Monday, July 27, 2009

Shaker Heights ----Brooklyn Centre Connection

Believe it or not, Shaker Heights, the inner ring suburb that once was the most affluent city in the country during the early 1900's and was the home of Millionaires, Doctors, Attorneys, and Architects, also had one Architect that strayed a few times over to the West side of the Cuyahoga. (If you never been to Shaker, I suggest you go)

And what a better place to come, but to what we now refer to as Brooklyn Centre. For those of you that don't understand how or why we call it that, one needs to understand that during the Ohio settlements in the pioneer days, everything West of the Cuyahoga River was referred to as Brooklyn Township. While the Western Reserve made up most of Northeast Ohio, the settlements were scattered. Brooklyn Township had many spin off towns, while some lasted others fizzled out and were hogged up into Cleveland. West Park, Linndale, Brighton, South Brooklyn Village and somewhere in all that colonial bureaucracy was what we now refer to as Brooklyn Centre, let us pause as I get back on track.

Anyway, while the bulk of this neighborhood in it's early days was a dirty, gritty place to be, sort of like it is today, there was an occasional success story and an occasion glimmer of better days on the horizon. Even though much soot and ash spat up into the air from the factories of the Cuyahoga river valley, Brookside Park was hailed across the country and many people who wanted to escape the central closeness of the dirty city would travel on horse and carriage as far away from the City as they could. And our drifter Architect who braved the raging Cuyahoga River over rickety wooden bridges, and it was raging back than you know; the River, it wasn't as tame and calm as it is today. (Global warming??)
Where was I, Oh yes, this young Architect was only 29 years old had just finished completing two of his very first jobs in 1905. (Both of those structures have been destroyed since than) He knew that he must promote his work somewhere, so as records show, our Architect, George Samuel King, desperate to make a break as an Architect tied up with the Midland Realty Company and blueprinted and designed the stunning "Midland Terrace" in 1905. This now proves to be his earliest work that still stands. The "Midland Terrace" at (1914-1924 Denison) though designed as a Colonial, to a novice such as myself, one might look at it as having subtle hints of a French Chateau. And in researching George Samuel King's genealogy I discovered that his Father came from France, his Father's name was, Francis Xavier King. So somewhere in the deep recesses of his creative mind was FRANCE! Cri d'amour!!

It was later, in 1923 that George Samuel King would go on to build and design his very own Shaker Heights mansion, at 02975 Claremont Road. While his quarter of a million dollar mansion still stands, his very first works face the tragedy of demolition. Yes, this is where gritty, dirty little Brooklyn Centre has a connection with one of the top Shaker Heights elite!!
While Shaker Heights grew into a world famous location in the early 1900's -- the 1920's, George Samuel King one of the Shaker Heights prolific Architects of that day, got his feet wet-- right here, in gritty Brooklyn Centre.

Think, imagine, one can only imagine the hustle of the horses and carriages along Dennison "Street" the word "Avenue" was not yet a regular term, the horses, clopped down the brick covered Street. Maybe it was a misty morning or a muggy hot afternoon. Imagine the foreign immigrants from places such as Poland, Hungry and Germany as they bustled, struggling with their English, and working diligently at unloading horse pulled carriages of the finest hand cut sandstone blocks for foundation and window sills and crowns. Many endless loads of firebrick and many man hours of digging in preparation to place the very first stone footers, there we're no gasoline powered backhoes. Imagine as George jumped down off his horse, carefully unlacing his blueprints from the side saddlebag of his horse, looking at the hard working laborers as they spend many hours digging by hand and bickering in foreign tongues, digging, sweating, and breathing life into a young man's creation, the very basement that would now be the beginning of Brooklyn Centre's one and only: "Midland Terrace." A building designed by George Samuel King, oh so many years ago.

Brooklyn Centre has other "potentially" historic structures, but not one as rare as we have here and now. The "Midland Terrace" is a very rare and one of a kind example of one of the first works of George S. King, the Architect, a true master of his craft still in the making. A rare and unusual Row house style structure with many special tributes to fine historical Architecture.

To a man who mingled with high society of the 1900's, a man who's work will soon fall and be crushed by a cold cruel City of Cleveland, I say a prayer vigil for you Sir, and your work. To a man who mingled with the Van Sweringens of Shaker Heights -- to the immigrant laborer on the dirty streets of Brooklyn Centre over one hundred years ago; I'm forced to bid your art, your earliest chef d'oeuvre, an adieu as it will be smashed before our feet, by a shameless City. The City of Cleveland is prideless and holds no appreciation for what real historical Architecture is. While the City of Shaker Heights has nearly 70% of it's architecture protected under the National Register of Historic Places, Brooklyn Centre has very little on the Register. While history is protected in City's like Shaker Heights, here, a master artist's very earliest work cannot be protected because of a City Hall without passion and no intellectual insight for preservation and restoration.

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