By A Web Design
Built in 1930 by Rockefeller Jr., The Heights Rockefeller Building is significant for it's association with an unusual chapter in the development of suburban Cleveland and because it represents one periods vision of advanced standards of community planning. The Heights Rockefeller Building was intended to serve as the commercial heart of the Rockefeller's Forest Hill real estate development, located on the site of his family's longtime summer estate.
Designed by New York architect Thomas, Forest Hill was conceived as a model village of 600 homes; Thomas also envisioned an inn, country club, business block and apartment houses. Thomas's vision of a model village included curving streets, garages built out of sight in the foundations of houses and underground wiring. Only 81 houses and this so-called "community store building" were built before the project was abandoned as a financial failure. Despite its label as failure by some, architectural journals of the day lauded the project as an able contribution to advanced community planning and praised Thomas's balance between "unity vs. chaos" and "variety vs. monotony". The Forest Hill development is believed to be Thomas' only work in Ohio.
Apart from its history, The Heights Rockefeller Building, which formally opened on May 02, 1931, is significant as a fine example of French Norman architecture. The French Norman design possesses both style and character without too much insistence on any period or nationality, and because it affords a ready opportunity for the use of permanent and interesting building materials. Thomas is said to have developed a special brick, fired in a range of soft, warm tones, for the proejct. He used it combination with Ohio sandstone, solid oak half-timbering, wavy edged cedar siding, hand split shakes, and slate. Early Rockefeller Building tenants included the Cleveland Trust Company, Jack Frost Beauty Shop, Kroger grocery store and Streich Pharmacy.
Of particular merit inside is the original second floor bank, now an event center, reached by a broad stairway from a ground floor lobby. It features hand-painted beamed ceilings, iron chandeliers, oak woodwork; a large stone fireplace and original furnishings, including banking tables and slag-glass lamps. In addition to Rockefeller, this wonderful building has had five owners. In 1939 The Heights Rockefeller Building was sold to Elizabeth G. Augustus; in 1954 to Jay W. Barber Inc.; In 1968 to the Cleveland Trust Company actin as trustee for the Medusa Cement Company pension fund; in 1984 to restauranteur John M. Barr; and in 2004 to local businessman James Barle.