Lehman and Schmitt: The firm behind Cuyahoga County Courthouse, temples, police stations

James Stephens

Terminal Tower, OhioDave Newman/Dreamstime

In 1884, Israel Lehman and Theodore Schmitt established what would become one of Cleveland’s most enduring architectural firms — Lehman and Schmitt. The partnership, which has been active for 50 years, designed significant public buildings in two different centuries.

Before forming their partnership, the architects met as young men when working in the office of George H. Smith in the early 1880s. The senior partner was Lehman. Born in St. Joseph, Missouri, he moved with his family to Cleveland in 1862. He also studied in public schools, where he apprenticed at the early age of 14.

Their work was noted for its wide range—from medieval to classical—culminating in their monumental Beaux-Arts 1912 Cuyahoga County Courthouse, which still serves the public today, more than a century after it was built. They also designed some significant religious structures. They had a very productive period in the 1890s.

They also designed some impressive religious buildings from synagogues and temples, like Lehman and Schmitt’s Tifereth Israel Synagogue, which was located on Willson Avenue (today’s East 55th Street) in 1894. Years later, it served as the Friendship Baptist Church boasting a congregation of over 1,000 members well into the 1950s.

The 1891 Sheriff Street Market and the 1893 Cleveland Police Department Champlain Street Station were early projects for Lehman and Schmitt. The firm also designed a large number of high-quality residences for Cleveland business leaders. Regrettably, nearly all of these houses have now vanished.

Another notable example of their surviving work is the Pierce-Arrow Car Dealership at 4600 Carnegie Ave. It is a relic of America’s golden age of luxury automobiles.

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