The Architecture and Interiors of Moreland Courts
In the beginning...
When it was first announced in the Cleveland newspapers in 1922, the Van Sweringens, the real estate developers of adjacent Shaker Heights, envisioned a $30 million investment in a model apartment and commercial community that would become known as Shaker Square. The architect, Alfred Harris, Sr., wanted a unified design for its buildings. His ambitious plan was never fully realized, but the Moreland Courts apartment complex of twelve inter-related structures stretching 1,500 feet from Coventry Road west to the Square was completed along these lines and is by far the most luxurious example of his grand concept. For example, thirteen of the fifteen residential buildings have only two suites per floor, adding to a sense of privacy and private-residential scale.
A blending of English styles
The architectural design of Moreland Courts is 18th-century English Georgian, with decorative accents from the Late Gothic, Tudor and Jacobean periods dating back to the 15th century. Harris skillfully blended historical styles in much the same way that he had seen them in old English towns near the airfields from which he flew as an aviator in World War 1. However, the six buildings of the west half of Moreland Courts were designed by the architectural firm of Small & Rowley, after the Van Sweringens reclaimed the property when the original developer, Josiah Kirby, Harris’s client, failed in 1923. Their approach was somewhat simpler but retained the fine proportions and an 18th century Georgian theme. The most distinctive feature of their design which was completed by 1929, is the handsomely-proportioned ground floor gallery, more than 500 feet long, that links the west six buildings and also gives internal access to the restaurant on the northeast side of the Square.
Built to last...elegantly finished
All Moreland Courts buildings, though stylistically faithful to the past, were constructed with modern structural steel frames on poured concrete foundations. The structural floors also are poured concrete. The exterior walls are a red-orange brick with decorative limestone doorways and trim, including quoins (corner stones), roof-top urns and a lone gargoyle on the west side of the Tudor Buildings. The face brick is backed by fireproof ribbed clay tile, which also provides the core of the interior partitions. The walls and the ceilings were then covered with a thick coat of finish plaster or fine wood paneling. Floors in the common spaces vary from stone to terrazzo, Moravian tile and carpet, depending on the style of the entrances and hallways. Hardwoods were used throughout for doors, windows, frames, wainscoting, cabinets, and parquet floors within the individual suites, each with its own working fireplace. Finishing touches include brass and silver-plated wall sconces, door knobs and radiator grilles. The end result is rooms and halls that are elegantly finished, and both fire and sound proof.
Restoration and updating
Over the past decade Moreland Courts has undergone an extensive updating and modernization of its infrastructure and restoration of its exterior, without compromising its historical integrity. New flat roofing has been installed where required and the handsome slate pitched roofs have been repaired. The ivy, picturesque but harmful, was removed and the exterior brick and stone masonry have been cleaned and repointed to return these surfaces to their original fresh, crisp, look. The obsolete electrical system has been largely replaced to meet modern code standards and the heating system has been significantly upgraded with new more efficient boilers. All of the suites now have radiators with individual thermostatic controls to allow for personalized climate control and economical operation throughout. A handsome green carpet was installed in the Gallery and all of the fifteen residential buildings have had their main entrance lobbies restored. The Shaker Boulevard grounds have been beautifully re-landscaped. We have begun a long-term capital improvement through a fully funded Capital Reserve that includes the modernization of all 14 passenger elevators yet retain their historic charm. Finally, we are developing a long-term, economical, strategy for keeping the 3,000 historical wood windows in this complex in sound working condition.
The way we feel about Moreland Courts today is perhaps best summarized by John Ruskin’s observation in 1848: "What we have ourselves built, we are at liberty to throw down; but what other men gave their strength, and wealth, and life to accomplish, their right over does not pass away with their death; still less is the right to the use of what they have left vested in us only. It belongs to all their successors."
For those who would like to read further about Moreland Courts and its context, see:
For those interested in the architects and developers, see:
And for those who would like to learn more about the architectural styles, see:
Written by Ted Sande, AIA Emeritus
Historic Preservation Consultant
© 2013 All Rights Reserved, Moreland Courts Condominium Association
Ted Sande is a historic preservationist, retired architect, historian, and teacher. He is listed in Marquis Who's Who in America and Who's Who in the World. He and his wife, Sue, have resided at Moreland Courts for nearly 30 years.
Short History Amenities Architecture Overview Architecture History
Photo Gallery Video Tour Guest Suite Our Location
For Sales & Rent
Sales & Rentals
Contacting Us Neighborhood Links Home