Local History Volunteers
What do two architects, a general
contractor, and a neurobiologist have
in common? They share a love of
history, an interest in blueprints, and
each has helped to uncover Shaker’s
past by volunteering in the Library’s
Local History Room.
Keith Arian, Greydon Petznick,
Christina Moffett, and Richard Cissell
have been scanning, photocopying, and
indexing blueprints of homes in Shaker
Heights from rolls of microfilm, and
adding the information to the Building
Index Card database. According to Local
History Librarian Meghan Hays, “Their
dedicated volunteer work has made the
database easily accessible for Shaker
residents, and has uncovered remarkably
useful and valuable architectural and
So exactly what is on a roll of microfilm?
Approximately 100 sets of building
plans, adding up to more than 13,000 sets
of plans on 130 rolls. Each set may include
as few as two pages of drawings for a new
garage, to as many as hundreds of pages for
an apartment building. Most residential
sets of plans are 7-10 pages long.
Keith Arian’s interest in history and
architecture led him to volunteer at the
20 WINTER 2020 | WWW.SHAKER .LIFE
Library over a decade ago. For two hours
every Tuesday evening, he photocopied title
pages from rolls of microfilmed blueprints,
creating an index of what was on each roll.
“My favorite part of the project was looking at the blueprints and finding the houses
of neighbors and friends, plus I had the opportunity to see blueprints drawn by the
superstars of Cleveland architecture,” he says. Another interesting fact he discovered
was that up until the early 1960s any alteration to a house had be approved by the Van
Regular volunteering with the Library inspired Arian, already a busy contractor
and owner of Keith Arian Construction, to become more active at the Shaker Historical
Society and Museum, where he joined the board and soon was elected its president. He
passed his scanning torch to architect Greydon Petznick, cofounder of the architectural
firm Cleveland DRAW, who began volunteering in the Local History Room in response to
a call for volunteers in Shaker Life magazine.
“The ad ticked all the boxes for me: libraries, history, and architecture,” says
Petznick, who volunteered Tuesday nights, usually fresh off the Rapid, before heading
home from work downtown. His favorite part of the project was his increasing ability to
recognize the different architects’ styles of drawing, and discovering buildings he had not
known about previously.
As a result of volunteering at the Library, Petznick too began volunteering at the
Shaker Historical Society and Museum, where he joined the board and occasionally leads
Bike Shaker tours.
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Clockwise from top left: Keith Arian,
Christina Moffett, Richard Cissell
and Greydon Petznick.