Friday, July 31, 2009

Would you rather have our house or another freeway?


The good folks at the Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University have digitized another gem, Cleveland's Forgotten Freeways.


Of note is the Lee Road Freeway, which would have gone right through our house. It can be seen in bold on this map of the greater Cleveland area.

The introductory letter, dated 4 October 1966 states: The suggested location and design for the freeway are believed to be compatible with the present-day social developments of the communities involved and, more importantly, a pre-requisite to their continued economic and cultural well-being in the future. Read: it'll make it easier to flee to the exurbs.

clark freeway

Another part of this massive highway plan, the Clark Freeway, brought the surrounding communities together in opposition. The freeway, shown in bold above, would have cut right through the center of the Shaker Lakes, ruining this last vestige of nature in the adjoining inner-ring suburbs, Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights.

lee 2

In this map, one can see the freeway over what would have been the former location of our house, and to the right, the interchange over one of the Shaker Lakes.

lee road 1

This detail map shows more clearly the exact route through my neighborhood. It would have destroyed the walkability of the community. Note the presence of the off-ramp dropping all that traffic right in front of the junior high (now elementary) school. This is a community where the kids walk to school. What the heck?

There was an alternate route that was also offered and which wouldn't have involved the demolition of our house. Here's the detail map. See. Not quite so awful. We'd just be living right next to the freeway. That's what this neighborhood needs, after all. Nevermind that we have better access to light rail service than any other community in the greater Cleveland area.

To me the most interesting part of the alternate route is the aerial photograph of my house. It seems that our driveway and our neighbor's driveway, which are shared, had a fence between them at the time. Also, our patio wasn't quite so big.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Avoid my house

Avoid this area

Yes. Avoid my house. I'm not sure why the Plain Dealer is so certain that my house should be avoided, but that's clearly what they are saying.

Oh. They mean that whole area, not just my house, as they seem to indicate. Even worse.

Cleveland ward boundaries in 1858

View Cleveland Wards in 1858 in a larger map

To provide better local history to my kids, I've been researching the locations of residences of important 19th century Clevelanders. The problem is that the historic census records only provide the ward of the city that the person lived in. The ward boundaries are totally different today. Further, many of the street and road names have changed, as well as their routes.

The Cleveland Public Library has a wonderful map of Cleveland, showing the ward boundaries and Cuyahoga County, but it's hard to read, and there are also the problems mentioned above. I said to myself, "I wish that there was a nice, clean map, showing the historic ward boundaries." Now, to make my research easier, there is.

All boundaries are drawn to the best of my ability. I haven't been too fussy about the historic river shape nor the historic lake shore. The only area that I'm not completely sure about is the southern boundary of ward 6.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Langston Hughes house update

Langston Hughes residence

Things seem to be moving forward with the Langston Hughes house that I mentioned previously. The Cleveland Plain Dealer ran an article on the house this morning.

The reporter managed to get more of a response than I have from certain involved parties - this may have something to do with actually calling them instead of just emailing - something to keep in mind for future reference.

Things are looking up for this little house.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Welcome to the neighborhood!

Chris and Melissa's new house

Please join me in welcoming my friends Chris and Melissa to the neighborhood. They'll be closing on this house, just a couple streets over, in about the middle of September.

Because they had to build the house in the most expensive way possible


One of the point-of-sale violations the city is requiring we fix is the peeling paint on the trim and stucco on the front of the house.

The faux Tudor elements are not in good shape. I've found it difficult to scrape without gouging, due to the slightly damp surface of the wood. Water has somehow been getting underneath the paint, even in places that are a significant distance from cracks in the paint. I'm not sure if this is because some of the boards are bowing up at the ends or if it is because moisture is getting in some other way.

I somehow ended up scraping a nice, clean, dry, area. This was probably to even out some edges and because I had an über sharp scraper. The wood underneath looked great. Further, it looked like it had a layer of varnish on top, which seemed curious, but didn't really register.

Dining room

The lone bit of good wood appears to be walnut. The color of the varnish would make it about the same shade as the house's interior woodwork. At first, I figured that there had been a leftover board and that they had used it on the exterior. Then I saw that some peeling paint by the windows revealed similarly varnished wood.

I'm now reasonably sure that the trim on the front of the house was originally unpainted walnut with a relatively light varnish. While this might have looked quite interesting, the lifespan was obviously quite limited.

The vertical boards in the first photograph will have to be replaced eventually. There is simply too much damage to the wood. There's no way to bring them back to their original appearance without an insane amount of work.

The question then comes as to what to do when replacement time comes. I'd like to have the house trimmed as it was originally, with unpainted wood trim. I imagine it would look quite interesting, and distinctly different from every other Tudor in the neighborhood. With the heavy duty varnishes that are available today, there might be one that would hold up long enough to keep me from going crazy re-varnishing every few years.

I'm going to look into this. I suspect my search will lead me to a wooden boat supplier. As always, I welcome thoughts on the insanity of this all.

Monday, July 20, 2009

2861 Lee Road - from the Hopper Family Archive

I like to see what other people publish on Flickr under the tag or description "Shaker Heights". Much to my surprise, I came across this set of photos, all published under a Creative Commons license.

The photographs, from the Hopper Family Archive, show 2861 Lee Road, Shaker Heights, Ohio, in what appears to be the 1950s. All photos are credited to Flickr user jhhymas. Below are some of the more interesting photographs - or you can check out the full set. According to the Cuyahoga County Auditor, the house was built in 1914.

The old dining room.

Living room.

Kitchen. I think that that's a Dishmaster faucet. Any thoughts?

Icebox, with the kitchen sink in the foreground.

The icebox.

Third floor bathroom. Note the tile floor with the Greek key pattern, the tiled walls, the glass shelf over the sink, and the interesting overflow on the sink. Further, I'm pretty darn sure that it looks like the toilet bowl slopes backwards. All this in the servants bathroom.

This photo makes me suspect the preceding caption. I seriously doubt that the servants bathroom would be so well finished but yet this one would have wood floors.

Finally, one last bathroom.

All photos credit to Flickr user jhhymas.

We have a garage floor!

concrete has arrived

Today, the cement truck came.

concrete being spread

They poured the garage floor.

fresh cement

Look how nice and smooth the garage floor is.

drainage grade

Note the slight grade, so that the floor will drain properly.

Once its dry, they'll cut the stress lines. In a week, we'll be able to drive on it.

Photographs by A.

Because I don't seem to be very good at photographing the house

where's dad?

The dining room, with my son in the foreground.

Photo by A.

Van Sweringen Demonstration Homes

Van Sweringen Demonstration House

The Van Sweringen Company, developers of Shaker Heights, commissioned several demonstration homes. These are not demonstration homes as we think of of them now, but rather suggestions of the sort of houses that buyers of lots might build and might expect their neighbors to build. The build and design quality of these houses is impressive, to say the least.

Five of these houses sit next to each other, on my block. All were designed by architect Bloodgood Tuttle and built in 1924. Most have impressive gardens and a great street presence, the result of double lots.

The five models are shown here, from west to east. To the east of this group is a sixth house, not a model, of similar proportions, also on a double lot.

My favorite is probably the fourth one, with the blue-green windows. I'm not sure whether that color is original to the house, but it was one of the suggested color schemes provided by the Van Sweringen Company at the time that the house was built.

Van Sweringen Demonstration House

Van Sweringen Demonstration House

Van Sweringen Demonstration House

Van Sweringen Demonstration House

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Buy Langston Hughes' house for less than $10,000!

Langston Hughes residence

Poet, playwright and celebrated author Langston Hughes lived alone in an attic apartment in this house, at 2266 East 86th Street, Cleveland, Ohio, from 1917-1919. (Arnold Rampersad The Life of Langston Hughes, p. 26). He was in high school at the time, and without much money, his time was spent reading. Some of his first published works were written while he resided here.

Of the five residences Hughes called home in Cleveland, this house, and the one below, on the other side of the two vacant lots are the only survivors.

Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes lived with his mother in this house at 2256 E 86th Street from early May 1936 - April 21, 1937. It is presently being run as a rental property, though between tenants right now, according to the resident of the house next door to it, who would like to see it demolished to increase the size of his yard.

Langston Hughes residence

The house at 2266 is bank-owned, as of April of this year.

Cleveland is at the center of the "foreclosure crisis", and, given some neighborhood comparables, there's no way that this house will sell for more than $10,000. Further, I think that there's a very good chance that if you offered the bank who owns this house $1,000 or $2,000, that they'd take it. No back taxes are owed, and the house, overall, is in decent shape. The street looks good - most of the houses are lived-in and maintained.

Further, there are two adjacent vacant lots, if you should want to have a bit of a yard. One is owned by the city, who will sell it (once you own the adjacent lot) for a mere $26. The other is owned by Fairfax Renaissance Development Corporation, who would likely be willing to sell to someone interested in fixing up the house.

Langston Hughes residence

The house has good lines, underneath the vinyl siding. Everything that I could see underneath the vinyl looked solid.

Langston Hughes residence

It even retains most of the wood double-hung windows. The exceptions are in the kitchen and on the third floor.

The interior appears to be in good condition, with nice original woodwork and doors.

Langston Hughes residence

Even the front porch looks good, underneath the awning and siding.

Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes residence

There aren't any obvious signs of major damage.

Langston Hughes residence Langston Hughes residence

Langston Hughes residence

The kitchen leaves a bit to be desired, but these days, who doesn't want a new kitchen?

What problems do I see?

The roof. There are at least two, if not three layers of asphalt shingles over the original slate. The house will probably be due for a re-roof before too long. The chimney also needs attention.

The replacement windows in the kitchen look awful. The house could use a more historically sympathetic front door.

When was the last time you had a chance to buy a local landmark for less than you pay each year in property taxes? How can you possibly lose with this house? I'd find a way to buy it myself, if only I had the free time to fix it up.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

We'll be able to park our cars in the garage?

prepped for cement

The garage floor is all ready for the cement pour. We've been told it will happen on Friday. Here's hoping! It'll be nice to be able to put our cars in the garage. Rather, it'll be nice to be able to put one of our cars and a bunch of junk in the garage.

Photo by A.

Making progress on the guest bedroom

Robin's Egg - guest room

Coral Cream - guest room

Chris pulling carpet staples out of the floor
Almost done

The painting was mostly done by A - I did the finish work. The third photograph is the more accurate representation of the color.

We'd peeled up the corner of the carpet during our first walk-through of the house and found that the flooring was in excellent condition. I've pulled up the tack strips and all the staples - now all that remains is to scrape off the remaining bits of padding and scrub the floor.

The padding, by the way, is really nasty.

Yes, that is a near-mint, framed, Star Wars one-sheet, style C, sitting on the bed. Ah, how tastes change.

Photographs, of course, by A.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

That electrical supply line really had to go...

old supply line to the house

This is the old electrical line that brought the power from the service entrance, through the garage, under the breezeway, and into the house. Note the lack of insulation and the lovely patina. Note that the patina is on the ground. Yes. The ground. Ack.

corroding electrical cable

In this detail, note the frayed state of the ground. Note that it has been arcing against the conduit it is running through. ACK.

Finally, note that these photos were taken by A.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Garage floor

central drain in garage

The garage floor is taking longer than expected. Either today or tomorrow the drain, shown here, will be replaced with one that isn't damaged.

inside the asbestos pipe in the garage

The building inspector also said that we have to run the wiring here, with the lovely exposed ground, through conduit. This means that we will be replacing the wiring from where it comes out of the panel in the garage all the way to the subpanel in the basement. This is another $1500 that we hadn't planned on. That price includes the wiring for 100 amp service and running additional conduit next to it for the future upgrade to 200 amp service.

Photographs, of course, by A.