Cleveland Storyteller logo

You Asked… Answers to 3 Questions About Life during Cleveland’s Past

Rockefeller’s Estate

People are intrigued when they hear stories about Cleveland’s past-the mansions, the parties, the industry, the society, the way of life. Learning more about Cleveland “back then” always sparks questions.

Here are three questions I answer all the time after my Cleveland Storyteller presentations. (There are many more that I’ll share with you in future blogs. Stay tuned!)

#1 How large were the Millionaire’s Row mansions?

Square footage is something most of us can relate to, so when I share that the largest Euclid Avenue mansion was 50,000 square feet, that explains just how significant these buildings were. That’s more than 21 times the size of an average 2,300 square foot home.

#2 Did John D. Rockefeller really get kicked out of town?

No! And I get asked this question all of the time because there are numerous stories about his leaving Cleveland later in his career, following a tax issue that he found offensive. Basically, the city was attempting to charge him dollars on his estate that he did not deserve to pay.

Then, Rockefeller’s wife passed away in 1915. Everyone says, he left Cleveland for New York-and it’s true that he had an estate there, and another in New Jersey. After the passing of Rockefeller’s wife, he spent time at his estate in Cleveland Heights. While he was in New York for business in 1917, the estate burned to the ground. The story is, there was an issue between the Cleveland Heights and East Cleveland fire departments regarding which had jurisdiction to put out the fire. No one acted, so the building burned to the ground.

Cleveland was John D. Rockefeller’s home, and it is where he is buried, at Lakeview Cemetery.

#3 What were the grand parties like on Millionaire’s Row?

If you watch Downton Abbey, then you’re familiar with the many dinner courses and clearing of dishes between each one. Parties on the Row might have included eight separate courses with exotic menu items like pheasant. Dinner would go on past midnight, and of course there was live music and dancing. Thousands of flowers might be used to decorate a home for a single event. The air was all pomp and circumstance. For example, the chair backs were never used for actually resting one’s back-particularly for ladies who were expected to sit up straight. Instead, the chair back was more of a “handle” for servants to use when pulling out chairs for residents and guests. Also, people often wonder if servants dressed in uniform dress all the time. And it’s true that they did dress in serving attire every day, not just for parties.

What other questions do you have for the Cleveland Storyteller? Check out one of Dan Ruminski’s upcoming presentations, or book a personal storytelling event for your business or group. Visit this blog and stay tuned for more stories and news.

Leave a Reply