The Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights neighborhoods, on the east side of Cleveland, are home to many architecturally unique and significant residences. Many of these homes were designed by the Howell & Thomas Architectural Firm in the 1910s and 1920s. Carl Eugen Howell and James William Thomas first came to Cleveland to design homes for the B.R. Deming Company’s Euclid Golf Allotment in Cleveland Heights. Originally, the Euclid Golf Allotment was Ohio’s first professionally-designed 18-hole golf course and was owned by John D. Rockefeller, Sr. It was decided that the course was too small and by 1913 the B.R. Deming Company reached an agreement with Rockefeller to purchase the land and turn the area into high quality residences.
In addition to the residences designed for the B.R. Deming Company, Howell & Thomas designed almost 30 homes for the Van Sweringen Brothers’ development in Shaker Heights. Before coming to Cleveland, Howell & Thomas designed many homes and buildings in the Columbus area, where the Howell & Thomas firm started in 1907. They designed more than 60 homes in the city of Bexley, including the home of Fred Lazarus, Jr., president of the Lazarus Department Store. But Cleveland and Columbus were not the only cities were the architectural designs of Howell & Thomas can be found – they designed homes in Athens, Canton, Granville, Mt. Vernon, Newark, Portsmouth and Zanesville and other areas around the state of Ohio.
Howell & Thomas did not just design residential homes. They also designed buildings for schools around Ohio including the Lakewood School District and Ohio University and over 20 newspaper plants all over the country including the Youngstown Vindicator, the Brooklyn Daily Eagle, and the San Francisco News.
The Special Collections Department at the Cleveland Public Library is now home to more than 650 sets of drawings from the Howell & Thomas Architectural firm. These drawings span the entire history of the firm, from their earliest commissions completed in the Columbus and Bexley, Ohio areas in 1907 and 1908, through the 1930s after Carl E. Howell died and it was just James W. Thomas. The drawings vary in size and completeness. Some sets may include only two or three drawings on paper slightly larger than legal-sized paper, while other sets are much larger and include large drawings featuring architectural design details of wood and plaster work as well as iron work specifications.
Regardless of the number of drawings, each set contains a window back onto an earlier period. Researchers will find a rich source on one aspect of Cleveland’s and Ohio’s architectural history. Homeowners can search through the collection and locate original drawings dating from the design and building of their residences. These drawings could explain why that unique architectural feature is located where it is or show how the house originally looked or provide inspiration for a restoration.
The Special Collections Department is located on the 3rd floor of the Main Library of the Cleveland Public Library at 325 Superior Avenue, Cleveland, OH 44114. Please call (216) 623-2818 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information or to make arrangements to look at this collection.
The finding aid can be found here.
Tags: Howell & Thomas, James William Thomas, Sr., James William Thomas, Jr., Carl Eugene Howell, Cleveland, Columbus, Bexley, Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, B.R. Deming Company, Van Sweringen Brothers, Euclid Golf Allotment, architecture, architects