Published in the 1918 tome, A History of Cleveland and Its Environs: The Heart of Connecticut, Volume III, author Elroy M. Avery – a studious historian, educator, former Cleveland City councilman and Ohio senator, and Florida mayor – wrote of Albert W. Henn: "In all that pertains to good citizenship and particularly all that gives encouragement to progress and civic reform at Cleveland, Mr. Henn stands in the front rank, but he is not affiliated with any political party. He has advanced far in Masonry, having taking both the Scottish and York rite degrees and is a shriner. Mr Henn has numerous pleasant social connections and his membership is valued in such well known organizations as the Union, the Willowick Country and the Cleveland Athletic and the Colonial clubs."
Henn's story mirrors that of many self-made men at the turn of the 19th century in Cleveland. Born in Connecticut, the son of German immigrants, on January 26, 1865, his academic career ended by the eighth grade, at the age of 13, when he found employment in the hardware manufacturing house of Landers, Frary & Clark.
In 1884, he followed his brother to Cleveland, where a position as entry clerk for the wholesale dry goods house of Root & McBride kept him gainfully employed for more than a decade, though made little use of the mechanical expertise he'd cultivated far from academia.
Five years into his stable if dull vocation, he married Gertrude Jeannette Bruce (pictured, right; Albert Henn, left / courtesy of Friends of the Henn Mansion). Although their first two sons, Jesse and William, died as infants, the couple had four more children, including three sons: Howard, Edwin and Robert, who would all graduate with Ivy League educations – the former from Yale, the latter two from Cornell. The daughter, named Jeannette after her mother, graduated from the respected Seven Sisters school of Vassar College.
The early 1890s through the first quarter of the 1900s would be an interesting period of growth for the Henn family, built largely on the ingenuity of Henn's brother, Edwin C., who with Reinhold Hakewessell created then patented a multiple spindle automatic lathe in 1894. The invention precipitated the formation of the Acme Screw Machine Company, with Henn as secretary and treasurer, and his brother as president. By 1902, the young company had merged with one of its largest customers, becoming the National-Acme Manufacturing Company. Sixteen years later, Henn would be president of the substantial concern, and hold leadership positions at no fewer than five other regional organizations and businesses.
With his rising success and fortune, Henn purchased an 18-acre parcel of land in bucolic Euclid, an estate situated on the shores of Lake Erie and amid farming country where grapes were a vital crop. "Euclid had never attracted the money like Lakewood or Bratenahl did," says Friends of the Henn Mansion co-founder June Daugherty. Still, it was there that he commissioned a 23-room, three-story, 9,200-square-foot mansion at a cost of $120,000 in 1923. (pictured above: the Henn family out for a drive / courtesy of Friends of the Henn Mansion)