House Proud! State Board Approves Shaker Farm

It’s another well deserved tribute to the excellent quality of so many residences in Cleveland Heights.  On Friday, November 1, I attended a meeting in Columbus of the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board, which was considering, among others, the application I wrote and assembled with help from neighbors and Cleveland Heights experts proposing the Shaker Farm Historic District for listing on the National Register of Historic Places.  I was prepared to defend the application, but board members praised and approved it in a matter of minutes.  One board member, Aaron Askew, a Columbus architect, said he had grown up near the district and been inspired by the quality of the residences to study architecture.  He was happy to see the district listed.  Another, Columbus archeologist Paul Graham, cited the clarity and completeness of the application, which made it easy to understand and approve the proposed district based on its significance.  Here’s what the press release said specifically about the Shaker Farm Historic District:




COLUMBUS, Ohio – Members of the Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board have voted to recommend that nominations for four properties in Ohio be forwarded to the Keeper of the National Register of Historic Places for her consideration:


Cleveland Heights / Cuyahoga County: Shaker Farm Historic District, roughly bounded by properties along Fairmount and North Park Blvds. to the south, Fairfax Road to the north, Roxboro Middle School to the west and Ashton Road to the east.


A residential development platted in 1904 on the south side of Cleveland Heights, Shaker Farm occupies 266 acres owned from 1822-1889 by the North Union Shaker Colony. The developer, Shaker Heights Land Company, had limited success selling home sites there until O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen took over marketing and sales in 1905. While deed restrictions governing the development were already in place, the Van Sweringens embraced them, promising buyers a carefully planned community. House plans had to be approved before construction. Attached houses, row houses and commercial buildings were prohibited, as were billboards and “other unsightly nuisances.” Only one home was allowed per lot and deeds required setbacks of 60 to 100 feet, with ample space between houses. Homes on Fairmount Boulevard required a $7,000 investment, those on Stratford $6,000, and those on Guilford, Islington (later Arlington), Monmouth and Fairfax $5,000. Tree-lined streets followed the lay of the land rather than a more conventional grid plan and led to a wide central boulevard. Generous provision for churches, schools and other amenities — including streetcar service, essential at the time — completed the formula. The first house was built in 1906. About two-thirds date from 1910 to 1919 and nearly all were built before 1929. Architecturally, the development features a range of styles popular a century ago, including Shingle, Colonial, Neoclassical, Tudor Revival, Spanish Revival, French Renaissance Revival, Bungalow and Craftsman, with many examples of work by leading early 20th century Cleveland architects. With some refinements, Shaker Farm became a model for the Van Sweringens’ later development, Shaker Heights. The proposed Shaker Farm Historic District includes a portion of the Fairmount Boulevard Historic District, listed on the National Register in 1974.