The Severance Estate

This beautiful fountain made of Carrera marble once marked the entrance to Longwood but became surrounded by an expanse of concrete when Severance Mall was constructed. In 1998, the Cleveland Heights Historical Society and other preservation groups worked to preserve the fountain and move it to its current location outside City Hall.

This beautiful fountain made of Carrera marble once marked the entrance to Longwood but became surrounded by an expanse of concrete when Severance Mall was constructed. In 1998, the Cleveland Heights Historical Society and other preservation groups worked to preserve the fountain and move it to its current location outside City Hall.

Severance Town Center – once known as Severance Mall – has seen its fortunes decline recently as its tenet Wal-Mart moved down the road to Oakwood Commons, formerly the site of Oakwood Country Club.  In 1963, Severance Mall opened with great fanfare as the first enclosed shopping mall in Ohio.  As thoughts turn now to what may replace Severance Town Center if it continues to go downhill, it’s worth looking at what came before Severance Mall.

The palatial Longwood mansion consisted of over fifty rooms, including a large library, a drawing room, and a great hall with a pipe organ. The exterior featured elaborate chimneys, refined stone carvings, and castellated stone detailing.

The palatial Longwood mansion consisted of over fifty rooms, including a large library, a drawing room, and a great hall with a pipe organ. The exterior featured elaborate chimneys, refined stone carvings, and castellated stone detailing.

The land that became Severance Mall was once the idyllic, 125-acre country estate – featuring formal gardens and a lavish Tudor Revival mansion –  of wealthy industrialist John L. Severance. Designed by J. Milton Dyer and Charles Schweinfurth, Longwood’s mansion  housed a great art collection – much of which is now in the Cleveland Museum of Art.  In addition, two other Severance family estates were located near Longwood, both situated across Mayfield Road. Ben Brae, the estate of Julia Severance Milliken, was located near the northeast corner of Mayfield and Taylor Roads, and Glen Allen, the estate of Elisabeth Severance Allen Prentiss, sat to the east of Ben Brae.

After John Severance died in 1936, his nephew Severance Millikin inherited Longwood and lived on the estate until 1959. By the early 1950s, Millikin was making plans to redevelop Longwood, and he hired Cleveland’s Austin Company to plan a future use for the property, leading to the recommendation for a regional shopping center. Austin Company ended up acquiring the land and brought in a Seattle-based development firm as a partner on the project. While the decision to build a large mall on the previously undeveloped land caused some controversy, the city eventually gave its assent to the plan. The mansion at Longwood was torn down in 1961 and a groundbreaking ceremony for the mall was held during the winter of 1962.

Perhaps one day the land that is now Severance Town Center will revert to the grassy, country nature of the Longwood Estate. For now, though, it remains a concrete jungle, emptying as retail stores seek greener pastures elsewhere.

Longwood Estate, 1949: This aerial photograph from 1949 looks eastward from the intersection of Mayfield and Taylor Roads, which is near the bottom left corner of the image. The Longwood Estate is the open stretch of land to the south of Mayfield Road. This land became the site of the Severance Center mall. The Longwood mansion (razed in 1961) can be seen just to the right of the center of the image.

Longwood Estate, 1949: This aerial photograph from 1949 looks eastward from the intersection of Mayfield and Taylor Roads, which is near the bottom left corner of the image. The Longwood Estate is the open stretch of land to the south of Mayfield Road. This land became the site of the Severance Center mall. The Longwood mansion (razed in 1961) can be seen just to the right of the center of the image.

 

Higbee's is the anchor to the left of the center building, while Halle's is to the right. The fourth building jutting out from the main mall is a Fisher Foods supermarket. Mayfield Road runs east to west in the foreground. 50 acres of parking spaces encircled the mall. The trees to the rear (located on the mall's southern side) were added to placate angry residents on nearby streets who were afraid of the mall's effects on the beauty of their neighborhood.

Higbee’s is the anchor to the left of the center building, while Halle’s is to the right. The fourth building jutting out from the main mall is a Fisher Foods supermarket. Mayfield Road runs east to west in the foreground.
50 acres of parking spaces encircled the mall. The trees to the rear (located on the mall’s southern side) were added to placate angry residents on nearby streets who were afraid of the mall’s effects on the beauty of their neighborhood.

 

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