Empire Builders
An Illustrated History of the Rise and Fall of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers
Text and Photography by Lauren R. Pacini
Foreword by John J. Grabowski
About the Book

Empire Builders tells the story of Cleveland’s Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen, two brothers born near Wooster, Ohio, in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Although they were born into abject poverty, O. P. was an extraordinary visionary who, with the help of M. J., his devoted younger brother, amassed a vast fortune in real estate and railroad developments. Their breakthrough came with establishing Shaker Heights, an affluent garden suburb, soon to be connected by a brand-new interurban railroad to the booming midwestern metropolis of Cleveland. The Van Sweringens' ascension after Shaker Heights was meteoric, and it culminated with the construction of the 52-story Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland, while simultaneously building the third-largest railroad network in the country. However, in 1929, the nation's economy came crashing down after the stock market collapse, and with it, their empire crumbled but did not die.

Empire Builders is the first new biography of the Van Sweringen brothers in more than twenty years, and goes well beyond previous volumes, recounting what happened to their empire to this day. In it, architectural photographer and local history author Lauren R. Pacini tells the remarkable story of the Van Sweringen brothers through words and images.

This richly illustrated volume features 180 maps, charts, and vintage and contemporary photographs of the still-fabulous historic homes, including those the brothers built for themselves.

About the Author

Lauren Pacini is a nearly lifelong Clevelander, having grown up in Cleveland Heights, and then raised his family, and continues to live in Shaker Heights. As a child, he explored the Shaker Lakes and Doan Brook, including the ruins of Shaker mills and the remains of the quarry – where the Van Sweringen brothers had explored little more than a half-century earlier –  marveling at the remarkable mansions, including the one built by those same brothers.

Pacini’s projects have included the documentation of the transformation of Cleveland’s Saint Luke’s Hospital – for which his photography was honored with the 2012 National Trust for Historic Preservation/Housing and Urban Development Secretary’s Award for Excellence in Historic Preservation, and published The Ever-Whirling Winds of Change: The Story of Saint Luke’s Hospital, 1894 2014 – and the creation of Honoring Their Memories: Levi T. Scofield, Monumental Architect and Sculptor, telling the story of Cuyahoga County’s Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument – for which he was honored with the Ohio Local History Alliance’s History Outreach Award.

Major photography projects include the repurposing of the historic Cleveland Trust complex and the Cleveland Board of Education Administration Building; the restoration of the Wayne County Courthouse in Wooster, Ohio; the transformation of Cleveland’s Public Square; and the deconstruction and demolition of the former Emmanuel Episcopal Church on the Cleveland Clinic Campus. Current projects include the pending transformation of the historic Warner & Swasey building.

  ISBN-13 -- 978-0-25306-982-5  Publisher -- Indiana University Press
  Format -- Hardcover, 11" x 8.5", 286 pages, 180 illustrations Pubication Date -- June 4, 2024
  Price -- $45.00 USD Printed and bound in Canada