Frank Walker and Harry Weeks: Designers of Municipal Stadium, other cherished landmarks

The term iconic has been reduced to a cliche by overuse. One case where it applies in its original sense is the work of Frank Walker and Harry Weeks. Their architecture firm remained in operation for four decades—from 1911 to 1953—and produced some of Cleveland's most memorable and enduring buildings.

The work of Walker and Weeks is easily recognized, with works in Neoclassical, Italian Renaissance, Moderne, and Art Deco architectural styles.

Cleveland Municipal Stadium, constructed on reclaimed land on the city's lakefront, was completed in 1931; at that time it boasted the largest individual seating capacity (78,189) of any outdoor arena in the world. High on the list of standouts would be structures like Severance Hall, venue for some of the finest music performed in America for nearly a century; Cleveland Municipal Stadium, for decades the scene of Cleveland sports teams’ triumphs and disasters; the Cleveland Public Library; St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Cleveland Heights; and the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge (today known as the Hope Memorial Bridge) across the Cuyahoga River.

The list includes more than 600 buildings extending from 1911 to 1949, making Walker & Weeks one of the most durable and prolific partnerships in the history of Cleveland architecture.

Walker and Weeks had much in common from the start. Well-educated and ambitious young men from Massachusetts, both graduated from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and then pursued advanced training in architecture. Both originally came to Cleveland at the urging of John M. Carrere in 1905.

Carrere was a man of great influence—a partner in the New York firm Carrere & Hastings, he also served on the Cleveland Group Plan commission. Carrere knew excellence when he saw it. Both young men showed early promise and subsequently fully justified his faith in them.

Walker and Weeks began their work in Cleveland in the office of J. Milton Dyer and quickly became friends. Dyer was a talented but erratic architect whose work demonstrated considerable range, as shown by the contrast between commissions as varied as the offices and plant of the Peerless Car Company and his design for the Cleveland Coast Guard station completed in 1940.

Given great responsibility under Dyer early on, Walker and Weeks designed and supervised construction of the 1911 Cleveland Athletic Club (today the Athlon apartments).

Severance HallIn later life Walker is said to have claimed credit for several notable buildings attributed to Dyer. While these claims may never be resolved, it is known that deteriorating relations with Dyer led to Walker and Weeks leaving his employ to establish their own firm in 1911.

The new firm of Walker & Weeks began life at a time of great prosperity in Cleveland. Projects taken on by the new firm covered a wide range of designs and situations. They renovated existing buildings and built new ones. They covered a wide range of functions on projects that included banks, private homes, police stations, stables, and outbuildings, as well as the grand municipal structures.

These projects were brought to life in challenging economic times with buildings like Severance Hall and Cleveland Municipal Stadium both being completed in 1931—one of the bleakest years of the Great Depression.

An architect employed in the office in the early 1930s described Walker and Weeks as “a strange combination.” Walker was reportedly outgoing and highly social, while Weeks was quiet and apparently something of an introvert—invariably addressed as “Mr. Weeks” and held in high regard by the staff.

The firm continued using the name Walker & Weeks until 1953, four years after Frank Walker’s death in 1949. Long term employees Frank Rinehart and Howard Horn maintained the firm, ultimately giving it their own names Horn & Rinehart, and remained in operation for twenty years, ultimately closing in 1971 after a remarkable 60-year run.

The historic 1927 Walker & Weeks building, which housed the firms offices, today is the Walker Weeks apartment building in the Campus District.

Willoughby Masonic Lodge - photo Tom MatowitzA complete listing of the firm’s designs runs to more than 600 entries and 70 years after Walker & Weeks ceased to exist, a very high percentage of those buildings remain.

The survivors include structures like the large stable at Squire Valleevue Farm in Hunting Valley and the Willoughby Masonic Lodge.

Harry Weeks died in December 1935 after a two-year long illness. His role as an organizer and manager was invaluable and his loss was keenly felt.

Upon his death nearly14 years later, Frank Walker was honored by a front-page obituary in the Plain Dealer—a tribute rarely granted to an architect in that era.

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.