Thursday, September 17, 2020

HGB Ep. 352 - Cleveland's Millionaire's Row

Moment in Oddity - Theodore Judson Claims to Have Seen Mermaids

In 1873, P.T. Barnum offered $50,000 to anyone who could bring him the body of a sea serpent. There might just have been someone who could have done that at one time and his name was Theodore Judson who eventually was known as Crazy Judson. He became keeper at Stratford Point Lighthouse in 1880 and he stayed there for over 40 years. His family joined him at the lighthouse. In 1886, they told the Bridgeport Union that they had seen a sea serpent. The paper reported, "A sea serpent with pea green whiskers passed down Long Island Sound in a big hurry Wednesday morning. He was plowing through the water at a 25 knot clip when he passed the Stratford lighthouse and left a wake of foam behind him a mile in length. He was easily 200 feet in length, and his head was reared 20 feet above the brine...The big reptile was plainly seen from the lighthouse by Keeper Theodore Judson, his wife, his son Henry and his daughter Agnes, and by H. W. Curtis of Stratford, as well as by a number of people at Captain John Bond’s place up the river...Keeper Judson seriously declared to a reporter that he could not be mistaken. 'I saw it plainly,' he said, 'and so did my wife and children and Mr. Curtis. All of us are familiar with the appearance of a school of porpoises, and this sight was entirely different. . . . It could be plainly seen without a glass.' There were many witnesses, so this is not what earned Judson his nickname of "crazy." It would be his report about seeing mermaids that would do that. Judson told a reporter in 1915, "Three days ago, I saw a shoal of mermaids off Lighthouse point. I’ve seen them again and again, but it’s only once I laid hands on one. She scratched me well, but I got her brush away from her and I’ve got it yet. It’s generally in the early morning or late afternoon that they gather around the rocks off the point. Sometimes I’ve counted as many as 12 or 15 of them, their yellow hair glistening and their scaly tails flashing. They’re a grand sight." Judson would produce the brush when asked about it and his wife believed the story. This keeper was known for his tales, but he always maintained he had really seen and touched a mermaid and that, certainly is odd!

This Month in History - The Penny Press Begins

In the month of September, on the 3rd, in 1833, the New York Sun newspaper first appeared launching the penny press. While printed newspapers are in decline and fairly obsolete in 2020, there was a time when nearly everyone got their news from the newspaper. The Penny Press was exactly what it sounds like, newspapers sold for a penny. This innovation began with Benjamin Day when he founded the New York Sun. It was a desparate move rather than a smart business move because Day had lost his printing business during the Cholera Epidemic of 1832. He assumed that the working class would enjoy newspapers if they could afford them. Most newspapers sold for six cents. So Day targeted his newspaper to the working class and featured human interest stories and sensational stories, like the Moon Hoax which claimed scientists had found life on the moon. He also introduced another innovation, the newsboy. The Sun would be the first paper to be hawked on street corners by newsboys. By 1836, the New York Sun was the largest seller in America with a circulation of 30,000.

Cleveland's Millionaires' Row (Suggested by Lori Blackburn)

Cleveland's Millionaires' Row was the place where the elite built their grand mansions in the early 1900s. Industry was booming and men like Marcus Hanna, Amasa Stone, Samuel Andrews, Charles F. Brush and John D. Rockefeller picked this sixth largest city in America as their home. These were some of the most powerful men in the country and their street would be known as the "Showplace of America." All but four of these mansions would eventually be demolished. They are a testament to the past and hold on to their spirits. Join us as we explore the history and haunts of Cleveland's Millionaires' Row. 

Paleo-indigineous tribes were here where Cleveland would eventually set down roots as far back as 10500 BC and these were migrant groups. Many of their tools featured flint that came from Indiana. Ohio is famous for its burial mounds and many are found here. Many Native American tribes would come through the area like the Iroquois, Ottawa and Shawnee, but not many stayed. From the mid-1600s to the mid-1700s, no tribes inhabited the region. Cleveland was named for its founder General Moses Cleaveland. He had been a director of the survey group sent out by the Connecticut Land Company. Cleaveland would become the capital city of the Connecticut Western Reserve. The General designed the public square after those in New England. The village of Cleaveland was incorporated on December 23, 1814. The spelling was changed in 1831 to Cleveland for an interesting reason. A newspaper could not fit the other spelling on its masthead. Because the city was located on the southern shore of Lake Erie at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, trade became a major industry. Eventually the city would become a center of industry and a gateway of immigration. During the early part of the 20th century, the city was one of the largest cities in America. After the Wars, the city declined as people moved out of the city into the suburbs and industry slowed down.

It was during the roaring success of the industrial age that Cleveland's Millionaires' Row would be born. Euclid Avenue is an old road that was originally laid out in 1815 and paved with Medina sandstone. The road followed the historic Lake Shore Trail and was given the name Euclid from a surveyors' settlement to the east that had that name. The street was declared to be a highway in 1832 by the state legislature. Rufus Dunham would be the first man to see the potential of Euclid Avenue. He would buy 140 acres of land and built a farm and tavern. This tavern opened in 1824 and would become a stagecoach stop. The Dunham Tavern still stands today at 6709 Euclid Avenue and is the oldest building in Cleveland, Ohio.  Cleveland landscape architect, A. Donald Gray purchased the home in 1932, and restored it and it reopened as the Dunham Tavern Museum in 1941. Rufus Dunham had struggles in those early years because the city did little to service the street and drainage was horrible. As more wealthy people were drawn to the street, the city was forced to update, so that flooding would stop and the property would be more desirable.

Mark Twain wrote that Euclid Avenue was "the most beautiful street in the world." If you fronted on Euclid Avenue, you had really arrived. After the Civil War, manufacturing took off in America and Cleveland grew quickly. The city became one of the five main oil refining centers in the U.S. joining cities in Pennsylvania and New York City. It would be here that Standard Oil would get its start as a partnership between William Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller, Samuel Adams and Henry M. Flagler. The wealthy would build their homes between Erie (E. 9th) St. and Willson Ave. (E. 55th St.) with Lake Erie to their rear and that included these oil magnates. John Rockefeller bought his home on the avenue in 1868 for $40,000.  Many of the mansions were built in the Romanesque style and Cleveland architect Chas F. Schweinfurth designed at least 15 of the mansions. What is interesting about these homes is that these were large stone structures that should have stood for decades and maybe even a couple of centuries, but these homes went up and were torn down over and over as new owners would come along. Many mansions would be demolished for good as the wealthy chose to move to the suburbs. By 1937, only seven of the  forty mansions remained on Millionaires' Row. And unbelievably, the luscious lawns in front of these homes became used car lots with the houses serving as offices for those lots. Most of the rest of the homes were destroyed so the Innerbelt Freeway could be built.

The grandeur of Euclid Avenue was over. Ironically, the pollution created by these rich men's factories pushed them out. There would be no more parades or social gatherings with patriotic bunting decorating the streetlights. It was hard to believe that this street once rivaled New York's Fifth Avenue for wealth. Only four of these grand structures have made it to our present day and a couple of them have spirits still knocking around in them. Fun Fact: One of the most interesting people to live on this street was con artist Cassie Chadwick. This was the woman who claimed to be the illegitimate daughter of Andrew Carnegie. She pulled off one of the greatest bank heists in history. She also claimed to be a clairvoyant and went by the name Madame Marie LaRose. She was also a real madame and opened a brothel in Cleveland. But don't tell her third husband that, whom she convinced she was a widow running a boarding house for women. It was with him that she lived on Millionaires' Row. She was not welcomed by her neighbors.

Stager-Beckwith Mansion

This mansion is located at 3813 Euclid Ave. This is the oldest mansion on Millionaires' Row and was built in 1866 by Anson Stager who was the general superintendent of Western Union Telegraph whose claim to fame was creating the most effective secret code during the Civil War. His home was the first mansion built on Euclid Avenue and was designed by Joseph Ireland. The original floor plan had 15 rooms and covered 10,000 square-feet. Stager lived here with his family for two years and then he sold it in 1868 to Thomas Sterling Beckwith who made his fortune in the furniture business. He founded the first furniture and carpet store in the city, Beckwith, Sterling and Company. When Beckwith died in 1876, Charles Brush bought the mansion. Brush sold the house in 1913 to the University Club. The club occupied the space for 90 years and added 40,000 square feet to the property. The University Club was a social club for men with college degrees. In 2018, the mansion became the Cleveland Children’s Museum and that is what it is today. To date, we have heard no reports of hauntings here. If you hear differently, let us know.

H.W. White Mansion

The H.W. White Mansion is located at 8937 Euclid Ave and is today known as the Cleveland Clinic White Mansion. H.W. White had worked for the Baker Motor Vehicle Company, which had been an electric car producer in Cleveland during the turn of the century. The house was designed in the Romanesque Revival style. There is wonderful detail in the stone carving and stained glass windows. We have heard no haunting tales about this location either. Again, if you've been there to see a doctor and had some kind of experience, let us know.

Mather Mansion

The largest among the mansions constructed on the street was Mather Mansion, which is located at 2605 Euclid Ave. This was built for Samuel Mather in 1910 by architect Charles Schweinfurth in the Tudor style. Mather was chairman of Pickands, Mather & Company, which was one of the four largest shippers of iron ore in the country. He was one of the richest men in Cleveland and held powerful positions in transportation, iron and banking. His mansion was luxurious with the finest furnishings from around the world and a ballroom with a 16-foot ceiling. The interior featured handcrafted woodwork, stone and brick. The house had cost $1,200,000 upon completion. Samuel Mather died in 1931 and the Cleveland Institute of Music moved in until 1940. The Cleveland Automobile Club purchased the house then, staying until 1967 when Cleveland State University acquired the property. The university renovated it and the mansion was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on February 20, 1973. The university planned to turn the house into a boutique hotel, but they gave up that plan in 2014. Instead they set it up for the Center for International Services and Programs, a program that taught English as a second language.

The Mather Mansion is reputedly haunted. One story was shared by a member of the grounds crew who was sent to investigate why motion sensors had been set off at 2 a.m. He walked throughout the mansion and suddenly heard the elevator fire up. It began to move and then he heard the sound of people laughing and the clinking of glasses. Music traveled on the air and yet, he was the only one in the building. He was so scared that he said he would never enter the house again and he never did. A housekeeper had her own experience that was even more terrifying. She was cleaning a room when she felt something that she could not see, forcibly grab her and she was flung from the room. As she picked herself up, she heard the vacuum turn itself on and then it joined her out in the hallway. Other people in the house have experienced the faucets turning on and off by themselves, heard disembodied footsteps and strange knocks. It's the creepy moaning that gets most people though.

An article in November of 2016 in the CSU Alumni Association details an investigation they hosted: "In what has become one of the Alumni Association’s most popular Passport Cleveland tours, a group of brave alumni recently joined the Ohio Ghost Hunters for an investigation into whether Mather is indeed haunted. Based out of central Ohio, the Hunters are a group of scientific and psychic medium investigators traveling the state, gathering evidence of the paranormal and offering solutions on how to address otherworldly phenomena. 'We’ve found spirits present in business buildings, open fields, trains, navy ships [and] historic villages,' said Peggy, director of Ohio Ghost Hunters. And as you might guess, they might have found some at Mather Mansion during the tour. Peggy led the group into what is believed to be Samuel Mather’s former bedroom—a cavernous room with elaborate woodwork and candle-like wall sconces—set up an electromagnetic field detector and what’s known as a Spirit Box that can supposedly interpret voices from the "other side," turned off the lights and initiated an investigation.

It started with basic questions. “Is there anybody here from the Mather family?” Peggy asked. 'We’re not here to do anything but ask you questions,' she assured whatever, whomever they hoped to encounter. 'Are there any spirits that haunt Mather Mansion?' 'Me,' a voice supposedly intoned through the Spirit Box. 'That sounds like a child,' Peggy said. 'What's your name?' Though they never found out the child’s identity, two members of the Ghost Hunters were fairly certain they could distinguish two separate voices communicating. 'How about we come back sometime?' Peggy offered as the evening drew to a close, following that with a farewell. Through the white noise of the Spirit Box, what sounded like 'goodnight' replied. 'Did you hear that?' Peggy chuckled.

The Drury Mansion

The Drury Mansion is located at 8615 Euclid Avenue. Francis Drury began the road to success by inventing a lawnmower. He was born in 1850 in Michigan and got started early in the hardware business. It was at that time that Drury invented the first internal gear lawnmower. He moved to Cleveland with his invention and partnered with Taylor and Boggis Foundry Company to manufacture the lawnmower. Later, he started the Cleveland Foundry Company and focused on cooking stoves. So he created the first kerosene stove that would eventually lead to the Coleman stoves many of us have used for camping. This was really innovative cause everybody was using wood stoves. This would get Drury working with John D. Rockefeller who produced kerosene. It was a great partnering.  

Drury had arrived and he wanted to build a mansion where all the other successful men had on Euclid Avenue. Construction began in 1910 and finished in 1912. It was built in the Tudor Revival style and had 34 rooms. The spacious home covered 25,000 square feet. Drury, his wife Julia and their son lived at this location for twelve years. They followed their neighbors to the suburbs and bought the 155 acre Cedar Hill Farm. Julia and Francis only lived there for a year before Francis died and then she moved and died in 1943, eleven years later. The Drurys would always be known for their philanthropy. They donated much to the music community in Cleveland. The Drury Mansion was bought by the Drury Club in 1939. Much of the Drury family's furnishings remained as a part of the Drury Club. People would come here to have dinner and do some dancing. This later became a nursing home for many years, around four decades, although this seems to have been a halfway house of some sort in the 1970s because there were stories of guards and parolees in the house. And unwed mothers were said to find sanctuary here before the halfway house. The Cleveland Clinic bought it in 1989 and they continue to maintain it today. 

An article written in the Cleveland Plain Dealer written by Imogene Addams in 1939 claimed that the Drury Mansion had "rumors of its secret doors and subterranean tunnel have long mantled it in a shroud of mystery." The author went on to write that the tunnel had been sealed. The passage had lead to some sunken gardens across the way. One of the main rooms had a six foot fireplace with hand-carved Bedford stone and dark oak paneling. More rooms must have been added at some point because their are stories that claim there are 52 rooms inside.

This home is notoriously haunted. There were some years when it stood vacant. There were two police officers who were guarding the house in 1972 and one evening they had a terrifying experience that they would not discuss. They were found in the morning sitting on the floor with their backs against each other and they each had their shotguns at the ready. Others who have worked in the house have reported hearing disembodied footsteps and doors and windows that open and close by themselves. Some have claimed feeling as though they are being watched. In 1978, the first report of seeing an apparition would be made. The sighting took place on the main staircase and a worker claimed that he saw a mysterious woman standing there with her hair up in a knot on top of her head and wearing a brown dress. There were other sightings of her in the kitchen and in some of the bedrooms. Many people wondered if this was Julia Drury. Others believe that this is another woman. Possibly a woman who boarded here. People say that they have heard disembodied screams floating through the hallways. Stairs creak as though under the weight of a human.

On Dan Ruminski's Cleveland Storyteller website: "A couple of years ago, I was giving a Cleveland Storyteller presentation at the Drury Mansion on Euclid Avenue, one of the four Millionaire’s Row mansions that is still standing. With 52 rooms and walls of remarkable wood detail, the mansion’s sheer size and splendor took us all back into time. I was speaking with my back to the grand fireplace, entertaining a crowd that had gathered to hear about Francis Drury and his wife, Julia. When I spoke Julia Drury’s name, the lights over the fireplace flickered quickly—intentionally. The simple mention of her name triggered an obvious sign of her presence. I halted; the audience gasped. Our eyes darted around the room. My wife described Julia’s appearance with stunning accuracy, and she had never seen a picture of Mrs. Drury before. The following Monday I returned to the Drury Mansion to return some photographs to the mansion curator. Again, I mentioned Julia Drury’s name while standing in the living room with the man. And, again, the lights flickered fast—on and off, on and off. The ghost of Julia Drury was letting us know we were in her company."

A distant tragedy has been connected to the mansion. About a half-dozen blocks down the street a fire broke out at another building occupied by the Cleveland Clinic. This took place on May 15, 1929. One hundred twenty-three people perished in the blaze that was started by vapors connected to x-rays. One of the victims spirits is said to have traveled down to the Drury Mansion and it seems appropriate since this is another place owned by the Cleveland Clinic. This apparition has been described as being beautiful and brunette. She wears a bracelet identifying her as a patient of the Cleveland Clinic. When she makes appearances temperatures rise to unbearably hot levels. People who see the ghosts claim that she seems to be trying to share a message. She then disappears in a flash of smoke.

The fact that so many of the mansions that once stood along Euclid Avenue no longer exist is sad. How did a street that once was a showcase, lose so many of its treasures? Two of the four are thought to be haunted. Are the Mather Mansion and Drury Mansion haunted? That is for you to decide!

Show Notes:

Danielle Rose, “Mather Mansion,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 7, 2020,

McNamara, Robert. "Penny Press." ThoughtCo, Feb. 11, 2020,

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