Historical Places

Gordon Hall - Bratenahl's Forgotten English Manor

Gordon Hall
Gordon Hall

On February 19, 1900, Daniel Rhodes Hanna married Daisy Gordon Maud.  The groom was the son of Ohio Senator Mark Hanna, the close friend and political ally of President William McKinley.  The bride was the granddaughter of William J. Gordon, who at his death in 1893 donated his 120-acre estate along Lake Erie to the City of Cleveland, subsequently known as Gordon Park. The couple were married in a simple and private ceremony at Gordon Cottage near the shore of Lake Erie within the parkland.  It was the second marriage for both.

Dan Hanna had the ambition to build a large estate near Gordon Park.  It was later said that he chose the site as a gift to his wife. In January 1902, Hanna purchased about 15 acres of land on the east side of Bratenahl Road (later East 88th Street) across from Gordon Park and extending south toward St. Clair Avenue.  On the northern portion of the property (located today in the south west corner of Bratenahl) he planned a large manor modeled after Aske Hall, the Georgian-style home of the Earl of Zetland, in Yorkshire, England.   To the south he planned a large stable to house the many racehorses he owned.

Gordon Hall

Hanna engaged Jarvis Hunt, noted Chicago architect, to complete plans and let contracts for the construction of his new residence and stables.  To layout the estate grounds, Hanna hired Warren Manning noted American landscape designer and promoter of the informal and naturalistic "wild garden" approach to garden design.

When completed, Dan Hanna called his new residence “Gordon Hall.” At the time, it was reputed to be one of the most spacious residences in the country, covering a plot of ground 185 x 60 feet.  The exterior was constructed of raindrop brick with terra cotta trimmings, the windows of polished crystal plate glass with small panes.  Walnut from Russia was acquired to panel the library; marble from Italy for fireplace mantels; and artisans from Switzerland were employed to carve the staircase. The house was heated with hot water and lighted with electricity.  The servant staff numbered 25.  Gordon Hall was surrounded by trees of enormous size.  A winding road through the estate led to a stable which covered 200 x 44 feet of ground with two wings. The stable housed 24 horses.

In January 1904, Architectural Record Magazine described Gordon Hall as “modest in its outline, quiet, pure and dignified in its several features; with broad, simple brick surfaces, exquisite in texture and color values, the whole bearing a consistent and congenial expression.”  The article continued, emphasizing the view from Gordon Hall to Gordon Park across the road:

"[T]he situation of the Hall facing west, as it does, commands acres of beautiful park land by virtue of its being closely united to Gordon Park, whose great sweeps of green and graceful drives in combination with the beauties of the actual private grounds form an estate of enviable proportions.  Bratenahl Road divides the grounds from those of the public park, but the division is not perceptible to the ordinary observer for one indeed appears to belong to the other."

Upon its completion, Gordon Hall became a center for social gatherings hosted by Dan and Daisy Hanna.  When Senator Mark Hanna brought his political colleagues to Cleveland, a stop at Gordon Hall was part of the itinerary.  On June 10, 1903, Dan Hanna’s older sister Ruth married James McCormick, grandson of the founder of The Chicago Tribune. The wedding was a glittering society event, bringing to Cleveland many Washington officials, including President Theodore Roosevelt and his daughter Alice.  The night before the wedding, Dan and Daisy Hanna entertained the out of town wedding guests at Gordon Hall.  As reported in The Plain Dealer:

"One table was placed in the dining room, covers were laid at this round table for twenty-eight and Senator Hanna was seated at this table.  The long table with covers for the other guests was placed in the sun parlor: at this table Mr. and Mrs. Dan R. Hanna were seated.  The tables were decorated with vases of mountain laurel and pink roses with maidenhair fern.  The rooms were broadly decorated with huge bouquets of pink peonies and carnations."

In 1905, Winston Churchill, the best-selling American novelist (not the more famous British prime minister), and Frederic Remington, the noted American painter and sculptor, visited Gordon Hall.

Unfortunately, Dan and Daisy Hanna’s enjoyment of Gordon Hall was limited.  The couple divorced in 1907.  As part of the divorce decree, finalized on June 21, 1907, Daisy filed a deed transferring to Dan R. Hanna all her rights in the magnificent home in Bratenahl. Before leaving for Europe in 1910, Dan Hanna turned over his Gordon Hall estate property to Matthews and Gilbert, a local real estate development company.  The plan was to subdivide the estate and sell off individual parcels for development.  The residence at Gordon Hall was to be sold separate from the remaining property.

On June 16, 1910, Matthew and Mabel Shields Andrews purchased Gordon Hall from Dan Hanna.   Mabel Andrews later recalled for The Plain Dealer that on her birthday in 1910, her husband phoned her from downtown Cleveland:

“I’ve bought a birthday present for you,” he said. “Gordon Hall!”  “I was overwhelmed with dismay,” said Mrs. Andrews relating the incident. . .. “Yet I knew my husband thought I would be pleased, so I pretended to be.  But I wondered how I could ever manage the place.”

The Andrews lived at Gordon Hall for ten years before moving to Gates Mills.  The house remained largely vacant for the next fourteen years.  In 1928, the Andrews sold many of the household furnishings, including a table and chairs carved of rare Indian wood, which had originally been a gift to the King of Denmark, a pair of Chinese vases holding gold-bronze candle holders, and an Austrian rug, 30 x 20 feet, which covered only a third of the living room floor.

In 1934, Mabel Andrews had the house razed because of vandalism and high taxes.  A newspaper article at the time alleged that local children believed that the ghost of Daisy Gordon Hanna “was wont to stand on the portico off the bedroom and lament her sad fate to the murmuring trees.”  (Daisy died in 1919 at the age of 45.)   In 1944, Mrs. Andrews donated the property to the City of Cleveland to be added to the Gordon Park property.

A few years later, in 1948, the land where Gordon Hall once stood became part of the Lakeland Freeway project that transformed Cleveland’s lakefront and absorbed much of Gordon Park.