Deming's Forest Hill Historic District

Excerpted from the nomination of Grant Deming's Forest Hill to the National Register of Historic Places, authored by Dr. J. Mark Souther.

"Grant Deming's Forest Hill Allotment Historic District in Cleveland Heights, Ohio, is an unusual surviving example of an early master-planned suburban development that embraced a diverse group of homeowners and renters. Grant W. Deming purchased a portion of the land for his allotment from John D. Rockefeller Jr., whose father's Forest Hill summer estate in neighboring East Cleveland inspired its name.

Cleveland Heights is among several early suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, that formed in the late nineteenth century on former farms, vineyards, and quarries as a result of growing demand for homes away from the burgeoning industrial city. Its development continued a trend of eastward population expansion into surrounding townships that began in the mid-nineteenth century.This trend of suburban expansion into the borderland paralleled that of many American cities at the time.

Forest Hill's developer, Grant Wilson Deming, who with his four brothers-Hubert V. Deming Jr., Orville G. Deming, Barton R. Deming, and Cecil C. Deming-developed some of Cleveland's most notable suburban allotments. In 1893 the Deming brothers moved to Cleveland, Ohio, and formed the Deming Brothers Company in 1903. The Demings developed some high-quality subdivisions on Cleveland's east side before moving to the suburbs. Grant Deming's Forest Hill arose on former farmland and Grant Deming assembled almost 194 acres between 1907 and 1909 to undertake the Forest Hill allotment.

Deming retained the F. A. Pease Engineering Company to lay out approximately 630 lots in Forest Hill. Like other developers in Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights and in many other early suburbs nationally, Deming chose English names for many of Forest Hill's streets-Berkshire, Lamberton, Lincoln, Washington, and Woodward. Other streets-East Overlook, Edgehill, Forest View, and Redwood-evoked naturalistic landscape elements.

The early development of Forest Hill seems to have been sluggish, with only 76 building permits secured through 1913, the fourth year. Deming's difficulties seem to have led to his loss of control over Forest Hill by 1914, the same year that Patrick Calhoun's Euclid Heights was forced to auction, or he may simply have set his sights on developing his next allotment, Minor Heights, just north of his earlier Hyde Park neighborhood. By that time, two of the company's subsidiaries, Cleveland Heights Realty Company and Heights Realty Company, had come under the leadership of Frederick C. Werk and John C. Lowe, respectively, and Forest Hill was in trusteeship under its mortgager, the Guardian Savings and Trust Company, which held a special trustee's sale of remaining lots between August and December 1914. Reminiscent of the sheriff's auction in Euclid Heights earlier that year, Forest Hill ads averred that "you'll not be able to buy them again at present prices after a sufficient number have been sold to meet our obligations as Trustee." As late as 1914, only one house, Werk's imposing Prairie-style home, stood on Washington Boulevard, the intended grand boulevard of Forest Hill. While Werk must have been frustrated by Deming's failure to attract additional houses to match the scale of his own, he also must have understood the evolving demographics of Cleveland Heights, whose growth henceforth would consist mostly of people of modest to moderate means. He and Lowe (with the latter doing business as the Forest Hill Allotment Company) had spearheaded a separate Forest Hill Allotment on East Derbyshire and Cedar Roads between Cottage Grove Drive and Lee Road in 1914. Unlike Forest Hill's mostly single-family houses, the new adjoining allotment would be devoted solely to large, 2-1/2 story side-by-side two-family houses.

Likely sensing the need to offer more affordable homes in the original Forest Hill, in late 1914 Werk, Lowe, and their associates resubdivided Washington Boulevard's lots, converting most of the unsold 100-foot-wide lots into more lots with 50- to 60-foot frontages. Concurrently, they introduced a single-track electric streetcar, or "dinky," which ran the entire length of the Washington Boulevard center median and incorporated it under the auspices of the Washington Boulevard Street Railroad Company. Deming had envisioned the introduction of a streetcar line at some future date, for two original recorder's office maps make reference to the companies' exclusive right to build and operate a street railway. The companies may have viewed the provision of streetcar service as an amenity that would aid in the sale of home sites, particularly those toward the eastern edge of the allotment farthest from the terminus of the Euclid Heights streetcar line at Coventry Road. The dinky was in service from 1915 to 1923, when it was dismantled as a result of the extension of the Cedar Road streetcar line (just two blocks south of the eastern stretch of Washington) east to Lee Road.

Under the guidance of Werk and Lowe, development in Forest Hill accelerated in the three-year period 1914-1916. Even into the 1920s, however, the southern and western parts of Forest Hill continued to have many undeveloped lots. Paralleling the rapid growth of Cleveland Heights in the years between World War I and the Great Stock Market Crash of 1929, Forest Hill saw the construction of another 424 houses, or close to two-thirds of all the houses that would ultimately be built in the neighborhood. Deming's Heights Realty Company also deeded several sublots on the northwestern edge of Forest Hill to the Board of Education of the Cleveland Heights Village School District in 1917 to allow for the building of Coventry School.

Grant Deming's Forest Hill Allotment has 654 major buildings, of which 641 (98 percent) date from the period of significance (1909-1941). All but one-the Coventry Library-are residential in use. All but 21 major buildings date to the period before the onset of the Great Depression. In general, the western one-third of the neighborhood has mostly larger architect-designed homes, while the eastern two-thirds has more variety in size and more builder-designed homes.

Although most of the district's houses represent the eclecticism prevalent in early twentieth-century domestic architecture, Forest Hill comprises three dominant architectural styles: Craftsman, Tudor Revival, and Colonial Revival (Adam, Dutch, and Georgian). It also has interpretations of the Prairie, Italian Renaissance, and Neoclassical Revival styles. The dominant building materials include cedar shingles, clapboard, brick, and stucco. A small number of documented houses were built from designs created by mail-order companies.

Grant Deming's Forest Hill Allotment Historic District exemplifies the suburban landscape planning tradition and architectural eclecticism that prevailed in the early twentieth century. Not only was it considered a leading development in Cleveland Heights, it also enjoyed some national attention as part of Cleveland, Ohio's noteworthy contributions to a national trend in suburban development. Its roster of homes designed by locally and even nationally prominent architecture firms connects the structures in Forest Hill to some of Cleveland's most noted buildings. While other Cleveland Heights neighborhoods more closely parallel Cleveland's most famous expression of the suburban garden city ideal, Shaker Heights, Forest Hill's combination of single- and two-family homes conceived by both architects and builders makes it an important and unconventional example of the era."

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