“The area was ready for a people’s college.” Charles Chapman
James Lister was sitting in his office at City Hall when his secretary knocked on his door to inform him that the president of the new community college, Charles Chapman, was in the lobby for their meeting. Lister was a grizzled veteran of city politics and urban development whose local knowledge of real estate was essential to the college’s first task: finding a building to house the new school.
Dr. Chapman talked passionately about the attributes he was looking for in this temporary campus: classroom space, easy access by the city’s bus lines, athletic facilities.
As Chapman went through his list as Lister listened intently. Nobody knew the City of Cleveland better than Lister, and he was up for the task, leading Chapman through the city to examine available properties.
The building that caught Dr. Chapman’s eye was the Brownell School building, nestled off the corner of East 14th Street and Sumner Avenue. It was a building steeped in Cleveland lore. A myth had circulated around Cleveland for years that John D. Rockefeller – Cleveland’s grand business baron – met his wife Laura at the building. But it was noteworthy as a historical structure, nonetheless, since many of the city’s citizens who once resided on Millionaire’s Row in the 1890s sent their children to Brownell.
By the time the Brownell building captured Chapman’s imagination it had been closed for years. The streets in front of the structure were laid with brick and the alleys between the building and others on the street were paved with cobblestone. However, the heavy street traffic from the nearby warehouses and boarded up buildings suggested that the neighborhood had seen better days.
Luckily for Chapman the Cleveland Board of Education owned the building. The Board was more than happy to support the College’s nascent efforts and agreed to rent the building to President Chapman for just $1 per year. Backed with a $300,000 budget to renovate the decaying structure, Cuyahoga Community College publicly announced on November 12th, 1962, that the Brownell building would get a second life as the college’s initial home.
Other temporary locations followed. The College expanded in the Gallo and Huron Buildings in downtown Cleveland. By the end of the 1960s, Dr. Chapman and the Board had acquired properties for permanent campused - the St. Vincent Renewal Area at E. 22nd and Woodland, and the Crile Hospital facilities in Parma.