Francis E. Drury House /1910/

The butler married the housekeeper on the evening of Oct. 15, 1912. A slow wedding march resonated through the red Tudor mansion on Euclid Avenue as William Bygrave and Katherine Gassman stepped forward toward the minister. The massive living room, decorated with chrysanthemums and dahlias, held 50 guests. The groom was from England, the bride a Clevelander whose parents lived in Tremont, and for one night, the newest of Euclid Avenue's mansions belonged to them.

The gesture was typical of their employer, Francis E. Drury. After making his fortune selling kerosene stoves, Drury had reached his early 60s, and his thoughts had turned from commerce to generosity. Much as he provided a memorable beginning to his servants' marriage, he helped the Cleveland Play House get its start. He loved architecture as well as artistry, and his two massive Cleveland-area mansions remain landmarks decades after his stoves' flames burned out.

Inventiveness paved Drury's path to Millionaires' Row. Born in 1850, he's credited with creating the first internal-gear lawn mower before he was 20. He started the Cleveland Foundry Co., where he made his fortune, in 1888. One day, the story goes, a tinsmith came into Drury's office carrying a peculiar contraption that burned kerosene. In an age when women cooked with wood or coal stoves, Drury realized the tinsmith's invention could storm the market.

Drury perfected his Perfection Stoves around 1900. He partnered with John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Co., which needed new kerosene markets. Between 1905 and 1915, Drury and Standard Oil sold 10 million stoves, making Drury a multimillionaire.

In 1910, he hired Cleveland architects Meade and Hamilton to design the last of Euclid Avenue's great mansions (on Millionaires' Row's eastern edge or two miles beyond it, depending on whom you ask). The 34-room, 25,000-square-foot English Renaissance Tudor home required 20 servants to maintain.

From the front, it seems to ramble forever, its red façade enlivened with recessed arches, a bay window and an orange slate roof and dark chimney. Guests arrived at the rear, where the home looks even more like an English manor, with dark wooden Tudor designs framing several windows and a door. A brick tower rises like a castle's turret.

A giant entryway staircase ascends to the right, with ornate oak newels rising from the railings. Italian tile leads through a stone archway to the great hall connecting the living room and dining room. An ornate rug stretches almost its entire length. Plaster reliefs near the ceiling depict hunting scenes: Human figures hunt boar and deer amid flowering trees.

One night late in 1915, Drury and his wife, Julia, threw a dinner party in their massive dining room. Drury was semiretired and had just purchased a 5-acre estate across the road, intending to transform it into a formal garden.

Myrta Jones (who would go on to marry Chase National Bank president Henry Cannon) sat next to Drury and began talking about her newly formed theater group that wanted to stage experimental plays. Her enthusiasm intrigued Drury and his wife. He offered Jones the keys to an abandoned house across the street.

The group, which called itself the Cleveland Play House, held its first show there in May 1916. As Drury began to build the garden, he gave them $6,000 to buy an empty church on Cedar Avenue.

Drury's enchanting garden oasis included waterfalls, a lily pond and reflecting pools, a pagoda and an amphitheater, greenhouses, a woods, flower-lined paths and fountains with water falling over Cupid figures. But Drury grew restless in his Eden.

Perhaps, like many millionaires of his era, he felt the pull of the rural life of his childhood. Drury bought 155 acres in Gates Mills and commissioned a near-replica of his home, one and a half times larger. In 1924, Drury and his wife moved there, and he sold their Euclid Avenue home. He donated the garden land to the Cleveland Play House, where it built the theaters it occupied for 85 years and named one the Francis Drury Theater.

Drury passed away at his winter home in Georgia in 1932 at age 81.

"He was basically a very good fellow," says Dan Ruminski, who lectures on Drury as part of his Cleveland History Lessons project. "He believed unearned money corrupted, so he gave most of it away."

Drury set up small annuities for his son, grandchildren and 20 friends, relatives and servants; the rest was split among five colleges. Drury's grandson, Remington Drury, still receives $1,500 every three months.

Gilmour Academy now owns the Gates Mills home. The Cleveland Clinic has owned the Francis Drury house since 1989. Renamed the Foundation House, it hosts receptions, graduations for medical residents, and some Cleveland Clinic Foundation board meetings. Most of the first floor looks much the same as it did 100 years ago, as if Julia Drury is about to come around the corner to welcome you to her dinner party while Mr. Bygrave, the butler, extends his hand to take your coat.

House Rules

University Club / 1863 / The granddaddy of Millionaires' Row mansions was built for Western Union superintendent Anson Stager. The three-story Second Empire house with a four-story tower was home to a social club from 1913 to 2002. Now, a for-sale sign stands near a closed gate. 3813 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

George Howe Mansion / 1894 / Built for a cousin of sewing-machine inventor Elias Howe, this mansion stands out on Cleveland State's campus for the dark, ornate second-floor balcony on its tan brick façade. The interior boasts mahogany paneling and a marble fireplace in each room. It's now CSU's Parker Hannifin Hall. 2258 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

Samuel Mather Mansion / 1910 / The Inner Belt took out several Millionaires' Row mansions, but it left the greatest one. Cleveland architect Charles Schweinfurth designed the 45-room mansion for Samuel Mather, titan of iron ore. It includes 15 bedrooms, 16 fireplaces (including a 14th-century hearth imported from Venice), and a ballroom. It's now part of Cleveland State University. 2605 Euclid Ave., Cleveland

Share this story: