Charles Sumner Schneider: Known for Stan Hywet Hall, homes of the East Side wealthy

Charles Sumner Schneider was born in Cleveland in 1874. He lived and worked in Northeast Ohio his entire life.

Schneider’s architectural training was impeccable. He began in the office of Meade & Garfield where he was mentored by Frank Meade and Abram Garfield—both of whom stand among Cleveland’s greatest architects.

Like many others who aspired to a career in architecture Schneider then traveled to Paris where he studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts before returning to Cleveland and went to work in the office of William Watterson.

<span class="content-image-text">John D. Rockefeller Case Western Reserve Physics Building</span>John D. Rockefeller Case Western Reserve Physics BuildingSchneider’s early work included the design of the Rockefeller Physics Building at the Case Western Reserve University School of Applied Science as well as the Cleveland Baseball Company offices at League Park.

By 1912 he was the manager of the Cleveland office of the renowned architectural firm George B. Post & Sons.

This job placed Schneider at a crossroads. Akron industrialist Frank Seiberling had hired the Post firm to design his proposed Tudor mansion taking shape in Akron. Pleased with Schneider but displeased with the slow pace of drawings coming from New York, Seiberling recruited Schneider to take on the commission and accept responsibility for the design of the new house.

Lasting from 1911 until 1915 this collaboration led to the creation of Stan Hywet Hall. More than a century later, this magnificent house is still recognized as one of the finest expressions of the Tudor style ever built in the United States.

This landmark project almost never happened. Schneider accompanied Frank and Gertrude Seiberling and their daughter Irene on a trip to England in the spring of 1912 to gather ideas for the new house. At Schneider’s urging they changed plans at the last moment, extending their stay and canceling passage home on the Titanic.

This success made Charles Schneider’s reputation as he was sought to build schools, hotels, and grand private residences in Cleveland’s wealthy eastern suburbs where many remain standing today. His homes designs include the residence of Francis Drury in Gates Mills—now Gilmour Academy—and the homes of Sophia Strong Taylor in Bratenahl and a 1928 Georgian home at 19000 South Park Blvd.

<span class="content-image-text">Shaker Heights City Hall</span>Shaker Heights City HallOther notable buildings include the 1923 Plymouth Church in Shaker Heights, several Shaker Heights schools, and the 1930 Shaker Heights City Hall,  as well as the Brotherhood of Railroad Trainmen’s Standard Building, constructed in 1921 at  99 W. St. Clair Ave. The Brotherhood sold the building to Weston Inc. in 2014 and moved its headquarters to Twinsburg. Weston then converted the historic building into apartments in 2017.

Unfortunately, Schneider’s heyday was destined to be brief. The 1929 stock market crash led to harsh curtailment of the sort of commissions he specialized in. This economic reversal forced Schneider to give up his own self-designed house in Shaker Heights, driving past it without complaint for the rest of his life.

Schneider died at the age of 58 in 1932. He was widely acclaimed by his peers, who described him as a remarkable man who was as much an artist as an architect.

Like so many of his peers, Schneider is buried in Lake View Cemetery. Having died during one of the worst years of the Great Depression in Cleveland, his grave his marked by a modest tombstone. Instead, Schneider’s greatest monument is Stan Hywet—raised by his vision from a played-out farmer’s field to the heights of excellence as an example of his use of the Tudor Revival style that will never be surpassed.

About the Author: 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.