Robert Gaede, FAIA, Architect and Historical Preservationist, 19202008


The fact that Cleveland has managed, in the course of its rebirth as a vital American urban center, to preserve much of its distinctive architectural identity is in no small part due to the efforts of native son Robert Gaede. His passionate interest in historic architecture as a key component of a community's character assumed many forms. In addition to undertaking important architectural and restoration projects in Cleveland and elsewhere in the U.S., Gaede devoted considerable time and energy to the establishment and nurturing of institutions that foster and promote the preservation of the community's distinctive built heritage. He was a co-founder of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), now recognized as one of the most effective such advocacy groups in the country, as well as of the Western Reserve Architectural Historians and the Cleveland Foundation for Architecture. Over the years he continued to play a leadership role in these important initiatives.

For many years Gaede edited Facade, the publication of CRS. In 1984 he co-edited Project Preservation/Cleveland, an in-depth analysis of the progress of preservation activity in Cleveland and other cities.

A graduate of Cleveland Heights (Ohio) High School and the University of Michigan, Bob Gaede spent his apprenticeship in architecture with the Cleveland firm of Garfield, Harris, Robinson & Shafer. His qualities of leadership and community-mindedness quickly emerged, and in 1953 he left Garfield, Harris to help establish the architectural program at Kent State University, which was to become a valuable regional resource in the years ahead and a potent player in the later revitalization of Cleveland's city neighborhoods.

In 1956, he formed his own firm with architect Herk Visapunuu. Visapunuu & Gaede rapidly became known for its work in the newly emerging field of historic preservation, making a name for itself with the development of the Ohio Historic Village attached to the Ohio Historical Center on the north side of Columbus, Ohio. Gaede was soon being approached by local, state and national organizations to lend his expertise to their enterprises. In 1963, he was asked to chair the committee on historic resources of the American Institute of Architects.

He served for a decade on the City of Cleveland's Fine Arts Advisory Committee (now the Design Review Committee, which critiques the designs of major downtown and publically funded projects). In 1971, he was invited to be one of the original members of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, serving as chair in 1973–74). His activities on many such boards earned him recognition from the University of Michigan Club of Cleveland, the Builders Exchange, the Women's City Club and the Architects Society of Ohio, the last of which awarded him its Gold Medal in 1989. He was made a Fellow of the American Institute of Architects (FAIA) in 1984 and in 1994 was given the prestigious Garfield Award by the Cleveland chapter of AIA.

Projects of note in which Gaede and his latter-day firm, Gaede Serne Architects (founded in 1975), played a role include the restoration of the Hotel Athenaeum at Chautauqua, New York; the Miami County Courthouse in Troy, Ohio; the Henry County Courthouse in Napoleon, Ohio; and several major buildings at Kenyon College in Gambier, Ohio.

—Dennis Dooley

Cleveland Arts Prize
P.O. Box 21126 • Cleveland, OH 44121 • 440-523-9889 •