Preserving The Richness Of Parma Heights’ Architectural Legacy

In the May issue of the Parma Observer, Emory Pinter’s piece on National Preservation Month in architecture shone a spotlight on the status of the current Parma Heights library branch of the Cuyahoga County Public Library, with a call for preserving and re-purposing the 60-plus year-old building on Pearl Road.

The library’s architect, John F. Lipaj, was active in the greater Cleveland area in the last part of the 20th century. Other buildings he designed that people would instantly recognize include Normandy High School, St. John the Baptist Byzantine Church on Snow Road, and St. Columbkille school, all in Parma.

The city of Parma Heights, particularly along the main commercial strip along Pearl Road, is a treasure trove of mid 20th century modernist architectural buildings, and the Parma Heights library is a good example of the so-called “googie” style.

The mid-century modern style known as “googie” is known for the its use of circles and circular and rounded design elements and odd-shaped buildings with corresponding flourishes and details. The designs associated with the style are representative of the space age, flying saucer shapes, zig-zagging roof lines, and star-burst design details (think of the classic “Welcome to Las Vegas” sign, for example.) It was a visual representation of the country’s fascination with the new space age and post-war population boom, and the building boom that followed.

With a new library building in the works, the fate of the 60-plus year-old building looks uncertain at this point. Which is why it’s important to raise awareness of the building and its history and its place within both the history of the city of Parma Heights but also within larger cultural and national architectural currents may help to preserve it and maybe even put it on the course for some creative reuse.

The practical problem to work out is how to reuse the old library building, to keep its unique look and feel and place in the community, but in a second life and for many generations to come.

The city has an opportunity to honor its past by preserving and re-purposing a building with significant cultural and aesthetic significance.

The stretch of Pearl Road from York/Stumph Road north has many fine examples of modernist buildings, including the beloved East Coast Custard (a re-purposed Arby’s building), the Ohio Savings Building designed by architect Don Hisaka (recently renamed the Flagstar Bank), the distinctive, circular Flyers bar building, and the Yorktown Lanes flying-V sign.

So much rich, historical architecture on that stretch of Pearl Road in Parma Heights is an incredible asset to the community and can be a draw for fans of architecture, even a destination point. It would be a great shame if the city and community didn’t take advantage of this opportunity to plan for preserving this rich legacy and make Parma Heights a destination for architecture and history buffs alike.

If Austin, Texas can popularize the slogan “Keep Austin Weird!” what can Parma Heights do? 

Milenko Budimir

Milenko (Miles) Budimir is a Parma resident. He works as a technical writer/editor and teaches philosophy at CSU. When not working, he enjoys gardening, travel, and reading.

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Volume 16, Issue 7, Posted 7:28 AM, 07.01.2024