Charles Heard and Simeon Porter, creators of a legacy with their design of the Old Stone Church

Although the partnership of Charles Wallace Heard and Simeon Porter lasted for little more than a decade its influence on Cleveland has been lasting.

The firm was responsible for one of Cleveland’s best known period structures—the Old Stone Church, a landmark on Public Square since construction in 1853 and the only survivor of the pre-Civil War buildings that surrounded the square in the 19th Century.

Old Stone Church 1973This particular structure provides an unusual illustration of how the careers of Cleveland architects are so often intertwined. Heard was the son-in-law of Jonathan Goldsmith, who was responsible for the design of some of Northeast Ohio’s most notable early buildings along Euclid Avenue and in Lake County.

Heard received his early training from Goldsmith. His 1853 Old Stone Church was subsequently renovated by Charles Schweinfurth after a disastrous fire in 1884.

The Old Stone Church has therefore felt the hand of three generations of renowned Cleveland builders and architects over its 201-year history.

Heard was born in Onondaga, New York in 1806. Over the course of his career, he transitioned from carpenter to master builder to architect—a familiar path for early Cleveland architects in the days before studying in Europe came to be viewed as mandatory.

Heard’s partner, Simeon Porter, was born in Connecticut in 1807. He moved with his family to Hudson where he constructed several buildings for Western Reserve College, known today as Western Reserve Academy. He also built a number of houses in Hudson before moving to Cleveland in 1848.

Construction of the Euclid Ave. Opera House, ca. 1870s. Porter joined Heard in 1849 and the Heard & Porter firm became the most successful architectural business in Cleveland over the course of the next decade.

After striking out on his own in 1859, Porter remained very active as an architect finding work in neighboring cities such as Brecksville, Kent, Hudson, and Alliance. Upon his death in 1871 he was among the first to be buried in Cleveland’s new Lake View Cemetery.

Charles Heard formed a new partnership after Heard & Porter was dissolved and designed the Euclid Avenue Opera House on the corner of Euclid Avenue and Sheriff Street (today it is East 4th Street) in 1875, which was ultimately demolished in 1922, and the George Merwin house, which has served as the home of Cleveland’s Rowfant Club for many years.

It is notable that Heard, then operating as Heard & Sons, built the Ohio State Building for the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876. This building survived to take part in the Bicentennial a century later. The Ohio State Building in Philadelphia has been restored, named to the National Register of Historic Places, and is in use to this day.

While the list of Heard buildings was not huge, in addition to the Old Stone Church and the Rowfant Club there are only two other local survivors today, both in Painesville. They include the 1857 Lake Erie Female Seminary in Painesville—the only higher education institution in the Western Reserve for woman— which later became Lake Erie College; and the 1872 Casement House, or Jennings Place, 436 Casement Ave. in Painesville, which was home to suffragette and women’s voting rights leader Frances Jennings Casement.

Upon his death in 1876, Heard was reunited with his former partner in Lake View Cemetery.

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.

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