Empire Builders: An Illustrated History of the Rise and Fall of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers


In Lauren Pacini’s newly released book, Empire Builders: An Illustrated History of the Rise and Fall of Cleveland’s Van Sweringen Brothers, readers are invited to delve into the tale of two visionary brothers who left an incredible mark on Cleveland’s landscape.

Pacini brings to life the story of Oris and Mantis Van Sweringen, whose vision reshaped the urban fabric of Cleveland during the early 20th century. At the heart of the narrative are the brothers’ ambitious projects, including the development of the Terminal Tower complex and the construction of the Shaker Heights suburb.

Pacini’s work expertly details — through stories and images — the past and present that binds Northeast Ohio together. His exhaustive research recounts the people and families who came to the old Western Reserve and forged a community. His camera deftly captures the physical remains of the structures that still grace the Greater Cleveland landscape, and his storytelling paints a vivid picture of the people who left behind one of the great urban centers of its time.

But alongside their remarkable achievements, Pacini also explores the challenges and controversies that accompanied the Van Sweringen brothers’ rise to power. The Van Sweringen brothers implemented discriminatory housing policies in their developments, notably in Shaker Heights. These policies included restrictive covenants that barred African American and Jewish families from purchasing homes, shaping the racial and ethnic composition of the suburb for decades.

Empire Builders offers readers a compelling glimpse into a pivotal chapter in Cleveland’s history, shedding light on the individuals and forces that shaped the city’s future. With its engaging narrative and stunning visuals, Pacini’s book is not only a reflection on the Van Sweringen brothers’ legacy but a celebration of Cleveland’s rich architectural heritage and entrepreneurial spirit.

The book will be released June 4th! Pre-order your copy here.



* indicates required

Intuit Mailchimp

Contact Us