Saturday, December 27, 2014


Photo - The Century, 1886 

    The building activity in upper Madison avenue and upper Park avenue continues, taking the form, generally, of "elegant residences", upon the outside of which much money has been expended, with varying degrees of judgment. The Tiffany house, at Madison Avenue and Seventy-second Street, is already THE MOST CONSPICUOUS DWELLING HOUSE IN THE CITY. The gable on the Madison avenue front must be very nearly seventy-five feet wide at the base, and the pitch is steep, so that the roof is a towering object. The house is also conspicuous by its magnitude and its material. The central gable on the Seventy-second street front and the turret at the angle are still unfinished, and these will so modify the skyline and the general effect of the exteriors that the house will not be fairly amenable to criticism until they are completed. 

   Follow THIS LINK for all past posts relating to the 72nd Street residence of Louis Comfort Tiffany.

Monday, December 22, 2014

World's Largest Indoor Christmas Tree - Sterling & Welch Company Building - Cleveland, Ohio

   Sterling & Welch began in 1845 when Thos. S. and Wm. Beckwith opened a dry goods store on Superior St. In 1857 the store replaced its dry goods line with floor coverings and curtains. Both Frederick A. Sterling and Geo. P. Welch joined the company in its early years and by 1889 they had control of the partnership which was incorporated in 1902 as the Sterling & Welch Co. In 1909 the firm moved from its location on lower Euclid Avenue to 1215-1225 Euclid Ave., where it built one of the largest and finest home furnishing stores in the area. In 1927 Sterling & Welch began the tradition of installing the nation's largest indoor Christmas tree in its atrium.

J. Milton Dyer, Architect 

"it is undoubtedly the finest, most commodious and handsomest store building in the world, it being unsurpassed by any in Chicago, New York or the metropolitan centers of Europe. It is strictly modern in every sense, with magnificent interior furnishings and every facility to promote the beauty and substantiality of the structure." A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical By Samuel Peter Orth


In front of the Sterling and Welch Store, circa 1940's.


A live, 50-60 ft. tree, festooned with 60 lbs. of 'icicles', 1000 yds. of tinsel, 1500 ornaments, and because fire regulations prohibited the practice of placing lights in the trees, was illuminated by 6 banks of 750 candle-watt spotlights. It required 650 man-power hours to trim by swinging stages suspended from the skylight.

   Legend has it the tree grew a foot while inside the store.









Their "Santaland" included a device where you could insert a coin and receive a gift that came down a slide, a train, and an enchanted forest display.

    The STERLING-LINDNER CO. was a combination of 3 smaller stores--the Sterling & Welch Co., the W.B. Davis Co., and the Lindner Co.--each of which was a leader retailer in its own specialty. 

   The W.B. Davis Co., a pioneer menswear store in Cleveland, began in Jan. 1879 as a custom-shirt factory operated by Wm. B. Davis and Edwin Parsons at Superior and Bank (W. 6th) streets. By 1880 Davis had changed the business to a retail men's furnishing store, which was incorporated in May 1888. In 1917 Davis moved from an earlier location on Euclid Ave. to its newly acquired Davis Bldg. at 325 Euclid.

   The Lindner Co., once the largest women's specialty store in Cleveland, was begun by Max Lindner, Max Hellman, and Morris Black in 1908 on E. 9th St., and by 1915 Lindner had built and occupied a larger store at 1331 Euclid AveThe following year, the 2 companies were merged into the Sterling-Lindner-Davis Co. 

Built 1915, Robert D. Kohn, architect. 

Looking West at the corner of E. 12th Street and Euclid Avenue, late 1950,s -  Hotel Statler(now the Statler Arms Apartments)Union Club and  Sterling-Linder-Davis department store on right.

Modernization underway for the opening of Lindner-Davis store in the former Higbee building, circa 1949. 

   In 1947 one of the nation's largest operators of department stores, the Allied Stores Corp. of New York, acquired Lindner & Davis. Two years later, it purchased Sterling & Welch. In 1949 the Lindner-Davis general department store opened in the remodeled Higbee building at Euclid Ave. and E. 13th St., adjacent to the Sterling & Welch store. Davis was dropped from the name in 1958. In the early 1960s, the firm felt that it was in a prime location downtown and decided not to establish suburban branch stores. Allied Stores then realized that without outlying stores, Sterling-Lindner was not profitable. The store closed in 1968 and the building was demolished.

Euclid Ave and E 13th view of Sterling Welch building in Cleveland, Ohio, shortly before it was razed. The two store gray building on the NE corner of 13th/Euclid was the Cowell and Hubbard Jewelrs building. This intersection was the epicenter for Cleveland's carriage trade stores.
Note the SWC frieze.
The beautiful atrium was demolished to make way for an office building that never materialized. The steel pilings for the atrium were cut off and remain in the ground.
    At their peak, Cleveland's downtown department stores anchored a lower Euclid Avenue that ranked among the largest retail districts in the United States and was compared to New York's stylish Fifth Avenue.

   After World War II, the growth of suburbs and shopping malls started to draw business away from downtown and Euclid Avenue. The department stores tried to compete, opening up suburban branches, but by the turn of the 21st century most of these local companies had been bought out by national chains, with their flagship downtown locations converted to other uses. 

Later a fifth floor was added and the matching top trim eliminated. 
Now known as the Sterling Building
   Founded in 1860 by Edwin Higbee and John Hower, Higbees was a simple two-man dry goods store originally known as Hower and Higbees. Following Howers death in 1897, the store incorporated as the Higbee Company.

    Originally located downtown, in 1931 the Higbee Company was in the midst of constructing a new store on Public Square. The move would return the Higbee Company back to downtown after nearly a quarter-century stint next to Sterling Welch on Playhouse Square. When completed, the new store stood as an anchor to the new Cleveland Union Terminal Complex, which became the hub of the city's rapid transit system.  

Higbee's became enshrined as a scene in the holiday film "A Christmas Story".

   The Van Sweringen brothers’ massive Cleveland Union Terminal project was the ultimate impetus for Higbee’s returning to Public Square in 1931. As a hub for both train travel and their Shaker Rapid Transit system, the brothers wanted to capitalize on the captive traffic by incorporating a department store into the project. When the pair failed to lure any department stores, they solved their dilemma by simply buying Higbee’s and moving it there themselves.
   Higbee's was purchased in 1992 by Arkansas-based Dillard's and closed its Terminal Tower store in 2002. In 2012 the Higbee building became home to the Horseshoe Casino.

The home of Amasa and Julia Stone, 1255 Euclid Avenue, was completed in 1857.
   In 1857, Amasa Stone, a successful railroad entrepreneur and bridge designer, erected a 6,500-square-foot Italianate villa mansion. Eighteen years later, Stone planned and constructed a bridge spanning the Ashtabula Gorge, ignoring advice from his own engineers, who considered the design unsafe. The bridge ultimately collapsed in a windstorm, killing 151 train passengers unfortunate enough to be crossing at the time of its collapse.

   The despondent Stone, attempting to cope with the bridge disaster, failing health, the accidental drowning of his only son and a financial panic that ruined three companies he controlled, fired a bullet through his heart while sitting in a bathtub in his Euclid Avenue mansion. Samuel Mather and his wife, Flora Stone Mather (one of Amasa's daughters), lived in the home until Flora died in 1909. At the time of her death, Flora had nearly completed her participation in the design of what would have been her next residence, the plush Mather mansion still standing on the Cleveland State University campus. After the Stone residences demolition in 1910, the  Sterling Welch building was built joined by the new Higbee Company building. 

Monday, December 8, 2014

"Villa Marina" at Christmas

"Villa Marina" at Christmas 1922

Follow THIS LINK for more on "Villa Marina" at Roslyn, L. I. The Home of Frank C. Henderson, Esq.

Monday, December 1, 2014


   THE COUNTRY HOUSE AT CHRISTMAS TIME House Parties That Will Gather to Celebrate the Yule-Tide in Many Suburban Localities—A Growing Custom in America

Some one has said that the house party is the latest and most luxurious development in Christmas entertaining. In a way, it is new to Americans. It is simply the outgrowth of the adoption of English country life and English country customs. But it may be called a survival from the colonial period, rather than an absolute novelty. The house party was a very popular method of entertaining in the colonial days, especially in Virginia and Maryland, where there existed ans still exists many old manor houses, which are well adapted for large companies. After the Revolution there was a period in which an adherence to English customs became almost a treason, and Christmas was celebrated in the North more in the old Dutch spirit. It became, apart from its religious significance, the day for children and servants.

When society grew tired of flocking to hotels for its summer outing, and cottage life became a feature, the old estates along the Hudson, and in Westchester County, among the Berkshircs, on Long Island, and near the greater cities, which had been neglected and were drugs on the market, gradually came into fashion again. Magnificent country houses, like those which have existed for years in England, were built, and the house party on its present lavish scale was a possibility.

More and more, since country and suburban life became the vogue has Christmas passed out of town. At many of the large estates near New York there are house parties, and the plans for the inviting of congenial guests begin during the early days of autumn. The American house party, as a rule, with the exception of those given at the "Dukeries" and other celebrated English manors and estates, is likely to be on a scale of greater magnitude than those abroad. Sixty or even one hundred or more guests are asked, and this is made possible by the ample accommodations for the unattached man, who must be present in superior numbers. Nearly all the large country houses have a "club building" especially arranged for bachelors. Some of these parties last through the holiday weeks. The distance between town and country is made so slight by the employment of the motor car, that many men can go to town in the morning and return back for tea or dinner. Possibly, at house parties which are given weekly from November until after the holidays, no one entertains more lavishly than Mr. William K. Vanderbilt at "Idle Hour".  There are seldom less than one hundred guests, and there is a varied program of all kinds of amusements for their benefit, including each evening recitals of music by the best talent procurable in this country. Within the grounds of "Idle Hour", there are golf links, tennis and squash courts, pigeon shoots, and arrangements for aquatic sports of all kinds. There are garages filled with motor cars, stables with horses and traps, motor boats, launches and yachts; in fact, there is everything requisite excepting, perhaps, the aeroplane and this no doubt will be added as soon as it is practicable. 

"Idle Hour" is a little world to itself, a pleasure kingdom by the sea. The Vanderbilt family is now so large and has so many branches that each head of one of the houses has a gathering of its own. Dr. and Mrs. W. Seward Webb usually observe Christmas at "Shelburne Farms", where, besides their own children, there is always a number ot extra guests. "Shelburne Farms" is one of the few places in America which has its own game preserves, and it is more like an English estate. The high latitude gives full scope for winter sports of all kinds. Mr. and Mrs. William D. Sloane frequently open "Elm Court" at Lenox for the holidays. Besides their young son, who has just graduated from Yale, there are three married daughters, Mrs. James A. Burden, Jr., Mrs. Hammond and Mrs. Field, and with a few intimate friends, a large house party is easily assembled. Sleighing, skating and tobogganing are among the pastimes of the week. Lenox has become a favorite place for Christmas celebrations; here-Mr. and Mrs. Giraud Foster, Mr. and Mrs. George Westinghousc, Mr. and Mrs. George Winthrop Folsom and others entertain during the holidays, participating in a real old-fashioned New England Christmas. 

Again, Mr. and Mrs. Alfred Vanderbilt usually give a large Christmas house party at their camp in the Adirondacks. Here, last year, were Miss Evelyn Parsons, Miss Gwendolyn Burden, Mrs. Arthur Scott Burden and Miss Natica Rives, now Mrs. Williams Burden, as well as Mr. and Mrs. William Goadby Loew and a number of men in the Newport set. Mr. and Mrs. H. McK. Twombly go to Madison, N.J., for their Christmas and Mr. and Mrs. George Vanderbilt have a royal celebration at "Biltmore House" in the far South. Here, near the Land of the Sky, in North Carolina, they assemble a party of congenial friends for the holidays. There are services in the Biltmore church, which has one of the best choirs in this country and a celebrated organist brought from England. In the afternoon, there is a Christmas tree for the children of the tenants on the place and the employes, and the gifts hung on a tall pine in the great ballroom are distributed by Mrs. Vanderbilt. Afterwards, there is a performance or concert and a collation. For the guests there are recitals of music by well-known artists from New York, hunting trips and all the delights of life in the open in the Southland. Mr. and Mrs. Pembroke Jones take a party of guests to their North Carolina plantation. Colonel and Mrs. John Jacob Astor usually have a house party at their estate near "Rhinebeek," and Mr. and Mrs. Ogden Mills celebrate the Yule-tide in the good old English fashion at Staatsburg in the splendid manor house of the Livingstons. Mr. and Mrs. Frederick G. Bourne give a house party at their Long Island estate, and Mr. and Mrs. Anson Phelps Stokes have a family gathering at Noroton, Conn. At the club settlements and such colonies as Tuxedo, Christmas is observed, not only by individual house parties at the various cottages, but also by sports and contests of all kinds at the club-house and by a jolly dance. At Tuxedo, the New Year is welcomed by a ball, which is one of the events of the winter season. 

Thus has the Christmas house party gradually taken the place among national observances. Every one now who has a country house feels that the great festival should be celebrated there rather than in town, where, too often, the streets are given over to a noisy and boisterous Saturnalia. It seems more in accordance with the traditions. In the second century of the Nation we are rapidly acquiring age with other characteristics. However, the universal observance of Christmas in the country, and the bringing together by the very wealthy of large assemblages of young and old, of giving to every member of a household an opportunity to enjoy the day and to join together in celebrating the greatest of festivals with a social, democratic spirit, are good signs. The traditions are preserved and the celebration is more in accord with the letter of that heavenly message given to the shepherds who watched their flocks by night on the hills of Palestine—that old sweet message of "Peace on Earth. Good Will to Men."