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Mildred Putnam - Personal Real Estate

12817 Lake Shore Boulevard
Mildred Olive Putnam 1974
Mildred Olive Putnam 1974

Mildred Putnam assumed control of the family's real estate and investment holdings after her husband's death in 1951. She kept an office in the Point Building at the triangular intersection of Euclid Avenue and Huron Road. She also owned the Winous Building on Playhouse Square. Mildred would often leave her Cadillac in the garage and ride the bus to work, an anomaly in her elegant tweeds, hats, and fine jewelry.

Mildred lived in Bratenahl for nearly six decades and established herself a village grand eccentric. She was a very determined woman who had definite ideas. If people didn’t agree with her, Mildred was no shrinking violet about telling them they were wrong. She spoke her mind freely about business, art, and politics in a no-nonsense manner that many people did not appreciate. Mildred thought everyone should earn their way, and she wouldn’t give a handout to anybody.

Mildred collected art and was a generous donor to the Cleveland Museum of Art. She bought impressionist paintings, owned a figurine by Edgar Degas and a rabbit by Marc Chagall, and purchased works by Alexander Calder and Joan Miro before these artists were famous. Louise Nevelson did a sculpture for her garden. She saw the work of Isamu Noguchi in Japan and commissioned a piece from him for the Cleveland Museum of Art.

She teamed with her son Peter to spend millions on sculptures and paintings by artists such as Picasso, Henry Moore, Jacques Lipchitz, and George Segal that she presented to Princeton University, Case Western Reserve University and the Cleveland Museum of Art. In 1978, Mildred commissioned Segal to sculpt a memorial to the Kent State University students killed by Ohio National Guard troops in 1970. Kent State officials rejected the proposed sculpture of Abraham ready to sacrifice his son, Isaac, as "inappropriate" and "too violent." She then gave it to Princeton University, which accepted it gratefully.

Another Segal sculpture, commissioned by Mrs. Putnam to commemorating at the time the “Gay Liberation Movement,” was offered around Northeast Ohio, but was refused. Hence, she donated to a park in New York City’s Greenwich Village.

In March 1993, the Nature Conservancy, the largest non-profit land preservation group in the world, launched a fundraising program. Mildred and Peter presented them with a $37 million gift, the largest the conservancy ever received.

Mildred Olive Andrews was born on June 19, 1890, in Norwalk, Ohio, to Horace and Laura Dempsey Andrews. She graduated from Hathaway Brown in 1909 and acquired an appreciation for the outdoors and competitiveness that would become her lifelong trademark. She recalled as a youth waking at dawn and hurrying outside to a chestnut tree that she would climb and shake until the choice nuts fell to the ground. “I always go for the nuts,” she wrote years later.

After graduation from Hathaway Brown, Mildred married her father’s law partner, John Beaman Putnam Sr., on December 29, 1917. John was born in Fredonia, New York, the son of Herbert and Laura Putnam. He received his law degree from Cornell University in 1914.

John Putnam Sr. was a 1st lieutenant in the 329th Infantry during World War I. Putnam became a partner in the law firm of Andrews, Hadden & Putnam after returning from the war. John was general counsel for Pickands Mather & Company and secretary of various of their affiliated companies and director in several. He made a fortune in iron ore and shipping.

John and Mildred had two sons: John Beaman Jr., born in 1921, his father’s favorite,  and Peter Andrews born May 20, 1927, his mother’s favorite. John Jr. was the more handsome and athletic, but Peter was the more learned and artistic of the two and assuredly a genius.

John Putnam Sr. was a member of the Phi Gamma Delta and Phi Delta Phi fraternity. Social clubs included The Country, Union, and Congressional Country Club of Washington, D. C.

John died on May 22, 1951. Mildred died on April 13, 1984, and buried in Lakeview Cemetery along with her husband and two sons. Mildred was a member of the vestry of Trinity Cathedral and had endowed a unique music program, which included a series of free concerts at noon for people who desired to eat a brown bag lunch while listening to music.