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The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

VAN SWERINGEN, ORIS PAXTON AND MANTIS JAMES - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

VAN SWERINGEN, ORIS PAXTON (24 Apr. 1879-22 Nov. 1936) and MANTIS JAMES (8 July 1881-12 Dec. 1935), real-estate developers of SHAKER HEIGHTS, SHAKER SQUARE, the SHAKER HEIGHTS RAPID TRANSIT, and the Terminal Tower complex, were born near Wooster, Ohio to Jas. T. and Jennie Curtis Van Sweringen. About 1890 the family moved to Cleveland, and by 1897 both brothers were working for Bradley Fertilizer Co. They soon entered real estate on their own; a LAKEWOOD venture failed, but by 1905 they were buying the old Shaker property (see NORTH UNION SHAKER COMMUNITY) and developing Shaker Hts. Needing transportation between the suburb and downtown, in 1909 they began acquiring property along KINGSBURY RUN to build their own line. The New York Central's Nickel Plate owned lands the brothers needed, so in 1916 they bought the railroad. The Van Sweringens then acquired other railroads; by 1929 they owned a $3 billion, 30,000-mi. railroad empire and also had holdings in Midland Steel, Goodyear Tire & Rubber, and WHITE MOTOR CORP.. On 1920 they began operating Shaker Rapid. To provide a new central rail terminal downtown, the Van Sweringens won government and voter approval for a massive development near PUBLIC SQUARE; construction began in 1923, and the Terminal Tower officially opened on 28 June 1930. In 1926 the brothers received the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce's Medal for Public Service. The brothers' finances were dependent upon stock values, and after the stock market crash in 1929, they could not cover their debts. On 1 May 1935, the Van Sweringens defaulted on $48 million in loans from J. P. Morgan & Co., which ordered the collateral sold at auction in September. The brothers arranged backing and bought back their holdings for just over $3 million, but neither brother lived to rebuild the empire. The Van Sweringens were very private men. Neither married, and they avoided Cleveland society, living at their HUNTING VALLEY estate, DAISY HILL.

Haberman, Ian S. The Van Sweringens of Cleveland (1979).

Finding aid for the Van Sweringen Company Records . WRHS.
Last Modified: 16 Aug 2012 03:58:26 PM

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