Frank B. Meade: Architect of Cleveland's iconic Tudor homes

Welcome to the second installment of Cleveland Masterworks—a series in which Cleveland history enthusiast Tom Matowitz explores the history of Greater Cleveland’s most noted architectural designs and the architects who created them. Some structures remain, others did not weather the test of time. But these men and the buildings that symbolized Cleveland as a city of wealth, industry, and banking laid the foundation for the city in the 21st Century.

The identity of Cleveland’s greatest architect is a question that may never be settled. A strong contender would be Frank B. Meade, renowned for his mastery of the Tudor style.

Meade was born in his grandparents' home in Norwalk, Ohio in 1867. His parents' home was located on present day Huron Road in Cleveland.

His early schooling was provided by the Cleveland Public School system—starting at the old Brownell School on what is today East 14th Street and going on to graduate from Central High School. Meade’s earliest interest was in the field of music—he studied violin for nine years and his talents earned him a spot on a local orchestra where he remained for three years.

Frank B. MeadeIn the fall of 1884 Meade enrolled in the Case School of Applied Science (later to become Case Institute of Technology). His excellent drawing skills led one his professors to suggest that he pursue a career as an architect. He completed his education in Boston and established a partnership with his classmate and fellow architect Alfred Hoyt Granger.

Also known for designing social clubs, Meade was one of the founders of the Hermit Club and designed both the original club headquarters on present-day East 3rd Street in 1904, as well as the club’s current Dodge Court location in 1928.

After serving a long apprenticeship in other firms, Meade’s career reached its zenith during his long partnership with James Montgomery Hamilton. Beginning in 1911, this collaboration produced many of Cleveland’s most notable residential structures on Euclid Avenue, in Wade Park, and in suburbs like Shaker Heights, Cleveland Heights, and Bratenahl. The partners showed great deftness working in the Tudor style, which was then at the height of its popularity in the area.

It is estimated that the firm designed more than 800 buildings before the partnership ended with James Hamilton's early death in January 1941.

Meade & Hamilton’s signature Tudor style is easily recognized. They used the finest quality materials executed to the highest standards, as well as great imagination. Their signature work is recognizable immediately from the street and no two houses are alike.

One of the first commissions executed by the new firm of Meade & Hamilton was a grand house on Euclid Avenue to serve as a residence for Francis and Julia Drury. Francis was a businessman and entrepreneur who made a fortune promoting his oil lamp stoves under Perfection Stove Company (it is estimated by 1922, more than three million Perfection kitchen stoves and ranges were in use in American homes).

On the exterior, The Drury house boasts a red brick façade with recessed arches, bay windows, orange slate roof, dark chimney, and a brick tower.The Drury house, An English renaissance Tudor at 8615 Euclid Ave. and East 87th Street, is an example of Meade & Hamilton’s finest work. The 34-room, 25,000-square-foot mansion provides all the hallmarks the firm was noted for—the use of sumptuous materials beautifully executed, a perfect integration of a building with its site, dramatic sight lines, and a sense of livability despite a large scale.

On the exterior, the home boasts a red brick façade with recessed arches, bay windows, orange slate roof, dark chimney, and a brick tower.

Inside, an entryway staircase with ornate oak newels rising from the railings in the centerpiece, while Italian tile led through a stone archway to a hall that led to the living and dining rooms. Plaster reliefs near the ceiling depicted hunting scenes.

The Drurys were patrons of the arts and devoted supporters of the Cleveland Play House—having donated a farmhouse at East 85th Street and Euclid Avenue that would become the theater’s first home.

They were also avid gardeners and had an elaborate formal garden on the south side of Euclid Avenue that could be reached from the house by a tunnel underneath Euclid Avenue. While the tunnel was filled in when the land where the garden stood was sold and repurposed, years ago an elderly woman who grew up living on Carnegie Avenue recalled the Drurys permitting neighborhood children to play in the garden. She remembered their kindness vividly.

Beautiful as the Euclid home was, it wasn't occupied by the Drury family for long. After 12 years, in 1925, they set out to find a more pastoral setting and they built a similar house in Gates Mills—something of a pattern as wealthy Euclid Avenue residents moved further east as the surroundings began to change. That house is now the home of Gilmour Academy.

The Gates Mill house was designed by Charles S. Schneider—best known as the designer of Stan Hywet Hall in Akron—who based the design of new house on the Euclid Avenue house, but it is vastly larger.

By the late 1990s the Drury house had fallen upon hard times. The Cleveland Clinic purchased it and undertook a remarkable restoration.The Euclid Ave. house was sold to Ralph King in 1926, but he died before he could take possession. Thereafter the house became a social club, the Drury Club for 40 affluent Clevelanders who met for dinner and drinks on Saturday nights from 1939 to 1946.

In 1946 the house was sold to the Florence Crittenton Home for Unwed Mothers, which operated out of the Drury mansion until 1971.

From 1973 until 1989 a community reintegration center opened in the mansion to provide treatment programs for probation and parole violators in an attempt to prevent their return to prison.

By the late 1990s the house had fallen upon hard times. The Cleveland Clinic purchased it and undertook a remarkable restoration which brought the ground floor rooms back to the appearance intended for them by Meade & Hamilton. The upper floors have been converted to offices and conference rooms and the Clinic uses its Foundation House primarily as a conference center.

The Drurys would feel perfectly at home and the future of the house is assured as it enters its second century.

Read more articles by Tom Matowitz.

Recently retired after a 37-year career teaching public speaking, Tom Matowitz has had a lifelong interest in local and regional history. Working as a freelance author for the past 20 years he has written a number of books and articles about Cleveland’s past. He has a particular interest in the area’s rich architectural history.