Know Ohio: Millionaire's Row

RICK: Throughout the 2016 presidential campaign, candidate Donald Trump has claimed his business savvy will help him as commander-in-chef. Trump is a New York real estate investor, who owns properties all around the world. But well before Trump made his fortune a man named Rockefeller reigned supreme. 

Up next, Know Ohio’s Mary Fecteau tells us about one of Ohio’s richest men. 

MARY: We all need a place to call home – our little space in the world where we can go to juuuuust chillax. It’s no different for the very wealthy -- and, when you think about the homes of the fantastically rich, you probably picture a mansion on a private island or an 

exclusive beachfront home in Malibu, but for a time, some of the richest people in the world called Ohio home. 

In fact, they lived just blocks from where I’m standing now, in a little stretch near downtown Cleveland called Millionaire’s Row! 

This was during the 1870s and early twentieth century — a time in history known as the Gilded Age. Iron, steel and oil production were booming in America and the Ohio businessmen at the forefront of those industries certainly didn’t shy away from lavish living. 

The mansions and large home estates that they built along Euclid Avenue were something for the average worker to marvel at! Here, ladies with parasols strolled the tree-lined sidewalks. Wrought iron fences surrounded huge front yards, and horse-drawn carriages, along with some of the earliest cars, rode down the street. Many of these architectural gems looked like castles from picture books on the outside – and, on the inside, they contained seemingly endless rooms for entertaining guests filled with luxurious furniture imported from all around the world. 

Some of the wealthy people that called Millionaire’s Row home were: railroad magnate Amasa Stone and influential businessman and U.S. Senator Marcus Hanna. 

But perhaps the best known was: John D. Rockefeller, a wealthy oil tycoon, who was one of the first to buy a home on the street in 1868. Rockefeller learned from childhood how to make wise business decisions -- and got into business early. At 20 years old, he and a partner began a business reselling hay, meats and other items. They made $450,000 in their first year. 

In 1863 Rockefeller opened an oil refinery in Cleveland. A few years later he began the Standard Oil Company. Rockefeller’s business savvy skyrocketed his company and he bought up his competitor’s companies along the way. 

Throughout his life, Rockefeller was generous with his money, helping many charities that focused on education and public health. In fact, he donated more than $530 million dollars to different organizations. And his imprint is still very much a part of the fabric of the Forest City: in addition to the Rockefeller Building on the corner of West 6th Street and Superior Avenue, J.D. helped open the Arcade in 1890, which still stands on Superior Avenue. The Rockefeller family are also buried at Lakeview Cemetery in Cleveland, the city that he transformed into the center of American oil production. 

Although he touched many buildings that still stand downtown, J.D. Rockfeller’s glamorous home is long gone – it burned down in a mysterious fire in 1917, and many of the remaining homes in Millionaire’s Row were demolished in the coming decades to make room for businesses in the growing city. Since the businessmen have been replaced with businesses, today we can only use our imaginations to recreate the splendor of Millionaire’s Row. 

One of the only surviving Millionaire’s Row homes belonged to Samuel Mather, who owned a dominant shipping and iron mining company called Pickands Mather and Company. His 43-room mansion cost $1.2 million dollars when it was built in 1910. 

Cleveland State University currently owns the building, which they renovated and currently use for meetings.

Instructional Links

Magazine Article: Explora, Cobblestone, John D. Rockefeller Oil King, March 2014,ip,custuid&custid=infohio

May Need Password

Website Article: Cleveland Historical, Millionaires Row

Website Article: Rockefeller Archive Center, The Rockefellers Virtual Family Tree

Website Article: PBS American Experience, Gallery, Millionaires Row


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