Saturday, February 22, 2020

Commentary - Caretakers of history Feb. 6, 2020 ~ CVT

Commentary - Caretakers of history
History surrounds us. Each of our cities, townships and villages have tales of women and men who worked to settle and grow the communities that today we call home.
We have the written words to document the progress over time as well as street signs with famous local names and buildings that tell the stories of yesteryear.
But preserving aspects of local history is not always easy. It takes citizens willing to devote time, and it takes money. What’s worth saving, and when is it time to let a structure go?
Right now, residents of Hunting Valley, Solon and Chagrin Falls are engrossed in emotional battles to save pieces of local history.
Sylvia Korey continues her 17-year quest to find a buyer for the Roundwood Manor that was home to brothers O.P. Van Sweringen and M.J. Van Sweringen, known for developing iconic areas of greater Cleveland. She has said that buyers might want to raze the house and build new, so she has asked Hunting Valley village officials to allow her to divide the mansion into six luxury condominiums. Officials say the request violates the zoning code. The case is now in court. So, is preservation of a historic mansion more important than abiding by zoning that officials say preserve the integrity of the village?
Members of the Solon Historical Society are continuing their effort to save the Lynch house that was scheduled to be razed today, but delayed after residents filled council chambers and presented a petition with 1,200 signatures to preserve the house on Bainbridge Road.
Jason Robbins and Isaac Bull, who co-founded Solon in 1820, bought the land on Bainbridge Road where the Lynch house sits today. The Lynch house was built in 1905, but we have heard few details about that family.
Some residents envision a historical corridor in the city center where the Solon Historical Society Museum, the historic Bull house and the Lynch house stand today across from City Hall.
The museum and Bull house will remain, but city officials say razing of the Lynch house would help clear the way for a grassy town center with an amphitheater where residents can gather for entertainment.
In 2015, the city was poised to level the house that it bought in 2005 but delayed action amid protests.
The most recent plan involved the historical society coming up with $300,000 in escrow for the much-needed repairs on the Lynch house. Although the society did this, Solon council still voted down a proposed agreement between the society and city that would save the house. Mayor Edward Kraus said he will not veto council’s action.
Though the battle has been going on for years, the impending demise of the Lynch house likely will come in 2020 during the bicentennial celebration in Solon.
In Chagrin Falls, citizens have come out in force to save a house perched on Grove Hill. The historical Bancroft house on 3 West Summit St. needs a host of repairs. Developer Robert Vitt bought the house with plans to level it and build modern luxury townhouses on the lot just steps from the iconic downtown. He initially was stopped by the village Architectural Review Board whose members said Mr. Vitt had not provided the required documents. Some residents fear the proposed townhouses would put too much stress on the steep hill shored up by a stone wall built during the Great Depression.
Chagrin Falls Historical Society President John Bourriseau said one measure of historic significance is that a notable person resided on a property. According to Mr. Bourriseau, the Bancroft house once belonged a portrait painter whose work is now displayed at the Ohio State House.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy has offered to help organize an effort to raise money to buy the Chagrin Falls property, repair the house and use the surroundings as a public park.
Saving any of these three houses will take time and money. So, when do we step in as caretakers of heritage? Preserving the past for tomorrow’s generation can be a long emotional road.

Tuesday, February 18, 2020

Plain Dealer, Letter to the Editor ~ Feb. 12, 2016 "Historic Roundwood Manor Should Be Preserved"

Historic Roundwood Manor should be preserved: Letter to the Editor

Kudos to Sylvia Korey for her efforts in trying to save her historic home in Daisy Hill ("An Unsettled Estate") and for sharing her story so that all of Cleveland could experience such an impressive "house tour."
Hopefully, the neighborhood association that is standing in her way to convert it to condos will work with her to preserve this most important piece of Cleveland history.
Nancy Caughlin,
Chagrin Falls

Sunday, February 9, 2020

 American Castles ~ the mansion looks good in snow  @americancastles on Instagram
americancastles is in Hunting Valley, Ohio.Follow
22 hrs
Yesterday I had the immense pleasure to visit Roundwood Manor in Hunting Valley, Ohio. The Colonial Revival style mansion was built in 1923 by architect Philip Small for businessmen Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen. "The Vans", as they were known, are credited with the development of the garden suburb of Shaker Heights, Ohio. They soon also developed the Shaker Heights Rapid Transit, an interurban light rail, giving the residents of the new community easy access to downtown Cleveland. They eventually realized the necessity of a terminus at Public Square and opened the Terminal Tower in 1930 after four years of building. They also accumulated a slew of railroads and other companies and they ran it all from their country estate, Roundwood Manor, in Daisy Hill. The mansion was originally nothing more than a dairy barn located on a large piece of property, Daisy Hill, owned by the Vans. In order to build the new house quickly, Small converted the barn into the red brick, stone, and wood mansion we, mostly, see today. Originally capping at 90,000 sqft, the house was used as a business retreat, equiped with 24 guest suites. Interiors (to come) were decorated by Cleveland interior design firm Rorimer-Brooks. The Vans fortune declined during the Great Depression and after their deaths the house was sold to Gordon Stouffer (like the really good mac and cheese) who removed 35,000 sqft, see the protruding wall in pic 8, leaving the mansion at the 55,000 sqft it is today, making it the same size as the White House, Belle Grove, Elm Court, and Rockwood Hall. Stouffer died in 1956 and the house was purchased by James A. Bohannon, the president of the Peerless Motor Car Company, among other accomplishments. Upon his death in 1968 he left the house to John Carroll University, who sold it on to John and Anita Fazio, of Fisher Foods. In 1978 it was purchased by Joseph F. Hrudka of the Mr. Gasket Company, who owned the home for a decade. In 1988 it was purchaed by Samir and Sylvia Korey. Significant restoration was completed by Sylvia Korey, who still lives in the home and was gracious enough to show me around.
MUCH more to come! And see @roundwoodmanor for more. @ Hunting Valley, Ohio

Friday, February 7, 2020

Officials say Roundwood Manor cannot be multifamily dwelling

Julie Hullett

Homeowner Sylvia Korey and Hunting Valley officials await a decision from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge David Matia on the future of Roundwood Manor, the historic former home of the Van Sweringen brothers.
HUNTING VALLEY — In May of 2018, Sylvia Korey filed a lawsuit against the Village of Hunting Valley after she was denied a special use permit to turn her historic mansion, Roundwood Manor, into six luxury condominiums. There has been no word from Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge David Matia since June of 2019 on whether he will support or overturn the Planning and Zoning Commission’s ruling.
In the meantime, the Times looked at other Hunting Valley housing to determine why multifamily living was permitted in those structures. The village zoning code allows for three zoning districts including single-family houses each with a 5-acre minimum, institutional and conservation development. Some multifamily structures remain because they existed before the zoning code went into effect.
Roundwood Manor is the former home of developers and brothers O.P. Van Sweringen and M.J. Van Sweringen and sits on 7 acres in the Daisy Hill neighborhood of the village. The 1920s house was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 2018. The Van Sweringen brothers are known for designing the city of Shaker Heights and Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland. The manor has been on the market for the past 17 years with no offers; its current asking price is $4.45 million.
“Over the last five years, my goal has not changed. Roundwood Manor is a cornerstone in both Daisy Hill and Hunting Valley,” Ms. Korey said on Jan. 27. “It seems that everyone, with the exception of a handful of individuals, overwhelmingly sees the value in finding a way to save this special, iconic property. It is a living, lasting link to Cleveland history and is one of the most important, privately owned, maintained and lived-in mansions in the United States.”
There are three other structures in Hunting Valley that are or could be used as a multi-family dwelling. One is Clanonderry, formerly the stables for Roundwood Manor and another is the former garage for the manor, which has apartments above. The third site is Hunting Hill Farm Drive, which has three residences in one structure.
The stables and auto repair station for Roundwood Manor, known as Clanonderry, are located on Hackney Road, north of the manor. Law Director Steve Byron explained that around 2001, the village enacted a conditional use chapter and a historic settlement chapter in its zoning code, identified Clanonderry as a historic settlement and granted a conditional use permit for three residential units on the 20-acre property.
The village paid $600,000 for a conservation easement on the land at Clanonderry in 2001, Mr. Byron said. A conservation easement is a legal restriction on property that restricts development in the future, according to Rich Cochran, CEO of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy. In return, the property owner must maintain the outer walls and the dovecote, a structure intended to house birds.
“[The buyer] got $600,000 and gave away the right to build a fourth structure,” Mr. Byron said on Jan. 22. “When you donate something (like a fourth structure) of value, then you’re giving up development rights. The village got the preservation of that property as it looks.”
Hunting Valley Building Inspector Don Cunningham said that the easement benefits the village because Clanonderry was restored instead of lost and several additional acres associated with Clanonderry were preserved instead of building a fourth unit.
Although the structure is configured for three residential units, Mr. Cunningham said that there is only one family living at Clanonderry at this time.
Former garages
Across Roundwood Road from the manor, there is another structure that has been used as a multi-family dwelling. When the Van Sweringens lived in Roundwood Manor, they had garages across the street. The workers who took care of the cars lived in apartments above the garage, Mr. Byron said. That structure is no longer associated with the manor, it belongs with an adjacent house.
The garage was built in the early 1920s and Hunting Valley was incorporated as a village in 1924, according to Mr. Cunningham. Mr. Byron said that the structure predates the village’s zoning code, which was established in 1938. Therefore, it is grandfathered in and does not violate the village code.
“That predated any of our ordinances,” Mr. Cunningham said on Jan. 23.
He said that he is aware of two apartments above the garages and when he joined the village staff, the property caretakers lived there. Now, he said he is unsure if the apartments are occupied.
Ms. Korey said that there are five rental apartments above the garages, including five mailboxes outside the house, and each apartment is occupied.
“I think the five apartments [above] the garages are a great idea and have been, I’m happy they exist,” she said. “It’s a wonderful solution for many people in Hunting Valley.”
Mr. Cunningham said that if there are five mailboxes, they are likely for the various houses that share the same private driveway, not five apartments above the garage.
Hunting Hill Farm Drive
Hunting Hill Farm Drive is a private driveway off Chagrin River Road near the intersection of Fairmount Boulevard. Mr. Byron said that the surrounding 80 acres used to have a single owner, but it was later subdivided into eight parcels, allowing 10 acres per one residential unit. There was a barn on the property that was torn down and rebuilt in the same shape, and the new barn included three residential units. The village granted a variance in the late 1990s, Mr. Byron said, to allow for three residences in the newly built barn if the structure retained its original shape.
“If you look at that residence now, it has the same shape and the same basic structure and outline as the old barn used to have,” Mr. Byron said. “That was one of the conditions of the variance that was granted.”
Mr. Cunningham explained that the Hunting Hill Farm Homeowners Association has 30 acres associated with those residences so there are 10 acres per residence. The village code requires at least 5 acres per residence.
Roundwood Manor
The main reason that Ms. Korey cannot divide Roundwood Manor into six condominiums, according to Mr. Cunningham, is that she does not have the required acreage. The manor sits on about 7 acres but she would need 30 acres to accommodate six residential units, he said. In addition, Mr. Cunningham said that the manor is landlocked between other houses so there is no adjacent land that she could purchase.
“All of our other multi-family [dwellings] support 5 acres per unit,” he said. “[Her house] doesn’t come close.”
Mr. Byron said that the use of the property is what matters.
“They all pre-existed the zoning code. The use of the property is what’s significant,” he explained. “The manor for 30 years has been used as a single family residence.”
Mr. Byron and Mr. Cunningham said that Clanonderry and the former garages have always been multi-family dwellings, so they can still be used in that way. Ms. Korey’s proposal, however, includes converting a single-family residence into a multi-family dwelling, changing its use under the zoning code.
Mr. Cochran of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy said that Roundwood Manor would be eligible for a historic preservation easement, similar to the easement at Clanonderry. He said that there is not a lot of land associated with the manor and further development is not permitted there anyway, so the easement could be a private transaction between Ms. Korey and the easement holder, often a historic preservation group.
“It would definitely be eligible for a historic conservation easement to preserve the historic facade and architecture,” Mr. Cochran said. “That property is definitely historically significant.”
Mr. Byron noted that Ms. Korey could put a deed restriction on her property to prevent Roundwood Manor from being changed in ways that are not acceptable to Daisy Hill residents. He said that if the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association or the village held an easement on the property, the holder would have to approve changes to the property. That burden decreases the value of the manor, he said.
“It’s difficult to sell the house as is,” Ms. Korey said. “Putting a deed restriction on it would make it impossible.”
Both sides continue to wait for a decision from Judge Matia.