John Goddard has worked as private contractor providing maintenance of University Circle property since 1963. He describes land acquisitions by UCI land bank, and changes to the portion of Euclid Avenue included in the University Circle area. Until the late 1960's Euclid Avenue was "mixed use," including retail, restaurants, bars and hotels. Goddard relates the history and purpose of the UCI land bank and the poor conditions of many properties obtained by UCI. He describes some of the buildings owned by UCI, including the old mansions and their carriage houses, University East Building, the 115th Street Apartments, and the Circle Building. He gives a brief history of the Circle Building, originally the Commodore Hotel, and later, the Circle Place Apartments. Many former Cleveland Browns lived at Circle Place, due to its proximity to Fleming Fields, the old practice grounds for the Browns. Goddard describes the role of property management in general, improvements to Wade Oval to enhance its usability, and the specific work of maintenance during large events held at University Circle, including Parade the Circle, and WOW.


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Goddard, John (interviewee)


Ferraton, Matthew (interviewer)


University Circle



Document Type

Oral History


43 minutes


Matthew Ferraton [00:00:04] Okay. My name is Matt Ferraton. I'm working for the UCI-CSU Oral History Project. Today is March 18, 2008, and I'm here today with John Goddard, [Director] of Property Management at UCI. Welcome and thanks for being here. John, when did you start working for UCI?

John Goddard [00:00:23] I was formerly a contractor. And so way back in 1963, in conjunction with the business, and my father had a plumbing and heating business, we started working for the... Actually, the property management company that was involved in starting to manage the homes when University Circle Development Foundation made the decision to start purchasing everything that was within the Circle that was available for future land banking. And so I started way back then.

Matthew Ferraton [00:01:00] And I'm sorry, what year was that?

John Goddard [00:01:02] I'm saying... It's about 1963.

Matthew Ferraton [00:01:07] You said in you were, you were formerly a contractor. Now, was that when you were working for the plumbing and heating business?

John Goddard [00:01:13] Correct. Self-employed.

Matthew Ferraton [00:01:19] What was the name of the business? The heating and plumbing?

John Goddard [00:01:23] It was Goddard and Son Plumbing and Heating.

Matthew Ferraton [00:01:26] How long did you...? How long were you in that business?

John Goddard [00:01:28] Oh, for, I don't know. 20 some years. 20 years. Who knows?

Matthew Ferraton [00:01:35] And as, as a contractor, what were some of the types of jobs that, that you used to do?

John Goddard [00:01:40] We were responsible for maintaining all the, all the property that they purchased within the University Circle boundaries. Plus the fact, I mean, it was a plumbing and heating business. And so we, we did work for other, other accounts, but for University Circle Development Foundation at the time it was... We worked for Joseph E. Wirsner, that was a management company at the time, and we did all forms of contracting and maintaining the homes and the properties that the University Circle Development Foundation purchased in the area.

Matthew Ferraton [00:02:20] The best you can, going back to roughly 1963 when you began doing a lot of work in this area, the best you can, describe the first year at UCI and what it was like at the time.

John Goddard [00:02:35] Well, when UCI... When University... It's University Circle Development Foundation, before the name was changed to University Circle Inc., at which I don't know specifically what time, what date that was, but you could check, check the records at our main office for that, that the acquisition of the properties took a while. So in the beginning of time, you know, the University Circle itself was a viable people place. There was a large mixture of retail, restaurants, diners, bars, pizza parlors, motels. Howard Johnson's motel was down here. So especially Euclid Avenue was a viable street. As far as University Circle Development Foundation, at the time with the early beginnings, my recollection is, is that, you know, the main, the main office was run by four people. That was the total extent of University Circle Development Corporation. There was a president, well, five people, a president, a vice president, two administrative people, and one finance person. They were housed at the old medical library on Abington.

Matthew Ferraton [00:03:55] You had talked about University Circle being, as you described it, a viable people place. You did mention just in general some of the types of places that were there. What other ways was it a viable people place? And, you know, as far as like like specifically the like types of businesses or shops that were there. Like, what was it about the environment that made it a good place for people to come to during this time?

John Goddard [00:04:17] Well, it was, it was a mixed-use. And, you know, the, on weekends and in the evenings or whatever there, there would be a lot of people, you know, going up and down Euclid Avenue and going to all the places that I previously mentioned. And you still had the, the professors and the people from the hospital here. So it was a [big mixed] batch of people that were in the area.

Matthew Ferraton [00:04:45] Did you personally ever go to any of these places?

John Goddard [00:04:48] Sure.

Matthew Ferraton [00:04:49] What were, what were some of the places you used to go to?

John Goddard [00:04:52] Well, we frequented, you know, all the, the restaurants and the bars. Brick Cottage, Euclid Tavern. There was a diner. Howard Johnson's Restaurant.

Matthew Ferraton [00:05:05] You had mentioned Euclid Tavern. What was that like at this time? If you could describe, you know, the inside of it or what the experience was like going to Euclid Tavern.

John Goddard [00:05:15] Euclid Tavern was primarily a family. I mean, not a family, but a daytime business. They closed that bar, closed kind of early in the evening, maybe 10:30, 11:00 o'clock. But they did a large lunch business for people in the area.

Matthew Ferraton [00:05:34] Was there any particular, aside from Euclid Tavern, was there any particular restaurant that you used to enjoy going to?

John Goddard [00:05:41] It's too far back. I mean, the Euclid Tavern. The diner, the diner was good, but the name of it escapes me at the time.

Matthew Ferraton [00:05:57] What about entertainment? Was there any forms of entertainment in the area that you enjoyed?

John Goddard [00:06:02] No, I, you know, since I work down here all the time, I didn't come down here to frequent to be a busman's holiday, you know? You know, I lived out in Mentor. A little, little time there after that. So I commuted and I didn't really use this. The stuff down here other than the, the typical thing you, one would use when you were working during the day eating lunch. What I'm giving you is my observations.

Matthew Ferraton [00:06:31] You talked about the acquisition of properties that were taking place. Describe the best you can these acquisitions of properties. [What] kind of properties were being acquired by UCI?

John Goddard [00:06:45] Everything. From what I'm told, when the forefathers of University Circle Development Foundation got together through a grant, I think it was from the Wades. It was decided because there was so much infighting beginning between the member institutions as far as land acquisitions and that there needed to be a central governing body, so to speak, to, to go purchase all the properties and quote unquote, put them in a land bank for future use by member institutions. So one of the first and the primary functions that University Circle Development Corporation was formed was to do the land banking. The other stuff, land banking and provide police protection in the area. The land banking was probably the primary focus. So there were two companies that were hired or contracted to, to do this. [The] real estate company that was signed to acquire the properties, I believe was Craig Lang and Smyth. I think that's how you pronounce it. I think they're still in business. And so they were told to go around and purchase everything that was available. Now, there had been a large amount of money for this, and I think it was... I don't know. I'm not too sure where the money came from. You might have to delve into the powers-to-be, but I was told I think it was about $12 million. So way back then, in 1957, '58, that was a lot of money. So the objective was to go out and purchase everything that was available, that was not owned by the current member institutions at the time. And so they did. They went up and purchased apartments, all the homes, the mansions, everything that they could, could find available. What happened was, is, of course, when they started doing this, people got the word that their properties were going to be purchased eventually. And so, you know, the price rose, as you would expect. And also because they were going to sell these properties, you know, the, the land, the owners really let them go. You know, they didn't put the necessary capital improvements or preventative maintenance and stuff that was necessary. So in a lot of instances, by the time they were land banked by the University Circle Development Foundation, they, they were like, so to speak, slightly rundown. Okay? They needed a lot of repair. So the short answer to your question is they were to go out and buy everything that was available until, until all the land was purchased. My understanding [was this was] supposed to be a 20-year project. I do not know what the forefathers had planned after the 20 years. In other words, after all, the property was land banked [and then how] the police department would be handled. I'm not too sure. I don't know if they had an answer for that, but it was supposed to have been a 20-year project. Obviously, the land banking continued well after that. And of course, the University Circle Incorporated is still going on. All the rest of the things were added to it like community education and parking department and what so have you. As the, as the years passed, I think the parking department was established because of all the surface lots that we had and, you know, the vacant lots. And so it evolved from that.

Matthew Ferraton [00:10:25] You talked about infighting between institutions. Did you experience any of this infighting or did you hear stories about it? And if so, I mean, what, what were some of these institutions that were, that this infighting was, was taking place?

John Goddard [00:10:41] I wouldn't know. I mean, I was a contractor. And what I'm telling you now, you know, of course, many years after I became an employee of University Circle, Inc.. But these are things that I had heard. That's why it was formed. I would you know, I had assumed and from what I heard, the infighting would be, albeit University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve maybe wanting to acquire the same property, okay. So one of the functions of University Circle Development Corp. and to the stay UCI would be to arbitrate if there is a problem between the two institutions, especially within our land bank, and decide really who, who would get the land. In other words, if there a piece of land, if there's two contiguous member institutions buy that land, then then they would have each of them would have a right to acquire that land through our land bank forum. What have you. But no, this is what I heard. I wasn't involved in any of the decision-making back then.

Matthew Ferraton [00:11:47] As a contractor, what exactly did you do in University Circle? You know, a typical day on the job. What is it exactly that you were doing at this time as a contractor?

John Goddard [00:12:02] We would respond to maintenance calls. That, through the property management company, we worked for the property management company, so whatever they did in the regular property management functions. And because we were around so much with plumbing and heating, we eventually did, you know, the painting of the inside of the units and almost, almost for the property management company, some of the management aspects of property management and dealing with tenants and showing space and that. So it got to be more involved.

Matthew Ferraton [00:12:36] For these maintenance calls and the properties that you [maintained], these properties include some of the bigger institutions that, at University Circle, for example, like, say, the Art Museum or The Institute of Music.

John Goddard [00:12:48] No, the University Circle Development Foundation has always just maintained the properties within their land bank, and we continue to do that.

Matthew Ferraton [00:13:00] What are some of those properties, particularly the... Any notable properties that, that are included within this, this land bank?

John Goddard [00:13:06] Yeah, right now there's a University East Building that's on the corner of Mayfield. That's the multi-use retail and apartment complex. There's Circle Place, which is the 13-story apartment complex with the retail on the first floor, on the opposite corner, Ford and Euclid. We had sold out of our landbank, the whole street of homes that's on 115th Street. That includes two apartment complexes, two University Hospitals, and they kept them for a while and had problems managing them. And they asked us to come back and take care of them for them, so we did. And we, we leased off the whole street for a dollar a year and in turn, we put $1.7 million into the remodeling of, of the homes and, and, the apartments. We, we'd collect the rents and we maintained them so and other properties throughout.

Matthew Ferraton [00:14:14] These, these homes on 115th that, that you had talked about, were, were never in any of these homes? Like in general, did you see the conditions and whatnot that these homes were in?

John Goddard [00:14:29] Well, before and after, of course, that's, that's what we did.

Matthew Ferraton [00:14:33] When you first acquired these properties on 115th, what was the conditions in a little more detail? What was the conditions of the average homes that you're in and how did that change over time?

John Goddard [00:14:47] Well, they were old, so all the properties that were purchased in University Circle, you know, were anywhere from 65 to between 65 and maybe 45 years old. So you're looking at, you're looking at a home that what the status would be relative to its age, which is, you know, common occurrence, you know: roofs, aging roofs and aging heating systems, plumbing that needed to be replaced, some structural problems, and all this type of work. There were just, you know, problems and necessary repairs that you would need due to age.

Matthew Ferraton [00:15:35] Were these homes...? I'm assuming some of them are still standing because you were maintaining them. Did most of these homes, were they, were they renovated?

John Goddard [00:15:44] No. At... Because it was a land bank, the, the scenario was, was just to keep them safe. Okay. With minimal capital improvements, because they would have, they were to be sold rather quickly to member institutions for future, for new construction and for use by the, by the members situations. For instance, 70% of the land that you see University Hospitals and Case Western Reserve on today, came through our land, UCI's land bank. In other words, it passed through the land bank, was purchased, and then sold back to these, to the member institutions. Now we have a map that shows that it's rather dramatic to see it on the map, but 70% came through. So in a lot of instances, a lot of these old mansions, a lot of the homes on 115th, and 117th Street, and 118th Street were torn down rather quickly, rather quickly between maybe five, five and ten years. You had Fleming Field, where the Cleveland Browns practiced, which is now, you know, Case Western Reserve's athletic field over there, which took [115th], 116th, and 117th part of 118th Street. So, you know, large, large parcels were eventually purchased and, and taken down. The one after... Because the properties were in an old condition, somewhere along the line through really the chairmanship of Dick Tullis, when he became chairman, it was decided that UCI should make capital improvements in the properties and treat it more as, as an investment. And, you know, this cost would have been passed on to the members of [inaudible] when they purchased them, so capital repairs began and all the properties were upgraded, especially cosmetically inside. And, and for what we have today, all our properties are in great shape and very marketable and we get very good rents for our apartments and retail space right now.

Matthew Ferraton [00:18:07] You talked about, you mentioned that UCI wanted to begin making more capital improvements in some of these properties. And if I understood you correctly, this also includes some of the residential properties, as well.

John Goddard [00:18:20] Well, we did. We had... Yeah, we had very few residential homes left in apartments because for instance, all of Cornell was apartments. You know, they were all there was I don't know how many apartments on that were taken down. But with the remaining properties, especially with properties like the University East Building on Euclid Avenue, there was a new direction now that wasn't... It was decided back in the Dick Tullis era that, that use University Circle needed to be more of a people place. In other words, we...

Matthew Ferraton [00:18:54] I'm sorry to interject. When was the Dick Tullis era? What exactly time period was that?

John Goddard [00:18:57] You know, I can't, I can't remember specifically, but it would be about, at least over 15 years ago, I believe, you know, again, you know, can check with our records over at our main office for that.

Matthew Ferraton [00:19:08] This would be during the '80s and '90s?

John Goddard [00:19:11] Uh-huh. Yeah. Yeah. And that, you know, maybe there, there needed to be a different sense of direction that the, the central hub of University Circle instead of the institutional along Euclid Avenue should be put back to where it was, okay? In other words, put back to make it more of that quote-unquote people place again, okay? So the properties that we had, i.e. the University East Building on the corner of Mayfield and Euclid and other key properties were... It was decided that we would definitely put the capital improvements because for all intents and purposes, the other member institutions were not interested in those specific areas. Plus the fact that UCI was, I think was the driving power to say no whoa here we need to make it more of a people place and this will benefit you, Mr. University Hospital and Case Western Reserve. You know, you do have people down here, okay? Again, I'm not in the decision-making process and all these things that I'm talking about, but I'm pretty sure this is the way it came down.

Matthew Ferraton [00:20:17] Given these changes and this, this change in perspective and attitude, and since you have spent a lot of time within the University Circle area and working at it, do you personally think that this, this new direction is a good thing, given what you've seen and what you've experienced?

John Goddard [00:20:34] Yes, by all means. I mean, it, it made no sense to me as an outsider, seeing all, you know, blinking of your eye. Of course, the blinking of the eye was 20 years, maybe transpired. But all of a sudden, you know, the college kids had no place to go, no place to drink a beer, you know, and, and I think Case Western Reserve has realized that, you know, they started making changes to their student union and it, it made no sense. It was too sterile. As far as putting myself as an outsider, you know, for the area, it just made no sense to have it all institutional like that.

Matthew Ferraton [00:21:12] You had talked about in this area some of the mansions that were standing that have since been torn down. Have you...? Did, did you see any of these mansions, or even did you even get to see the inside of any of these mansions before they were torn down? And if so, and what were these mansions like?

John Goddard [00:21:30] Oh, yeah. No, they were beautiful inside. Got to, we... Because of my involvement, I got to see them all inside because once they were purchased, you know, we would go in and secure them and seal them up and if necessary, weatherize them if they weren't, weren't going to be used. In a lot of instances, a lot of them were used for a while until they were torn down and for I don't know student housing and that sort of thing. But no, they were, they were grand, grand homes, and the woodwork and the plastering on them and everything else that was inside them was in some of them was fantastic. And I don't think they could be replicated today, maybe even a single home for millions of dollars, because I don't even think we have the trade people to do that, that that can do that kind of work anymore. So no, even in the rundown condition that some of them were, you could see that they were really fantastic in their heyday.

Matthew Ferraton [00:22:28] Given the, the outside of some of these mansions, to the best of your ability, like, what kind of architectural styles of these mansions ever like or what were their physical characteristics on the outside?

John Goddard [00:22:41] Now, I don't know what kind of architecture you would call it, but it was the architecture of the time, if you're really interested. I have a poster that has, has a lot of the mansions that were down Euclid Avenue that, that were similar to these you know, I don't know whether you would call it some gothic style or necessarily, but I don't have a description of it except that they were beautiful.

Matthew Ferraton [00:23:08] For the inside. You did mention that a lot of these had good, beautiful woodwork and stucco. If you could just briefly give a description of what a typical mansion or maybe one that really stuck out in your mind that you've seen, like what were some of the features that, that was in maybe just one of these mansions?

John Goddard [00:23:28] Well, a lot of them.

Matthew Ferraton [00:23:29] Does that make sense?

John Goddard [00:23:29] Yeah. A lot of them, a lot of them were similar. But, you know, there would be cherry paneling. There could be very expensive, any types of wood paneling throughout first floors. Most of them had a, had a dumbwaiter, an elevator that went all the way up to the third floors. The third floors were all, were the third floor is, were your rec rooms. That's where they had the parties and that's where the people congregated. Believe it or not, they walked up three, three floors not like we do now. We go to our basement, but they went up three floors. The, there were five, six, seven bathrooms in these homes, I would say, on average six to eight bedrooms. They all had a carriage house in the back where you could tell the upstairs part of the carriage houses were servants' quarters, and the bottom sections were where they kept the horses and later, later on the Model-Ts. Most of them had driveways that went into that still had where you stepped off the horse and carriage type of thing right into, to the first level of the house. It was like stepping back in time.

Matthew Ferraton [00:24:46] Did a lot of these mansions, did they have these, these carriage houses that, that you had described?

John Goddard [00:24:51] Yeah. [Every] mansion and within the Circle boundaries here, especially on Magnolia, had carriage houses that, that I'm referring to. You can come over to our main office and take a look at the carriage house behind our office. In fact, my office is up there on the second floor. I'm still a servant.

Matthew Ferraton [00:25:13] You had, you also mentioned I'm talking about the area and the changes that had taken place. You talk about Fleming Field and this used to be the practice grounds for the Cleveland Browns at one time.

John Goddard [00:25:25] Used to be the practice field for the Cleveland Browns. It used to be there, not their training camp, but where they practice after the season started. That's where Jim Brown Jim Brown got his start there. And of course, Art Modell, I think he was involved in getting Fleming Field when he took over the Browns. So it was interesting. You'd get to go watch the Browns practice.

Matthew Ferraton [00:25:53] Did you ever go there to watch the Browns practice?

John Goddard [00:25:55] Sure.

Matthew Ferraton [00:25:56] What was it? What was Fleming Field like?

John Goddard [00:25:59] Just exactly what you see now without any bleachers or stands, just [they had the] one. They had one room, one large area where, you know, Case the athletic teams had lockers and the Browns used it too and the rest was just all fields, grass, fence from 118th St. I mean from 118th to 115th as you see it now and from Wade Park all the way to almost Euclid Avenue there.

Matthew Ferraton [00:26:31] Were you able to get into relatively close proximity to, to the players? Or, or did you even have the fortunate [inaudible]?

John Goddard [00:26:40] Well, standing well, just standing by the fence, you know, you could touch them. I mean, you would stand next to Jim Brown and you could touch him because, you know, it was, you were that close. But no, we [stored]... University Circle Development Foundation stored some equipment for them. So from time to time, some of us contractors would go in and help deliver and remove equipment. I remember two of us struggling with a, with a treadmill, some sort of apparatus like that. And Gene Hickerson, who was the pulling guard for the, for the Browns, who was one of the people that helped make Jim Brown famous, came up to us and said, let me help you with that. And he took it by himself and threw it on the truck.

Matthew Ferraton [00:27:27] Did you get the, did you get a chance to talk with, what was it, Gene Hickerson?

John Goddard [00:27:31] Oh, yeah. From time to time, Gene Hickerson and a lot of Cleveland Browns used to live in the house in Circle Place, which was the old which is really the old Commodore Hotel. That's the 13, 13 story building I was telling you about. That's, that we managed and own now. It has 200 I mean, it has 199 apartment units, but those apartment units were converted, converted into apartment units. They were basically hotel units during the, during the heyday. And a lot of the Cleveland Browns lived there during the seasons [as an apartment] complex.

Matthew Ferraton [00:28:12] What year was Fleming Field torn down?

John Goddard [00:28:16] Oh, I mean, it was never torn down. I don't know the exact dates, but eventually, the Cleveland Browns moved on, you know, changed their location for that. And, and I know simultaneously Case Western Reserve took it over and started, you know, using it strictly for their use and adding bleachers and, you know, everything to what you see now. And of course, now you see the new dorms on part of it also.

Matthew Ferraton [00:28:45] You talked about Circle Place and it used to be a hotel. Were you ever in Circle Place when it used to be a hotel before it was converted?

John Goddard [00:28:55] No, I'm old, but I'm not that old. No.

Matthew Ferraton [00:29:02] Now that they're, they're converted to apartments.

John Goddard [00:29:04] But but but I do hear again hearsay. I'm Mr. Hearsay here. I hear it was the place to go and it was quite elaborate. You know, the management company took that over, when we, when I was working for the management company, I mean, University Circle Development Foundation, they, they ended up selling that property to Associated Estates. And just recently, three or four years ago, we had purchased it back from Associated Estates. But you could tell by the existing, you know, chandelier that's still in there, in the main lobby and it used to have a swimming pool on the first floor. It was you could see where it was. The place could have been the place during its time.

Matthew Ferraton [00:29:47] Have you ever, have you ever been in actually in any of the apartments [that] have since been converted?

John Goddard [00:29:53] Well, I mean, yeah, I was in, I was in them as a contractor, I helped do some of the plumbing and heating on some of the conversions made kind of penthouse apartment units on the top floor for the management company at the time. Now, of course, I'm involved now because we're, we're back in there, we own it, and we're starting to do a lot of rehab on the building.

Matthew Ferraton [00:30:17] These penthouse apartments. What are they like [for the] listeners?

John Goddard [00:30:24] You know, they had great views. They, you know, at the time, you know, you'd step up and down a sort of flat, flat floors. You know, we made them into kind of tri-levels. They had high ceilings and they were nice. But again, this was done maybe 30 years ago. And so they're just you know, they're basically regular apartments now.

Matthew Ferraton [00:30:50] Have you, have you been in a... I'm sorry. I'll skip that question, sir. Okay, moving forward a little bit, as a director of property management at UCI, what is it exactly currently or within the last ten to 15 years, what are your responsibilities now?

John Goddard [00:31:10] Right now, we have, have a lot of responsibilities, The Property Management Department. We of course continue to manage the properties that are within our land bank. Yes, we had previously discussed, along with those properties there is of course the Wade Oval Park where we have oval events not, not the least of being Parade the Circle, which brings in 35-40,000 people on that, on that day and Wade Oval events which they call WOW (W.O.W.) now. Every Wednesday throughout the summer, plus an increased amount of events with non-profits and for-profits that are coming on and using it, so, you know, we may, we may we maintain that park. I have two landscapers [and] of course, it's not enough to maintain everything we have. And we farm, we farm out other landscaping to outside landscapers but maintaining the parks and also we're very involved in set-up for these, these events setting up the sound being responsible for the sound equipment, the irrigation system, the tenting, and so on. We're also involved in the maintenance garage. We take care of the police cars and our community education busses, and we're involved in, in other aspects of the day-to-day operations of our, of our offices, you know, with community education and with the main office and fire systems and that sort of thing. So that's a little more involved than just managing property per se.

Matthew Ferraton [00:32:56] As far as the maintenance of parks, such as the Wade Oval Park. Over the years, how has it changed or has it improved or has it deteriorated over the time?

John Goddard [00:33:05] Wade Oval Park, the University Circle Inc. spent I believe it was $1.4 million to renovate it. And so it's totally different right now.

Matthew Ferraton [00:33:15] Well, what time frame was this? When they, they spent the money to renovate?

John Goddard [00:33:18] Oh, did you talk to Bob Reeves? Because he was, he was in charge. Did you, did he tell you? Did you get into that? You know, it's going to be I think it's been completed. I think we're going on the fourt

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