Cooley Farms

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Cooley Farms
Established 1909
Opened 1912
Closed 1978
Current Status Demolished
Building Style Cottage Plan
Location Warrensville, OH
Architecture Style Spanish Colonial Revival
Alternate Names
  • Warrensville House of Correction
  • Highland View Hospital
  • Cuyahoga Chronic Hospital
  • Cleveland Workhouse
  • Sunny Acres Sanitarium
  • Warrensville Sanitarium
  • Cleveland City Hospital Tuberculosis Sanitarium


In his ongoing fight against people of privilege and on behalf of the "common man," Tom Johnson found a friend and soulmate in his church pastor, Harris R. Cooley. Three years younger than Johnson, Cooley was born in Royalton, Ohio on October 18, 1857. His father was Lathrop Cooley, a well-known minister in the Disciples of Christ church. He was active in various ministries in the Western Reserve for six decades, and he imparted to his son a sense of duty and obligation to the less fortunate members of society. The elder Cooley preached at the city workhouse, the city jail, and the Aged Women's Home, and he served as superintendent and chaplain of the Cleveland Bethel Union, a seaman's mission involved in work-relief programs.

Cooley's son Harris trained for the ministry at Hiram and Oberlin colleges and served as pastor in several Cleveland and northeast Ohio churches. At Cleveland's Cedar Avenue Christian Church he befriended Tom Johnson, and the two men soon found that they shared strongly held beliefs about social justice and economic and political equality.

One of those shared beliefs concerned the causes of criminal activity. Cooley and Johnson, like most Progressives, believed that the physical setting in which people lived actually influenced whether they would engage in criminal activity. The city itself— especially the run-down industrial districts and the neighborhoods where industrial workers lived -- bred crime like a swamp breeds mosquitoes. A collateral problem was the disease and disability often found in these places. Both Cooley and his friend the mayor believed that humane treatment, both of the ill and of the criminally inclined, was essential to the recovery of both and that removal from the city setting was the appropriate way to achieve this goal. The city's citizens would regain physical and social health by being removed from the city — an anti-urban attitude that shaped much of American social and economic policy during the 20th century.

Immediately upon taking office as mayor, Johnson appointed Cooley as Director of Charities and Corrections for the City of Cleveland. Cooley held this post for ten years, into the administration of Mayor Newton D. Baker. Acting on his theory that the crowding, dirt, noise, and other negative aspects of urban life militated against public health and healthy lifestyles, upon his appointment to his city post Cooley began to develop the idea of a rural campus, "wholesome surroundings" in which the city's charges could be cared for without the evils of the city intruding. Mayor Johnson gave Cooley his vigorous support, and acquisition of land began in 1904. The location was in Warrensville Township, some 10 miles southeast of downtown Cleveland, on a high tract of rolling rural land. The city had already begun acquiring land here in 1902 for a cemetery and between 1904 and 1912 acquired some 25 farms at a total cost of $350,000. The complex eventually totaled 2,000 acres, located primarily between Northfield and Richmond roads (which ran north-south) and on either side of Harvard Road (which ran east-west).

Cooley himself expressed the purpose of the new facility in terms which summed up his philosophy and his attitude toward his fellow man -- terms which might be considered softhearted and romantic by some but which went to the core beliefs of this unusual public official. Speaking of the indigent and the delinquent in particular, Cooley said:

“They have made the human voyage. Among the unfortunates are some who have been wasteful, intemperate, and vicious. Some are undeserving, some have done wrong, but these things are true of some of the children of luxury.”

The entire complex became known as Cooley Farms and became widely known for its progressive approach toward the people in its care. Consistent with Cooley's and the mayor's ideas about crime, the complex also included a correctional facility for rehabilitation of lawbreakers. Attitudes of the time held that negative influences of the urban setting contributed to crime and vice and that removal of offenders from that environment was essential to their "correction." The Cleveland Workhouse was first established in 1855 on the Scranton Road site near the city's hospital and infirmary. It moved in 1871 to a site on Woodland Avenue at East 79th Street, and in 1912 it became part of Cooley Farms.

There were four components of Cooley Farms, all of which were in place by the period just before World War I. They included Colony Farm, which was the city infirmary/poorhouse, which also included a halfway house and cottages for elderly couples; Highland Park Farm, the city cemetery; Overlook Farm, a tuberculosis sanatorium; and Correction Farm, the city workhouse and house of corrections. The first two were north of Harvard Road, the cemetery in the northwest quadrant and Colony Farm in the northeast quadrant. The other two were south of Harvard, the Correction Farm in the southwest quadrant and Overlook Farm in the southeast. Each of the four occupied about 500 acres.

Adoption of the name "Farms" was not just to commemorate the original use of the land. Social philosophy of the time held that productive work was important in rehabilitating people of all kinds, from the aged and ill to the poor and the criminal. Thus the Cooley Farms complex was set up as a working farm, nearly self-sufficient, where everyone was expected to work according his physical and mental ability. Workhouse inmates did the heaviest work, which included operation of a quarry for building stone and cement production. They worked at the facility's dairy, piggery, greenhouse, blacksmith shop, sawmill and cannery. Farm work included vegetable and feed production and an orchard. Workhouse inmates also maintained the grounds of the entire complex and worked on construction of many of the buildings. Able-bodied residents of the other "farms" also worked, mainly at lighter tasks. The entire Cooley Farms complex was considered a model for progressive treatment of social ills, the workhouse in particular. Social and economic journals of the day devoted considerable space to studies of the complex, and the Cleveland facility inspired similar efforts in Toledo and in two cases in New York City, the Farm Colony on Staten Island and the 1930s Camp LaGuardia in rural Orange County, intended for derelicts from the Bowery.

The workhouse at Correction Farm, completed in 1912, was also called the Cooley Farms Workhouse and the Cleveland House of Corrections. A women's wing was added in 1913, and a separate boiler house was part of the original construction. The architect was J. Milton Dyer, a major Cleveland architect who had to his credit such important structures as Cleveland City Hall, the Peerless Motor Car Company, and the U.S. Coast Guard Station. The buildings employed a restrained Spanish Colonial Revival style, represented primarily by their red clay tile hip roofs and stuccoed walls. They were replaced by new facilities in the mid-1980s, and no historic structures survive at the site today.

Overlook Farm, the tuberculosis sanatorium, was first located in the Robert J. Walkden house, one of the farmhouses acquired by the city when it was making land purchases for Cooley Farms. Located on the west side of Richmond Readjust north of Harvard Road, the house served from 1906 until completion of the main sanatorium in 1913. The Walkden house was an 1870 Italianate building of brick construction. It had been unused and was in a state of deterioration at the time it was destroyed by fire in 1982.

The 1913 sanatorium was known as both Sunny Acres Sanatorium and Sunny Acres Hospital (exposure to sunlight was at one time thought to help cure tuberculosis). Both the main building and a 1931 addition were designed in a simplified Mission Revival style, which complemented the Spanish Colonial Revival elements of the Cleveland Workhouse and the Colony Farm. The 1913 building was designed by Herman Kregelius, and the 1931 addition was designed by George S. Ryder. The original facility, and its 1931 addition, survived into the late 1970s, when they were demolished for a new facility, which still serves as part of the county's health care system as a long-term skilled nursing facility. No historic structures remain at the Sunny Acres site today.

The principal buildings of the Colony Farm, which was the replacement for the old City Infirmary at the Scranton Road site near downtown, were completed between 1909 and 1912.

Other later structures, discussed below, expanded the complex, and a large new main hospital building was built in the early 1950s after the complex was transferred to Cuyahoga County. It was about this time that the complex became known as Highland View Hospital. The sit was on the north side of Harvard Road west of Richmond Road.

The original complex included eight buildings: the Old Couples' Cottage, the Female Insane Cottage, the North Dormitory, the Administration Building, the Quadrangle, the Power House, the South Dormitory, and the Male Insane Cottage. The design of the complex was the work of J. Milton Dyer, architect of the workhouse. The symmetry of the complex indicated the formality of the Beaux-Arts design Dyer originally proposed, which was abandoned in favor of the modest Spanish Mission-influenced design ultimately built.

The complex at its peak had fifteen separate structures and today consists of nine standing buildings and one set of ruins. Four of the buildings standing on the site were listed in the National Register of Historic Places on August 8, 1979, including original Colony Farm buildings known today as Sweeney Hall, Bingham Hall, the Quadrangle Building, and Carter Hall; the nomination was prepared by the Cuyahoga County Archives and was called "Cooley Farms Group." The nomination also included the Cleveland House of Corrections, the House of Corrections Boiler House, and the Robert J. Walkden House. As was noted above, all of these buildings have been demolished.

The combined Sanborn maps of 1926-51/1953-61 give a picture of the hospital complex when it had reached its greatest size. From north to south, the principal buildings by the late 1950s included the following:

  • 1. Highland View Hospital, originally known as the Cuyahoga Chronic Hospital and currently as the Main Building, built between 1951 and 1953. The building is still standing and is cross-shaped in plan. At its southeast end is a synagogue and an addition known as Reynolds Hall, both built in 1957. The hospital and additions were built of concrete and brick in a modified Moderne style typical of the early 1950s, with banded aluminum windows and no architectural ornamentation.
  • 2. The Chronic Hospital (so called on the Sanborn Map), still standing and today called the Blossom Building. Its main elevation faces south, and it is attached on its north side to the south end of Reynolds Hall. The Blossom Building was built in 1932 in a spare Moderne design with modest amounts of stylized ornamentation and steel windows.
  • 3. The Old Couples' Cottage, which was in place by 1910 and was one of the original buildings in the complex. It was demolished at some point in the past, possibly the 1970s or 1980s.
  • 4. The Female Insane Cottage, still standing and known today as Sweeney Hall. It dates from the original construction period of the hospital complex, completed in 1912, and it has the same Spanish Colonial Revival style elements found in other original buildings to the south and west. These elements include a red clay tile roof, exposed roof rafter ends, stuccoed wall surfaces, and some use of arched openings.
  • 5. The North Dormitory, today called Bingham Hall. It is still standing and also dates from the 1912 original construction period. This building, too, was built with Spanish Colonial Revival style architectural elements and was part of an assemblage of buildings, as can be seen on the Sanborn map.
  • 6. The administration building, located west of the main quadrangle and probably built about 1912 along with the other original buildings. This building was demolished at an unknown date, possibly in the 1970s or 1980s.
  • 7. The original Quadrangle Building, also built in 1912 as part of the original complex. Like Sweeney and Bingham halls, this building had elements of the Spanish Colonial Revival style. It was a true quadrangle, with an open courtyard in the center. The west and north legs were demolished in the 1960s, leaving an L-shaped building which today is still called the Quad Building.
  • 8. The Power Plant is of indeterminate date and is still standing, attached to the east side of the Quad Building. The chimneys and other portions of the plant probably are original, since the complex's remote location around 1912 likely would have meant that public utilities were unavailable. The plant would have provided steam for heating and would have generated electric power for the complex. The Power Plant has been modified over the years, and all its equipment appears to have been removed, but the building and chimneys are still standing. The Power Plant appears to be included in the National Register nomination (this conclusion is based on the map of the Cooley Farms Group, which appears to show the Power Plant attached to the east side of the Quadrangle Building), but it is not identified as a separate structure.
  • 9. The eastern dormitory building, today called East House. This building, which is still standing, was built with Spanish Colonial Revival style elements and probably dates from the 1912 period. Its remote location suggests that it may have housed contagious patients, but this has not been verified.
  • 10. South of East House was a greenhouse, which was demolished at an unknown date, possibly the 1970s or 1980s.
  • 11. The South Dormitory, standing today and called Carter Hall. It was built in a "mirror" design of the North Dormitory and, together with the Administration Building and the Quadrangle Building, formed a symmetrical west-facing cluster of buildings of common architectural design. Dating from 1912, it formed part of the original core of the hospital complex.
  • 12. Twin garages, built of brick and each of 10-car capacity. They appear to have had flat roofs. Both were destroyed by fire some time ago and today consist only of brick rubble. Their original date is unknown.
  • 13. Building 54, which probably was the Male Insane Cottage, judging from its footprint and its location on the site. It dated from some time around the original construction and was demolished at some time in the past, possibly the 1970s or 1980s.
  • 14. The Central Laundry Building, still standing and built in 1950. The building was functional in design, with brick walls, a flat roof, industrial-style windows, and no ornamentation.
  • 15. As noted on the Sanborn map, a Recreation Building and a Dining Hall were located adjacent to a swimming pool. These were 800 feet southwest of the South Dormitory (Carter Hall), which would have placed them south of Harvard Road, which runs along the south side of the complex. These two buildings and the pool were demolished at an unknown date.

Other surviving elements of the site include concrete walks, paved drives and parking areas, and portions of former tunnels and covered passageways that provided all-weather access between some buildings. There are numerous trees and shrubs, many of which obviously were part of the site's landscaping; others have grown up since the property was abandoned in the early 1980s.

Under the county's administration, Highland View Hospital became well known for its care of chronically ill patients, specializing in treating the chronically disabled, stroke victims, and patients with neuro-muscular diseases. In 1957-58 the Cuyahoga County Hospital system was established and was credited with being the nation's first county-run public hospital system. Highland View and City Hospital (now MetroHealth Medical Center, at the original Scranton Road location) were the system's two principal units.

Between 1969 and 1973, the county began a move to phase out Highland View in favor of MetroGeneral Hospital at the location near downtown Cleveland. This decision apparently was made for financial reasons, to cut the cost necessary to run two large hospital complexes. By 1978 the last of Highland View's patients was transferred to MetroGeneral. Other than use of two wings of the Main Building in the early 1980s as an alcoholism treatment center, the buildings at Highland View were never used again. The site was proposed for redevelopment during the 1980s by a local industrialist, but these plans never materialized. More recently, the property has been transferred to a Cleveland developer and is proposed for long-term commercial development.

MetroGeneral Hospital[edit]

Back near downtown Cleveland, after removal of the non-medical functions to Cooley Farms by the period just before World War I, City Hospital continued to operate in both the 1889 structure and in the former infirmary building. A tuberculosis sanatorium was established at the site in 1903, and the complex also cared for the insane, but these functions also were moved out by the mid-'teens. From that period forward, the focus of the facility was on medical care, primarily for the indigent.

The distinction between the early institutions appears to have been that the City Hospital was for those suffering from short-term ailments and injuries, while the Infirmary was intended for people with chronic and long-term health problems. The long distance from the city apparently was thought not to be an inconvenience for such patients, perhaps because they were thought of as permanent residents with little need to leave the facility.

At MetroGeneral Hospital, there has been considerable demolition and re-building at the site, but three major structures — the General Hospital Building, the Psychopathic Building (both built in 1922), and the Nurses' Residence (1926) -- survive with a high level of integrity as excellent representatives of Cleveland's early public health institutions.

All of the historic structures at the Cooley Farms site will soon be gone as redevelopment goes forward. This will leave MetroGeneral Hospital's historic buildings as the only ones remaining with a connection to city and county efforts to create large-scale public health facilities. For this reason, National Register nomination of Metro General's surviving historic structures should be a high priority.[1]

Images of Cooley Farms[edit]

Main Image Gallery: Cooley Farms