Research Your Shaker Home

 

Local History media

Although homes in the city of Shaker Heights represent several eras and architectural styles, from century farmhouses to LEED-certified structures, most houses were built under the supervision of the Van Sweringen Company after they designed and marketed Shaker Heights as a planned community in the early 1900s. 

The Van Sweringens required property owners to build according to strict architectural guidelines, and favored conservative English, French, and Colonial designs. House styles east of Warrensville Center Road reflected less stringent 1930s and 1940s preferences, including lower rooflines, larger yards, and more prominently placed garages.

We offer numerous tools and tips to help you research the history of your Shaker Heights home, no matter what style and time period it represents.  Click on the sections below to learn about resources located in the Local History Collection, online, and at partner institutions. 

See a short presentation on resources available to research your Shaker home:

Research Your Shaker Home with Meghan Hays, October 17, 2020, cosponsored by the Shaker Historical Society and Shaker Heights Public Library, on Shaker Historical Society’s Facebook page and on Shaker Library’s YouTube channel.

Connect to Local History to access any of these resources:

Plat Map Books: Property Transfers

Our plat map books contain names, dates, and/or purchase amounts for property purchases in Shaker Heights from the 1920s to the 1990s.

For property transfers after 1974, see how to access the County property search in Research Online, below.

Microfilmed Building Plans and Blueprints

The Shaker Library Local History Collection has over 100 rolls of microfilm on which the City of Shaker Heights filmed building plans and blueprints before the original plans were destroyed. Blueprints for buildings built before 1945 were not microfilmed and original blueprints were not retained by the City of Shaker Heights.

Visit Shaker Heights Blueprints for more information on whether your house plans are available on microfilm and how to obtain copies if so.

Shaker Buildings Database

Look up your Shaker Heights home’s historic information, including the date it was built, the name of your architect, and more. Your home’s record in the Shaker Buildings Database will show whether there are building plans on microfilm for your home.

View an interesting dynamic visualization (in beta) of the development of Shaker Heights, over time and by architect, based on the Shaker Building Card Database, developed by Shaker resident and programmer Bryan Munch.

Please visit Shaker Heights Blueprints to learn more about locating your building plans.

Architects

Identify your architect using the Shaker Buildings Database. Search the following resources to locate biographical information and lists of building projects of your architect:

  • Architectural Walking Tours

    From 1982 to 2005 the Landmark Commission of the City of Shaker Heights produced self-guided walking and driving architectural tours of Shaker Heights, organized around the work of a prominent architect or a particular architectural style. Each included background information on the architect or style, and a map of the city showing the location of relevant homes.

    Beginning with the city’s 2012 Centennial, the City of Shaker Heights’ Landmark Commission and the Shaker Library’s Local History Collection have co-hosted an occasional series of Architectural Walking Tours:

    The City of Shaker Heights has also gathered these and other self-guided tours here.

Property Transfers

Cuyahoga County My Place Property Search.  For property transfers from 1975 to the present, input an address, last name, or permanent parcel number in the search box, select the results, and then click on the ‘Transfers’ tab on the left to see property transfers back to the beginning of 1975.

For property transfers before 1975, see how to access the plat map books in the section Research in the Local History Collection, elsewhere on this page.

Deeds

Search for property deeds tracing backwards as far back as the founding of the Village of Shaker Heights, and possibly discover how your property was originally sold by the Van Sweringen Company:

Cuyahoga County Fiscal Officer’s Recorded Documents Search. Select ‘General Deed Search.’ Plug in the full name of a previous owner (full names are found by first gathering a list of property transfers) and the appropriate date range to find PDFs of deeds involving that owner.

Further Research and Resources

  • Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps Input city name ‘Cleveland,’ then select ‘All Date Ranges’ and filter by ‘Street Address.’ Plug in your street name to see maps.
  • Come into a library to use Census and Historical Plain Dealer databases to learn more about your home’s former owners.

The City of Shaker Heights

  • The Building & Housing Department keeps permit information that details work done on each property, and the historical files on many Shaker Heights houses, particularly on code violations and repairs.

The Shaker Historical Society

The Shaker Historical Society’s library contains maps, manuscripts, photographs, and artifacts, and its museum displays permanent and rotating exhibits on the Van Sweringens and the development of Shaker Heights.

The Cuyahoga County Archives

County Historic Building Survey Cards. Cards contain information from the County Auditor’s 1930s and 1960s surveys of all taxed properties in the county. The survey cards originally included small photographs of the building; some of these have since separated from the cards. Typically the information on hand includes a physical description, dimensions, construction details, and assessed value of the home.

The Cleveland Public Library Special Collections Department

The Special Collections include some sets of house plans by prominent architects, including the architectural firm Howell & Thomas, who were active in Shaker Heights.