The Fairmount Boulevard District [†] (a Historic Streetcar Suburb) consists of a stretch of residential boulevard 1.7 miles long. The boulevard runs in a southeasterly direction from its intersection with Cedar Road at the top of the Portage escarpment, the first foothill of the Allegheny Mountains. The elevation rises 105 feet within the district boundaries. Once the boulevard passes Ardleigh Drive, the first intersecting street, the land levels off and the rise is not so perceptible.
Much of the character of the district comes from the roadbed itself. Averaging 120 feet in width and framed by massive curbstones, the boulevard has a majestic, manicured appearance. This is further heightened by the separation of the east and west bound lanes of traffic by a sixty foot median strip, which once served as the roadbed for streetcar tracks, but which has since been planted and landscaped. Triangular traffic islands at three of the intersections of the boulevard with side streets echo the formal nature of the median strip.
Although the district was developed by different realty companies, all the homes follow the same strict deed restrictions in that they have the same setback lines, which enable the fronts of the homes to reflect the engineer's fluctuations in the line of the road. The landscaping of the boulevard is in keeping with the large, sweeping lines of the roadbed. Although the Dutch elm disease has decimated the number of trees along the road, a sufficient number remain so that a "cathedral" effect is achieved by their arches.
Many of the homes along the boulevard may be categorized as facade architecture, meaning that the most impressive side of the home is the public facade which faces the main avenue, and that the concentration of architectural detailing is found on the street side in most of the homes.
At the westernmost end of the boulevard stands the Burton Deming mansion, home of the pioneer developer of the lower half of the street. The home rests on a lot that averages only 25 feet by 500 feet and is only one room wide, except for hallways. This impressive Elizabethan structure, three-and-a-half stories high, towers over the opening stretch of the Boulevard at Cedar Road. Also near the western end is a cluster of large stucco and half-timber residences, some a vague copy of the simple stucco homes executed at the turn of the century by the noted British architect Charles F. Voysey. Others, more complicated in their detail and more "archeologically" correct in their execution, cling closer to the Elizabethan tradition, giving the western end of the boulevard a distinct English village feeling.
The District is a cohesive, upper-income suburban community of the World War I era. It is a good example of controlled, suburban residential planning in the early 20th century, considered the classic period of such planning in America. This is partly due to the architectural and landscaping restrictions which were imposed with a firm discipline.
The original inhabitants of the homes were considered the "cream" of the city's social, business and civic leaders. These were people who, at the outbreak of the first World War, were beginning to desert the inner city residential areas for the developing east side. The success of the Fairmount district generated increased support and investment in real estate irles in the extensive Shaker development further to the east, which succeeded Fairmount Boulevard as the "right" address on the east side.
Nearly all of Cleveland's major architects of the era are represented on Fairmount Boulevard. Walker and Weeks, Small and Rowley, Mead and Hamilton, Frederick Striebinger and Charles Schneider. They executed commissions along the Boulevard ranging from Jacobethan to Tudor, Georgian to French, and Renaissance to Cotswold. Landscape architects such as the Olmsted Brothers, Pitkin and Moses, and Warren Manning worked in conjunction with the architects.
The area of Cleveland Heights within the District was, until the turn of the century, pasture and farmland with small farms scattered throughout the area. The eastern (upper) half of the boulevard, between Coventry and Wellington Roads, was owned by the North Union community of the Shaker religious sect from 1822 until 1829, when the colony disbanded. The Buffalo Syndicate, a group of investors primarily from Cleveland, bought the property from the Shakers in the hope of developing the area residentially. Their firm, the Shaker Heights Land Company, laid out and graded the boulevard around 1894 aling an existing Shaker road which had been there 1858. However, due to the distance from downtown Cleveland, the venture failed and shortly thereafter yhe land was sold to N.P. and O.J. Van Swerlington, subsequent developers of Shaker Heights. In 1909, in order to strengthen confidence in the area and to spur land sales, the Swerlingtons persuaded J.J. Stanley, president of the Cleveland Railway Company, to extend a branch line, the Shaker Lakes and Boulevard Electric Railway Company, from the Cleveland terminus at University Circle, up Cedar Glen and out along the boulevard. Once completed, land sales boomed along the eastern part of Fairmount Boulevard.
† Adapted from: Derek Ostergard and Eric Johannesen, Preservationists, Western Reserve Historic Society, Fairmount Boulevard District, nomination document, 1975, National Register of Historical Places, Washington, D.C.