Howell & Thomas: Designers of iconic Shaker and Cleveland Heights homes, schools

The partnership of Howell & Thomas was an architectural practice active in Cleveland from 1916 until 1930. Carl Howell and James Thomas were acquainted as young men, having been college roommates at the University of Pennsylvania.

Howell was born in Columbus and attended The Ohio State University and the Columbus Art School before moving to Philadelphia where he received a B. S. In architecture from the University of Pennsylvania in 1905. Winning a scholarship enabled him to travel abroad and Howell worked briefly in Philadelphia before establishing his partnership with James Thomas in Columbus.

Thomas followed a similar path to architecture, graduating from the University of Pennsylvania, then moving to New York to work for Cass Gilbert before joining Howell.

The partners became known for their design of substantial homes for the upper middle class.

They came to Cleveland during the World War I era, designing several houses in the Euclid Golf subdivision being developed in Cleveland Heights by Barton Deming. Their designs met with such success that they closed their Columbus office and moved to Cleveland permanently.

Euclid Golf Neighborhood Exhibit: Howell & Thomas designed up-scale residences for Barton Deming's Euclid Golf Neighborhood.

Their work included examples of the major types of residential design in vogue in the 1920s—English Tudor, Colonial Revival, and French. Their designs made extensive use of leaded glass windows and a unique treatment in which false front doors are actually windows, and the true entry being an informal one on the side of the house.

Notable survivors of their work include four demonstration houses in Shaker Heights—built in 1922 at the request of the Van Sweringen brothers located at Shaker and Courtland Boulevards, as well as a group of seven additional homes constructed two years later on Parkland Drive.

A man believed to be Barton R. Deming plays with his nieces in the creek behind the Deming house in 1917Howell & Thomas designed a remarkable house for Barton Deming, as well as two symmetrical additions to then-Shaker Heights High School (what is today Woodbury Elementary School). Not confining their work to the east side, they also designed the original Lakewood High School.

Their works have had a high survival rate, with dozens of their residential structures still standing today in the Cleveland area.

Howell died in 1930 at the age of 50 and Thomas continued to operate the firm under the same name for a number of years thereafter. Thomas led an exceptionally long life. Born in 1876 he died at the age of 97, having spent the last 30 years of his life residing on a family compound in Hudson.

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.