History & Future
The Warehouse District comprises the former wholesale and commercial center of Cleveland. This Victorian district includes warehouses that contained large hardware distributors, marine suppliers and garment manufacturers; smaller wholesale and retail establishments for dry goods, grocers, tool suppliers and ship’s chandlers; and major office buildings of the iron, coal, railroad and shipping industries. The garment industry slowly expanded and by the 1920s the city ranked close to New York City as one of the country’s leading centers for manufacturing clothing.
Prior to its development in the 1850s, as the commercial heart of Cleveland, the Warehouse District was the residential section of the city. Indeed, Cleveland’s earliest residents including Lorenzo Carter, the city’s first permanent resident, and Levi Johnson, builder of Cuyahoga County’s first courthouse and jail, lived in this part of town. Early residents erected simple, log cabins. However, as the city grew, the structures became more permanent in nature as more and more frame and brick buildings were constructed.
As the city continued to develop, the Warehouse District became home to many renowned hotels and saloons. Weddell House (1847), the city’s first luxury hotel, had offices, stores, several parlors and a large dining room on the first two floors. Located on the corners of Superior Avenue and Bank Street (West 6th), Weddell House was in the heart of the District. By the 1850s, the residential element of the area began to decline as the District saw the proliferation of warehouses.
The construction of early warehouses was encumbered by limited building technology and only a few examples of 1850s warehouses can be seen today. Most buildings constructed at this time were bearing wall construction.In other words, a structure’s walls had to support not only its own weight but also the weight of the floors and roof. With the development of cast iron, architects began to experiment with lighter structures and open facades. Characteristic of this construction type are buildings that have cast iron posts on the ground floor facades and masonry walls on this type of construction as can be seen in the Hoyt Block, constructed in 1875.
As the century came to a close, rapid advancements were being made in the area of construction technology. Buildings dated from the 1880s have increasingly open facades as the architects began to experiment with curtain wall construction. Structures like the Bradley Building (1887) and the Perry-Payne (1888) were unique for several reasons. The invention of the elevator and curtain wall construction, a method of building whereby the exterior wall is supported wholly by the structural frame of the building and carrying no loads other than its own weight, had a profound impact on the way buildings were erected. The advances made by this type of construction culminated with the erection of the Rockefeller Building (1903).
After World War II, the District underwent yet another change as many of the manufacturing industries began to abandon the District. Sadly, many of the warehouses became victim to the wrecking ball. Fortunately, the tide turned as the District underwent a rebirth. The Warehouse District is once again a popular place to live and do business as many of the warehouses have been rehabilitated into residences and commercial offices.
Listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1982, the Warehouse District is noted for commerce and architecture. Although several buildings were individually listed on the National Register prior to the District’s listing, every building within the Warehouse District contributes to the District’s overall significance and historical fabric.
The National Register of Historic Places is the federal government’s official list of buildings, districts and sites that have contributed to American history, architecture, archeology, engineering and culture and are worthy of preservation. The National Register provides national recognition of the value of historic properties individually and collectively to the Nation. The list is administered by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior.