Home Days: Our Housing Story

Drive down any street in Northeast Ohio, and there's a story to be told. Whether it's lined with an electic mix of Victorians and Craftsmans or a row of ranches built by the same developer, each is a part of our rich housing history, which traces our periods of growth as a city as well.

During the 1880s to 1900, wealth spread beyond Euclid Avenue. In the 1920s, industry thrived. By the 1950s, the post-war boom gave rise to the suburbs. As more people moved west, its influences could be felt here in the 1970s. And by the 1980s, everything was just bigger — our suburbs, our homes, our desires. That has left us with outstanding examples of period Victorians, Georgians, Tudors, bungalows, ranches and more for homebuyers and historians alike.

"When people come here from other cities and see what they can get for their money, they are just shocked," says Tom Bier, a senior fellow at the Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs at Cleveland State University.

Starting around the 1880s, homeowners were eager to show off their wealth and wanted room to breathe. Elaborate Victorians with gingerbread trim popped up in East Cleveland, Ohio City and Chagrin Falls, where many have been maintained or restored. "With the advent of automobiles and the turn of the century, things began to spread out a little as the distances became easier to travel," says Jack Bialosky Jr., senior principal at Bialosky and Partners Architects.

For a prime example of our city's diverse home styles, head to Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights and Lakewood where grand Tudors, Georgians and Italianates built in the 1920s command your attention. "Shaker Heights really boomed in these years after World War I with hundreds of permits being issued in each of these years," says Bialosky.

While there wasn't much construction during the Great Depression, things picked up after World War II when veterans returned home ready to settle down, resulting in an influx of sturdy brick bunaglows that can be seen in suburbs such as Parma, Fairview Park and Maple Heights. Forest City, now known as a major real estate developer, was once a supplier and builder of these smaller homes. "They were where you went to for lumber, screws and nails," says Bier. "They were the Home Depot of their time."

During this time, Bier estimates, around 10,000 homes were built a year in Cuyahoga County.

That shift in thinking lead to developments of California-style ranches in places such as Strongsville, Middleburg Heights and Bedford Heights and the "McMansion" era in the 1990s, when huge, similar-looking homes lined the streets of areas such as Independence, Solon and Westlake. "Out west communities like Avon and Avon Lake continue to develop even in the most current downturn," says Bialosky.

While it's difficult to define homes being built today, many homeowners are looking for ways to use their space wisely. "We are seeing smaller, more manageable, sustainable homes," says Bialosky.

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