Posted on the Plain Dealer blog by reporter V. David Sartin, but no longer available,  we've display the text and images we saved years ago.

Shaker Square is really a Cleveland octagon

By V. David Sartin  August 31, 2007 

By August 1927, the old traffic circle was flattened to provide parking spaces around the new Shaker Square.

One of the oddest place-names in Greater Cleveland is Shaker Square. It's not in Shaker Heights, but in Cleveland. It's never been square. It's an octagon that was once a traffic circle.

At the intersection of North and South Moreland Boulevard and Shaker Boulevard, the area was designed to be a retail district and gateway to Shaker Heights.

Formerly known as Moreland Circle, the area that is today's Shaker Square was designed for shops and offices that would form a gateway to Shaker Heights. In this 1926 aerial photo looking southeast, much of the land near the old Moreland Circle was owned by the development company that designed and built Shaker Heights.

In the 1920s, brothers O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen began developing Shaker Heights. With precise designs, building restrictions, land use patterns, color schemes and other features, the Vans sought to create one of the nation's first planned communities, complete with commuter trains between the suburb and downtown Cleveland.

One restriction held that the suburb would have no apartments, but land they owned just east of the Shaker border near Coventry would be set aside for a large apartment and retail complex.

Planners rejected a 1927 design for Shaker Square that put retail and other offices inside the traffic roundabout. The design would limit future growth along the perimeter, they said.

That led to the historic Moreland Courts apartments along Shaker Boulevard east of today's Shaker Square.

Architects renderings and photographs at the Shaker Historical Society show that Shaker Square was first named Moreland Circle and was substantially smaller than today's Square.

An undated promotional poster for Shaker Square lists a state liquor store, an Oldsmobile auto dealership, a Cadillac dealership, a Bunce Brothers men's clothing store and Shaker Tavern among other retailers.

Moreland Circle, built between 1918 and 1920, separated electric trains and their tracks from auto traffic. Originally, what is now the Blue and Green rapid lines split inside the circle. That split has been moved several hundred feet east.

Early designs of the Moreland area were done by Alfred Wilson Harris, a World War I pilot, barnstormer and architect, who called himself Major most of his adult life. While overseas, he was impressed with medieval market towns and used their designs in his work, said Ted Sande, retired executive director of the Western Reserve Historical Museum.

"Shaker Heights is unquestionably one of the most important early 20th-century planned communities," Sande said. "It was precedent-setting. It certainly was emulated by others."

After a principal of the firm that hired Harris went to prison for fraud in unrelated investments, the Vans took over the Moreland Court and Moreland Circle projects.

Historians say the brothers realized they needed to complete the posh retail and apartment complex for the upscale homebuyers they wanted to attract to nearby Shaker Heights.

A short time later, the complex's name was changed to Shaker Square and the circle was made into an eight-sided configuration to allow auto parking in front of the stores and offices.

The first tenants moved in a few months ahead of the stock market crash in 1929. The Van Sweringen empire was gone by 1935.

In a 1922 map showing parcels for sale by the Van Sweringen Company, Shaker Square had not been formed. It was then called Moreland Circle and was designed to separate vehicles from rapid transit lines. Notice that the Rapid lines split inside the circle. That feature was later dropped when the split was moved east.

Photos courtesy Shaker Historical Society, with permission.
Text with permission of the Plain Dealer.

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