Ora Coltman: Artist and Architect

Learn about Ora Coltman's collaborations in art and architecture with Cleveland Public Library

Learn about Ora Coltman.

Learn about the buildings Coltman designed for Cleveland Public Library.

Coltman, Ora ST093 (ca. 1930) by Standiford, Ethel C.Cleveland Public Library

Introducing Ora Coltman

Ora Coltman, born in  Shelby, Ohio in 1858,  was a well known Cleveland artist, muralist, and architect. He lived and had his studio on Mayfield Road in Cleveland Ohio in the Little Italy neighborhood, where Coltman Road was named after him. He died in 1940.

Jefferson Branch construction photo by Cleveland Public Library and Ora ColtmanCleveland Public Library

Practical Design

The two branches Coltman designed were convertible plain brick, semi-fireproof with factory skylights. If the Library were to move, the building could be converted to commercial use.  Brooklyn Branch (pictured) and Jefferson Branch are still in use by the library today.

Superior Branch Exterior (1921) by unknownCleveland Public Library

Construction Supervisor

Though not the architect, Coltman supervised construction on the Superior Branch, designed by architectural firm Whitfield and King from 1919 to 1920. This branch was closed in 1990.

Coltman's son was a friend of Cleveland Public Library patron and donor, John G. White

Munich Chess Club [postcard, front] (1909) by Robert ColtmanCleveland Public Library

The Coltman's and John G. White

This postcard was sent to John G. White (a founding donor of Cleveland Public Library) and was written by Robert Coltman (son of Cleveland artist Ora Coltman). Robert is on the right hand side, second from the front. The Coltmans shared an interest in chess with Mr. White.

Munich Chess Club [postcard, back] (1909) by Robert ColtmanCleveland Public Library

Spanish Opening

Robert Coltman tried to be humble about his chess playing in the postcard. He writes, 'Altho' I won my game (Spanish, I had White), I am ashamed of it just the same.'

Learn about works Coltman created for various Cleveland Public Library Branches.

Little Russia, Cleveland (View of Tremont from Clark Avenue Bridge) (1926) by Ora ColtmanCleveland Public Library

A View of Tremont for the Jefferson Branch

Coltman, architect for the branch, was also a prominent Cleveland artist. He donated this painting,  which he called 'Little Russia, Cleveland,'  to the Jefferson branch. It offers an image of Cleveland's Tremont Neighborhood and it's famous St. Thedosius Orthodox Cathedral.

Mayfield Hil (1937) by Ora ColtmanCleveland Public Library

An Image of the City for Alta House Branch

Coltman gave Mayfield Hill to the Alta House Branch Library, now closed, where he was a regular borrower.  This original image is oil on masonite, but the same scene was also executed as a color block print.

Landscape (1921) by Ora ColtmanCleveland Public Library

A Country View for Superior Branch

Coltman's idealized version of the countryside,  perhaps a view looking east to the Allegheny Mountains, uses the same color palette used on his large mural, Dominance of the City. The painting was donated to and hung in the Superior Branch of Cleveland Public Library until 1990.

Learn about Ora Coltman's masterpiece, donated to the Main Branch of Cleveland Public Library.

An Overview

Tax-supported institutions, like Cleveland Public Library, could commission art works from the Public Works of Art Project (1934-1934). This video offers an overview of Coltman's masterpiece commissioned by the library, Dominance of the City.

Coltman's work has been shown at the Art Institute of Chicago, the Corcoran Gallery in Washington, D.C., and the Cleveland Museum of Art where his work was a fixture in the annual May Show. See works by Ora Coltman, including his paintings and his buildings in the Cleveland Public Library's Digital Gallery.

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