Liberty Holden - Founding Father and Bratenahl's First Mayor
8907 Lake Shore Boulevard
Liberty Emery Holden was the leader and driving force in the creation of Bratenahl. He was asked by Frederick Goff, mayor of Glenville, to lead a drive to have Glenville on the Lake become a separate municipality.
The principal problem to be addressed by Holden was to settle on some agreed method of structuring the new community to prevent the intrusion of unwanted types of land use. Those living in Glenville on the Lake did not want any more businesses to move into the area.
Holden, along with Goff, Charles Britton, Arthur Baldwin, and Abram Garfield thrashed around for a solution. They also received pressure from Collinwood residents Samuel Mather and Charles Bingham. Eventually, a solution was offered by Judge Louis Grossman, John D. Rockefeller’s attorney.
The solution was having deeds to every piece of property in Glenville on the Lake be revised to restrict land use to single-family homes for a period of fifty years. This simple solution required an astonishing leap of faith from the property owners.
Over the course of a year, Holden visited property owners from Gordon Park to Coit Road to request that they convey the deeds to their homes to Guardian Savings and Trust Company as trustee; the owners would receive in return deeds with provisions limiting the use of the property to residences for a term of fifty years. After more than a year’s work, Holden having persuaded more than 150 of his neighbors to participate, demonstrated the trust and the high regard in which he was held.
The re-granted ownerships forbade the construction of railroads, businesses, manufacturing enterprises, or any structure that would emit offensive odors, noise, or smoke. Nor could they erect apartment houses or establish resorts, hotels, saloons, stables or even picnic grounds. The Country Club, James Patton’s fruit farm and the Schmitt-Gamble greenhouses were grandfathered from having such restrictions. The provisions to not sell wine or spirituous liquors of any kind were clearly aimed at keeping Glenville’s working classes at bay.
On November 21, 1904, voters unanimously decided to become a village. On December 13, 1904, Liberty E. Holden was elected as the first village mayor with fifty-eight votes for and none against. With the leadership of Liberty Holden, all the newly elected officers of Bratenahl had a lot of work to do to form and operate the new village. Raising of revenue was essential. The employment of workers was required. Necessary goods and services had to be procured. Policies, procedures, forms, and laws needed to be drafted and enacted. This herculean task was completed in a relatively short period of time.
Liberty Holden was born on June 20, 1833, on a small farm in Raymond, Maine, son of Liberty and Sally Holden. Raymond, Maine was still part of the northern New England frontier at the time of his birth.
Holden was a member of the Mayflower Society and the Sons of the American Revolution. He took great pleasure in tracing the growth of the Holden family in America from its earliest days in the mid-seventeenth century, eventually commissioning a two-volume genealogical register of all the Holden family who could trace their ancestry back to the original settlers in the New World.
Liberty began teaching at age sixteen and completed two years at Waterville College (Colby College) in Waterville, Maine before moving, in 1856, to finish his education at the University of Michigan.
While Professor of Literature at Kalamazoo College, he married his most brilliant pupil, Delia Elizabeth Bulkley, on August 14, 1860. Delia was born on May 22, 1838, in New York. She was the sister of Charles Bulkley who lived at 11475 Lake Shore Boulevard. Liberty and Delia had seven children: Albert Fairchild born on December 31, 1866, Liberty Dean born on February 7, 1859, Delia Bulkley (White) born on January 31, 1871, Gertrude Holden (McGinley) born in 1873, Roberta (Bole) born on September 30, 1876, Emery (Greenough) born on March 8, 1879, and Guerdon Stearns born on December 9, 1881.
After two years, as superintendent of Tiffin Ohio schools, Holden moved to Cleveland in 1862 to study law and invest in real estate. Holden studied mineralogy in his spare time, to give himself a basic understanding of the mining business. In 1873, he began investing in mining properties, iron ore in the Lake Superior region and silver in Utah. He became a leading spokesman in Washington for western silver interests.
Holden purchased the financially distressed Cleveland Plain Dealer from William W. Armstrong in 1885 and launched the morning Plain Dealer after buying out the Cleveland Morning Leader. Holden made the combined papers the evening, morning and Sunday Plain Dealer.
Holden also owned the Hollenden Hotel that took its name from an early English form of the name “Holden.” He was largely responsible, as president of the building committee, for the construction of the Cleveland Museum of Art and its adjacent setting of Wade Park and Rockefeller Park.
Holden was a charter member of The Country Club and president of the Union Club. He died on August 26, 1913, in Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio and was buried in Lake View Cemetery. Following his death, his widow moved to California. She died on June 25, 1932, and was returned to Cleveland to be buried alongside her husband.
Managing the several Holden trusts was a full-time job, with each trust having its own trustee. The rich mining properties, largely Island Creek and Pond Creek Coal companies, had been separated from the real estate and newspaper and left largely to his son, Albert and Albert's two daughters. The newspaper and real estate property were left in trust with the younger son, Guerdon and the four daughters.