Case gifts to Cleveland

The Case School of Applied Science was only one of many gifts to Cleveland from the Case family.

By Thomas P. Kicher

The Case Family fortune was based primarily on their vast land holdings over which Leonard Sr., William, and Leonard, Jr.Case Legacy exercised their stewardship during the course of some 65 years.  In this period, the Recorder of Cuyahoga County lists over one thousand land transactions for the Case Family.  At one point, their holdings exceeded several thousand acres of land, on both the east and west side of Cleveland.   For example, Cleveland Historic Maps – 1874 indicates one of the Case Family holdings involved most of the land from the southern shore of Lake Erie to St. Clair, between Willson Avenue (E. 55th Street) on the east and Alabama Street (E. 26th Street) on the west. 

 At one point they owned a large portion of downtown Cleveland including the land east of Public Square to Bond Street (East 6th) and from Superior north to St. Clair.  This property included a structure designed by Charles Heard known as the Case Block which was rented to Cleveland for use as the City Hall from 1875 to 1909. 

Many of the transactions of the Case Family were in support of the financial growth of the village of Cleveland.  The first transaction was to gift the land for the Erie Street Cemetery as a replacement for the Ontario Street Cemetery.  The reinternment of the Ontario Street Cemetery into the Erie Street Cemetery facilitated the development of new industries.  Leonard Sr. personally promoted the development and growth of the transportation and manufacturing industries of northern Ohio.

As a twenty year old, Leonard Sr. was employed in the land office in Warren, then the county seat of the entire Western Reserve where all land transactions were recorded.  For many years he served as the personal secretary of General Simon Perkins of the Connecticut Land Company, the organization responsible for implementing the terms of the Connecticut Land Grant.  Leonard moved to the village of Cleveland in 1816 and went on to a successful career as a banker, politician, industrialist and philanthropist. But he never abandoned his drive to establish Cleveland as a transportation and industrial center.  He followed one of the basic tenets set down by the Connecticut Legislature, that each township of the Western Reserve “should reserve 500 acres for support of the gospel ministry and 500 acres for the support of schools.” 

His two sons—William and Leonard—followed his example. The Case Family personally gave land for the establishment of civic, cultural, religious, health and welfare, and educational organizations. 

The following lists the philanthropic interests of the Case Family during the formative years of Cleveland, which helped lay the foundation for many of Cleveland’s most prominent and valued institutions:   


1830   The Ark

This was a meeting hall on the northeast corner of Public Square, next to the Customs House, where the “Arkites,” a small group of young men of Cleveland, could meet and discuss the latest science and literature of the day.  William and Leonard, Jr. organized the group, made presentations and contributed to the various collections.  Leonard, Sr. donated the building, which served as a gathering place and repository for collections of stuffed animals and birds, sea shells and reference books.

1833   The Cleveland Lyceum

Leonard, Sr. served as one of the Directors of the Cleveland Lyceum, an early civic group that sponsored debates and presentations by noted speakers to promote the exchange of literature and ideas. 

1867   Cleveland Library Association

 The case family granted a perpetual lease to space in Case Hall Building and gave an endowment of $25,000 to the Cleveland Library Association.   In 1875 the entire Case Hall was granted to the Association along with an endowment of $300,000.

1867   Western Reserve Historical Society

Judge C. C. Baldwin developed a plan to organize an historical society “to discover, procure and preserve whatever relates to …Cleveland and the Western Reserve…”  The Society was a branch of the Cleveland Library Association and patterned after organizations found in the New England states.  The Society secured the endorsement of Leonard, Jr., who provided financial support for many valuable purchases and the advancement of the Society. 

1875   Cleveland Museum of Natural History

The various collections of natural science exhibits first organized by the “Arkites” were given to the Kirtland Society and eventually became part of the Cleveland Museum of Natural History. 









1834 Old Stone Church

For a nominal amount, Leonard Sr. sold the First Presbyterian Society the land for their church on Public Square.  The congregation eventually built one of Cleveland’s most prominent sacred landmarks, the Old Stone Church.








1843   Israeli Anshe Chesed Society (Fairmount Temple)

In a complex series of land transactions between Leonard Sr. and John M. Woolsey, land was gifted to the Society for the construction of a Synagogue in Cleveland.  Leonard Sr. has been credited with this gift by Dr. Samuel Wolfenstein and documented on the Cleveland Jewish History website by Aaron Berger.





1826   Erie Street Cemetery

Leonard Sr. and Elisabeth Case sold Lots #144, #143 and the northern part of #142 to the Village of Cleveland for $1 for a public cemetery.  The track of land was so vast that part of it was used to build a hospital for the indigent, while another was used for a powder shed.  Folklore of that day claims that Leonard lost the election to the village council the following year because the residents, whose property was in close proximity to Public Square, found it undesirable to venture that far into the wilderness to visit their dearly departed. 




1844   Cleveland Medical College

Leonard Case Sr. served as the committee chairman and was responsible for the management and finances of the new college.

1869   Children’s Aid Society

The Cases gave 26 acres of property at the corner of Madison and Highland, bounded on the south by Berea Road and adjacent to the Jennings Farm.

1872   Women’s Christian Association, Retreat for Women

 Leonard Jr. gave land and financial support for this facility.  The initial funds for the construction of the building were donated by Joseph Perkins who later added a hospital and a nursery.

1876   City Hospital of Cleveland

The Case family donated land located east of Marquette Ave., west of Willson Ave., between the southern shore of Lake Erie and the Lake Shore and Michigan Electric Railroad tracks.  The Hospital never occupied the land but sold it to J. G. Bruggeman for $11,000 in 1888.

1877   Protestant Orphan Society

The first permanent benevolent institution was established in 1852.  In 1877, Leonard, Jr. gave 4.25 acres of land on St. Clair for a new building across the street from the YWCA’s Retreat for Women. 


1839   Normal School on Prospect

In 1839 the village of Cleveland authorized the construction of permanent structures for public schools.  Previously, all public education was conducted in temporary or borrowed space.  Leonard, Sr. and John Allen sold part of their property on Rockwell for the first of these facilities.  Leonard, Sr. gave the land for the second school at the corner of Prospect and Miami Alley to Huron Street.

1850   Cleveland University

William Case was the founder, president and benefactor of Cleveland University, an early attempt to establish an institute of higher education. 

1876   Case School of Applied Science

Before his death in 1880, Leonard Jr. established a trust deed that left an estimated $1.5 million (about $37 million in today’s dollars) for creation of the Case School of Applied Science. 


The Case family gave generously to Cleveland from the earliest and formative years.  While their gifts might be judged to have been small, for many institutions they were pivotal in their founding and created a network of public resources for which Clevelanders can be proud.  Furthermore, they helped to foster a spirit of philanthropy among the other prominent residents.  It is interesting to note that for each of these land transactions, Leonard Sr. required the recipient to formalize the deal with a nominal payment of $1.00.  William and Leonard, Jr. raised the requirement to $5.00.



  1. Cleveland Historic Maps, USDA FSA Cleveland Public Library, G.M. Hopkins.
  2. Col. Charles Whittlesey, “Early History of Cleveland, Ohio,” Cleveland, Ohio, 1867.
  3. James H. Kennedy, “A History of the City of Cleveland – Its Settlement, Rise and Progress 1796-1896,” The Imperial Press, Cleveland, 1896
  4. Samuel P. Orth, “A History of Cleveland Ohio,” Volume I, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago-Cleveland, 1910. 
  5. Samuel P. Orth, “A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical,” Volume III, The S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., Chicago-Cleveland, 1910.
  6. William G. Rose, “Cleveland: The Making of a City,” The Kent State University Press, Kent, Ohio, 1990.
  7. Arnold Berger, “The Philosemitism of Leonard Case, Sr.,” Cleveland Jewish History, posted as a Webmaster’s Note, July 2010
  8. John D. Cimperman, “Images of America: Erie Street Cemetery,” in Association with the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, Arcadia Publishing, 2011. ISBN 978-0-7385-8342-6.


    Thomas P. Kicher ’59, MS ’62, PhD ’65, is the Armington Professor Emeritus of Engineering and the former dean of the Case School of Engineering.

    His story on "The Case Legacy" and the founding of the Case School of Applied Science ran in the spring issue of Case Alumnus. Find the story here.