Constructed in 1893 at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and Bond Street, as East 6th Street was known before the city’s street names changed in December 1906, the Garfield Building is notable for its early use of a structural steel framework.
Designed by Henry Ives Cobb, it was actually the first building in Cleveland with this design feature. Its 10-stories made it one of the city’s tallest buildings at the time of its construction.
Early photo of the Garfield Bldg. before the New England Bldg. was builtCobb was a noted Chicago architect, and a good example of the close relationship that existed between clients and architects from the two cities.
Born in Brookline Massachusetts, Cobb formed a partnership with Charles Sumner Frost and specialized in the Richardsonian Romanesque style. The partners were responsible for several memorable buildings in Chicago, including the Palmer Mansion, the Newberry Building, and the old Chicago Historical Society.
In Cleveland, the Garfield Building was commissioned by Harry Augustus Garfield and James Rudolph Garfield, sons of President James A. Garfield.
The building was designed with banking facilities in the basement level, on speculation a bank may find the building a suitable home. These facilities included meeting rooms and massive steel vaults installed at a cost of $100,000—a sum representing $3 million in today’s money.
The basement banking facility building stood empty for two years after it was completed, but in 1895 Cleveland Trust moved in—a dozen years before moving into its own headquarters in the George B. Post and Sons-designed rotunda on Euclid Avenue and East 9th Street.
Another well-known Garfield Building tenant was old line Cleveland jewelry firm Cowell & Hubbard, which at one time occupied the entire first floor.
Purchased by the National City Corporation in 1918, the building underwent a $500.000 renovation that converted the entire first floor into a bank.
The structure reopened in 1921 with a new name, the National City Bank Building.
National City occupied the building into the 21st Century.
In 2008 the unthinkable happened when National City Bank was sold to a competitor and lost its identity, ending the tenure of an institution that was part of the business landscape in Cleveland for as long as anyone could remember.
The Garfield building was sold in 2008 and then stood empty until 2014 when a new owner announced plans to convert the building into apartments.
Controversy ensued when fragments of the building’s façade fell to the street and sidewalk, damaging several parked cars.
The newly renovated building opened as The Garfield apartments in 2017.
A notable feature is the Marble Room, where restaurant patrons can enjoy fine dining in what was once the building’s first floor bank.
A hardy perennial, the Garfield Building is still commercially viable in its third century, serving the needs of downtown residents and anyone who enjoys upscale dining.
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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.