Friday, May 13, 2016

"Fortunes & Misfortunes": The Estates of Hunting Valley

On Saturday, April 23 and Sunday, April 24, two sold out crowds of over 250 people gathered in the Ship Room at Roundwood Manor to hear Dan Ruminski, Cleveland's Storyteller, share the history of the Van Sweringen brothers, their move to Hunting Valley and the tale of historic Roundwood Manor around which the Daisy Hill subdivision was built. After Dan's fascinating and informative lecture, tours of the home were given. This was a wonderfully successful event for those attending as demand for tickets far exceeded availability. Proceeds benefited the Hunting Valley and Gates Mills Historical Societies and the Cleveland Restoration Society.

"Commentary: Downsizing fits city, not village"

     If it were up to Charles Dickens, this could be a tale of two well-to-do cities, except that one is a village. The city, Pepper Pike, population 6,149 and median household income $143,438, is one of the wealthiest communities in Ohio. Its next-door neighbor, the village of Hunting Valley, population 713 and median household income $250,000-plus, is one of the most affluent places to live in the United States.     

     Pepper Pike is on the verge of welcoming two townhouse developments that would revitalize an older neighborhood on the northern edge of the city near the border of Mayfield Heights. Hunting Valley doesn't appear to be ready for a quite different multifamily housing proposal that could preserve while renewing one of the area's most notable historic estates.     

     Enabled by the foresighted establishment of a townhouse district along Cedar Road in 2003, developer Jason Friedman has proposed a 40-unit complex of duplexes on eight acres just east of Brainard Road. He envisions homes ranging in size from 1,900 to 2,500 square feet and in price from $350,000 to $500,000. This proposal follows one led by the Orlean Co. that would feature 42 condominiums about a half mile farther east.     

     Mayor Richard Bain expressed support for both projects, saying they are evidence that "Pepper Pike remains a premiere location for high-end home construction."     

     Speaking of high-end housing, though, few can compare to the 55,000-square-foot Roundwood Manor mansion that has been on the market since 2002 in Hunting Valley's prestigious Daisy Hills subdivision. Situated on about 7.7 acres, the mansion was even larger at 90,000 square feet when it was transformed in 1928 from a barn by the famed Van Sweringen brothers.     

     Owner Sylvia Korey, who has lowered the asking price from $7.5 million to $4.5 million but still sees little prospect of finding a single buyer for the iconic home, is advancing a new concept of converting it into seven condominium units. There is some precedent for such solutions that have preserved other historic estates. Hunting Valley Councilman William J. O'Neill Jr. believes it would be a good fit for the village.     

     But it would need approval from the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association, and its five-member board of trustees unanimously rejected it.     

     Mr. O'Neill expressed concern that aging Hunting Valley residents do not have a place to downsize within the village that has long been their home and said Ms. Korey's proposal "is really a perfect solution."
     The new townhouses and condos in Pepper Pike "will provide a great alternative" for such residents who wish to remain in their community, Mayor Bain said.  
     But what's "a great alternative" in Pepper Pike isn't necessarily "a perfect solution" in Hunting Valley. After all, they are two different communities.

Chagrin Valley Today, 21 April 2016

"Elegance of yesteryear: Owner searching for ways to preserve Van Sweringen abode in tranquil Daisy Hill"

By Ryan Dentscheff

HUNTING VALLEY — Rich with history dating back to the early 1900s, Roundwood Manor remains largely unscathed after nearly a century atop the highest peak of the Daisy Hill subdivision.
The now 55,000-square-foot mansion on 7.69 acres of land was transformed in 1928 from a barn into a 90,000-square-foot estate by notable architects Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen who made their home there.
They designed countless houses and are best known for building the Terminal Tower in Cleveland and developing the city of Shaker Heights. While Roundwood Manor was reduced in size in the 1950s, much of the iconic Van Sweringen brothers’ architecture remains intact.
But a house that size is expensive to maintain. Annual taxes alone, according to county records, add up to nearly $60,000.
The home features a three-story sky lighted central hall, 14 bedrooms, more than a dozen bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a tennis court, indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room.
Owner Sylvia Korey lives alone in the house now that her four daughters are grown up.
She has been trying to sell the mansion since 2002.
With no buyers in sight, she also has been trying to find new life for the historic house by proposing to convert it into spacious condominiums, an idea that has so far been rebuffed.    
“It’s heritage. It’s legacy. It’s history,” Ms. Korey said. “This house is an icon. It is the history of the Van Sweringens and they are the history of Cleveland.”
Ms. Korey purchased the house in 1989 for $1.025 million and has since restored much if it back to its original grandeur, including removing cement and carpet that covered original slate floors on the ground level. She also refinished one section of the property once used just for storage and installed a new slate roof.
The original mosaic-tiled indoor pool room – which features a 60-by-25 foot swimming pool – Dickens Library, living room, wood-burning fireplace and hardwood beams, floors and banisters throughout the home retain their original elegance. The ceiling beams in the “ship room” still contain the metal rings where farmers hung and butchered meat when that area was used as a barn in the 1910s and 1920s.
In an effort to sell the property, Ms. Korey has used numerous Realtors and reduced the asking price from $7.5 million to $4.5 million.
Paramount to her is preserving the house. A few residents, she said, want to see it torn down so the land can be used for new construction. But she said she will hold onto the property for as long as it takes to find a buyer dedicated to leaving the house standing.   
“We have to act responsibly and can’t just discard it like yesterday’s lunch,” she said. “We need our old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage for ourselves and for the future generations.” 
Her idea to convert the mansion to condos is a preservation strategy catching on across the U.S. A retired civil engineer, Ms. Korey drafted plans for converting Roundwood Manor into seven condos, each about 2,500 square feet. She presented the idea to the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association Board of Trustees, but the five-member group denied the request, she said.
None of the Daisy Hill trustees responded to the Times’ requests for comment. Ms. Korey said members did state that they don’t want multi-family units within what is now a single-family subdivision. Daisy Hill is home to about 60 large homes. 
“I’ve heard that some people may see this house as a relic of a bygone time that no longer serves a purpose. So I say, ‘people, let’s use our heads and repurpose it.’ I don’t want to see it torn down.”
Historian Daniel Ruminski, known as  Cleveland’s Storyteller, agreed that the condominium idea is a good one. He hosts talks on the area’s history and historic homes throughout Northeast Ohio.
Mr. Ruminski is scheduled to give a walking tour and talk at 2 p.m. April 23-24 at Roundwood Manor. Admission is $20 and about 100 guests are expected on both days. A limited number of tickets still are available with proceeds going to the Hunting Valley and Gates Mills historical societies as well as the Cleveland Restoration Society.
“To get into Roundwood Manor for people to see the extraordinary craftsmanship and size of it is what we’re really excited about,” Mr. Ruminski said. “People are going to be able to feel and touch Cleveland’s gilded age.”
The condo idea, which would allow the exterior and interior of the property to remain intact, is a great solution for preserving historic estates, he said. It has been done in other locations in Northeast Ohio, he said, including some mansions in Shaker Heights. Historic estates formerly owned by prominent Clevelanders Walter White and Francis Drury have remained intact in their new role as schools on the campuses of Hawken and Gilmour Academy, respectively, he said.
“I think her goal, of all the things she could do, the condominium idea is the best,” Mr. Ruminski said. “To preserve these mansions, this is something that you have to do.”
Some Daisy Hill residents support the condo idea, Ms. Korey said.
One outspoken supporter is Village Councilman Bill O’Neill who said condos on that  property would be a good fit for Hunting Valley, providing an alternative housing option. 
“For a long time, I have been concerned that Hunting Valley did not have a place for its residents who want to downsize as they get older,” Mr. O’Neill said. “I believe many of those people would like to live in Hunting Valley, they have strong attachments to it, but there’s not a suitable place that (the village) can offer to them.
“I think that converting Roundwood Manor into condominiums as Sylvia proposes, is really a perfect solution.”
He doesn’t think condos would disrupt or change  the current quality of life in the community and neighbors likely wouldn’t notice a difference.
Mr. O’Neill, who now resides about a half-mile from Roundwood Manor, lived in Daisy Hill for more than 40 years. He recalled playing football on the property as a kid and referred to property as an “asset to the community.
“I think it’s important for the community to preserve Roundwood Manor,” he said. “It’s a very important structure in Northeast Ohio and certainly in our community and to have it torn down I think would leave a great hole in the future.”
Mr. O’Neill said council has not formally discussed the idea and the Daisy Hill Association would need to approve the concept first.
“My hope would be that the Daisy Hill Association would open up a conversation with Sylvia so they can understand exactly what she’s proposing, and if they have any reasons to object any of it, bring those reasons up and let them be talked out,” he said. “I’m quite confident that any reason they may have against it could be satisfied with dialog. If that could be done, I think you could have the pathway to a solution.”
Philip Botta
Philip Botta
Philip Botta