John Bonebrake Interview, November 15 2006

Born in 1918, John Bonebrake grew up in Cleveland Heights. In this 2006 interview, Bonebrake goes into great detail describing his childhood memories of Euclid Avenue and Downtown Cleveland in the 1920s and 1930s, mentioning, among other things, the avenue's stores, theaters, and mansions. Bonebrake provides colorful anecdotes on the wide range of his experiences in the city. He also describes his work as an architect in Post-War Cleveland, discussing his time with the firms of Walker & Weeks and Byers Hays.

Participants: Bonebrake, John (interviewee) / Gibans, Nina (interviewer) / Yanoshik-Wing, Emma (participant)
Collection: American Institute of Architects
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Nina Gibans [00:00:01] John, you're John Bonebrake and I'm Nina Gibans, and that's what this morning's interview is about, and specifically, this is because of the Euclid Corridor Oral History Project at Cleveland State, and the results will be in two forms. One. There's a Memory Bank at Cleveland State with the interviews there. That's the Ohio Memory Bank. Cleveland Memory Bank. What? Is that what it's called, Emma?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:00:36] Cleveland. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [00:00:36] And the second is that there will be kiosks all along Euclid Avenue and people can find out what you think about certain things if they want to, as they pass the kiosk. Okay? So we'll start with your background. We'll just sort of be chronological about this, and then you can expand in any direction you want, but basically that's what we're about.

John Bonebrake [00:01:05] Mmm.

Nina Gibans [00:01:06] So, about your childhood. About your... how you grew up and when you decided you would become an architect.

John Bonebrake [00:01:20] But basically, is this Euclid Avenue as related to my life? I was born in 1918 in Cleveland, and I've lived all my life here. And I... Around the time I was born, my parents rented an apartment on Lancashire Road at the corner of Euclid Heights Boulevard, which leads downhill to Euclid, and I... My earliest recollections around that time that would interest you would be riding down about once a week with my mother on the streetcar to do her grocery and banking shopping because there were no stores on Coventry Road, a block away from us. And I... But my mother told me of a couple of remarks that I had made in transit. She said, I said, once... My... To the other ladies, you see, this would be 9:30 or so, they were all shopper lady neighbors. I said, my mother says... Or my father says... My mother says... My father says she wears the pants in our family. And the other thing, I looked exactly like Jackie Coogan, and I brought out a portrait—and I have it, you'll see it later—of myself wearing a great big hat and a very mournful expression. I lived with my parents, my grandfather, and a young uncle before he was married. We all lived together in this apartment and so that I grew up not having more than one or two little friends around and listening all the time to my elders, which I have done ever since. Well, we would board the streetcar and go down Euclid Heights Boulevard, which even as I early remember, it was entirely built up from Coventry School, where I went at Coventry all the way down to the top of the hill with big apartments on the north side, which must have been built like ours right after World War I. And then the corner before we start down the hill on the right was a big gray mansion which belonged to the Eells family. E-E-L-L-S. They were big in Cleveland. And then going down the hill, down Cedar Hill, was always an adventure because it was very steep then—it's been graded since—and we got down and the streetcar went down Euclid Avenue to 105h and mother went to the Cleveland Trust bank, which was a huge black stone building with Corinthian columns and looked like the Maison carrée at Nîmes in France. And on the left was the B. F. Keith's Vaudeville Theater, where grandma and I would go Sunday afternoons for the movie, whatever there was, and the vaudeville, which was every week a live vaudeville. And then the big thing on the corner of that and 105th was Southworth's grocery, where everybody shopped to get their groceries, and then also there was the Elysium, which was a it was a huge wooden building and it was surrounded by roadways at 107th, I think, and Euclid, and that was a skating rink for the hockey teams of that period. And later on, when I was in high school, a friend's father had a little dinner party for us and took us to one of the games, and we sat in a box upstairs. But every Saturday in junior and high school and everything, all the kids in the winter, everybody went to the Elysium to skate. And of course, the Art Museum lagoon was right there, looking very much like it today, except it's been more beautiful, beautifully landscaped. And my recollections of Euclid Avenue, they would and begin, say, on the East Side at the juncture of Euclid and Mayfield Road, which becomes Ford Drive. Because my world ended there. It never went any farther. And at 107th, where now you take the street that goes down by the old Cleveland Club that became the Tudor Arms Hotel and now is a government agency of some sort, on that corner was an orange brick, big orange brick fancy building, which may have been designed by Abram Garfield's office—we'll get to that later—and it was a branch of probably the Society for Savings Bank. And on the right corner was sitting way back on what had once was a private lot facing Euclid was a, not enormous, but a nice Victorian house. It's my earliest recollection, those two buildings, of architecture in Cleveland. And it was, the big sign out front, it was called the Pantry and it had become a tea room. Of course, in my, early nineteen, early '20s up until 1932, Prohibition was rampant so that I never knew or saw anything that related to Prohibition or drinking. So in a place like that, only tea would be served, and for several years I begged my mother to let us get off and have tea and cinnamon toast, which once we did. And then between 107th and 105th was a, let's say, a high school world to me because there was the B. F. Keith's and on the north side, the Alhambra Theater, and a little farther on was, upstairs was a beautiful dining room and dance floor called the Bamboo Gardens. That two-story building has long gone in that block between 105th and let's say 101st. And I when I was about five, my father and mother, maybe for an anniversary, we went down there for dinner, and we had... I had never been to a restaurant before, and we were beautifully served, and when it came to dessert, we all ordered ice cream and, well, my parents were dancing at the time it was served, and I ate all of my father's chocolate ice cream. And at the door, there were little tiny favors for children. It was a wonderful experience. And of course, that age, that Prohibition age and my age, has gone forever. Then going a little further down, there were still houses, private homes, on Euclid Avenue north, several of the Queen Anne style, and one of them had a big front porch and the steps up to it had two ceramic little elephants, colored elephants, which fascinated me. You see, on this hour, three quarters of an hour trip downtown, I zeroed in on things that attracted me like those elephants. I later learned that that was the shop and tape shop of George Bierce, who was of a good Cleveland family and he was an antique dealer. And in his ancient life I was in his house up on Demington in Cleveland Heights, and the living room was so full you had to take a trail to walk full through it. And then also there were the dance halls. The Crystal Slipper, for instance, I remember the best because, you see, in those days of Prohibition and everything, if you were middle class and didn't belong to a country club, which I had never heard of, and wanted to dance, you belonged, your parents belonged to a dance club, as mine did, and, on the Heights and... But you're... Everybody in Cleveland Heights had maids, live-in maids, and they, on their days, Thursday was days off, and Thursday night they would go out for dinner, and but we didn't... We didn't. We were too poor. But anyway, the maids would go to the Crystal Slipper and spend an evening dancing. And I can remember in the early '30s they would get—on our street there were maids and they were young unmarried—they'd get all dressed up and beautiful clothes to go down. And I said, Well, how did you get people to dance with you? Because, you know, in those days it was all right to go down even if you didn't have a chaperone, which of course they didn't. And they said, Oh, we just, we get together and we cut up. We do a lot of cutting up. I said, What does that mean? Oh, she said, we laugh and joke and laugh around and make a lot of noise so that all the men will notice us. Then they come up and ask us to dance. Then farther down, every few days I remember another thing, there is a very large synagogue, which was dark red brick which has been torn down, which was probably the synagogue of... there were two rabbis in Cleveland. Half of Cleveland was... Half of Cleveland Heights in my Coventry class were Jewish, and they either went to Rabbi Silver's or to Rabbi Brickner's. And this was one of theirs. And they fascinated me. And then there was a big Catholic church down there, right near there. The tower's still there, and the tower... Euclid Avenue bends northward around there, and looking down from 105th Street or so, you look down Euclid Avenue until it bends, and they tore the church down but they left the tower there. And the tower is right on axis and you should see it. Like on Euclid Avenue at Cornell Road, you turn up toward the Heights and on the axis is the Christian Science Church tower, and nobody ever notices that. Nobody has ever commented on that, except I'm commenting to you today. Look and you'll see it, I'm right. And... But the facade of that Catholic Church was an exact reproduction of the famous Romanesque triple door, arched door of a church in southern France. It's a famous church. I can't remember the name, St. Agnes or something.

Nina Gibans [00:16:18] It was... St. Agnes is the one you're talking about here.

John Bonebrake [00:16:21] Oh yes. You see, you're older than I thought. Nina. You remember some things.

Nina Gibans [00:16:27] A lot of what you're talking down, I remember.

John Bonebrake [00:16:30] Oh, is this kind of thing you want to hear?

Nina Gibans [00:16:33] Oh, absolutely.

John Bonebrake [00:16:34] Oh, great, because we still have a lot farther to go [crosstalk] to get down to Halle's pattern, pattern counter, where my mother would spend about an hour or two because she sewed all, she made all her own clothes. My mother was no longer slim like she was before she was married, so she had to make do of that, those herself. And going on down, I can remember as we were around 18th or plus, there was a huge... Well, I think it was the property that was just east of B. F. Keith's building, a huge, empty lot, or maybe it was a little further out, just empty with a slight raise and way in the background, looking on the north side, was this small sort of a row house, one story, was very old. And that property was a Mrs.... It belonged to our... Who was our senator? The lady, the rich lady?

Nina Gibans [00:18:03] Bolton.

John Bonebrake [00:18:04] Bolton. It was Frances Bolton's home. And when they moved out, out father and built their mansions, she turned it over. It was the beginning of the Frances Bolton School of Nursing, which she founded and later became the nursing college at Case. And I think it's... I think they've scratched it now, like they've scratched the school of architecture where I went, and I can remember that so clearly. I always wanted to get off and go up. But before we got there, we started down after 55th Street, which was dark and gloomy and full of old brick buildings with black windows and everything. It was very eerie. And then after 55th Street, you got to maybe 40th or so where the mansions sort of began. Millionaires' Row. And on the left the... Well, on that corner was the Wade mansion, Jeptha Wade, and he gave a lot of money to fixing things up and starting things on Euclid Avenue and for the building of the Episcopal Church, which is now the Saint... Coventry and Fairmont. St Paul's. Money for building that or the windows in it, and that church is now a part of... The whole block there is all a nunnery, and that's the nunnery church. And from here at Judson, we had a trip down there to see several old churches off the beaten track, including that one. And we were invited in, so we went into that beautiful church. It has a round, sort of an octagonal dome sort of a thing, beautiful wood, gorgeous windows. And in the back—we sat up near the altar—in the back, up the... I'm not Catholic. I don't know anything about these things, but there was this gorgeous... monstrance... in the middle. It's a big gold thing that looks like the Eiffel Tower that all the churches have, and this was bigger and more gorgeous than any I ever saw except in France. And a monstrance always contains a portion of the true cross or something like that or whatever. And there was a curtain in back of that, and a nun—while we were talking and we were guided—a nun came out from behind the curtain and she closed a curtain in front of the monstrance. We learned later that every day these nuns, all they do is pray. They have a little dining room that we saw into that's very sparse. It looks like an unfurnished apartment, but they go in there for their meals. Then they go into the church and pray, and they pray all day, except at mealtimes, and they go back... Behind the church is where they live. And Wade gave stuff for that and also, from an early Episcopal church down westerly on Euclid that has been torn down, they moved out there. And incidentally, that church became the St. Paul's Episcopal and the white marble altar was resurrected. When Byers Hays, the architect, designed St. Paul's on the Heights and did the new sanctuary and the chapel on Coventry, they put, they installed that old white marble altar there, and it's there to this day, and nobody knows about it except me because I'm old enough to know those things. And so we start down Millionaires' Row. And of course, I was born to be an architect. So that seeing all of these different mansions, and they were all black stone and all different and all gorgeous with beautiful, sloping lawns up to them. You see, they were all on the north side. That was the "in" side of Euclid Avenue because on the north side, the land rose so that whenever they built their houses on the ridge, they could see the lake from there. Well, when I was a little boy, maybe five or so, my mother took me down on the streetcar to some kind of a benefit—it might have been, say, a Women's City Club or a Junior League or something—in front of one of those mansions. It might have been the Wade mansion, I'm not sure. And in front of that, were these little booths where they sold things and you dodged elephants and things like that. And I bought a little coal car to a tin train. Trains... I didn't have an electric, but this was a windup train, and I bought a coal car for one of those trains. And because inside the car, which was open, they had black metal that was stamped out to look like a pile of coal inside of it. Things like that were things that interested me. And then, during the procedures, after I bought the car, a lady, a very elderly lady dressed in black and gray, came out the front door of the mansion, which was... It was... The door was up above and was reached by stairs, but not directly in front. There were two pairs of curving stairs going up to the platform in front of the door. And this lady came out and she stood on that platform about five, six feet above where we stood. And mother took me up there, where I showed the lady the coal car, and Mother thanked her and everything, did, said all the right things, you know. In those days, ladies said the right things, and I can remember completely everything I've told you about that. I wonder if that could have been the very elderly Mrs. Jeptha Wade. It could well have been. And then a little farther down was the Sylvester Everett house, which was the biggest one. Now that is later. And it was designed in the French Provincial castle style. And in my lifetime, and you know them too probably, Ted Worthington and Marianne Worthington. Ted's mother was a... I think she was a Wade, it was something like that, who married this Sylvester Everett and she was the daughter, Ted's mother. And so she remembers being, growing up as a girl in that mansion. Marianne is still living in the country out in Kirtland. Ted is gone. And in a draw there, they have some big eight by ten photographs of the interior of the Sylvester, the mansion, and I'm sure that our historical society has those photographs too, and many others. Once in a while, if you're volunteering, you'll see them bring out something or other, but they don't show them to the common people. And so that was most interesting. And then, of course, you hear a lot about Sylvester Everett. I think he was sort of a playboy in one thing. I don't think he made any of his own money. I don't remember. Then... Then more of those mansions, then farther down, you get to where the Innerbelt is now, and then there was the Samuel Mather's mansion. Well, I remember that but not as well because that was built around, when, 1916 or so. It was... It was a clean brick and stone mansion. And I'll tell you more about that later. But anyway, then we got into the business district and we pass B. F. Keith's Vaudeville and the Palace Theater because the Palace was really a palace. That lobby that you went long from Euclid Avenue, went through this long tunnel like and into this gorgeous... Well, it was modeled after the the opera in Paris, of course. Gorgeous, huge lobby, and it was filled with gorgeous antiques of the period, vases that high and up, and very fine paintings, one by... one by an architect named Richards and his paint... There's always a Richards in every museum. He painted seascapes and those things. My parents, they were friends of Richards, one of his sons and wife and their two kids. They lived down in University Circle on 115th or so, that's behind the, behind Magnolia Drive. And it was the second best address in Cleveland then. And I used to play with their children and everything. And they had a big painting by Richards over the mantel, and once when I was in junior high, Grandpa... We had moved... We had built in Shaker in 1930, and my grandfather was still living, and the folks were out to dinner and Grandpa gave me a quarter and his rapid transit pass, which was worth 25 cents to go down to Public Square to go down and see, at the Palace, the magician Houdini, which I did. And I went all by myself in junior high down to the Terminal, walked up to the Palace. I sat in the front row, the balcony, of course, where all the kids would sit, you know, and what I remember... I remember his sawing a woman in half, things like that. But what I remember most, he went to the front of the stage—he was famous for this—and he had something like a deck of cards or so, and he would stand there like this and flip each card, and it would sail clear to the back of the balcony. He was famous for that. And also then down there, there was the Palace. At Playhouse Square there were those, all of those theaters, the Palace, the State, the Allen, and others. And on the other side was the Hippodrome. That was near the Schofield Building on Ninth and Euclid, and the Hippodrome and the Masonic Temple, which we had also passed that huge brick building, which is ruined by a Walker and Weeks marble facade in front of it. They ought to tear it down. And the Hippodrome and that, they had the best acoustics in town. And I think the Cleveland Symphony played there and visiting symphonies, and speaking of the Schofield Building, Mary Jane Schofield was a classmate of mine at Shaker. She was a great granddaughter of Levi T. Schofield, the Cleveland architect who designed the the the Civil War monument on Public Square and the Schofield Building and probably others. Well, Mary Jane was a musician. She had two older brother and sisters by... They were step, step, whatever. And her mother had married somebody who was real smart. And those two went to Harvard and Radcliff. Well, Mary Jane was not that smart. She was a friend of mine and she went to the Music School Settlement and they bought, after the Depression, they bought Samuel Mather's house or else were loaned it for the Settlement. And I went to a dance there when I was in high school, and the dance was... All those houses had ballrooms in the attic. And of course, there was no air conditioning. It was in June. So all of the little windows way up on top were open, I remember that. And the stairway going up from the lobby—you can go in it now because it's university—on the lower landing, this gorgeous stairway, lower landing was this enormous Albert Bierstadt paintings, painting of the West. Well, during when it was being sold and resold and everything and then the Auto Club bought it, they didn't know what to do with this painting. So I think they finally sold it for a couple of hundred thousand or so. Well, of course, by now, it'd be worth millions. Things like that. And then we... Then we... In Playhouse Square, there was as architectural eye, there was the Lindner Coy, C-O-Y, the Lindner, that later became part of Sterling Lindner Davis. They were all stores there, and they were... It was ladies' clothing, upper-class ladies' clothing. I never was in it, but it... Later I learned and appreciated its modern glass front. That was probably the first modern structure in Cleveland. I don't know. And it's there today. I don't know what's in it. And then next to that was the Cowell and Hubbard jewelry store on the corner, and they were a marvelous, big, one-story store that went way back to Euclid Ave, back to the lake, filled with cabins with gorgeous jewelry. My parents bought me my high school graduation watched there. My grandfather used to work downtown and at noon he'd go in there and admire the jewelries and talk with Mr. P. Coy, who was the clerk who sold all of that. But Mother... We'd always stop and go in there because in the back they sold candles. It was... If you wanted to buy candles, you know, dress-up candles, you had to go downtown to buy them, and in those days for the dinner parties, they were the long, tapered candles that she bought down there. Years later when I worked at White Elephant Sale, I bought three tapered, olive-green tapered candles like that and when I moved, I gave... took them to the Village Exchange, which recently has defuncted, just recently I heard, and they sold them for $4 apiece. So anyway, that was Cowell and Hubbard's. Then Sterling and Welsh that was beautifully designed... You would know who the architect was, I think. The front of it was gorgeous, very Bauhaus-ish. And it had a big court. And of course, the famous Christmas tree that went up several stories. And I found I had a postcard of that Christmas tree in color, and I offered it to Walter Leedy. But he said, Oh, I have several. So I still have it. And that was a gorgeous silver and furniture store, all of those things. And they had model rooms in the back and anything that... All the departments had model rooms in the back, gorgeously furnished. And Davis's was a little farther down the street. That was a very fine men's store. And they... Halle's, places like Halle's, Taylor's, Sterling's, and all of those, you'd go into the store from Euclid and there would be a well-dressed gentleman there to greet you and assist you to where you wanted to go. And of course, the doorman, like the doorman at Halle's on Chester or the back street and everything where later on everybody drove to, the doorman there in his green uniform would greet everybody. And when he died, there was a big obituary because you're... You wouldn't get an obituary written by the paper unless you knew a lot of and had been acquainted with a lot of people. It didn't matter if you were a doorman or Mrs. Bolton or whoever, if you knew a lot of people, you got wrote up. And then Halle's of course in later. Well, in the early days, of course, my mother would go up to the pattern department and then I would be left there in that room, which was very boring to me. They would sit at a counter and all these ladies at a counter looking at patterns and things. But then we'd go to the toy department, which was fantastic. Of course, has been written up for winter and all of that, Santa Claus. And I went through all of those Santa Clauses, and, but we never went for lunch there, and all my rich friends did though. And but then in just before, or before the late '30s, when I was in college, and even after the war, the little black dress was king. And of course, I was at that time very conscious of what my girlfriends wore, and that little black dress was king, and for years, it seemed to me, the store windows on Euclid Avenue had nothing in them but black dresses. And if, for instance, you were having lunch in the Union Club across the street, which I didn't until I was an associate of our architectural firm, you'd look down on Halle's window and see the whole thing. And then we would... We would... Well, we would... Across from Halle's was the Union Club and in that questionnaire, it said, what was your favorite building in Cleveland? And I wouldn't tell anybody else because it denotes me as being of a social—what do you call it?—a social climber class, but my favorite building in Cleveland ever since I was five years old was the Union Club. Now, no other contemporary of mine or Jim's would admit that to you because the Union Club is something that was absolutely... You never... It was out of our lives. And but I would, you know, there's an iron railing and you. and a moat, and then you look on the first floor above that where these huge glass windows, and I would say these old men in their black coats reading newspapers right in the window because that, the front room all across was the men's lounge and reading room. Women... The ladies were not allowed in there, and I was recently all through the Union Club with my group, the Architectural Historians that you belong to but never go to, and Charles Bolton, who was the president then, and he and his wife were the promulgaters of bringing the Union Club up to date with their younger members. And that's probably... We were probably the last people to see that front room like that because it's now the main dining room, men's and women's, too. And then what was formerly the ladies' lounge, I think, is maybe a ladies' dining room, and I don't know what they did with the old... But he gave us lunch down there, and I don't think we had to pay for it. Everybody was a member since 1901 came and then we went up to the attic upstairs where bedrooms, you know, and offices and clear up to the attic. Once [00:44:22]Lillian Wilkenlow, [0.6s] a Print Club friend, was hosting a garden club group from California, and she arranged a luncheon down there and—this is in later years—and asked me to help her with various odds and ends. And I did, and we had lunch up in, I think, the ladies' dining room, and they all said, Oh, we want to see—they were from California—we've heard so much about Lake Erie, we want to see the lake. Well, you know, there's no one or nowhere in Cleveland you can see the lake from. And so I said, they said, you can see it from upstairs. I knew we couldn't, but we went upstairs anyway. And there's this, on the third floor, this enormous middle roomlike area off which are the bedrooms. And I said, Well, you can't, you see, you can't go in any of the bedrooms, but in the back, the back service stair and so forth, there's a window looking north. Well, I took them all in there and... You've never been in there, but on the walls are all these mops and pails and everything hanging on the walls of the service stair and the window. So we went in there. But and later on, Lillian got a call from one of the members who lived there, and they said, I don't know what happened, but your people, they made so much noise we couldn't sleep, things like that. And then... Then farther down was Taylor's. We never went in Taylor's. I don't know why. It was a smaller department store and very nice. And the Taylor family, they lived in Bratenahl and on the big estates because the lady who finally inherited the whole thing died but her name was not Taylor. And then farther down there were enormous, on Fourth Street, there were enormous 5 and 10s that had everything in them. You could get your passport photos there. And there was—it had been torn down, it was next to the corner of Fourth and Euclid—was the old, I think it was the old opera house. And my mother, when she was a girl, she would play hooky from out west side, the West Side suburb, she would play hooky and go down there to hear, see things. And right next to it with a door into it was, and I can't think of the names now, it was a very famous bar. And began with, oh, I'll think of it in a minute, maybe. And that was a very famous landmark where all the men... You see, ladies couldn't go into a bar. They would have to take their pails to the back door to get them filled with beer. But...

Nina Gibans [00:47:53] Was it Otto Moser?

John Bonebrake [00:47:56] Otto Moser! That's it! You see, she knows everything after a certain date. (laughs) And then I've been in a couple of little stores along on Fourth Street and, oh, we passed the Colonial Arcade on the south, which was a smaller arcade and we, our historians, we were there, oh, only several years ago. On the way back is the Colonial Hotel, which was an old landmark as well. And I don't know, it doesn't seem to have any form, but there it was. And we had a tour through there and it had been all fixed up. It was very nice inside. Very intimate too, with old mahogany furniture in it. You see, all the furniture you see here I had to get rid of almost all of our old mahogany furniture, which is the only furniture that you bought if you're my grandparents' age. And now it's all teak, and you get it through these put-together-yourself things. See? This is all teak, except the gorgeous dining room table. That's Sheraton, and the chairs. So this was at your mains, and I had it shipped up from Florida, and it came in an enormous carton full of popcorn. Well, anyway... And the Colonial Arcade had, on Euclid, you had to go up a step to get in. And at that time, I was working for Byers Hays at Conrad, Hays, Simpson & Ruth right after the war. And Conrad knew all of the, all of the "rights," all of the... This kind of people. And—he was a West Sider—and we were asked to make a study of getting rid of that step, which was a hazard, you see, from the Euclid sidewalk to get in. Well, we consulted with Merrill Barber, who of course was the consulting engineer for all of us, all of our firms. You remember Merrill? Oh my God. He was a god. He was marvelous. And he would tutor architects for the state exam and all those things. I can't believe that you wouldn't remember him. But anyway, you're so young. And but we never could figure out a way to get rid of it, and it's still... When you go down, you look, it's still there. But watch your step. And then farther down there was Mills Cafeteria on the north side. Very good food. Oh, but Ninth, on Ninth Street with the Schofield Building, but then the Cleveland Trust building was gorgeous. And this is long before they built the Breuer tower and when I was with Hoag-Wismar-Henderson for a while—they were architects-engineers—they renovated the glass dome. So I'm glad that's going to be still there. And then a little farther down, half a block, was the Forum Cafeteria, and that was the cheapest food, good, nice place, downtown. And on Saturdays, I would go down with my friend John Paul Miller, who, you know, to the movies. And then we liked to browse around. We would go to the Forum for lunch. And I remember a little dish of green beans was four cents, but they had, and I hope they still somewhere, it was Art Deco. It was the first Art Deco design west of the... east of the Rockies, and they had this these gorgeous Art Deco chandeliers hanging down. You wouldn't remember them. And then we would go... He always went to Ito's Japanese Store on Euclid, a tiny little shop no bigger than this. And he collected tropical fish. John Paul has the most marvelous creative and that kind of a mind, all sorts of things that he would zero in on. When he was in junior high school, his folks bought him a microscope, for instance. We would go there after school and we would look at samples of blood and other things in this microscope.

Nina Gibans [00:53:39] So he grew up in the neighborhood?

John Bonebrake [00:53:42] Well, he lived on Avalon. The house is still there, and Avalon near Fernway. And I lived... We lived on Sydenham, a new neighborhood that... My street runs into Belvoir Oval. That was, I still had to walk home. And that was a long walk, I had to walk two, over two miles to school from home, to home every night. A long, lonely walk. I was... I was a lone, long, lone, lonely child until I moved to... until I retired. I retired early in 1974, and from then on, I've had the time of my life. And anyway, he went to Ito's, and what I liked, as you may have guessed, I liked to go in department stores and look at the model rooms, things like that. That's the way my mind worked, and it still works that way today. And I like to arrange things, and I like to display things. Including myself. All you need... All you need... You're Emma? All you need is a loud voice, and so downward, down by Mills Cafeteria, and then we get down to the May Company. And of course, that was an enormous store. There was everything to look out there, and of course their Christmas windows, as a child we saw all of those. And the Williamson Building, oh, no, the Euclid Arcade, which was, I remember, always, it was always there. And of course it also was ruined by Walker and Weeks' marble facade in front. But on the Superior side, it's still the old one. And I would go in there and walk around. Back when, in the, I don't know, '50s or so, the symphony orchestra, the ladies' committee, had a Symphony Ball. It was the first one. Well, they'd had one before at the Hotel Cleveland. This was... This was held at the, imaginatively, in the Old Arcade. And I went. And I went, a group of us, including Helen Cole. I don't know whether you remember. She was an artist. Helen... Helen had broken her leg at the Skating Club. She was figure skating. And she was in a wheelchair. And... But we were in this crowd together, so I took her anyway. And that's the last date I ever had, first and last, with a lady in a wheelchair. But now down here, everyone I know is in one. Well, anyway, I called up Severance and I said, I have a date and we're coming and she needs a wheelchair. Can you provide one at the entrance? And I got a letter from Frank Joseph, who was the head of the trustees for a generation. He said, Dear John. Your wheelchair will be waiting. Sincerely, yours, Frank. Of course, Martha was ahead of me a little bit in Shaker, I knew Martha very well all her life, but I had never met Frank, of course, and let's see, who was the conductor before George Szell? No, it was George Szell, and they had Lester Lannon. He was the great Eastern Ivy League Society dance, dance man, and he played without stopping for the entire evening. Gorgeous, smooth music that you've never heard of that we grew up with, and we walked on around and I wheeled... I wheeled her all around the place and we had a great time. And to begin the ceremonies, they had a grand right and left where the high-class people down on the bottom, they paraded around like that and then they came together in a line of four or eight, which George Szell was leading it, and of course, everybody applauded. And I'm sure... I'm sure he left right after that. But we had a good time. And so that's the Arcade. Not long ago our historians, we went through that as a hotel and we went through some of the offices of places that were rooms upstairs. And most of the hotel rooms were all on the Superior side. It was nice and they had a nice bar and everything, but it was nothing special. And then almost to the Square was the KB Brothers. It was a men's clothing store for, I would say, middle-class Jews. And KB was, oh, who was... And he was a good friend of mine, and he's died recently. Oh, David Kangesser. David Kangesser's father and uncle were the KB Brothers. David was my first friend out on Lancashire. They lived in one of the Cleve... on one of the Euclid Heights big apartments that went all the way back to the back, and I would play with David every day. But he was very shy, and I'd have to go over there and we were allowed to play in the kitchen. And the hall that went all the way through and the back bedroom had a little porch on it on the first floor overlooking the parking garages and everything, and that's where the maid slept. We were... That's the only place we were allowed to play, except once something happened and I had to leave by the front door. And so I was led through that hall into the living room and then out the front door. Well, so I saw Jewish upper middle-class highlight at its highest peak with fancy department store furniture all over and lamps with fringe around them and everything. But my other little friend in the apartment, ever since I was tiny, was a tiny little kid a little younger than I, Quentin Bresnick, and we were great friends until we moved up to Superior and Euclid Heights Boulevard, and Mother kind of quietly put the kibosh on that. Because in those days, everybody was equal but separate. In school, there were the Christians, there were the Jews, and there were the Catholics. There were no colored. There were no foreign people. There were only very few foreign names in my... As I remember, anyone with a Polish or middle European name, I called a foreign name like Percy Lebovitz in my class. He was the best athlete and I think he could have been an uncle or so of Harold, Hal Lebovitz, the great Cleveland sportswriter. And then... But Quentin's father and the, you know in the print club, Cannon and what, Hedges, their son, when he married, they moved first into the apartment across from, next to ours, twin apartments in the back, the apartment I used to play with Quentin. Well, anyway, Quentin's father was a modiste. A modist is a Jewish couturier. And he had a big salon on next, right next to the Big Methodist Church on 30th and Euclid, 3030 Euclid Avenue, and the front of it, these big windows, was his salon and whatnot. And Quentin and I, of course, went all through there in the back where the rooms where the seamstresses were sewing the garments and everything, and in the front in the windows, we sat in the windowsills in 1925 to watch the Lindy parade. Lindbergh had family friends here, the Cocburns. And you may remember if you were high enough in Cleveland to remember Ann Cutter Coburn was the chaplain of what, Laurel or Hathaway Brown, and that's where he stayed, and we saw the Lindy parade from there. And then we get to Public Square, and I looked... I brought all my past with me in that big closet and I can't find it, but the front of the Ohio Architect, which we all took, I did the cover one month and I used black and white grease pencil. I'm extremely, very facility in drawing, not people, so I'm not an artist, but I can draw, and I draw a bird's-eye view looking down on Public Square. It is gorgeous. And I tried to find it. It's somewhere. I can't find it.

Nina Gibans [01:05:39] If you ever do, we'd really like...

John Bonebrake [01:05:40] Oh yes, I will, certain[ly]. And I have other little artifacts that that would interest you. For instance, in Cleveland, when I was a kid, there was of a famous 18th-century ship called, a galleon, called the Convict Ship. Do you remember that? Well, somebody out West owned it, and it was docked in around Ninth Street, and people could go on it. And my father took me through it, this 18th-century or 17th-century galleon that was absolutely perfect, but it was... It was a prison ship. And on there, among other things, they had an iron maiden, which was a cast-iron thing, you know, like a mummy case and that opened up and it had spikes in it, and they would put you in it and close, close the doors. The iron maiden. And I have the brochure of that, which I have given, but I could get it back to show you... I have given it to our. Our recent young architect is a member of Print and Rowfant. He's the son of....

Nina Gibans [01:07:12] Carol Carter.

John Bonebrake [01:07:13] You know who he is. I can't remember names.

Nina Gibans [01:07:15] Carter.

John Bonebrake [01:07:16] Yeah. And he has it. Things like that.

Nina Gibans [01:07:22] John, can I ask you, because I don't think we have, where did you go to architecture school?

John Bonebrake [01:07:29] Okay. Well, see, that's some part of mine... Well, our school was... The architectural school was a part of Western Reserve University, and it had been founded maybe right after or soon after World War I, and the sugar daddy was Abram Garfield, the youngest son of the president who... His firm became well known through the '20s and '30s, and I was an office boy there in my sophomore year, and Alec Robinson was... I've known them ever... He ran for AIA president later when we had a convention here and all that, but that was our school in an old mansion. And, and we looked... They had one of these octagonal towers in the front and I'd sit there late afternoon and look down Euclid Avenue past, later on, Severance Hall was there then.

Nina Gibans [01:08:37] You're talking about the school of architecture...

John Bonebrake [01:08:39] The school.

Nina Gibans [01:08:40] On Euclid Avenue.

John Bonebrake [01:08:42] And Dean Bacon was a Philadelphian and he was an old, an old blue-collar Philadelphian, and so that they were very strict and, well, we got away with murder anyway. We didn't learn anything but...

Nina Gibans [01:08:59] You're telling me things that nobody else has told us. Is bacon of the Bacon, Kevin Bacon and...

John Bonebrake [01:09:06] No, no. I asked him because Henry Bacon designed the Lincoln Memorial and the Halle store. Did you know that? He designed Halle's.

Nina Gibans [01:09:17] This Bacon from the school? [crosstalk]

John Bonebrake [01:09:19] No. Henry Bacon. But, you know, I asked. He was no relation. No, the Bacons were from Philadelphia Quakers. And I was there for five years. In my junior year, I got all the upper class mad at me because I was chosen to go spend the summer at Fontainebleau. I had a Schweinfurth Scholarship, awarded every year, $500. And that was in 1939. And the school closed the day war was declared. And I had some little adventures until I my boat sailed from Bordeaux, U.S. Lines, and I got home long before we got into war. And I've got a whole... a whole box full of of artifacts and stuff that you and Jim might enjoy looking at about that period and so forth. I did a bunch of—while I was there at school—marvelous watercolors. Very good. And they're all matted. And if I... Next time when you and Jim come, I'll have them all out and everything.

Nina Gibans [01:10:59] The subject?

John Bonebrake [01:11:00] Normandy and Brittany subjects. You see, I'm an old timer. I don't like anything new, as I told you. And in 1939, there was nothing new in France. Of course, uh, what's his name? The villa, the villa that, you know, this modern French architect, he did everything all over the world. He did that villa and...

Nina Gibans [01:11:31] Corbusier?

John Bonebrake [01:11:32] Corbusier. But that was in southern... That was different. Oh, he did do—and I went out to see it—he did a dormitory building for the University of Paris in a very large area on the outskirts that had been once part of the walls around Paris. He did a building there and I went out to see it, but I wasn't allowed in it.

Nina Gibans [01:12:02] Architecturally speaking, I'm interested in two things that you've said about Walker and Weeks, and I'm thinking about your perspective on architecture. I think it was the facade of the Arcade.

John Bonebrake [01:12:19] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:12:20] Number one. And another building... It was the...

John Bonebrake [01:12:26] The Masonic Temple.

Nina Gibans [01:12:27] Masonic Temple that you said you did not like the Walker and Weeks part. Tell me a little bit about the kind of architecture you wanted to see in Cleveland.

John Bonebrake [01:12:40] Well, you see, I when I first started... Yeah, of course, I was a medievalist. I drew castles and cathedrals until I went to architectural school. And there we were, I think, the last class where we were taught the Greek and Roman orders. I became absolutely overwhelmed by them. And I would go around town and see the fronts of our buildings with the pilasters and stuff and all the columns inside the banks and everything. You know, Byers Hays was quite a wit. And I worked for him for three years before the museum. And one of the things he said was, She ate—you would not understand this—She ate her cake first to make her pilaster. Well, so I became enamored of all of that classical stuff that was glued on. And of course, Walkers and Weeks' big heyday was in the '20s when they did all these marvelous buildings and stuff. But then after the war, then of course, the Depression came. Dana Clark was one of their designers like Byers Hays, and then during the Depression the big office, which was down on 30th by the Innerbelt, they had nothing to do. Walker was rich, but nobody else was. And Weeks had died. And so that then after the war...

Nina Gibans [01:14:33] Are you talking about the office of Walker and Weeks?

John Bonebrake [01:14:35] Yes.

Nina Gibans [01:14:35] Okay.

John Bonebrake [01:14:36] Right after the war, I went, applied for an office job in the summer and went down, and Dana Clark was still there. And they had the the whole upper floor and in back the warehouse part you see from the side, that was the big drafting room in the old days. It was enormous. And she showed me through it. It was elegant. They had a marble room, half as big as this, floor to ceiling with little samples of marble all the way around because every building they did was lined with marble. And they did all those gorgeous buildings. Walker, he was good at that sort of thing, too. And he would, in New York City, he would make measured drawings of some of the details of the New York City University Club, which was a McKim, Mead and White masterpiece, things like that. And... But then after the war, there were just a few... A small office, and Walker was still there because I went down and interviewed him for a job, and after the war, they did piddling stuff. They did this Bond's Clothing at Ninth and Euclid. You remember that?

Nina Gibans [01:16:10] Oh yeah.

John Bonebrake [01:16:10] Which has been torn down for National City. And that was... Well, we architects, I don't think we liked it. It was nondescript modern, but I think it was all marble up and, anyway, things like that, and that's when they did these remodeling things, they were just piddling things. And they weren't... They didn't have the... Anyone who was talented and good was not working there. They were doing their own things or starting their own big offices.

Nina Gibans [01:16:49] So talk about Byers Hays as they move away from Walker and Weeks.

John Bonebrake [01:16:54] Yes.

Nina Gibans [01:16:55] Talk about that for a bit.

John Bonebrake [01:16:56] Well, you see, during the Depression, he and his colleague Russell Simpson, they broke away or else were fired or whatever, and they started their own. And this was when I was still in school. And they and others, like Carl Guenther, who was one of our critics, they would submit drawings in competition for little houses like the General Electric prize things, those kind of things, competitions that were published in the magazines. I might still have a couple of those that... I wish I did, I hope, but they were all modern because Byers, he was forward thinking. He had done all of these marv[elous]... The St Paul's tower and all of that stuff. And also another big Walker and Weeks building that he did for Euclid Avenue, which was later torn down, was the Euclid Avenue Baptist Church, which is now out at Fairmount. And it was... It had to be... The front of it... They... You had like other, like others that I mentioned, you had to go through a little store from Euclid to get back to the church because they hadn't built the rest of it. But they built this enormous auditorium. Well, you know, the Baptists don't believe in ornament or anything, any symbols. So it was just an enormous cave, open cage, and the outside was yellow and blue terra cotta, each a tile about that big, and no more, no more to do with Walker and Weeks than the man on the Moon. Things like that [what] were Byers Hays was thinking about. Later on, going back to Euclid, when I was with him after the war he did a branch for the Central National Bank. It was just a small, one lot wide going back. And I worked with him on that. And up above on the front, he designed the name of the bank in big stainless-steel letters like that made out of tubings. And also, he designed the first ceiling—one had already been somewhere—one of these egg-crate ceilings with lights above them. That was a special design. And he worked on that with the lighting people and NELA and everything. Well, anyway, after it was built, Bob Gaede and my younger friends called it the Byers Hays Crosshatched Aluminum Bank. But...

Nina Gibans [01:20:19] Did you work on Lisa Kimmel's house, Byers Hays' house on Kenilworth? It's from that era.

John Bonebrake [01:20:31] I remember the names, but I can't think of Kenilworth, I know where Kenilworth is.

Nina Gibans [01:20:38] There are two houses, flat roof...

John Bonebrake [01:20:40] Oh yes, yes, yes. He gave me the drawings for those. There were twin houses. And they were just alike, one just reversed. He gave me the drawings. And Lisa, who is, who's his daughter, when she married and they bought that house, I gave that to them. Oh, they were thrilled! They have added... It had been added to since Byers, and then they've done some more remodeling.

Nina Gibans [01:21:11] Right. What about the Severn road house by Byers Hays?

John Bonebrake [01:21:15] Severn Road?

Nina Gibans [01:21:18] Yes, it's about the second from the corner.

John Bonebrake [01:21:21] I don't know that one. [crosstalk] I know Severn Road because south of the big estate, you would go down from the Heights down Severn to Noble.

Nina Gibans [01:21:34] Well, Severn Road is also opposite the George Mayer Andrews Road house. These are modern houses, but Gary Crawford lives in the Byers Hays house and does not have the drawings.

John Bonebrake [01:21:47] Hmm.

Nina Gibans [01:21:49] So you don't know that one?

John Bonebrake [01:21:49] I didn't know of, that they had done a house there. These were small houses...

Nina Gibans [01:21:54] Oh yeah.

John Bonebrake [01:21:55] On Severn. Incidentally, George Mayer was one of my very good older friends. George wasn't married, and we would go together to the AIA things and to this and that and everything and all sorts of things. George, and I knew his brother, too, and they lived on Drummond Road in a huge old house with their uncle, who was ahead of [01:22:23]Baish [0.0s] and Company here. Oh yes, I knew George until he died.

Nina Gibans [01:22:30] Okay, well, you're...

John Bonebrake [01:22:32] But I don't remember a house there.

Nina Gibans [01:22:34] Okay, your comment about Byers Hays really introducing modern to the city is very important.

John Bonebrake [01:22:41] Mm-hmm. But before Byers, there was another one. Milton Dyer. He was number one. And Milton Dyer designed, marvelous designer, many, like I think he designed City Hall and things like that.

Nina Gibans [01:23:00] And the CAC Building and so forth.

John Bonebrake [01:23:03] Right. And then he became an alcoholic. And Joe Ceruti, in his later years, he dried out, and Joe Ceruti would bring him down to AIA meetings. I remember him then.

Nina Gibans [01:23:21] Okay. Is there anything else you want to... Oh, I'm sorry.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:23:26] Would you like me to restart?

Nina Gibans [01:23:28] Sure. John wants to talk about the Terminal Tower. Why? What it was like before it was built. And Public Square.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:23:37] Okay. I'm recording.

John Bonebrake [01:23:38] An architectural etcher by the name of Louis Rosenberg went to M.I.T., he and Samuel Chamberlain, and another one, John Taylor Arms, all went there. They were very good architectural etchers. And Rosenberg did a series on the Terminal Tower, which you can see at the historical society and elsewhere, I have someplace, and in around 1925 or so we were down probably to Higbee's, and they were building the Terminal and we were out in front on the Square and a man hailed us. He was... He was an inspector, superintendent, an engineer, and he had been my father's best man at Case. And so I remember that. But I remember on the west side of the Terminal Group, still on the Square, well south of the Hotel Cleveland, was this row of brick houses and one of Rosenberg's etchings is of that. And I never was in the Williamson Building, and the building north of that was designed by Burnham, Daniel Burnham. And recently in the paper, there was a picture looking down on all of that with the Williamson Building, and they had other building and they were imploded. And friends who worked in the Terminal could look out and see this thing.

Nina Gibans [01:25:37] We were there. We were in a room at the hotel and saw the implosion.

John Bonebrake [01:25:44] Oh yeah. And so there may be other things about Euclid that I'll remember as soon as you're gone.

Nina Gibans [01:25:55] Well, the Terminal Tower, is there anything special, the Van Sweringens?

John Bonebrake [01:25:59] No. Well, except oh yes, the Terminal Tower. Another friend, a couple who my parents knew, the wife, she had three husbands. And the second husband was the head of Higbee's, and he died, and then she married an older man named Mr. Anzalone. Mr. Anzalone had been the treasurer of the Van Sweringen Company with Oris J. and Mantis somebody, the two brothers, and he took me on a tour through the upper, above the all of the offices where it starts to get round. Just before that, the top floor there were only four offices. Two were the Vans'. One was their righthand businessman. The other was Mr. Anzalone's. And then we went up to the floor above, which was in the round where their other secretaries always were. And they still had his desk. They had taken up there and it was in a back corner. It was very crowded up there, you know, big round, a huge deck, it was as big as... You see this rug down here? It was as big as that. And the two Vans' desks and the other guy, they were all that big.

Nina Gibans [01:27:43] Is this the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad offices later?

John Bonebrake [01:27:48] Yes, they were... That's what they were when this man took me through there. Well, no. Yes. See, C&O owned all of that then. And then we went through the Greenbrier Suite, which they owned and which was then used as a, like a boardroom, conference room. In fact, I think the brass ate there because they had a stainless-steel kitchen with a chef there with his hat. He was standing there with nothing to do. And there is a second floor to it because it's two-story living room, the second floor. We couldn't go up because they have... The certain airline, their hostesses would stay there overnight. And he showed me the door into the 11th floor corridor of the Cleveland Hotel that was unmarked or anything. You'd just think it was a door to a cedar closet or something.

Nina Gibans [01:29:01] Does the name Walter J. Tuohy mean anything?

John Bonebrake [01:29:05] Yes. Wasn't he the president?

Nina Gibans [01:29:07] Of C&O.

John Bonebrake [01:29:09] Yeah, I just remember him from the name because if you were a stockholder, you went down to the Greenbrier in a train for their annual meetings. So I hope you were. I never was.

Nina Gibans [01:29:24] I was never a stockholder, but I went to a birthday party at the Greenbrier.

John Bonebrake [01:29:31] Oh!

Nina Gibans [01:29:33] When I was, eh, about 10 or 11.

John Bonebrake [01:29:38] Mmm.

Nina Gibans [01:29:40] And so I remember that very, very well.

John Bonebrake [01:29:44] And then Mr. Anzalone said that there was, in back of the Terminal on the street, right in back, there was another big office building built at the same time by the architects, and the Midland Bank had an office at the bottom. And I think it was mostly dental offices. My dentist was there. And up at the top, when I was in high school, they had an auditorium and they had a big two-story, huge, open area and they built a model house there. And it was called the Home in the Sky, and I might even have a brochure from there because I always would go up there and look at it. Well, Mr.... But before that, it was the Midday Club that continued on through the Depression. And when I was in high school, one of the... Shaker Heights, then, the social system was if you were not in a fraternity or sorority, you were nothing with a foreign name from Middle Europe, Polish or something. What's your last name?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [01:31:17] Yanoshik-Wing.

John Bonebrake [01:31:19] I can't. I'll... Later. But anyway, I went to a dance there. It was in the midst of the Depression and the girls then, they all wore long dresses to the floor and no bags. And by the middle of the evening, the bottoms of their dresses were all dirty because the floor wasn't clean. Things like that. Then later, long later when I was with Outcalt [Outcalt, Guenther & Associates], we did a lot of work down in that area, and one of the men we worked with was an officer of... Oh, the big company that owns the whole thing. And we went to a meeting in the auditorium there, which I had never been in. Things like that.

Nina Gibans [01:32:13] Is there anything we've forgotten?

John Bonebrake [01:32:16] Probably. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [01:32:19] You're you're a mine of information. You really, really are. I remember skating at the Elysium. You could see... [crosstalk]

John Bonebrake [01:32:27] Oh, you... Yes. Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:32:32] Yeah.

John Bonebrake [01:32:32] And the lagoon froze over, and I can remember walking across it and seeing a dead, a dead goldfish about that big frozen in it.

Nina Gibans [01:32:43] Well, and the swans.

John Bonebrake [01:32:44] Yes. And [William Mathewson Milliken was] the director. He named [the swans]. There are always two of them. Elizabeth and Ethics. And Ethics was one group. But they weren't nice to people.

Nina Gibans [01:33:01] And the little home of the Garden Center.

[01:33:04] The what?

Nina Gibans [01:33:04] The home of the Garden Center.

John Bonebrake [01:33:06] Oh, down there, and the library was in there. And I went, when I was in college it was there, right where those plain trees that are clipped like in France.

Nina Gibans [01:33:19] Right.

John Bonebrake [01:33:21] Things like that.

Nina Gibans [01:33:21] Thank you so much.

John Bonebrake [01:33:23] You're welcome. Now, some other time we'll get together and we'll talk about architecture. I'll get out some of my old "projets." See, we were still very much Beaux Arts, everything then.

Nina Gibans [01:33:42] Right. But you were you were a transition.

John Bonebrake [01:33:45] Yeah.

Nina Gibans [01:33:46] Yeah, you were.

John Bonebrake [01:33:47] Right.

American Institute of Architects

The American Institute of Architects (Cleveland Chapter) Oral History Project. In 2006, in collaboration with Nina Friedlander Gibans, the Center began collecting oral history interviews with some of Cleveland’s best-known architects. 26 interviews in all were captured by Gibans and a team of researchers and students from the Center. These interviews help bring the city’s great buildings to life, and shine a light on current issues in architecture and urban design, making the series a major…