Forest Hill Architecture
Forest Hill is an architecturally diverse neighborhood with many prize examples of architectural styles. From the Andrew J. Thomas-designed French Normady homes and Donald J. Scholz's prefabricated California contemporary ranch homes to the Frank Lloyd Wright inspired designs of Cleveland architect Albert J. Sgro, Paul Williams-style English cottages, and a contemporary nod to the hybrid of modern and vernacular architecture of Sea Ranch.
Because of our protective deed covenants, many streets continue to resemble the original neighborhood from the 1930's, 40's, 50's and 60's.
If you're interested in Researching the History of Your Home, we've put together information from neighborhood historians, as well as local and national resources, to help get you started.
Andrew J. Thomas
In the mid 1920s, John D. Rockefeller, Jr. engaged New York architect Andrew J. Thomas to plan an upscale residential development. Thomas designed the Forest Hill homes in the French Norman style featuring steeply pitched slate or terracotta tile roofs, wavy-edged red cedar siding and brick kilned in a color palette specially created for the development.
The houses were conceived as a village of Norman farmhouses, but were built to the highest standards of the day using the best materials, with innovations such as first-floor laundry rooms, basement living space where the children could play and multiple bathrooms. The houses had basement-level two-car garages, often sharing a driveway between two houses. The houses were landscaped before going on the market, and the property deeds included strict limitations on visible external changes such as fences and outbuildings. FHHO is empowered to enforce these deed provisions to honor the original intent of the Rockefeller family's plan for Forest Hill and the Protective Deed Covenants remain in place today.
Only 81 of the planned 600 houses were actually built. In 1986, they were placed in the National Register of Historic Places. The Forest Hill Historic District is a small portion of the larger Forest Hill development which is represented by the Forest Hill Homeowners Association.
In 1934 the Arcy Corporation built five steel frame homes on the south side of Monticello Boulevard between Newbury Drive and Burlington Road (3060 to 3100 Monticello). Although these homes have a traditional brick façade, Arcy completely replaced the usual wooden frame with steel. By borrowing technology used to erect skyscrapers, Arcy was able to free up the interior of these homes from the constraints imposed by more conventional construction techniques.
A 1936 Arcy sales brochure states: "Because none of the partitions in Arcy Houses are load bearing, the plans are really free — so much so that room proportions can be changed almost at will...an unusual feature, an exclusive Arcy Feature." Arcy also claimed that their homes, being constructed of brick and steel, "are not only wind-proof, but fireproof, lightening proof and termite proof." By using prefabrication, Arcy hoped to reduce the cost for its homes to less than $5,000, but the Forest Hill homes were completed for approximately $15,000 each in the '30s.
One of the Forest Hill Arcy homes showing the steel framework before the brick façade was added and after. From "Packaged Houses", by C. Theodore Larson, The Architectural Record, July 1937.
The Arcy houses are among the earliest homes built in Forest Hill and, are a precursor of later all steel homes, such as Buckminster Fuller's experimental Dymaxion House.
Nash-Kelvinator Corporation - Inventor of Air conditioning
Excerpt from "Toward a New and Better Way of Living", by local resident and FHHO Board of Trustees Chair, Christopher J. Hubbert -
On Wednesday, September 8, 1937, George W. Mason, president of Nash-Kelvinator Corporation of Detroit, presided over the opening ceremonies of two "Kelvin Homes", one at 3202 Rumson Road in Forest Hill and the other at 21361 Stratford Avenue in the Beach Cliff neighborhood of Rocky River. The Kelvin homes were the first homes built in Cleveland with central air conditioning. They also featured "the latest discoveries and achievements of housing science", including an electric Kelvinator range, refrigerator, washing machine and ironer. According to an advertisement, they were "homes where all the drudgery is eliminated — where tasks are done electrically."
The grand opening of the Kelvin homes was accompanied by much fanfare and was attended by city officials and civic leaders. The event was heralded by a flurry of articles and advertisements [see one of the ads] in the Cleveland Plain Dealer, Press and News. Various contractors and decorators trumpeted their involvement in the project. The Second Federal Savings and Loan Association got into the act by running an ad touting its mortgage services with the tagline "Comfort in your financing, too" with a drawing of the Forest Hill Kelvin home. The Rudolph Wurlitzer Company installed a new "Butterfly" piano in both homes and their playing was featured on the "Kelvin home radio show" on WGAR on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The dedication ceremonies were broadcast as well. After the ceremonies were completed, Mason spoke at a luncheon held at the Advertising Club.
The homes were designed by Detroit architect J. Ivan Dise and built by Oil Heating Devices, Inc., Kelvinator's local distribution agent. In an interview in the Cleveland News, the president of Oil Heating Devices, W. R. Kromer, claimed that because of the high efficiency cooling unit the cost of year round comfort in the "specially-designed" Kelvin home would in many cases be less expensive than only the cost of heating a comparable residence. Kromer predicted "universal acceptance of residential air conditioning in the near future."
Donald J. Scholz
In 1946 Donald J. Scholz founded Scholz Homes in Toledo OH for the burgeoning demand created by the legions of returning GIs. Although not a formally trained architect or even an engineer, Scholz was influenced by Modernist architects like Mies van der Rohe and Frank Lloyd Wright. Although his company built many styles, his California Contemporary ranch homes are our focus here. These homes featured strong horizontal lines, but were offered in several facade styles to appeal to a broad array of tastes. Exteriors were sheathed in asbestos board siding, often brightly painted. Interiors were also painted in vibrant primary colors. Scholz even incorporated home decorating into the services he offered, and home buyers had the option to have the company decorate and furnish the house and provide it in move-in condition.
Although modest by today's standards, the California contemporary plans are spacious and open, with cathedral ceilings and ample windows. Each home has a patio in the back that is partially sheltered by the overhanging roof to further encourage outdoor activities. Kitchens are sleek and modern for the era, and Scholz offered high-end appliances from select manufactures as standard features.
Scholz utilized innovative prefabrication techniques to reduce the cost of his homes while maintaining a modicum of luxury. The wall panels were constructed at one of seven factories, delivered by semi to the home site and then erected by the company. Very little was wasted in the manufacturing process, further controlling costs. Many of Scholz's homes also featured red doors, said to signify good fortune in Asian cultures.
The Scholz factories were distributed throughout the United States in Long Beach, California; Long Island, New York; St. Petersburg, Florida; Durham, North Carolina; Kansas City, Kansas; Houston, Texas; and Toledo; Ohio.
Scholz sold over 50,000 California contemporaries In 2000, Scholz was named one of the 20th century's most influential figures in the residential building industry by Builder magazine. His company was sold but continues to design (but not build) homes under the name Scholz Design.
Forest Hill Architectural Points of Interest
- 2419 Lee Boulevard, Historic Abeyton Real Estate Office - Our offices are located in the Historic Abeyton Real Estate Office at the south-east corner of Lee and Monticello Boulevards.
- 3031 Monticello Boulevard, Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian - You can read more about Forest Hill Church, Presbyterian at Cleveland Historical.
- 3111 Monticello Boulevard, Morris L. Finneburgh House - "Is that a tree growing out of the roof of that house? This is a common reaction when first viewing this home at 3111 Monticello Boulevard. Built in 1954, the house stands out from most other homes in the Forest Hill neighborhood. Local architect Albert J. Sgro admired the work of Frank Lloyd Wright and his ground-breaking Prairie Style. Many of Wright's stylistic trademarks are evident here--horizontal lines, low pitched roof, overhanging eaves, a central chimney, and an open floor plan." Two more fine examples of Albert J. Sgro designed houses are at 3142 Monticello and 3167 Burlington. You can read more about Albert Sgro and "the house with the tree" at Cleveland Historical.
- Mayfield & Lee, Heights Rockefeller Building - Designed by Andrew J. Thomas, as the commercial center of the Forest Hill development the building was completed in 1930 at an estimated cost of $600,000 ($8,250,872.09 in 2016 dollars!). It provided convenient shopping and office facilities and 14 apartments for those not interested in purchasing the single-family homes in the development. The building was constructed of concrete, brick and tile with steel casement windows. The style of the facade is Romanesque, freely interpreted in the American manner. The central portion stands four stories high under a peaked slate roof with hipped dormers. The entrance façade features stone quoins and exposed beam design. There are shops at ground level and twelve apartments plus offices upstairs. The old Cleveland Trust bank office (currently occupied by Forest Hill Kitchen) boasts a beautiful hand painted ceiling. You can read more about Heights Rockefeller Building at Cleveland Historical.
- Forest Hill Park, Dugway Brook. Read more about Dugway Brook at Cleveland Historical.
- Forest Hill Park, Footbridge. Read more about the footbridge at Cleveland Historical.