CLEVELAND — To a passerby, the site at East 85th and Euclid may not seem like much. But if the walls of the building could talk, 8500 Euclid Avenue’s walls would sing.
It’s the site of the former Cleveland Play House, built in 1927. The home of the nation’s longest-running theater
company for 80 years. In the '80s, renowned Cleveland architect Philip Johnson remodeled it.
The Cleveland Clinic purchased it in 2009, according to Cuyahoga County property records. But lately, there’s been concern the clinic may demolish it.
Bridget Enggasser lives in Virginia but grew up in Cleveland. She said when she heard the rumors about demolition, she was upset.
“We would be bussed there to see shows during school and then more recently when Mercury Theater Company in Cleveland was doing their plays there in the Brooks Theater,” she said. “Every time I go back to Cleveland it’s cool to see all the development and now things that are being built, but I would just hope that some of the past can be preserved.”
She took preservation action into her own hands and started an online petition to save the theatre.
“I thought, ‘well, it would be interesting to see how many people really do care.’ I was kind of surprised when it kind of took off,” said Enggasser.
More than 1,500 people have signed the petition.
“People are commenting about the architect and the history of the architecture itself. People are commenting about the history of the Cleveland Play House. People who work there, performed there, volunteered there, took their kids there to see plays, people who just care about the history of the neighborhood and how it's changing,” she said.
In an email, a Cleveland Clinic spokesperson said no plans for the building have been finalized. But in the meantime, Enggasser is working to get it on the state’s historic preservation list and in an email back a spokesperson from the office said it did qualify.
“Based upon a review of all of the information the property appears to qualify for individual nomination to the National Register of Historic Places. The property will likely qualify under National Register Criterion A: properties associated with events that have made a significant contribution to the broad patterns of our history, for the Cleveland Playhouse’s significance in the cultural and theater history in Cleveland,” a portion of the email read.
But there’s many more steps to get it in the national register program and listing.
“Even a national or an Ohio historic preservation of the building wouldn't prevent Cleveland Clinic from demolishing it. What could would be the Cleveland Landmarks Commission. They have the power to approve or deny a demolition permit and to say that a building is a Cleveland landmark, and in doing so, they would be able to prevent it from being demolished,” said Enggasser, who is working to do just that.
She’s hopeful that her efforts will forever preserve the building’s history and keep it in Cleveland’s future.
“It's more just to me about awareness and the conversation, and if the building can't be saved, it would be interesting, at least I think, for the city and Clevelanders to know why,” she said.