Robert C. Gaede (1920-2008) was a nationally esteemed Cleveland architect who devoted his life’s work to architectural preservation and city planning. He served on many boards, committees, discussion groups, as well as lectured and authored on the importance of preserving our architectural heritage. As an architect, he established two thriving architectural firms, helped established Kent State University’s architectural program, and was a founding member of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission (CLC). For more than 50 years, Gaede was an advocate for historic conservation through his work on various committees with the American Institute of Architect (AIA), the CLC, and his involvement with many private and public, local and national organizations. His legacy lives on in the city of Cleveland and in The Robert C. Gaede Papers at the Cleveland Public Library.
Gaede, a graduate of Cleveland Heights High School, served in the United States Air Force during WWII and attended the University of Michigan, earning his bachelor’s degree in architecture in 1947. After his apprenticeship with the Cleveland firm Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Shafer Gaede became an Instructor of Industrial Arts at Kent State University. There he helped establish the university’s architectural program. In 1952 he was appointed Assistant Professor. While in Kent he also formed a Kent City Planning Committee.
Gaede’s heart remained in Cleveland and its architectural legacy. He split his time between Kent and Cleveland and worked with Cleveland’s City Planning Commission before starting up his own architectural firm with Herk Visnapuu in 1956. Visnapuu & Gaede Inc. became a leader in the new field of historic preservation after the development of the Ohio Historic Village in Columbus.
Historic preservation became the theme of Gaede’s career and he found himself leading the effort to preserve America’s architectural history rather than see it demolished to make way for the current trend in city planning known as Urban Renewal. He lent his expertise on the local, state and national level. In 1953, Gaede chaired the Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architects’ committee on historic buildings and in 1963 he became the national preservation chair for the American Institute of Architects and began advocating nationally for preservation.
From 1961 to 1969, Gaede served as a member of Cleveland’s City Planning Commission’s Design Review Committee, then known as the Fine Arts Advisory Committee. This committee was responsible for approving publicly funded projects based on the visual appearance/aesthetic designs of projects – “a committee for good appearance.” The committee was made up of architects, engineers, artists, landscape architects, and other related professional fields.
By the 1970’s, architectural preservation and restoration had picked up steam. In 1971 Gaede became a founding member of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, and began the process for identifying buildings, sites and historic districts as Cleveland Landmarks or to be listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The CLC is responsible for saving some of the city’s most cherished buildings and sites from being destroyed, such as the Old Arcade, the Cultural Gardens, the Euclid Beach Gates, Gray’s Armory, Old Stone Church, the Cleveland Public Library – Main Library, the West Side Market, Dunham Tavern, and Severence Hall, just to name a few.
In 1972, Gaede became a co-founder of the Cleveland Restoration Society, then known as the Downtown Restoration Society. He was the editor of CRS’s publication, “Facade”, for more than 25 years.
In 1975 Gaede founded his new architectural firm, Gaede Serne Architects, and was responsible for restoring the Hotel Athenaeum at Chautauqua, NY, the Miami County Courthouse in Troy, Ohio (1976-1982), the Henry County Courthouse in Napoleon, Ohio (1997-1998), several major buildings at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio, the James A. Garfield Monument in Lakeview Cemetery, Cleveland (1984), and the restoration of Wright Cycle Co., Dayton, OH.
Among the numerous awards and certificates given to him throughout his career, Gaede was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects in 1984, the Architects Society of Ohio awarded him its’ gold medal in 1989, and in 1994 he was given the prestigious Garfield Award by the Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architects.
Other notable building/locations Robert C. Gaede helped preserve:
The Ohio Canal (1956 – 1958)
The Pomeroy House, Strongsville, Ohio (1964)
Ohio City, Cleveland (1969)
German Village, Columbus (1959-1969)
Case Main Building, Case Western Reserve University (1971)
University Hall, Ohio State University (1971)
Robinson-Elwell House, relocation from Willoughby, Ohio to Hale Farm Village (1973)
Downtown Willoughby Historic District (1995)
Associations Robert C. Gaede was involved with:
American Institute of Architects
Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects
Ohio Historical Society
Western Reserve Architectural Historians
Cleveland Restoration Society (co-founder)
Cleveland Foundation for Architecture
National Trust for Historic Preservation
Architects Society of Ohio
Ohio Preservation Alliance
Architects Society of Ohio
1979 Special Citation for Distinguished Service to the Arts by the Cleveland Arts Prize
1984 made Fellow of the American Institute of Architects
1989 award Gold Medal from Architects Society of Ohio
1994 Garfield Award by the Cleveland chapter of the American Institute of Architect
Published Works by Robert C. Gaede:
Descriptive Synopsis of City Landmarks: compiled, designed and prepared for the citizens of the City of Cleveland by John D. Cimperman, Robert C. Gaede, Mark K. Fritz. . Cleveland, Ohio : Cleveland Landmarks Commission , 1978.
Oldtown-Finntown, Virginia, Minnesota: A development Plan for a Pioneer Era Living Museum . Medina, Ohio : TOWNSCAPE , 1980.
Fabric Analysis for the Restoration and Maintenance of Dunham Tavern: 6709 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio . Cleveland, Ohio : Office of R.C. Gaede, 1980.
Project – Preservation Cleveland: An historic and comparative analysis. Cleveland, Ohio : George Gund Foundation, 1985.
Guide to Cleveland Architecture . Cleveland, Ohio : Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects, 1991.
Chattanooga: Hamilton County Landmarks Survey & Preservation Plan. Medina, OH: Townscape, 1977. (Contributing Author)