Thursday, April 29, 2010

St. George's Lithuanian Church or: the Beckenbach residence

St. George's Church and School

The Diocese of Cleveland has closed many churches in the greater Cleveland area in recent years. As you may have heard, they are now listed for sale. One of the more interesting properties, as I see it, is this one, St. George's Lithuanian Church and School, at 6527 Superior Avenue, in Cleveland, Ohio.

For $175,000, you get the church/school, rectory, and a 4+ car garage which sit on a 2.73 acre lot. According to the Cleveland Architects Database, the church was designed by architect J. Ellsworth Potter, in 1920. Potter specialized in churches, and built several in the Cleveland area, including Sacred Heart of Jesus Church on East 71st Street. The website for the church provides some history of the congregation. It indicates that it was the oldest functioning Lithuanian Parish in North America.

The church / school structure features a sanctuary on the upper level and classrooms on the lower levels. It's an interesting building with some nice architectural details, but isn't so ornate that it would be difficult to use for something other than a church. This website has several historical photos of the exterior of the church, including some made during the construction, which might help illustrate the history of this structure.

Italianate house on Superior

The rectory, to my eyes, is just as interesting as the church. The Italianate-style structure was built between 1874 and 1881 by Henry and Catherine Beckenbach. It remained in the family until 1917, when it was purchased by the Diocese of Cleveland. It is a wood framed structure with asphalt shingles that resemble brick covering the exterior. It is 4600 square feet, with seven bedrooms.

Italianate house on Superior

The front porch, shown in the first photo of the house, was added later, probably in the 1920s. The 1912 Sanborn fire insurance map shows a small porch, about half the width of the front house. This porch would have been of a similar style to that of the side porch. The map also illustrates a two story barn to the rear of the house and a henhouse.

Italianate house on Superior

I'm also reasonably confident that the small side porch shown here was originally similar to the one shown in the photo immediately preceding this one. Further, it appears to retain many of the original 2 over 2 windows.

Italianate house on Superior

This house has real potential. Look at its neighbor, just across the street for some ideas as to what might this one might look like with a bit of work. This represents a rare opportunity to obtain a house of this age with the full parcel of land that it was originally built on. The house appears to have been used until relatively recently, so is likely in reasonably solid condition. I suspect that the house hasn't been subjected to the numerous renovations over the years that a privately owned house might have had. As such, it should retain quite a bit of historic detail.

View St. George's Church and the Beckenbach residence in a larger map

This map illustrates the property in question and the extant buildings. The church is green, the house yellow, and the garage blue. The biggest problem, as I see it, is creating a plan that allows for practical reuse of both the house and the church. It might be a bit easier with the adjoining parcel on Superior, which is privately owned.

These are two great properties on a good chunk of land. They're solid structures, each from its own period, with its own stories. The siting of the two isn't exactly sympathetic to each other, but I know that someone out there can come up with a great way to use both of them, together.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting April 22, 2010

The Cleveland Landmarks Commission (CLC) met at at 9:00 am yesterday, April 22, in room 514 of the Cleveland city hall. The agenda for the meeting includes photographs of most of the buildings discussed here. The following items were addressed:

Public Hearing - St. Wendelin Church - 2281 Columbus Road - Landmark Nomination
At the commission's last meeting, this property was nominated for landmark status, and was approved. It is one of the churches that is scheduled to close. Since then, the Diocese of Cleveland has stated that they object to the nomination.

Time was provided for the public to speak either in support of or opposition to the nomination, however, no one had come to the meeting to speak either way on the matter.

The CLC voted unanimously in favor of the nomination.

Cleveland Public Theatre Parking Lot - West 64th and Detroit Avenue - Fence
Cleveland Public Theatre (CPT) is building a parking lot on the south side of Detroit Avenue at about West 64th Street, between their current structures and a church that they will be turning into performance space. The parking lot will be 36 spaces and will be "green", as it will include at least a partially permeable surface.

The CPT representative stated that code requires an ornamental fence. As the site is in a landmark district, they have to get approval from the CLC.

Rendering courtesy of Artist Stephen Manka

Stephen Manka, of Manka Design Studio, created the proposed design. He stated that the fence was to be 4'6" high, and would be constructed from stainless steel with a brushed finish. The parts would be bolted together.

Phase two of the proposed design will include two nine foot high towers and a pedestrian gate at the end of the fence closest to the church. Mr. Manka described the towers, which would be used to display theatre memorabilia, as "reliquaries", which would also pay tribute to the previous use of the structure.

Commission member William Mason called the design a "refreshing approach", noting the three dimensional nature of the design. I agree - so often, fences erected in historic districts are designed to look something like wrought iron - it's nice to see something new with its own, contemporary, aesthetic merits. While I wouldn't rip out a historic wrought iron fence to install this, I think that it fits the situation and the need quite well.

The CLC voted unanimously in favor of the first phase of the design.

3102-04 Franklin Boulevard - Demolition
This item was removed from the agenda.

The owner of the house had previously applied to the CLC to demolish the building, in the Ohio City historic district, so that he might erect a new three unit structure on the site. It was addressed in their meetings on August 9, 2007 and October 23, 2008. In addition to the exterior photographs of the structure, the 2007 agenda includes a rendering by Tim Barrett as to how the structure might appear when restored.

At the time, the CLC had done a site visit. Inside, while one half of the structure was in poor condition, the other half was found to be quite good and nicely habitable as-is. They denied the demolition request.

The request was removed from the agenda for yesterday's meeting because the owner of the structure hadn't presented a new plan, but had instead just resubmitted the one that the CLC had previously voted against.

St. Ignatius High School - 1911 West 30th Street - Entrance renovation
This item involved the replacement of two pairs of doors on the south entrance to the main building of St. Ingatius High School. The existing doors are metal replacements, which were installed in 1971. They have become deteriorated and need to be replaced.

They want to replace each of the two pairs with a single door, which will be easier for the students to get in and out of. New doors of the same dimensions would require a variance, as the Ohio Building Code now requires a mimimum clear width of 32 inches.

Two designs were proposed, one in wood and one in aluminum. The school's biggest concern with the wood doors was the cost - it was expected to be about $9,000 just to make the doors, before finishing them, hardware, closers, and installation. Further, they are concerned about durability and long-term maintenance costs. It's worth noting that most of the rest of the major exterior doors near the location of this pair are aluminum replacements.

The school has been unable to locate any documentation of the original doors. As a result, they're not trying to make exact reproductions. The design of the wood doors appears, to my eyes, historically sympathetic.

The CLC's biggest problem, it seemed, with the aluminum doors was the lack of a clear illustration of what was to be installed. Several designs of the general type of door in question were shared, but none of the exact design.

The commission voted 4-3 to approve the wood doors only. The understand was made that it would be possible to get back on the agenda at one of the two next meetings, once the exact cost of the doors had been determined and they had exact designs for the metal doors.

4832 Lorain Avenue - Demolition
The city is seeking to demolish this stick style structure to abate the nuisance that it causes to public safety.

It was condemned in 2007. At the the owner applied to demolish the building. The demolition request was denied because he failed to show up at the requisite Landmarks Commission meeting. There do not appear to have been any physical changes to the structure since that time.

The biggest issue with the structure, according to the city, is physical stability. While it is flush with the adjoining building at ground level, there is about a 1 foot gap between the two at the top.

Photos presented by the city, from 2007, when the structure was condemned, show a space full of debris. Further, the basement was said to be full of tires, making this a fire hazard. This was said to be especially concerning because of the presence of Urban Community School immediately across the street.

The primary problem the members of the CLC seemed to have with Housing's arguments were the simple lack of data. The members wanted to see evidence of the structural problems, and housing seemed unwilling to provide it - when asked for a structal report, the response was that "that is not our standard." A site visit by the commission seemed impossible without the permission of the owner. The commission appeared further concerned by the lack of any recent information to indicate whether the physical condition of the structure had changed.

Commission member Michael McBride asked why, if the city is going to spend $10,000 to $15,000 to demolish this structure, should we not instead consider spending the same amount to abate the nuisance? Unfortunately, there isn't a mechanism in place to do this. I believe it is something that we need to seriously consider.

The CLC voted unanimously to deny the request for demolition, with the understanding that with a site visit, this issue could be revisited soon.

4717 Clinton Avenue - Renovation
This house, in a historic district, was purchased by Scott Francis, a resident of the area, who wanted to fix it up and resell it. Images illustrating the residence are in the first group included in the meeting agenda.

The house, built c. 1860, has had many significant changes over the years, the most obvious being the addition of a two story porch on the front of the house. The windows have been replaced, and the exterior has been covered with vinyl siding.

As originally proposed, Mr. Francis wanted to remove the existing front door, and replace it with one that was wider, and similar in style to the one on the new house immediately to the east. He had already purchased a replacement door. He wanted to remove the side porch and convert the door there to a window. He said that this was because the presence of two doors facing the street would cause confusion as to which was the front. He further indicated that he had seen homeless people sleeping on the porch, and that it was a safety concern. Mr. Francis had also already purchased 6 over 6 double hung replacement windows for the entire house.

Mr. Francis also indicated that he wanted to replace the existing porch with one more keeping with the "historic" one. (Note: I say historic in quotes because the porch, while old, is most certainly not original to the house. When the house was built, there would not have been a front porch. While the exact date of the construction of the porch is unclear, we can can be certain that it was between 1912 and 1953. It isn't shown on the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance map, and it is present in the 1953 photo included with the agenda.)

Further, Mr. Francis indicated that he wanted to remove the plastic picket fence and replace it with something more appropriate looking. Finally, he said that he wanted to remove the vinyl siding and repaint the wood, if possible. If he found the wood siding was beyond repair, he would replace it with Hardieboard.

His argument for these changes was that this was already an eclectic neighborhood, and his changes wouldn't be changing the feel of it. Further, fixing up the house would make the block look better.

Commission member Thomas Coffey said that he was not persuaded that the eclectic character of the neighborhood should cause him to ignore the Secretary of the Interior's standards. There isn't any justification for changing the door and side porch, he said. These are the few historic features left. Years from now, he said, people will ask "Where was the Landmarks Commission when people were changing this stuff?"

Francis indicated that the rear wing is later than the main structure of the house, and therefore less historically significant. Ed. note: It was quite common to build a smaller rear wing in this style, sometimes even at the same time as the rest of the house was built. While the exact date of its construction is unclear, it is definitely before 1881, as it is illustrated in the City Atlas of Cleveland, Ohio, which was published that year.

Roger Scheve, a resident of the neighborhood, spoke in support of the proposed renovation. I spoke against it. There were five letter provided in support, though Mr. Coffey wanted to note that these were form letters. Two letters were presented against the plan.

Mr. Francis said that he had contacted the Cleveland Restoration Society for advice and that they had provided some assistance with choosing historically appropriate exterior colors.

Edward Reich, the City Planning representative to the commission, said that for him, the two front porches are a non-starter. He stated that the side wing belonged there, and that he could not support the proposal.

Commission member William Mason noted that the side of the house has greater visibility from the street here than it might elsewhere, and thus deserves more consideration.

Mr. Francis agreed to obtain 1 over 1 windows, the style that would have been present originally, for the front of the house. The 6 over 6 ones he purchased will be used on the other three sides. He further agreed to obtain a front door with a transom of the same proportions as the original.

The Landmarks Commission, voted on the plan, with the changes noted immediately above. This includes the removal of the side porch and the conversion of the door there to a window. It also includes the rebuilding of the front porch and the replacement of the plastic picket fence.

All of the commission members voted in favor of the plan, with the exception of Mr. Reich, who voted against it.

The next Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting will be held on Thursday, May 13, at 9:00 am at the Cleveland City Hall. The agenda will probably be available on Tuesday, May 11th.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

The Spencer Warner residence

Spencer Warner residence

The Spencer Warner residence is a stone house located at 4678 Warner Road, in Garfield Heights, Ohio. It is also sometimes referred to as the Ceo house, after the family that occupied it for much of the 20th century. A wing attached to the residence houses Ceo's Bar. One also sees it referred to as the Darius Warner homestead, which will be addressed later.

Spencer Warner was born in Connecticut, in 1793 (U.S. Census, 1850 and 1860) or 1797 (grave marker, Harvard Grove Cemetery). He married Sarah J. Collver (Culver? Cullver? Clover?), presumably before 1831 (the date of the birth of their first child ((1850 U.S. Census)). Collver was born in 1801 in Canada.

Spencer Warner purchased all of original lot 479, from Caleb Goodwin, Levi Goodwin, and Ward Woodbridge, executors of the estate of Horace B. Olmstead, of Hartford, Connecticut on April 17, 1820 for $400. This land, 134 acres, was on a route that was already one of the major roads through the area. (AFN 182603220001) The road, now known as Warner Road, is illustrated clearly, heading south southwest from Newburgh in the 1826 Map of the Western Reserve. Today, the approximate boundaries of this original purchase would include as the north boundary, Grand Division Avenue, the west boundary, the portion of Warner Road that runs due north-south, the south boundary, a line equal with the southern ends of East 84th and 85th Streets, and on the east with East 84th Street. This location would have been idea for a business, situated at a prominent spot between Newburgh village and the Cuyahoga River.

In 1834 the Warners purchased an additional 47 acres from William Archer and his wife, the western part of original lot 480. (AFN 183404050001) This expanded eastward their holdings to a line approximately equal with East 86th Street.

This map, from the 1898 Atlas of the Suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, used courtesy of Cleveland Public Library, illustrates the land originally owned by Spencer Warner. His holdings included everything except the land owned by the National Chemical Company, which I left in to show the proximity of the property to Mill Creek. The gray building at the top is the house. One may note various outbuildings surrounding it.

The Warners had four children: Norman S. (born 1831); Marian J.(born 1833); Lydia Ann (born 1840); and John M. (born 1841).

Some have suggested that this grand house, well cited on a major road, was likely a tavern or inn. While this hypothesis sounds quite reasonable, I've been unable to locate any evidence supporting it. The 1850 U.S. Census lists Spencer Warner's occupation as a farmer. Norman Warner was working as a cooper at the time, while still residing on the Warner homestead.

It seems reasonable that the Warners were, indeed, farmers, as the Census indicates, and rather prosperous ones at that. The 1856 Reports Made to the General Assembly and Governor of the State of Ohio page 524 states that Spencer Warner sold 20 bushels of apples to the Newburgh Lunatic Asylum, for a sum of $10. The 1859 issue of the same title indicates that he was paid $0.45 for 3 dozen eggs (page 171, $0.18 for 1 dozen eggs (page 175), $8.10 for 81 pounds of sausage meat (page 180), $0.75 for five dozen eggs (page 198), $15.15 for 151 1/2 pounds of ham and $10.55 for 52 3/4 pounds of butter (page 199), and $3.60 for 120 bundles of oat straw and $10.50 for 300 bundles of wheat straw (page 254). This land would have made an excellent farm, with ready transportation to market, either locally, in Newburgh, or via the Ohio and Erie Canal. The slope of the land was gradual, and the streams would have provided sufficient water for animals.

By 1860, Norman had moved out of the house. Lydia was listed as being a student, which was unusual, given her age and the time. Presumably, this would have been in an institution of higher education, perhaps Oberlin College.

By this date, Miriam had married James Walker, a Scottish stonecutter, born in 1828. They had already had one child, John. They would remain in the Warner residence for several decades. There are several other individuals with professions relating to stone quarries listed on adjacent pages of the 1860 U.S. Census. It seems likely that Walker came to the area because of the availability of work in the quarries.

Sarah J. Warner died on July 24, 1864. She was buried in Harvard Grove Cemetery. (Grave marker) Spencer Warner died two years later, on April 23, 1866. He was buried in an adjacent grave in Harvard Grove Cemetery. (Cleveland Necrology File)

Spencer Warner residence

As of 1870, Lydia Warner remained in the house built by her parents, as did James and Miriam Walker. John M. Warner had moved out by this date. The Walkers had had two more children, Maggie (born 1862) and Ulysses (born 1865). The farm remained prosperous. The Census lists two additional residents: James Bingham, a farm laborer from Ireland and Sophia Gardner, a domestic servant from Baden, Germany.

James Walker died January 24, 1897. He was buried in Harvard Grove Cemetery. (Cleveland Necrology File) Miriam died on November 4, 1905. A funeral was held on Monday, November 6, at Miles Park Presbyterian Church.

Lydia Warner died July 12, 1906, at the Cleveland State Hospital. (Cleveland Necrology File) She was buried in Harvard Grove Cemetery.

There's just one problem with this - another source disagrees. In The Darius Warner Homestead, a chapter in Recollections: A Collection of Histories and Memories of Garfield Heights (Garfield Heights Historical Society, 2003), Dan Ostrowski presents a different picture. Mr. Ostrowski used early tax records, which show, as of 1816, that as of 1816, 100 acre lots 471 and 479 were owned by William Stockwell, a non-resident. He states that Darius Warner, Jr., his wife Delilah, and their five children, Spencer, Lydia, Sarah, Miriam, and Norman all came to Newburgh Towship from New York and were residents of the aforementioned land as of 1818. The back taxes were abated, and the taxes for that year were $1.82. In 1820, the taxes jumped to $3.185. Mr. Ostrowski suspected that this was because of the construction of the house that year.

He also indicates that the stone for the Warner residence was likely quarried from the area near Mill Creek Falls.

I had hoped to contact Mr. Ostrowski to clarify some of these items, but learned when I tried to do so that he died in 2005. Norm Braun, historian at the Garfield Heights Historical Society, informed me that the information for the entry was based primarily on the tax record duplicates, located in the Cuyahoga County Archives. I have not had the time to get to these records to verify the information.

I have not been able to find any property transfers involving Darius Warner or anyone with a similar name through the 1840s. I feel reasonably confident in the document cited above detailing the transfer of original lot 479 to Spencer Warner (AFN 182603220001). There are several property transfers in the next two decades that give me reasonable confidence that Spencer Warner was living in Newburgh Township at the time. (AFNs: 183205220001; 183302120002; 183302250001; 183310110001; 183401310002; 183404050001; 183706200003; 183711030003; 183711300006)

The first U.S. Census record that I have for Spencer Warner is in 1830. There is one other person in his household - most likely Sarah Warner.

The 1820 U.S. Census does list a Darius Warner in Newburgh Township. There was one other person living with him, presumably his spouse. It also lists a Darius Warner, Jr., with two other members in the household - a wife a child. The 1830 Census also lists a Darius Warner in Newburgh Township and one in Beford Township.

A grave marker for Darius Warner, in Harvard Grove Cemetery, indicates that he died on June 24, 1842, at the age of 72 years. Further, it is noted that he was father of Darius Jr., Lydia, and Esther. I have not been able to find any records of Darius Warner, Jr.'s death. The dates given for his life, however, do not coincide with those that would be reasonable to expect him to be the father of Spencer Warner.

I haven't been able to determine the exact familial connection between Darius and Spencer Warner. It's obvious that there is one - they share a common burial plot at Harvard Grove Cemetery, and they were living in the same area at the same time.

I also disagree with Mr. Ostrowski's assertion that the stone was quarried from the area near Mill Creek Falls, a distance of almost 3/4 of a mile away. As Roy Larick indicates in this Bluestone Heights article, early stone structures were usually built because stone was readily available in the area. It seems more likely to have come from the outcrop just to the west.

Spencer Warner residence

Adam Reiber and his family used the property as a residence in the 1890s, according to Ben Ostrowski's article. They are pictured here, c. 1895, in this photo, used courtesy of the Garfield Heights Historical Society. The image is reproduced from Recollections: A Collection of Histories and Memories of Garfield Heights. Adam Reiber is on the right, with a child in his arms.

It seems that they rented the house, as I cannot find any record of the transfer of the property to them.

The house was purchased in 1915 by Antonio and Pasqua Ceo, who operated it as a cafe and bar for many years. Pasqua and Antonio Ceo used the house as their personal residence as well, until their deaths in 1939 and 1958, respectively. (Cleveland Necrology File) It remained in their family until 2006 (AFN: 200602230712).

Spencer Warner residence
The Spencer Warner residence in 1896. Image used courtesy of the Garfield Heights Historical Society. Published in Recollections: A Collection of Histories and Memories of Garfield Heights

What do we know about the house itself? It has a different feel from the other pre-1860 stone buildings that I have written about: the Edwards and Honam houses; the Preyer house; and the Luster Tannery. It feels, to my eyes, like something with more of a Pennyslvania influence to the construction.

Spencer Warner residence

The basic form of the house has remained the same over time. A stone ell that went off to the side, parallel to the road, pictured in the historic photo above, was removed sometime between 1915 and 1950. During the same period, the second floor window was turned into a door and the porch added. A second chimney, shown in the historic photos, was also removed at some point.

While many of the windows are replacements, they are of the same form, six over six, as the originals. Shutters, now lost, covered them historically.

Doorway from the Isaac Gillet House by Jonathan Goldsmith

The original front doorway bears a slight resemblence to that of the Isaac Gillet House, built c. 1821 by Jonathan Goldsmith. Remove the transom and outer columns, replace the leaded glass with standard panes, and you have something that looks very close to the doorway illustrated in the historic photo.

Warner residence (detail)

How old is the house? It's hard to be sure. I've looked and looked for some concrete evidence, but have been unable to locate any. We know that the house was built between 1820 and 1860. Further, we know that Warner was living on this site - we just don't know whether it was in this structure or in an earlier house that this one replaced. A house of this size and quality represents a significant investment of labor and time. Would a farmer in his position have either when dealing with what was likely forested, untilled land?

The quality of the stonework, shown above and in this photo, is more refined than in the Honam, Edwards, or Preyer residences. The tool marks, however, are rougher, suggesting earlier and more primitive instruments used in the quarrying.

The pitch of the roof is closest to the Honam residence, suggesting an earlier date of construction. The style overall would lead me in that direction as well. As for an exact age, alas, I don't have much evidence. We can say that it appears earlier than many of the buildings discussed previously.

This is an interesting and historically significant structure. It represents the efforts of an early farmer to make a place for himself within his community. The house, on a prominent transportation route, represents the collision of an agricultural society with an early industrial one.

I noticed a "For Sale" sign in the window. I hope, when it sells, that the new owner continues to give this landmark the care it deserves.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Fort Huntington

Fort Huntington Park

Have you ever driven past this park on Lakeside Avenue in downtown Cleveland, between Ontario and West 3rd Street?

Oliver Hazard Perry memorial

You probably noticed this statue, erected to the memory of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry and the role he played in the defense of the United States in the Battle of Lake Erie, during the War of 1812. A brief inscription on the reverse describes his accomplishment. This is not just another statue in a city park - this site is significant.

Fort Huntington historical marker

Near the Perry statue is a historical marker, identifying this land as part of Fort Huntington. The text reads:

Near this site Fort Huntington was erected by Captain Stanton Sholes' Company May, 1813.

On June 19, 1813, a part of the British fleet appeared off the fort but was drived away by a storm and no attack was made. General William Henry Harrison and the staff inspected the fort July, 1813.

Erected by the National Society United States Daughters of 1812, Commodore Perry Chapter, Cleveland, Ohio.

Marked on the 125th anniversary of the founding of Cleveland, A.D. 1921. Hon. W.S. Fitzgerald, mayor.

War of 1812 cannon

A canon captured from the British fleet during the Battle of Lake Erie has been placed nearby.

Oliver Hazard Perry memorial

The cannon is accompanied by this stone marker, installed in 2002 by the Early Settlers Association of the Western Reserve, describing its history and the significance of the Battle of Lake Erie and the War of 1812.

Another marker, erected on the Navy Bicentennial, in 1975, also commemorates the Battle of Lake Erie. Nearby stands a statue of Jesse Owens. The park also contains a memorial to the Cleveland Peace Officers who died in the line of duty.

So while this park may seem like just another city park, filled with monuments to various persons and groups, it is more than that. It is the site of Fort Huntington, a garrison built to defend this settlement from foreign invasion.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Vintage Cookbook Review: Plum Good

Please welcome our newest contributor, Camilla Grigsby. Ms. Grigsby will periodically review vintage Cleveland cookbooks.

You can tell a lot about the character of a community by the foods its people eat. And that's especially true when you thumb through the pages of a spiral-bound cookbook published by a church, neighbors in a small town, or the PTA of an elementary school. You can tell whether you're reading about working-class families, people with strong ethnic heritages, or housewives who actually do their own cooking. And depending on the era in which the cookbook was published, you get some idea of what kinds of foods were in vogue at the time. For instance, look at cookbooks from the 50s and 60s and take note of how many of the recipes involve gelatin. These little books are always good cultural relics, so it's nice to find them at used book shops, yard sales, and in your mom's cookbook collection.

In 1982, the Christ Child Society of Cleveland published Plum Good: A Collection of Recipes. I couldn't find much information on this charitable organization, but it seems they offered assistance to kids in the Cleveland area in the form of day camps, day care centers, and food, clothing and layette drives. Their fundraising cookbook capitalized on the popularity (or campiness?) of the city's Cleveland's a Plum campaign.

Like any other spiral-bound cookbook, Plum Good includes sections on basic categories of recipes, including Appetizers, Salads, Entrees (with a special sub-chapter on Quiches – how very early 80s), and Desserts, among others. Most of the recipes are compiled from Christ Child Society members and volunteers.

Two recipes in particular stand out as very apropos of Plum Good's era and geographic milieu: Better Than Robert Redford Cake, and Drunken Wieners. The wieners are an appetizer, and the recipe calls for catsup (note the spelling), brown sugar, cocktail wieners, and “2 cups bourbon (inexpensive type).” Because God forbid you'd spring for Maker's. (Note: I grew up in Kentucky, where anything less than Maker's is pure sacrilege). The Robert Redford cake (excuse me, it's better than Robert Redford – can you imagine any such thing in 1982?) calls for oleo, Royal Chocolate and butterscotch pudding mixes, and Cool Whip.

There are a few special sections of note following the general recipes. There's a section called “Cleveland Continental” that includes menus and recipes for meals representing many of the ethnic groups of Cleveland: Armenia, China, Hungary, Italy, and more. And there's a section called “Great Gifts” which includes recipes for candies, “Can-A-Loaf” (where you bake quick breads in various sizes of cans: coffee, shortening, tuna), and potpourri. All appropriate choices for homemade holiday gifts.

The diet section, “No” Thyself, is amusing, focusing on the “No” Thyself Diet, which seems to revolve around eating a lot of cottage cheese. The recipe for Cheese Danish, for instance, calls for lowfat cottage cheese, cinnamon and sugar substitute, canned pineapple and toast. Sounds...slenderizing.

Plum Good's true gem is its “Celebrities” section which includes recipes from Bob Hope, Howard Metzenbaum, Pauline Trigere, Phil Donahue, Mrs. John Glenn, Jan Voinovich, Fred Griffith and Dick Feagler, among many, many others. It seems the editors of the cookbook sent out requests for the various celebrities' favorite recipes and received quite a response, and most of the replies are reprinted here on their original letterhead. There's a recipe for Shirley Metzenbaum's pickles, Annie Glen's Ham Loaf, and John Lanigan's chili.

Tim Conway's is probably the best, typed on letterhead from his secretary:

“I once asked Tim about his favorite recipe, and to quote him it's this: TIM CONWAY'S RECIPE FOR STEAK AND POTATOS [sic] – take a steak and a potato, cook them, and when ready serve and eat. Now that's about the shortest recipe in history.”

The book is peppered with pictures of various Cleveland landmarks – the art museum, the West Side Market, the statute of Moses Cleaveland from Public Square along with interesting tidbits of trivia. For instance, did you know that the Flats was considered by Margaret Bourke-White to be a “photographic paradise”?

And lest you think the Plum Good cookbook wasn't written with at least a bit of someone's tongue in cheek, check out the various plum (and prune) recipes included. Almost every section has at least one. They include:

  • Teriyaki Plum Appetizers
  • Fresh Plum Daiquiri
  • Plum Nut Bread
  • Plum Kuchen
  • Fresh Plum Muffins
  • Shaker Plum Coffee Cake
  • Plum Good Spareribs
  • Sweet Sour Plum Salad & Dressing
  • Czech Plum Dumplings
  • Plums 'N Port
  • Chocolate-Almond Prunes
  • Majestic Plum Pudding
  • “I Can't Believe It's a Plum Bread in a Can"

While some of the recipes in this 1982 cookbook are a bit passé by now, the sentiments expressed in Plum Good's introductory salute to Greater Cleveland are echoed by many of the city's biggest cheerleaders today:

“A waterfront metropolis with a heartbeat of almost two million people...a melting pot of talent and human resources from every land...renowned for its universities, hospitals, museums, theatres, concert halls and recreation facilities.

Cleveland is a dowager who treasures her memories of yesterday, nurtures her ideals of today and endows her heirs of tomorrow. Our city extends untold largesse to those who are disadvantaged through the dedicated efforts of those who care.”

Camilla Grigsby earned her MLIS from Kent State University in 2006. She collects cookbooks, particularly weird ones, and enjoys partaking of Cleveland's diverse culinary heritage. Camilla lives in a Cleveland Heights Colonial and would like to sell it to you, cheap.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Another one bites the dust

2200 East 69th Street, Cleveland - Condemned

I stopped to photograph this house last April when I saw the "condemned" notice attached near the front door. It's located at 2200 East 69th Street, in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. I haven't been by there in a little while, so I'm not clear as to whether this one has actually been demolished yet.

The house retains most of the original features. Note the windows on the front of the house with the rounded top, and the stained glass one on the side, probably on the stairs to the second floor.

2200 East 69th Street, Cleveland - Condemned

There's a nice bit of detail in the porch. The proportions of the house as a whole are just right. Doesn't it just seem so comfortable on the lot, when seen from this angle, like it really ought to stay here?

2200 East 69th Street, Cleveland - Condemned

We should be thinking about fixing up houses like this, too. Well proportioned structures with good bones that are relatively unaltered - these are the buildings that make up our neighborhoods - they're the ones that we need to protect.

Should this one have been saved? I don't know.

It's easier to renovate a structure like this than some of the grand places we've argued for. The lack of complicated interior detail makes for easier work and provides more freedom - it's not just a lovely space that reflects only the styles of the architect, builder, or original owner. It's important to preserve houses with incredibly complex original detail, of course, but that's not for everyone. Some of us just need a house with good proporions and good history that we can work on and make into our home.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Raymond Johnson Chapman

Raymond Johnson Chapman grave marker

With the start of the baseball season, we remember Raymond Johnson Chapman (January 15, 1891 - August 17, 1920), the last professional baseball player to be killed by a pitched ball. The ball was thrown by Carl Mays, of the New York Yankees, at the New York Polo Grounds.

His funeral was at St. John Cathedral. He is buried in Lake View Cemetery.

Raymond J. "Chappie" Chapman historical marker

This historical marker, erected by the Lake View Cemetery Association, commemorates his life.

The Pitch that Killed by Mike Sowell documents the story behind this tragedy.

Lake View Cemetery is located between Euclid and Mayfield Roads in Cleveland. Access to the grounds may be made from either road. The mailing address is 12316 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Erie Street Cemetery

Erie Street Cemetery, Cleveland

I love Erie Street Cemetery. It's a beautiful little bit of greenspace in the middle of downtown Cleveland. It is located between East 9th and East 14th Streets.

The cemetery was founded in 1826 as the first permanent burying ground. It replaced a site just south of Public Square - Ontario Street Cemetery.

Graves moved from Ontario Street Cemetery

Several graves were moved here in 1826 from Ontario Street Cemetery. A historical marker, erected by the Early Settlers Association, identifies the graves that were moved. The stones have been placed flat on the ground.

Grave moved from Ontario Street Cemetery

One of the graves moved from the Ontario Street Cemetery is that of Deming Brainerd. Two other are William Prout and Amy Lewis. Another marker identifies the burial site of others, unknown, moved here from the Ontario Street Cemetery.

Burial site of Joc-O-Sot

The burial site of Joc-O-Sot, or Walking Bear is marked with this stone, which has a plaque on the reverse side.

Chief Joc-O-Sot gravestone

That marker was made to replace this, the original grave marker, which fell victim to vandalism. It lists the date of his death incorrectly. The correct date is September 3, 1844.

Graves of Lorenzo and Rebecca Carter

The cemetery contains the graves of Lorenzo and Rebecca Carter, the first permenant European Amercian settlers to the city of Cleveland. The Early Settlers Association erected a marker commemorating their lives.

Erie Street Cemetery, Cleveland

The Erie Street Cemetery is a vital piece of Cleveland history. It remains the earliest surviving piece of historical fabric in downtown Cleveland. At the same time, it is a nice place to take a lunch break or spend a few minutes before a baseball game.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting April 8, 2010

This is the first of what will be many articles reporting on the proceedings of the Cleveland Landmarks Commission meetings.

The commission met at at 9:00 am today in room 514 of the Cleveland city hall. The following items were addressed:

Ohio Savings Bank - 1866 West 25th Street - sign
Ohio Savings Bank (formerly AmTrust Bank, and before that Ohio Savings Bank) needed to change their neon sign to reflect the new name. The existing neon sign was installed relatively recently - within the past 10 years. The matter was before the commission because the building is located in a historic district.

At their last meeting, the commission presented their concerns regarding the proposed new sign. The representative from the sign company took the concerns back to his client, who agreed to the changes.

This image illustrates the changes to the sign. The neon letters will be removed and replaced with backlit letters. The metal frame and other neon will be retained. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the sign as proposed, with the exception of Thomas Coffey, who had to abstain due to a business relationship involving his firm.

Henry C. Holt House / Holowchak Funeral Home / Ukrainian Museum-Archives - 1208 Kenilworth Avenue - Demolition
We've covered this house, one of six left standing in the city designed by Charles Schweinfurth, and its proposed demolition in considerable detail. The Ukrainian Musuem-Archives owns the building and wants to use the space for surface parking and eventual expansion. We described the history of the house and its residents and what it might have looked like. We were able to document another house in the neighborhood, also designed by Schweinfurth, the Richard T. Coleman residence. On the basis of the interior of the Coleman residence, which was built at about the same pricepoint, at about the same time, I had high hopes for the potential that might be present in the house.

Some of the members of the commission visited recently visited this house and discussed what they saw at the meeting. The meeting agenda includes photographs of the interior. Note that the first few photographs, labeled "1202 Kenilworth" are of the building next door that currently houses the Ukrainian Museum-Archives.

Very little original detail was still present, especially when compared with the Coleman residence. Further, the physical structure of the house had been severely modified. All of the original windows have been removed, the grand staircase had been removed, and it had lost much of what made it an interesting house.

I expressed my concern regarding the precedent that turning this space into surface parking would set. The committee tended to agree. They had previously said that they would want the start of the parking lot to be even with the setback line, and that they would want additional screening to help keep the visual character of the block.

The staff of the commission reluctantly recommented the demolition, pending documentation of the sturcture and a salvage plan. The commission voted unanimously to allow the demolition of the structure, with the provision that the above conditions were met.

1723 West 32nd Street - Renovation
The house in question is a property in the Ohio City historic district. It was condemned as the result of damage from a fire in the house next door, which burned to the ground, claiming four lives.

The present owners bought the house, built in the 1880s or 1890s, with the intent of making it into a single-family home again. They also plan to make the house much more energy-efficient, with additional insulation that will expand the exterior dimensions of the house by two inches in all directions. The windows will be replaced with triple-glazed models which will be fitted into new jambs.

Though my opinions of replacement windows are well known, I have to say that I am quite pleased with the quality of the product they have chosen and their overall vision for this project. I look forward to seeing how this house turns out, and hope, if possible, to document some parts of it as an example of the right way to do energy-efficient retrofits to a house of this age. I applaud the owners of this project for their efforts thus far, and wish them luck on this project. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the plan.

The Ukrainian Museum-Archives will have to go before the Landmarks Commission before they proceed on the parking lot and landscaping. They expect to do this in the next month or two.

ABC Bail Bonds - 1280 West 3rd Street - signs
ABC Bail Bonds proposed new signage for their windows as well as a freestanding sign and one for the side of their building. The signage seems historically appropriate, and a good fit.

The commission voted unanimously to approve the signage plan.

Anytime Fitness - 11517 Clifton Boulevard - Signs
Anytime Fitness occupies the building on Clifton formerly occupied by Hollywood Video, a single story building of relatively recent construction. They had to appear before the commission because the size of the signage that they wanted to use was larger than what was allowable per code requirements.

The size of the signage as proposed seemed to fit the building well. The commission voted unanimously to approve the signage plan.

4717 Clinton Avenue - Renovation plans
This circa 1860 Greek Revival style house has been purchased by an investor who plans to rehab the property and sell it. The formal hearing for this property will be held at the commission's next meeting. Councilman Zone expressed his support for the plan at this meeting because he will be unable to attend the next one.

The plan as suggested seemed to eliminate what little historical detail was still present on this house, in favor of details that were closer to that of the turn of the century. I will be investigating this matter further and will report on it at a later date.

Franklin - West Clinton Historic District Design Review Committee
The creation of this committee was proposed. Councilman Zone spoke in favor of its members, who will be: Chris Bongorno; Bruce Buchanan; Joe Figueroa; Dave Jurca; Kevin Kantz; Cathy Marquardt; Rick Matisak; and Randall Shorr. The commission voted to approve the committee.

I know that at least one of the committe members is a reader of this blog. I wish them luck in their work serving that community.

St. Wendelin Church - 2281 Columbus Road - Landmark Nomination
The church is one of the ones that will be closing. The whole campus, built in the 1920s, was nominated for Landmark status. The commission approved the nomination, which will now go before city council.

The church is an interesting structure. We hope to report more on this complex in the future.

The next Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting will be held on Thursday, April 22, at 9:00 am at the Cleveland City Hall.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Envisioning the Henry C. Holt residence

Henry C. Holt residence

This Thursday, the Cleveland Landmarks Commission will address the proposed demolition of the Henry C. Holt residence. It is one of six extant houses in Cleveland designed by Charles Schweinfurth, the greatest architect in this city in the last quarter of the 19th century. When we look at it as it is today, it can be hard to imagine how it once appeared.

I've finally seen photographs of the interior. I'm not sure quite how to respond. Had this information been available earlier, things would have been easier for all involved parties. This post will help illustrate what this once great house looked like.

Henry C. Holt residence
From Building, June, 1884. Courtesy of Special Collections, Cleveland Public Library.

This illustration provides the best record we have of what the exterior might have looked like. Most of the details are the same as those present in this 1954 photograph.

Some have suggested that the 1954 photograph represents a more accurate deption of the house as built than the 1884 illustration. I believe otherwise. This image, while of poor quality, from the Plain Dealer, May 10, 1895, part 2, page 7, shows a couple items that have changed. It includes the second floor porch, which was gone by 1954. It also shows the porch in its original format, which was expanded, probably before 1913, as evidenced by this detail from a Sanborn Fire Insurance map. The 1896 Sanborn map confirms the original shape of the front porch.

It is worth noting that, on the sides of the house visible here, all but one of the windows appear to be of the original size and in the original location. While they are replacements, it will be much easier to return the house to the proper appearance than it might have been had the size of the window openings been altered.

The rather smooth exterior lines appear to be the result of new shingles having been installed over the existing shingles at some point in the past. The removal of these shingles will likely reveal a considerable amount of the original detail, just as is often the case when aluminum or vinyl siding is removed from a historic home. Schweinfurth's Richard T. Coleman residence illustrates this clearly.

The Richard T. Coleman residence and the Henry C. Holt residence are good subjects for comparison. The Holt residence was designed by Charles and Julius Schweinfurth in 1883, and built at a cost of $5,000. The Coleman residence was built by Charles Schweinfurth in 1889, at a cost of $6,000. The Coleman residence is a bit larger than the Holt residence, so the construction cost per square foot for the Holt residence was likely higher, and with that, the finish quality as well. By comparison, the Sylvester Everett residence, an 1883 Schweinfurth commission (now demolished), cost $200,000.

Henry C. Holt residence

As for the other side of the house, we can reasonably assume, based on proportions, that the windows on the second and third floors are in the original locations and of the orignial proportions. Removing the brick from the first floor will reveal enough information to identify the original window openings and install proper replacements there.

J.R. Owens residence front door

The illustration in Building shows, through the porch, the top half of the front door. It appears identical to the front door on the J.R. Owens residence, another house designed by Schweinfurth, at 1956 East 75th Street.

Henry C. Holt residence (detail)
Detail. Photograph dated January 14, 1954. Courtesy of the Photograph Department, Cleveland Public Library.

Another detail worth noting is the set of classically detailed windows, to the rear of the house, which surely throw a considerable amount of natural light on the ornate woodwork that encloses the stairs.

Henry C. Holt residence
Detail. Photograph dated January 14, 1954. Courtesy of the Photograph Department, Cleveland Public Library.

This image shows a couple of interesting items. The carved detail over the porch says "A.D. 1883". There's an interesting (if possibly no longer code legal) drain outlet from the second floor porch.

Henry C. Holt residence
Detail. From Building, June, 1884. Courtesy of Special Collections, Cleveland Public Library.

This floorplan can help us to make some guesses as to how the interior of the house might appear. Note that there are three fireplaces on the first floor, just as in the Coleman residence.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The front door, noted above, led into a small entryway and another door. It might well be something as impressive as this one, in the Coleman residence.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The main hall featured a grand staircase, perhaps of a style similar to the one in the Coleman residence. Alternately, it may have been similar to one that existed in Schweinfurth's own residence.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The main hall included a fireplace situated in a corner, likely similar in finish quality to this one. From the main hall, one might have passed through pocket doors to the parlor.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The fireplace in the parlor stuck out from the wall, like this one in the Coleman residence. From there, one might enter the library. It's difficult to know how it might have appeared. It could have been similar to the one in Schweinfurth's own residnece.

The dining room also featured a fireplace, situated in the corner.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

Between the dining room and the kitchen was a pantry. It was likely similar in design to this one, in the Coleman residence. Note that if it was being consistent with the rest of the house, the woodwork would have been unpainted.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The kitchen was likely relatively simple. It would have probably featured panelling similar to that in the Coleman residence. I use this picture of the bathroom from the Coleman residence because the kitchen in that house featured the same panelling, but in the bathroom, it remained unpainted.

The Second Floor

Photograph by Keri Zipay

It's hard to know the features of the second floor or how it might have been configured. One can safely assume that there may have been a couple fireplaces, as in the Coleman residence. It's also safe to assume that it featured some sort of built-in cabinetry, as shown here.

Photograph by Keri Zipay

The finish quality of the bedrooms was likely similar to that shown here, though the style could have been different. There would have been a bathroom, of course, probably similar to that on the first floor of the Coleman residence.

Some of the houses of this vintage feature a partially finished third floor, for servants. It's unclear what the state of this one was.

If you are interested in the people who lived and worked in this house and how they shaped the community, you might want to take a look at my post on that subject. It provides a broader perspective as to the significance and importance of this structure.

I don't know what to say at this point. All that made this house grand is gone. That said, a parking lot would not be a fitting tribute.

I hope that you are able to make it to the Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting this Thursday, at Cleveland City Hall, at 9:00 am. Your presence will help the argument for the preservation of this house. If you cannot attend, consider sending an email to Landmarks Commission secretary Robert Keiser, expressing your feelings on the matter.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Historic photos of your house!

House on Kenmore Road - demolished

In the 1950s, the precedessors to the Cuyahoga County Auditor went through the county and photographed every single house, for tax valuation purposes. These photographs, about 1.5" x 2.25", were glued onto cards that described the size of the property, its amenities, and condition. At some point, these cards were transferred to the Cuyahoga County Archives, on Franlin Avenue, in Ohio City.

Not every card is present. Some are missing, and on some, the photographs have fallen off. Still, they are a valuable record of the built environment of this area.

8706 Harkness Road, Cleveland, Ohio - standing

A few months back, I went to the County Archives to research my own house. While I was there, I started looking through the photographs of the Hough area, where I work. I put my camera on a tripod, used a piece of cardboard to line up the photographs so that I didn't have to keep looking through the viewfinder, and started photographing them. In the space of two and a half hours, I was able to photograph about 330 of them. This is the result.

The photographs were grainy to begin with. A six megapixel digital camera captures virtually all of the information present in the original photograph. A little bit of post-processing, and they're ready to share.

If you do make it down to the Archives, it's worth taking the time to look at your neighbor's houses, too. The property cards are in order of parcel number, so you should verify your neighbor's parcel numbers beforehand - they aren't necessarily numbered sequentially with yours.


As an example, take this, the house that Langston Hughes lived in during his sophomore and junior years of high school, from 1917 to 1919. It is located at 2266 East 86th Street, in the Fairfax neighborhood of Cleveland. It has recently been nominated as a Cleveland Landmark. The Fairfax Renaissance Development Corp. is in the process of rehabilitating it.

119-30-065 119-29-041

Now look at the photos of the houses of his neighbors, to the south and north, respectively. These photographs reveal parts of the Langston Hughes house not shown in the photo for 2266 East 86th Street.


Each photograph includes someone holding a sign that displays the parcel number of the house in question, as shown here, at 1621 Holyrood Road. This is quite helpful. It makes it possible to just digitize the photographs, without having to record the caption information. It's also quite helpful when photographs have become unglued from the property cards - it makes it possible to figure out which card they ought to be reattached to.

These images can be especially useful in the cases like this house, where exterior modifications have been significant. They are also quite useful in a neighborhood like Hough, where at least half the houses present in the mid-1950s have been demolished. These photographs can help paint a picture of the neighborhood as it was. You can use a set of photographs to document what a whole block used to look like.

The following are a few of my favorites:

1627 Holyrood Avenue - Built in 1900 for Harold Randolph - standing

9214 Edmunds Avenue - demolished. The house appears to have been built in the 1870s, at 1861 East 90th Street. It was moved to this site in 1909. An apartment building was built at the location on East 90th Street shortly after.

1618 Ansel Road - standing. The house was built in 1892 for George Richardson, a local real estate developer. It was sold soon after to Elah French, who lived in it with his wife Adelaide.

Parcel 107-21-061 - demolished. A nice, little Greek Revival farmhouse.

I would love to see more of these photographs digitized. There's no way any individual could possibly do this. However, if we were to each photograph some, we could eventually achieve this goal.