Ralph Coe - President of Cleveland City Forge Company

13303 Lake Shore Boulevard
Ralph M. Coe
Ralph M. Coe

Ralph Coe’s family organized what was to become the Cleveland Drop Forge Co. on January 1, 1864. A partnership known as Coe, Ely, & Harmon was formed to produce railroad-car axles and heavy hex shafts, rudder frames, and major forgings for the marine trade. The firm incorporated in 1871 as the Cleveland City Forge & Iron Company, shortened some years later to Cleveland City Forge Company. The factory was situated on the old river bed.

The facility moved in 1880 and manufactured massive main forgings. In those days, a gigantic drop hammer at the plant, the largest ever brought to Cleveland, attracted the attention of people from all over. It was a wonder to see a frail watch placed under the hammer with its thousands of pounds of force and barely crack the watch’s crystal, which remained unharmed.

Ralph Coe became president of the company in 1923. A Coe had always been at the helm of the company. There were faithful and valuable employees whose fathers and grandfathers worked for Cleveland City Forge. Executive officers were on intimate terms with the men who ran the furnaces and the hammers. It was little wonder that there had been no labor trouble for twenty-seven years.

Coe maintained his great-grandfather’s farm home for a long while, but he said living in two places is not so satisfactory, so he concentrated on one of Bratenahl’s most unusual homes. Ralph Coe was a Francophile and an internationally known collector of modern French impressionist and post-impressionist paintings. It was only natural that he would build a French Normandy chateau at 13303 Lake Shore Boulevard. The home was a perfect setting for works by Renoir, Pissarro, Monet, and Edouard Manet.

Dorothy Coe
Dorothy Coe

Ralph married Dorothy Tracy in 1923. She was born to James and Marion Tracy on September 17, 1890, in Delta County, Michigan. They had three children: Eunice de Wolf, born on September 2, 1924; Nancy (Wixom) born on November 8, 1927; and Ralph Tracey, known as Ted, born on August 27, 1929. All attended the Bratenahl School.

Both Ralph and his wife, Dorothy, were leaders in the Cleveland arts community. In 1905, Coe, along with friends, made possible the Cleveland School of the Art’s permanent home, where he became a trustee of the institute from 1928 to 1957 and president from 1931 to 1942. Coe was a trustee of the Cleveland Museum of Art, president of the Cleveland School of Art, and one of the Print Club’s collaborators on December 20, 1919. He served on the Bratenahl Board of Education and a draft board.

Dorothy was the founder and first chairman of the Women’s Committee of the Cleveland Institute of Art from 1948 to 1949 and was on the Arts Committee of the Women’s City Club. Their children inherited their interest in art. The Coes dined with the likes of author Gertrude Stein and artist Roy Lichtenstein.

Ralph Mortimer Coe was born on June 22, 1882, the only son of Lord Mortimer and Lorinda Coe. (The name Lord was his father’s first name and not a title.) Ralph was born on Euclid Avenue, attended University School, and graduated from Yale University in 1906.

He said the most fun he ever had was in association with the temperamental professors of art. His greatest satisfaction came in assisting some struggling art student to a means of self-expression.

Ralph died on November 9, 1959. Dorothy died on March 24, 1966. Both are buried in Lake View Cemetery.