Robert P. Madison: A Lifetime of Design Cleveland History Center

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In May, 2023, Mr. Robert Madison and the Madison Family gifted the Robert P. Madison Architectural Papers to the Western Reserve Historical Society. We applaud this extraordinary gift reflecting Mr. Madison’s lifetime work. The collection consists of over 600 project drawings, office files, poster boards, and models.


Cleveland native Robert Madison is a living legend in the architecture community. Born in 1923, Madison interrupted his studies to serve in Italy during World War II. After returning home, he completed his studies at Case Western University, Harvard University, and at the École des Beaux-Arts in Paris. Despite the discrimination he faced, Madison became the first registered Black architect in Ohio in 1954.


Robert P. Madison on the cover of Shaker Magazine. Image Courtesy of Jeanne Madison.

The firm he founded with two of his brothers, Madison, Madison, and Madison, won acclaim for designing the U.S. Embassy in Dakar, Senegal in 1965. Renamed Robert P Madison International in 1970, the firm designed or contributed to dozens of buildings in Cleveland, including the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland Browns Stadium, and the Great Lakes Science Center.

Mr. Madison retired in 2016 after more than 60 years with his firm. He received numerous awards during his career, including the Cleveland Arts Prize and the American Institute of Architects Gold Medal Firm Award.

Mr. Robert Madison’s involvement with WRHS spans over 50 years as a founding member of the groundbreaking African American Archives Project established in 1970. Dedicated to insuring the preservation and documentation of African American History and Culture in Cleveland and Northeastern Ohio, the group established the African American Archives Auxiliary (Quad A) the following year in 1971.

The Western Reserve Historical Society is honored Mr. Madison and the Madison Family chose the Library as the repository for these works to be preserved researchers for generations to come. We celebrate Mr. Madison’s gift, his legacy and his recent 100th Birthday.


Examples from the collection are now on display at the Cleveland History

A Statement from Robert P. Madison, F.A.I.A.

When the Western Reserve Historical Society approached me to request my papers, I didn’t know how to respond.

During my career as an architect, leading the first Black owned architectural firm in the State of Ohio, established in 1954, I never gave a thought to the final body of work my firm produced – from the early days of designing church basements because no one would hire a Black architect, to the United States Embassy complex in Senegal.

WRHS shared with me that the work my firm did is significant to the legacy of Northeast Ohio, the country and the world, and it should be archived and made available to researchers, building owners, architecture students, and lovers of history from near and far. This was an idea that embued me with a feeling of deep humility, and comfort, but also of pride. Pride in my staff, African Americans, and others who immigrated from over 36 countries, practicing 5 major religions, women and men; that, together, we had indeed made manifest the true ideals upon which the Western Reserve was founded and that the WRHS preserves.

Members of my firm strove together to create the most aesthetically pleasing, highly functional, comfortable, buildings where professionals, elected officials, educators and students, citizens and friends and neighbors lived, worked, played and worshipped.

As a black boy in Cleveland in the 1930’s, I never thought I would have a chance to see my life’s work included in the WRHS collection with those other great Cleveland-based design firms led by architects such as Cerutti, Welker and Weeks, and my friends, Robert A. Little, and Bob Dalton. The staff of WRHS shared their professional expertise, opened the doors of the library and the archival space, and cultivated a relationship of trust and respect with me, and my family. It became very clear, that WRHS was the ideal place for my papers.

I am confident that what we accomplished will be forever known: that our firm continues as a firm of men and women who also make Greater Cleveland, and our country what it is today.

Robert P. Madison, F.A.I.A.
Robert P. Madison International, Inc. Chairman Emeritus


Mr. Robert Madison and daughter Jeanne Madison with the collection he recently donated to WRHS , courtesy of Jeanne Madison

Western Reserve Historical Society is the oldest cultural institution in Northeast Ohio, the region's largest American history research center, and one of the leading genealogical research centers in the nation.

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