted Cleveland architect J. Milto Dyer, and which today bears the Farsworth name. Farsworth was long active in Cleveland civic affairs, serving on the city planning commission and the first Metropolitan Park Board. In that capacity, he played a leading role in the establishment of the region's world-famous metropolitan park system. Charles Selzer was an author and publisher of a local newspaper who also served as mayor of Brooklyn Village. He wrote a series of wester novels and helped to popularize that style of writing. His Italianate style house on Archwood Avenue has been beautifully restored. Clayton Townes lived in a brick Italianate style house on West 33rd that has also been restored. He was president of Cleveland City Council and in that capacity served as mayor of Cleveland when it was under the city manager form of government.

The Brooklyn Centre neighborhood was also home to other prominent individuals who achieved significance in various professions. Florence Allen was the first woman to sit on the Court of Common Pleas, the Ohio Supreme Court and the United States Court of Appeals. Joseph Storer came to Brooklyn Centre in 1827. The Storer Broadcasting Company was founded by his descendants. Mr. A. E. Stouffer lived on Denison Avenue within the district for many years. His refreshment stand in the Old Arcade grew into the Stouffer Corporation, one of America's largest food and hotel enterprises. Cleveland Claud H. Foster (1872-1965) was bom in the neighborhood and in 1891 opened a machine shop in downtown Cleveland. This soon developed into the Gabriel Co., makers of automobile hors and later shock absorbers. From 1920-25 his firm sold 75% of all automobile shock absorbers in the world. Later in life, he divided his great wealth among 16 charities, one of which erected the Brooklyn YMCA which is named in his honor.

Brooklyn Memorial United Methodist Church traces its roots back to 1818 and was the first Methodist Congregation in Cuyahoga County. Archwood United Church of Christ dates from 1819 and is one of the county's oldest religious congregations.

The principal significance of this nomination is embodied in the architecture of the buildings in the district. Included are a number of buildings that are individually eligible for listing on the National Register of Historic Places, including many that are listed on the National Register as part of the Brooklyn Centre Muhiple Resource Area, nominated in 1985. These properties represent a variety of American architecture styles, principally from the post Civil War era through to the Great Depression.

The significance also is embodied n the distinct periods of evolution this area underwent, reflecting in its unusual history, the evolution in American communities from agrarian township centers to agriculture-based trading centers to small manufacturing-based towns, to inner ring suburbs to inner city neighborhoods.

Historic House Types and Styles

1. rural towship center, 1818-ca. 1830

The district contains a handful of pre-Civil War residences that are of the New England One-and-a-Half Story type. These houses, one located at Bradwell and West 31st and the other south of Bradwell along Louisiana both have their essential form intact and even have the typical cornice with returs that is a hallmark of the Greek Revival style. Both have had newer exterior siding applied and have been altered through additions. These houses may have been moved to their present locations from more prominent sites along Pearl or Denison. Denison Avenue contains two Greek Revival farmhouses, both of which have been altered. A frame residence between West 37th and 38th streets has been altered in more recent years with porches and various wings but retains the basic characteristics of its original form, including its profile, roofline and its location back from the roadway. A small cottage at West 39th and Denison retains its basic form and has an original Greek Revival recessed main entrance, although many other alterations have occurred. Denison also contains several other buildings that appear to be pre-Civil War in origin. The side streets contain several houses of the Upright and Wing type that also probably predate the Civil War and which have a fairly high degree of integrity.

2. hamlet or small village, ca. 1830-ca. 1865

The styles and house types described above also characterize this second phase of the neighborhood's development. This later timeframe is characterized by similar building types as found in the earliest timeframe of the district's history. The one type of building that emerges at this time distinct from those previously mentioned is the Upright and Wing house and the story-and-a-half cottage that lacks the architectural character to be characterized as a New England One-and-a-Half The 1852 atlas lists a number of houses on the side streets that exist, and which probably date from this earlier timeframe.

3. inner ring suburb of Cleveland, ca. 1865-1894 The Italianate style is represented in a number of examples, including several notable examples. The Adam Poe House is one of Cleveland's finest and best-preserved brick Italianate residences. Its entrance porch features elegant Corinthian columns, a wrought iron balustrade and two imposing grilled entrance doors. The building has a massive and orate bracketed cornice, robust and intricate arched hood moldings over its windows and superb masonry craftsmanship. Its interiors feature the most orate plaster cornices and medallions of any property in the neighborhood. This house compares favorably with the George Merwin House on Prospect Avenue and several prominent brick Italianate style houses in Ohio City. The only other brick Italianate style house in the district is the Clayton Townes House, a large residence to which a robust Colonial Revival style porch has been added. The Doubleday House, singled out for two photographs in the book America's Painted Ladies, is a wood frame Italianate landmark distinguished by its large wrap-around front porch with floor-length windows and an elaborate entry, a walnut grand staircase and elaborate bracketed cornice. The Charles Selzer House has a simpler veraular character but retains the imposing form of the Italianate Side Hallway prototype, complete with bracketed cornice. Its Eastlake inspired grand staircase is notable.


4. city neighborhood, 1894-present Several large and prominent Queen Anne style houses exist in the district. It is not unusual to find a house with an octagonal comer tower and pyramidal roof facing onto a street comer. The most prominent such tower is part of the Weldon Davis House, a restored landmark in the heart of the district. Many houses in the district are simpler versions of the Queen Anne style, displaying their orametatio in the form of elaborately bracketed porches and attic gables. These buildings often employ novelty siding and trim boards to enliven their exteriors. A typical Queen Anne house in Brooklyn Centre has a cross-shaped plan, with two equal-height gable roofs. On the cross-gable, one or more sides may have semi-octagonal bays. The rear portion of the cross is lower in height but still two stories and there is often a further one-story kitchen wing. While a number of these houses have been altered, a high percentage retain their essential features and well over a dozen are restored, including the house at 3828 West 33rd, the house at 3861 West 36th Street and the house at 3702 Denison Avenue.

The Colonial Revival style is found in greatest abundance within the district. The William Coates House , built in 1900 from designs by William Striebinger, is one of the largest residences in the district. More typical examples of this style are smaller and simpler, but still have a full two stories, often with a gabled attic facing the street and trimmed in contrasting wood shingles. These houses generally have full-width front porches with baluster railings and symmetrical window placements. Riverside and Mapledale, especially along their wester lengths, are lined with similar houses that form a continuous rhythm along their lengths, while providing variations in detail and form to allow some visual relief The Bungalow style is also popular in Brooklyn Centre, especially along the wester ends of Mapledale and Riverside. These buildings are generally fairly similar to their Colonial Revival neighbors except that they have full-width front porches contained within the main roofs, which swoop out over them. Front-facing gables or dormers add space for the second floor. A few smaller Bungalows are present in the district, especially along the wester end of Mapledale, including 4226 Mapledale. One of the district's most elaborate bungalows is located at the comer of Philena and West 39th at the edge of Brookside Valley.

The district also contains some multi-family buildings. Perhaps the most distinctive of these is the Kindra Apartment Building , Mapledale at West 39th Street. This property consists of a row-like clustering of units, with full-width recessed front porches and elaborate front-facing dormers. The building's shed roof provides space for a full second floor in the rear. Riverside Avenue contains two rowhouse apartment buildings at its easter end along its south side. The first has Italianate features such as an elaborate cornice and corbeled brick trim. It also has projecting bay windows. The second is more sedate and is Colonial Revival in style. It also has prominent front porches. The largest historic apartment buildings in the district are at Archwood and West 33 rd Street. These three buildings are major architectural presences along the street. While these buildings are typical of Cleveland flat-type three-story apartments of the early twentieth century, they are the only major examples in the neighborhood. Elsewhere are scattered rowhouse-type apartment buildings, including the Arline, at the wester edge of Archwood, and orange brick buildings on Archwood at West 39th and at West 36th Street. The Verona Apartments on Mapledale is unusual for its veraular Queen Anne features and elegant two-story front porches. Frame apartments are found scattered around the area on Denison and Archwood. Some of these are notable for their flat roofs and Western false fronts. Cleveland Doubles (two-story double houses where the apartments are stacked atop each other and which often have two-story full-width front porches) are also found along many of the streets in the district. The richness and variety of the housing stock in the district add to its significance.

These multi-family house types contribute to the significance of the neighborhood as they demonstrate the increasing urbanity of the district in the years of its final phase of development. There was a need to more intensively develop prime lots near the major routes toward downtown. The larger multifamily buildings also reflect, in part, the need to address accommodations for an increasing aging population. For example, local historian Irene Bastian related in the 1980s that she recalled the apartment buildings at Archwood and West 33 rd were built largely to house a retired neighborhood population. By 1930 people who established themselves in single-family houses at the tum of the century were deciding to move from these larger houses to apartments and still retain their neighborhood connections.

The period of significance for the district is the period in which it underwent development from rural lands to village, then inner ring suburb and, finally, to an urban neighborhood. The major streets here were platted by 1874 and some side streets date as early as the 1840's. Only a few buildings survive from the pre-Civil War era, yet some of these may date as far back as the Canal Era; therefore a date of 1818 is proposed as the beginning of the period of significance for this district. The peak period of development in the district was from about 1890 through about 1910. By the beginning of World War I the neighborhood was densely developed, with only a few vacant parcels. These later spaces were often filled with apartment buildings until by 1929, on the eve of the Great Depression, the neighborhood had been fully developed. The Depression marked a pause in the development cycle and when construction picked up again after World War n, it was largely relegated in the district to new commercial developments and apartment buildings that marked a departure from the forms that gave the neighborhood its cohesiveness. During World War II there were some changes made to formerly single family houses, such as altered front porches, new doorways and small wings, that exemplify the era and are of significance to the district and its history. Therefore 1946 marks the terminal date of the period of significance for this neighborhood.

† Steven McQuillin, preservation consultant, Archwooid-Denison Concerned Citizens, Brooklyn Centre Historic District, nomination document, 1997, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Street Names
30th Street West • 31st Place West • 31st Street West • 32nd Place West • 32nd Street West • 34th Street West • 35th Street West • 36th Street West • 37th Street West • 38th Street West • 39th Street West • 40th Street West • 41st Street West • 42nd Street West • 43rd Street West • 44th Street West • Archwood Avenue NW • Bradwell Avenue NW • Chestnutdale Avenue NW • Delmar Avenue NW • Denison Avenue SW • Fulton Avenue NW • Garden Avenue NW • Highview Avenue NW • Louisiana Avenue NW • Mack Court NW • Mapledale Avenue NW • Pearl Road NW • Philena Avenue NW • Riverside Avenue NW • Terwood Court NW • Virginia Avenue NW