Ambler Heights Historic District

Cleveland Heights City, Cuyahoga County, OH

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2 Herrick Mews in Cleveland Heights

Photo: Home on Harcourt Drive in Cleveland Heights, part of the Ambler Heights Historic DIstrict, a historic district that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2002. Photographed by wikipedia username:Warren LeMay (own work), 2018, [public domain], via wikimedia commons, accessed October, 2022.



Description

The Ambler Heights Historic District [†] is an early twentieth century suburban residential development of approximately 73 acres, platted in its current form in 1900. Development began about 1903 and was largely completed by 1927. The District is located mostly in the southwest corner of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland; a small portion of the District Is located within the boundaries of the City of Cleveland. It Is an example of the successful marketing of "garden city" living to the wealthy during the first stage of the suburbanization of Cleveland. It consists today of 67 original, single-family, architect-designed private homes, one original home which has been converted to use by a retirement community (but continues to be a contributing resource) and 13 non-contributing homes. The original homes and the District are well-preserved and have experienced relatively little alteration since their construction; they therefore may be said to have integrity in terms of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling and association.

The District is located approximately five miles east of downtown Cleveland. It is bounded by Cedar Glen Parkway (north). South Overiook Road (east). North Park Boulevard (south) and Ambleside Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard (west). It is located on the rise of a gradual hill leading from the City of Cleveland at its lower elevation to the various "Heights" suburbs (including Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights) at its higher elevations; this ledge of land forms the western limits of the Portage escarpment of the Allegheny Mountains. To the immediate south and west of the District is a rocky, tree-filled ravine constituting part of Ambler Park, one of a string of parks that stretches from Lake Erie south and west through the east side of Cleveland. The northern boundary of the District abuts the University Circle area of Cleveland, an area in which a number of the City's educational and cultural institutions are gathered, such as Case Western Reserve University, University Hospitals of Cleveland, the Cleveland Museum of Art and Severance Hall (home of the Cleveland Orchestra). To the east of the District Is a series of residential streets with more modest, but generally well-preserved, homes built in the eariy twentieth century. The District includes all of Harcourt Drive, Chestnut Hills Drive, Denton Drive, Devonshire Drive and Elandon Drive and nos. 1625, 1803, 1815, 1821, 1835 and 2289 North Park Boulevard.

The Ambler Heights area is named after Dr. Nathan Hardy Ambler (1824-88), a dentist who amassed considerable wealth during the California Gold Rush and subsequently entered into real estate development in Cleveland. Originally farmland. Ambler Heights began to be developed about 1903 by Dr. Ambler's adopted son, Daniel O. Caswell, and his nephew, William Eglin Ambler. Gracious homes of 2, 2-1/2 and 3 stories ranging in scale from about 3,000 to more than 8,700 square feet, were built to the specifications of some of Cleveland's leading families and designed by well-known architects of the period. They mostly exhibit period revival styles such as Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival, but often in interpretations typical of the Progressive Era. As a whole, they consistently exhibit characteristics typical of upper-class domestic suburban architecture of the time.

The District has changed relatively little since its original development. Three of the original homes have been demolished. The former stable at one demolished home, the Benjamin Bourne residence, has been converted to residential use at 2265 Harcourt. Thirteen additional homes have been built between 1934 and the present. One original home, the Warren Bicknell residence at 1801 Chestnut Hills, has been converted to multi-family use by The Judson Retirement Community, and a substantial modern addition has been attached. The largest portion of the addition is located on Ambleside Drive, at a significantly lower elevation than Chestnut Hills Drive, and therefore is barely visible in the District. The portion of the addition located on Chestnut Hills Drive Is falriy inconspicuous from the street. The original home therefore continues to be the dominant feature of the property, and the property continues to be a contributing resource.

Most of the other original homes have been unaltered in a significant way on their exteriors since their construction. Typical exterior alterations have included such Items as additions and enclosures of porches, addition of aluminum storm windows, replacement of wood shingle roofs with asphalt shingles, removal of shutters and some other decorative elements and re-landscaping. These homes cleariy continue, however, to exhibit most of the massing, spatial relationships, window and door patterns, materials, ornamentation and other features that characterize their styles. In rare cases more substantial changes have been made; one home (at 2225 Chestnut Hills) has been re-sided with vinyl siding, and at two homes major additions have been made that are visible to the street. One addition (at the Edward Brown residence at 2208 Harcourt) was designed to be consistent with the original home; in the second home (at 2231 Chestnut Hills) the addition is markedly modern in style. Since both homes continue principally to exhibit their historic character, they continue to be contributing resources. All of the homes in the District have been generally wellmaintained.

Landscape Character

The Ambler Heights Historic District is recognizable by Its landscape character. The streets curve gently with low curbs, wide tree lawns and sidewalks (mostly the original bluestone with some concrete replacements). Chestnut Hills Drive, on the western edge of the District, has noticeable changes in elevation to reflect the topography of the escarpment. On Elandon, Devonshire and Denton, houses are set back about 45 feet, and on Harcourt, Chestnut Hills and North Park, houses are set back about 60 feet. A mature canopy of deciduous trees lines the streets and continues throughout the properties. While some of the original street trees have been lost, they have been replaced with trees of similar character. Most homes have nanrow driveways at the sides; these generally are black asphalt or natural materials such as brick or stone. Garages generally are at the rear of the homes, and may be attached or detached; they usually are not visible from the street. In most cases, detached garages are of a style, materials and quality consistent with the main house. Fencing occurs in rear yards and along side property lines behind the front facades of the homes, but only in a few cases at the street sides of the homes. All homes are landscaped, most either in the original form or re-landscaped in traditional styles. Many landscapes are accented by original statuary, decorative brick or stone walls, stone or tile patios, ironwork and other decorations.

A number of homes along the western and southern sides of the District are situated high above rocky, treed ravines; the homes along the western side of Chestnut Hills Drive overiook the City of Cleveland. At three locations (the intersection of Harcourt and Denton, the intersection of Harcourt and Chestnut Hills and the intersection of Chestnut Hills and Devonshire) there are small triangular landscaped Islands.

Access to Ambler Heights is limited; the District Is accessible only at the north end of Harcourt (only from the west), the south end of Harcourt and the south end of Chestnut Hills (only from the east). Although there is considerably more traffic on the major streets adjacent to Ambler Heights, and greater development in University Circle, than at the time of its development, its limited access and park-like setting, and the lack of other nearby development (except to the east), continue to give the District a feeling of elegance and containment. The District retains essentially all of the physical features that made up its original character and appearance.

Architectural Styles

The homes in Ambler Heights exhibit a variety of architectural styles: mostly Colonial Revival (Including Georgian Revival) and Tudor Revival, but also Italian Renaissance Revival, Prairie School, French Renaissance Revival and Shingle styles. In many cases they include elements of different styles. Often Craftsman-style details are added to Colonial Revival or Tudor Revival designs. They are architect-designed for individual families and show much variation. The District nonetheless has a cohesive appearance because all of the homes have the same general scale, setting, form (long horizontal central mass with additions) and interior layout. They also utilize repeated materials: roofs are of slate or dark asphalt shingles. Walls are of brick or stone, or stucco or wood painted in subdued colors. They exhibit fine materials and a very high quality of workmanship.

The following charts list all information available about the dates, architects and builders of the homes in Ambler Heights. Because many of the homes pre-date 1913, when Cleveland Heights Building Permits records begin, in a number of cases information as to architects and builders is not available in these cases, and also in the cases of later homes where building permits are missing, construction dates were determined using property tax records. No comprehensive records exist as to the landscape architects who worked at Ambler Heights homes, although It is known that the Warren Bicknell property at 1801 Chestnut Hills was originally landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, and that the A. V. Cannon home at 2235 Harcourt was landscaped by A. D. Taylor in 1922. Little remains of the Olmsted landscape, but much of the design of the A. D. Taylor landscape, and many of the plantings, survive today.

Tudor Revival. Tudor Revival styles are the most common style in the district, with 31 homes in this category. They exhibit significant variations in interpretation. They usually have steeply-pitched roofs of slate or asphalt shingle, sometimes false-thatched. They have multiple gables, often a main side gable with a facade dominated by one or more cross gables. Windows occur in multiple groups with multi-pane glazing. They typically feature brick facades, with some stucco accents, although there are examples of stucco and stone facades as well. They have much detail, frequently decorative stonework, massive chimneys and partial decorative half-timbering. A number of these homes include details derived from the Craftsman style.

Many Tudor Revival homes in Ambler Heights represent the work of Frank B. Meade or the firm of Meade and Hamilton. At the Warren Bicknell residence, at 1801 Chestnut Hills, Meade & Hamilton designed a large home in an elegant manorial style. It includes three crennelated towers, a massive, indented arched doorway, multiple rounded brick chimneys, carved wood decoration at the doorway and on the eaves and decorative half-timbering with brick inlays. This property was originally landscaped by the Olmsted Brothers, although little remains today of the original landscaping. This home has been made into condominiums by The Judson Retirement Community. A substantial modern addition has been attached, but has been designed and located so as to be barely visible in the District.

The Kermode F. Gill home at 2178 Harcourt, designed by Frank B. Meade, also exhibits Jacobethan manor features with Its stonework, massive chimneys, central tower with heavy slate roof and crennelated parapet, front cross gables and decorative half-timbering. The occurrence of an auxiliary wing with garages on the front facade is unusual, but dictated by the site (which drops dramatically at the rear).

Several homes exhibit Meade and Hamilton's work in developing the English cottage form. The rambling stone and wood frame home at 2207 Devonshire, the Joseph O. Eaton house, presents a long horizontal facade with gradually sloping roof, massive chimneys, heavy overhangs and in^egular window placement. It has an obtuse-angle plan on a curved corner lot. A vertical group in the center of the facade includes a two-story bay, chimney and projected entrance beneath a tripartite set of windows with arch reflecting the roof above. The obtuse angle of the home, built well up toward the road, encloses a true garden facade In the rear. The stucco home at 2025 Chestnut Hills, the Louis H. Hayes house, has curved rooflines, a two-tier projecting wall dormer, recessed entry with a brick arch and brick detailing sun-ounding the door, a bay window on the first floor and window boxes; this home also has a detailed garden facade within Its "L"-shape at the rear with an enclosed loggia). The Isaac Denton home at 1625 North Park has a stone facade, curved rooflines, large stone chimneys, bay window projections, recessed entranc^es under round arches and irregular placement of windows.

The stucco home at 2200 Devonshire, the James H. Foster residence, designed by Walker and Weeks, features a double-gable facade. An example of Walker and Weeks' upper middle class residential work, its form can be seen as a direct reference to the work of the English architect C. F. A. Voysey. Additional homes In the Ambler Heights Historic District exhibit diverse Tudor Revival styles. The Dennis Upson home at 2001 Chestnut Hills has an expansive hipped roof with gabled dormers; the lower level is clad in narrow horizontal siding and has a shed roof porch with a gable over the stoop; the second level has halftimbered surfaces with a Palladlan window on the side elevation. The brick residence at 2185 Harcourt, the Edward Rogers residence, designed by Harien E. Shimmin, has features typical of the Progressive Era: it combines a Tudor falsethatched roof with deep overhangs and copper peaks; tall, shaped brick chimneys; stone details; a curved main entrance roof held by Iron brackets; Craftsman brackets; and an unusual front porch.

Colonial Revival. This is the second most common house style in the District, with 28 homes in this category; four of these homes are Georgian Revival in style and are discussed separately below. The Colonial Revival homes also exhibit considerable variation in design. Roofs may be gabled, hipped, gambrel or a combination thereof; they are made of slate or dark composition shingles. Walls are brick or wood (clapboard or shingle). Facades are often symmetrical with a central entry, although a number of homes feature asymmetrical facades and some have side main entrances. Entryways are typically accentuated with extended porch roofs, columns, carved wood crowns, decorative stonework and/or sidelights. Windows generally are double-hung, with a variety of sash patterns (for example, six over nine, six over one, six over six, one over one, nine over nine, nine over one). While some of these homes exhibit a relatively "pure" style, a number of them include Craftsman-style details.

The Edward G. Buckwell home at 2005 Chestnut Hills was designed by Walker and Weeks. It exhibits English Georgian elements, but Is unusual in that Its narrow end faces the street; there are fully-developed facades on each of the two side elevations. The main entrance facade has a pillared stoop with a Palladlan window above. The garden elevation, and the narrow elevation facing the street, each feature a tripartite design; the garden elevation has three sets of tripartite windows, while the street elevation has three windows topped with semi-circular terra-cotta lunettes.

The Alva Bradley home at 2114 Elandon is an extremely long residence with an unusual organization. The right side of the house Is centered by a gabled roof over the front entrance (flanked by columns), with symmetrical windows on the first and second floors; an open porch with columns is attached to the right. To the left Is a central section with symmetrical windows and then another section with a gabled roof and enclosed porch. Three gabled dormers address the whole composition.

Significant homes in the Federal Revival style include the Edward Brown house at 2208 Harcourt, designed by Frank B. Meade and featuring a five-bay central hall organization, gabled dormers, tripartite central window on the second floor, gambrel roof, classical porch columns, budged-end chimneys and round-arched windows on the south side porch; and 2035 Chestnut Hills, designed by an unidentified architect for Ernest Brown, a relative of the family at 2208 Harcourt, with a central entrance beneath an elliptical fanlight, a flat-roofed porch with a projecting comice, a central Palladian window set within an elliptical arch, a gabled parapet and gabled dormers with round-arched windows.

Some of the other Colonial Revival homes evidence similar quality of design but are clapboard. The Charies S. Reed home at 2207 Harcourt has a large rounded entry portico with large round columns and a bay window above the entry; its door has sidelights and fanlights with pilasters and adjacent oval windows; there are two pedimented gabled dormers and a center dormer with swan's pediment. The A. V. Cannon home at 2235 Harcourt is an example of the Progressive-Era treatment of the Colonial Revival style, with a large central gable with a fanlight, two dormers with barrel vaults, a dentllled cornice running around the entire building and off-center entrance with sidelights, Ionic columns and broken-pediment roof This home, including an adjacent lot to the north, was landscaped by A. D. Taylor in 1922 in a formal European style.

The Bishop John Farelly residence at 1835 North Park is unusual for its asymmetry. The front fagade features a pedimented entrance vestibule located offcenter, and a similar organization on the second floor, but four evenly spaced dormers on the roof level. This home also has unusually wide spaces between the dentils on the wood cornice.

Colonial Revival: Georgian Revival. Three distinctive homes are Georgian Revival in style, featuring elegant symmetry and beautiful brickwork. A fourth home, at 2244 Harcourt, exhibits Georgian Revival influences.

The Jerome Zerbe/Samuel Halle house at 2163 Harcourt, designed by Abram Garfield, is highly symmetrical, with an arcaded. enclosed loggia in the indented central section on the ground floor with arched windows flanking the entrance. The hipped roof features three hipped dormers above three double-hung windows on the second floor. Double pairs of large windows flank the central section. Porches occur on the north and south sides of the home; the southern porch has been enclosed. The home is missing Its original shutters. It has been designated a Cleveland Heights Landmark.

The Ernest S. Barkwill home at 2189 Harcourt, designed by Charles Schneider, features Flemish bond brickwork, a roof with slates of varying widths and colors, symmetrical brick wall extensions of Its front facade topped with stone caps and decorative Ironwork. It also has a detailed garden fagade in the rear. The Charies Cassingham home at 2300 Harcourt has a dentllled comice supported by four Tuscan pilasters enframing two bays on each side and a central three-bay section with arched windows.

Italian Renaissance Revival. Four residences in the Ambler Heights Historic District are of Italian Renaissance Revival design. The Amos Barron home at 2233 Devonshire, clad in stucco, is an unusual design with a flat roof with a projecting dentllled cornice. The frieze has small inset windows over the fenestration on the first and second floors. All windows have shutters, and the full-length ground floor windows are accented with wide architraves. Built into the home is a fine, rare Skinner pipe organ. The A. R. Warner home at 2240 Elandon has a light brick facade; long, low hipped roof with clay tiles; and a side main entrance.

Prairie School. One notable Ambler Heights home is among Ohio's finest expressions of Prairie School design. The George Canfield house at 2232 Elandon, attributed to Bohnard & Parsson, Is a Cleveland Heights Landmark. Built in 1913-14, it borrows Wrightlan elements: wide projecting eaves, division of the walls by horizontal wood string courses, grouping of the art glass windows by vertical strips, a projecting bay, large chimneys and built-in cast cement planters. The design does not, however, exhibit the relationship among plan, elevation and mass typical of Wright's designs, and the bracket details are also atypical.

French Renaissance Revival. Two residences are designed in the French Renaissance Revival style. The home at 2243 Elandon has a tall, steep hipped roof with slate shingles, stucco facade, tall windows set in blind arches on the first floor and stone quoins.

Shingle Style. The original Benjamin Bourne Shingle Style residence at the corner of North Park and Harcourt has been demolished, but Its former stable remains and has been converted to residential use at 2265 Harcourt. It features a large hipped roof that flares out at the eaves; at each end are ventilators with their own hipped roofs; between these two are several gabled dormers with wide barge-boards and brackets. The two largest gables have full-length windows and balconies over the former garage doors (which have been converted to windows). An additional Shingle-style home, which pre-dates the development of Ambler Heights, Is located at 2247 Chestnut Hills.

Significance

The Ambler Heights Historic District is significant under Criteria A and C as a cohesive and wellpreserved early twentieth century single family, upper middle class residential development representative of an early stage of the suburbanization of the City of Cleveland. The District Is significant for Its architecture and community planning and development during the period from 1903 to 1927. Five houses built ca. 1892-1898 are significant as they date within the period when Ambler Heights was platted.

Under Criterion A, the Ambler Heights Historic District Is significant as an early twentieth century real estate development designed to respond to a confluence of factors present in the City of Cleveland at that time: increased noise, crowding and pollution in the industrializing city and the growing desire among the wealthier citizens for a more spacious, rural residential setting. It is an example of the innovative development strategies of the time that utilized privately-funded streetcar transportation and utility systems, scenic street layouts and strict controls on building size, value and concentration to market "garden city" living to the wealthy, thus representing an early and successful example of suburban community planning.

Under Criterion C, the Ambler Heights Historic District is significant for Its architectdesigned single family homes that are well built using quality materials and a high quality of craftsmanship. Many of the homes were designed by the leading Clevelandarea architects of the time; eleven of the homes are known to have been designed by Frank B. Meade or the firm of Meade and Hamilton, and others were designed by Walker and Weeks, Abram Garfield, Charles S. Schneider, Howell and Thomas, Bohnard & Parsson and Harlan E. Shimmin. In addition, several homes were designed by the Boston architect Charles R. Greco. House designs are representative of the evolving suburban domestic architecture of the time. Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles are the most prevalent. There also are examples of Georgian Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Prairie School, Shingle Style and French Renaissance Revival designs. In many cases these styles are freely interpreted in a manner characteristic of the Progressive Era.

Context of Development

From about 1870 and throughout the remainder of the nineteenth century, the City of Cleveland experienced dramatic industrial growth, principally focused on the iron and steel industries and outgrowths thereof The City's population grew dramatically, with large numbers of Immigrants an^iving to work in the new industries. Industrial and population growth in turn caused considerable noise, crowding and pollution. These effects, along with the advent of the electric street railway and Its expansion into areas outside the central city, provided Impetus and opportunity for the City's more economically-advantaged citizens to move their residences to outlying areas.

The suburbanization of Cleveland apparently occurred earlier and more rapidly than in other older cities, including eastern port cities such as Pittsburgh and Cincinnati and other Great Lakes industrial cities like Detroit, Chicago and Milwaukee. Also in contrast to the experience of many other cities, the suburban movement in Cleveland clearly was led by its upper classes. The result was that, from 1900 to 1915, the percentage of Cleveland's "elite" population living in the suburbs jumped from 10% to 34% and, between 1915 and 1931, from 34% to 82%. Cleveland Heights was very much a part of this trend, housing 1.5% of the elites in 1900, 9% in 1915 and 35% in 1931. The development of Ambler Heights, occumng between 1903 and 1927, is consistent with these larger trends.

The suburbanization of the City of Cleveland began on its eastern side as early as the 1870s and accelerated with land speculation activity in the "Heights" in the 1890s. This ledge of land, which forms the western boundary of the Portage escarpment of the Allegheny Mountains, was then used for dairying, fruit growing and quanting. In 1889 a 1400-acre tract of land in Warrensvllle Township at the southern edge of the Heights area was sold by the North Union Shaker Community to the Shaker Heights Land Company, an investment syndicate from Buffalo. Other large tracts in the area were acquired by John D. Rockefeller, Sr., and Patrick Calhoun (who, with John Hartness Brown, acquired about 300 acres extending from the base of the bluff east, naming it "Euclid Heights"; this land abutted Ambler Heights on its northeast side). These and other developers realized that, in order to make this land profitable, It needed to be made accessible, and in 1890 James Haycox and Charles A. Post privately negotiated a street railway franchise from the East Cleveland Railway to run a spur line to Mayfield Road. Other developers followed, buying and extending their own lines, so that by the first decade of the 20th century several areas of the Heights had rail service. In 1896, Patrick Calhoun negotiated a franchise to establish rail service up through Cedar Glen on the western bank of the escarpment and out to the east; this extension ran directly adjacent to the Ambler Heights area. Early utility installation was also accomplished through private arrangements with utility companies.

The availability of transportation and utility service made subdivision of these large land tracts into salable lots a practical reality. A number of developers directed their efforts at the well-to-do clients who were becoming interested in leaving the city center. All of these developers offered "garden city" living, groups of homes scattered in a parklike setting, after an English planning model popularized by C. B. Purdom. Developers used scenic street layouts and initially through deed restrictions, they tightly controlled elements such as setbacks, density, architectural style, quality and other aesthetic considerations. Clevelanders were especially receptive to "garden city" development. More so than in other analogous eastern and Great Lakes cities, from the mid-nineteenth century Cleveland "elites" exhibited a clear predisposition to low-density, exclusive neighborhoods with single-family homes sited on large, treed lots. (Borchert) Even Magnolia-Wade Park, an early "uptown" development within the City of Cleveland, was designed in this manner. Other residential development followed based on the same model, including Ambler Heights, Euclid Heights (1896-1928), Fairmount Boulevard (1904-1925; see Falrmount Boulevard District, 1976), Shaker Village (1905-1936; see Shaker Village Historic District, 1984), and Forest Hill (1929-1930; see Forest Hill Historic District, 1986). During the same time period, similar developments occured on the west side of Cleveland in what Is now Lakewood, and on the lakefront just east of the City of Cleveland, in Bratenahl, where some existing grand homes were joined by many more built by Cleveland's wealthy. (Johanessen, Cleveland Architecture)

The style of residential development that occurred in Cleveland's eariy "garden city" developments also Is reflective of the overall impact of the "City Beautiful" movement in Cleveland between 1893 and the 1930's. All of the negative effects of industrial growth in Cleveland (rising population, noise, pollution, uncontrolled sprawl, deterioration) were evident by the 1890's. Cleveland addressed them with concerted efforts to establish a park system (beginning in 1893 with the establishment of a Park Commission and culminating in 1939 with the dedication of the Cleveland Cultural Gardens); a comprehensive plan for the city center (the 1903 Group Plan of the Public Buildings of the City of Cleveland): and controlled development and design of other buildings and public improvements. The park system had a particular Impact on residential development, as a number of significant districts were created adjacent to or near park areas including, among others. East Boulevard adjacent to Rockefeller Park and the Wade Park Subdivision (including Magnolia-Wade Park). (Cleveland Landmarks Commission Report) Ambler Heights, Euclid Golf and parts of Shaker Heights also developed adjacent to these parklands.

It should be noted that not all of the intended "garden city" developments succeeded, because provision of transportation, utilities and other amenities was expensive and in some cases the investment return did not come quickly enough. Patrick Calhoun went bankrupt in 1914, and receivers auctioned off his land in sections, resulting in the resubdividing of portions of the allotment into smaller parcels. Other wary investors turned to a larger, middle-class market, and smaller homes and multi-unit structures began to appear as development moved east from the escarpment. (Harris and Robinson; Reeb) Ambler Heights, however, proceeded successfully according to its original vision.

The City of Cleveland Heights was incorporated in 1921. Also in 1921, a comprehensive zoning plan was adopted, giving municipal direction to further land development. Utility and transportation franchises came under city control as well. By about 1930 the Heights had been transformed into a suburban landscape. (Reeb)

Development of Ambler Heights

Dr. Nathan Hardy Ambler (1824-1888) was born in Huntington, Vermont to a family of dentists. He himself became a dentist in the eariy 1840's. In 1845, he married Martha S. Buell. He joined the California Gold Rush in 1849 and amassed a small fortune (he was paid for his dental work in gold dust). He opened a dental practice in Cleveland in 1852. He also dealt in real estate, buying property on the outskirts of Cleveland and reselling It as the city grew, eventually becoming a millionaire. By 1872, Dr. and Mrs. Ambler had built a large home called Rock Rest on a hill between the present Falrhill Boulevard and Cedar Avenue (just southwest of Ambler Heights), now the site of the Baldwin Filtration Plant.

In 1868, Ambler had turned full-time to real estate development. He was assisted by his adopted son, Daniel O. Caswell (1857-1906), from LodI, Ohio. Together they developed Blue Rock Spring House, a regionally renowned water cure resort/sanitarium operating between 1880 and 1908. Ambler died in November 1888 and is buried in Lake View Cemetery. Martha Ambler died in 1901. Dr. and Mrs. Ambler died childless (a daughter had died in childhood), and they made Daniel Caswell their heir. (VanTassel, Dictionary)

During the 1890s, land owned by the Amblers south of Cedar Glen Parkway and west of Doan Brook was largely undeveloped. By 1892, It had been platted as "Ambler Park," in which there were to be several large lots along the top of the ravine, along with many more, much smaller lots laid out in a north-south, east-west grid pattern. A few of the larger properties were sold during the 1890s, and about five homes were built, but apparently the streets were never constructed and none of the smaller lots were sold. The Cleveland Park Commission was active during the 1890's acquiring lands for a city park system, and in 1894 Martha Ambler donated 25 acres south of what Is now North Park Boulevard for Ambler Park. Ambler Parkway (now North Park Boulevard), running through the park, was surveyed in 1895 (Van Tassel, Encyclopedia)

By 1900, Daniel Caswell had formulated a new concept for the land north of Ambler Parkway. He hired Charies W. Pratt to lay out "Ambler Heights" for marketing to an upscale clientele. Pratt's plan included all of the land in the previous design for "Ambler Park", except for a small portion at the western edge which was physically located far down below the elevation on which Ambler Heights was built and apparently was excluded for that reason. Ambler Heights today Is almost Identical to Pratt's plan, with the only significant exception being along the western boundary (where the extension of Chestnut Hills Drive connecting to Ambleside Avenue and Park Boulevard does not exist (and apparently was never built), and Park Boulevard (now Martin Luther King, Jr. Boulevard) has become a busy thoroughfare separated geographically and in feeling from Ambler Heights. Shortly after, Caswell, with William Eglin Ambler (1845-1925), Dr. Nathan Ambler's nephew, began marketing the area.

Pratt laid out a neighborhood for comfortable living, with wide, gently-curving streets. To the south and west, treed ravines provided natural borders. At the north boundary ran Patrick Calhoun's street railway extension. Immediately adjacent on the east were the links of the Euclid Club, an exclusive golf club operating from 1900 to 1914. (VanTassel, Encyclopedia) Lots were generous and in-egulariy shaped to accommodate natural features. The streets were lined with trees. Deed restrictions provided for minimum frontage widths and minimum setbacks from front and side property lines, placed a floor on home valuations and prohibited multi-family dwellings. Leaders of the Cleveland business community soon built homes including Dennis Upson, President of the Upson Nut Company; George Hascall, President of Hascall Paint Company; Alva Bradley, Chairman of the Cleveland Builders and Supply Company; Edward Brown and Ernest Brown of the Brown Brothers Stores; A. V. Root and S. K. Root of The Root-McBride Company; Benjamin Bourne, President of the Bourne-Fuller Company; and George Canfield, President of the Canfield Oil Company. They were followed by other prominent families including those of Joseph 0. Eaton, Chairman of the Eaton Axle and Spring Company; Amos Barron, President of the Amos Barron Company; Charies Cassingham, President of the Cassingham Coal Company; and Samuel Halle of Halle Brothers Department Stores. By 1912, 31 homes had been built in Ambler Heights. By 1920, Ambler Heights included about 56 homes of similar style and quality. By 1927, building of the district was substantially complete.

Many of the homes in Ambler Heights were designed by the City's leading architects, including Frank B. Meade and the firm of Meade and Hamilton, Walker and Weeks, Abram Garfield, Charies S. Schneider, Howell and Thomas, Bohnard & Parsson and Harien E. Shimmin. In addition, several homes were designed by Boston architect Charies R. Greco. They are mostly in Colonial Revival and Tudor Revival styles. There also are examples of Georgian Revival, Italian Renaissance Revival, Prairie School, French Renaissance Revival and Shingle Style designs. Many of them combine elements of different styles, representing "some of the mos* progressive architecture in Cleveland in the eariy years of the century." (Johannesen, Cleveland Architecture, p. 101)

The Ambler Heights homes cleariy reflect then-evolving concepts of suburban home design: a sense that domestic architecture should have aesthetic merit, but should be designed for comfortable family living. Rather than being tall and formal, homes generally have a long horizontal dimension parallel to the street. The garden facades are often viewed as equally Important as the street front and are as architecturally developed; many feature elaborate permanent garden layouts and decorations. Facades feature the natural textural qualities of stone, brickwork, wood and small panes of window glass. Interiors include spaces planned for the comfortable grouping of people-large living rooms with fireplaces as focal points, private spaces such as studies and libraries, and sunrooms and porches oriented to the garden. Homes are elaborate in their detail, reflecting an interest in craftsmanship and materials, and are very wellbuilt, taking advantage of the high quality of handicraft that was still available. (Johannesen, Cleveland Architecture, pp. 107-108)

Adapted from: Janet W. Coquillette, Ambler Heights Historic Dictrict, nomination document, 2002, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Chestnut Hills Drive • Denton Drive • Devonshire Drive • Elandon Drive • Harcourt Drive • Park Boulevard North


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