2200 Overlook Road
Cleveland, Ohio 44106
Historical Name: First Church of Christ, Scientist
Denomination: Christian Science
Architect: Walker and Weeks, Architects
Rehab Architect: City Architecture
Construction Dates: 1929-1931
Date of Closure: 2002
Date of Reuse: 2005
The Nottingham-Spirk Design Associates, an internationally recognized industrial design firm acquired the building in 2003 and transformed it into their headquarters, studio and laboratory spaces which they have occupied since 2005. What sets the Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center apart is its ability to simultaneously function as a high-tech business while embracing its historic character. The latter became the inspiration for the new company headquarters.
The design challenge was to successfully change the function of the building from public worship space and classrooms to a high-tech research and design facility respecting the historical architectural and special features of the building. This was accomplished in a sensitive rehabilitation that retained the operating organ and virtually all of the visible historic fabric. Literally miles of electronic cable were installed behind the original finish surfaces to retain the clean, uncluttered look of the historic structure. Funding for this project required multiple sources, including federal rehabilitation tax credits, a conservation easement, Ohio, Cuyahoga County and City of Cleveland loans together with typical construction loans from banks. A prominent Cleveland landmark that was at risk of demolition was saved and revitalized as a continuing and contributing component in the city’s future.
The First Church of Christ, Scientist was completed in 1931 at a time when the Christian Science denomination was very active in Cleveland with at least seven churches in the greater Cleveland area. The building is prominently situated on the crest of the Allegheny escarpment at the eastern border of the city, overlooking Little Italy and the University Circle neighborhoods. Its tall, thin bell tower provides a distinctive landmark. The building was designed by Walker and Weeks, Architects, one of Cleveland’s leading firms of the first half of the 20th century, and was originally intended for a site at the intersection of Euclid Avenue and East Boulevard where Severance Hall, the home of the Cleveland Orchestra, stands. Both buildings have octagonal configurations and are by the same firm and were completed and opened the same year, although the First Church is actually the precedent for Severance Hall, having been planned a year before in 1928. It is a superb example of 20th century Beaux Arts Classicism.
By the end of the 1990s, the congregation had diminished to the point where it could no longer keep the building, which had been scrupulously maintained throughout its more than 70 years in religious service. The congregation moved out in 2002. There were several potential buyers, but they all wanted to raze the building for new residential development. Fortunately, the owners of Nottingham-Spirk recognized the building’s exceptional artistic and architectural quality and its potential for a unique and sensitive adaptive use.