Jan 6, 2009

1425 West 65th Street

The property located at 1425 West 65th street has an archival history that dates back to the mid 1800s when it was part of the sparsely populated Brooklyn Township. Most of Brooklyn Township was owned by Richard and Samuel Lord and Josiah Barber of the Lord and Barber Firm. The early settlers of this area would have most likely purchased their property from Lord and Barber.

The 1870 County Auditor's map indicates the property may have been a part of the Johnson,Sacket and Waterbury Allotment; Part of the land that once belonged to Cleveland pioneer Levi Johnson's heirs. Levi Johnson came to Cleveland in the spring of 1808 and among his many accomplishments built the first wood frame building, the first jail and the first courthouse. He provided supplies to soldiers in the war of 1812 and later served as an alderman and a coroner. He died at 86 and left his real estate holdings to his family. His grandson, Levi A. Johnson had "some of Cleveland's most valuable real estate." (McKendree, 1918)

Once sparsely populated farmland, this part of Brooklyn Township became the village of West Cleveland in 1871 and was annexed to the City of Cleveland in 1894. The 1874 Atlas of Cuyahoga County, indicates the property was owned by WJ Gordon and became known as the Gordon Avenue Allottment. In fact, West 65th street was called Gordon Avenue until 1906 when the City of Cleveland numbered most of the North/South streets.

The Gordon family owned several parcels of land in what is now the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood. W J Gordon was the prominent citizen who donated the east side Gordon Park to the City of Cleveland. A millionaire and mayor of then-suburban Glenville, Gordon was a leader in commerce and manufacturing. In the early 1900s, several parcels along Gordon Avenue were sold by the W J Gordon Real Estate Company to Richard Templin.

Mr Templin sold a sub plot to Elija Stevens in 1906; The house upcycled by A Piece of Cleveland was built in 1914 when the Stevens family owned the property.

Elija Stevens and his wife, Louisa Jane, were originally from Ontario, Canada and moved to Cleveland in the early 1900s. The Stevens were quite prominent in Cleveland and the book, A History of Cleveland and its Environs: The Heart of New Connecticut written in 1918 by Elroy McKendree devotes two pages to the family. Elija was a baker and confectioner in Canda, but changed careers to wholesale hardware when he moved to Cleveland, working for the George Worthington Company until his death in 1916. Upon Elija's death, he willed the home to his wife.

For nearly forty years, the home was occupied by the Stevens family.According to Cleveland City Directories 1929-1941, Francis and Loreetha Stevens and their children lived there until about 1942. Francis Stevens worked for nine years as a machinist and a foreman before going to law school at Baldwin Wallace University. He graduated with a law degree in 1911 and became a very prominent and successful lawyer. McKendree wrote, "The bar of Cleveland has its full quota of brilliant men, and one of its foremost is Mr. Stevens" (p. 171). He worked as Secretary and Treasurer of Lincoln Investment Company which was located in the Engineers National Bank Building (Cleveland City Directories of 1936).

By 1943, Anthony Zarrelli is listed in the City Directory as the owner of the home. United States Census records show that Antonio Zarrelli was 24 years old in 1920 and born in Italy. At the time he rented a room as a boarder in Independence, Ohio. He came to the United States in 1913 and worked as a laborer in a brick yard.

By the time Anthony lived on West 65th, he was married to Raffaella. According to Anthony's 1973 obituary, the Zarrellis had nine children. During World War II their three adult relatives in the household included: Pasquale, who served in the United States Army; and Viola E. and Marie A., both machine operators in Rosie the Riveter fashion. County Recorder records from the 1980s and 1990s show that Marie and Viola owned the home and then transferred ownership to Annie, Anthony Jr. and Helen Zarelli in the 1990s. The Zarrelli family had lived in the home for fifty years when ownership was transferred to the Detroit Shoreway Community Development Corporation.

The home was located just around the corner from Cleveland's oldest standing theatre, Gordon Square Theatre. Gordon Square Theatre opened in 1912 and presented Vaudeville performances and silent films. After almost two decades of delighting audiences, Gordon Square theatre closed in the 1930s because of financial hardships and competition from the nearby Capital Theatere. For sixty years prior to its purchase by Cleveland Public Theatre, the historic venue had been a warehouse, auto shop, a grocery and a restaurant among other uses. APOC imagines the Stevens family enjoyed the original heyday of the Gordon Square Theatre and that the Zarrelli family enjoyed the Gordon Square area's rebirth when performances returned to the neighborhood in the 1980s.

The Johnsons, Gordons, Stevens and Zarrellis families have made unique contributions to the history of Cleveland. The home, which stood for 94 years has been deconstructed and its materials repurposed. APOC has rescued pine framing lumber, beech and maple flooring from the home. Thunder::tech's custom table was made from this wood and they created a video of their furniture installation.

See APOC creations made from this house's materials here

APOC Volunteers on W.65th:

N. Taxel, E. Taxel, & J. Fagan,


A History of Cleveland and Its Environs,

Elroy McKendree Avery, Lewis Publishing Company, Lewis Publishing Company, 1918.

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