Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Jesse Owens house

Jesse Owens house

I've been trying to find local sites of historical significance, for use in the programs I run as the Youth Services Librarian at the Hough Branch of Cleveland Public Library. Local history isn't taught much in the schools here - "local history" too often means "Ohio history". Many of the kids have little, if any, experience outside this neighborhood, so when I talk about things on the other side of the county, I might as well be talking about New York or California. I've found that when I can talk about things that happened in their neighborhood - people who walked the same streets that they walk every day - that I can really get their attention.

I knew that Jesse Owens, four time gold medal winner at the 1936 Berlin Olympics, grew up in this neighborhood, but I hadn't been able to find out exactly where. Alll I'd been able to learn was that in 1923, "Jesse Owens was enrolled in Bolton Elementary School, just three blocks from his home." The school was located at East 89th and Carnegie. I'd contacted the Ohio State University archives, which holds Owens' papers, without any luck.


Finally, after it seemed I had exhausted all reasonable options, John Skrtic, manager of the Social Sciences department at Cleveland Public Library, sent me a link to this photo, from the Cleveland Memory Project. It shows Owens sitting on the front steps of a house in 1935, the year he, in the space of 45 minutes at a Big Ten track meet in Michigan, beat three world records and tied a fourth.

Unfortunately, the caption did not identify the location of the photograph. The style of the house looks characteristically Cleveland, but I didn't know more than that. I contacted Bill Barrow, Special Collections Librarian at Cleveland State University, to see if he might be able to provide a higher resolution version of the image so that I might see the address on the house or even just take a magnifying glass and check it out himself. He did far, far better than that and provided me with the address of the house!

The house is located at 2178 East 100th Street, Cleveland, Ohio. It is somewhat worse for the wear, but appears to be taken care of. The house is very close to the Cleveland Clinic, so effort will need to be made to ensure its long term protection, as the Clinic continues to expand.

There are no records in the Cleveland City Directory for the Owens family for 1930 and 1932. The 1933 City Directory lists the house as "vacant". They are listed at this address for 1934, 1935, and 1936. Further, the 1930 Census lists them at 2212 East 90th Street. Thanks to Michael Ruffing, librarian, History and Geography Department, Cleveland Public Library, for this information.

Jesse Owens residence

This is the house at 2212 E. 90, where the Owens family lived as of 1930.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

In search of the elusive inner-city Greek Revival house

Dunham Tavern Museum

I've always had a thing for Greek Revival houses. Their lines and proportions seem so right. For a while I've thought it would be interesting to have an old farmhouse and tiny farm in the inner city. With falling real estate prices, I've decided to look a bit harder to see if I can really find that magical Greek Revival farmhouse.

This is not as a replacement for my current residence, but rather, an additional project. The house would end up as a rental property after I had fixed it up, though I would probably make at least some effort to cultivate the land around it. As a result, I'm somewhat more inclined toward areas where I would be able to find a house with a chunk of land adjacent or nearby - these areas also tend to be cheaper.

My personal interest would be in a smaller house that either had really great lines or retained plenty of original detail. A smaller house would be a more managable project to rehab and maintain.

I've begun to systematically search through the areas where I might expect to find such houses, and will be documenting as I find them, as well as including them in this map. I welcome any additional sites you may be able to identify.

The photograph at the top of the page is of the Dunham Tavern, on Euclid Avenue. The oldest building in Cleveland on its original foundation, it is also probably the best known Greek Revival house in the city.

Sandstone Greek Revival house

I often pass by this c.1835 house on Buckeye Road at East 108th Street. It was made from stone quarried nearby. I hadn't noticed the detail work on it before, but it is really quite nice. Replace the glass block windows and remove the vinylcide, and one would be left with a very nice house.

Greek Revival house on E. 130th Street

I started looking methodically near my neighborhood, hoping to find something interesting. I came across this house on East 130th Street, just north of Kinsman. Kinsman is one of the oldest roads in the area.

Greek Revival house on E. 130th Street

This angle shows the original lines a bit more clearly.

Today, on my lunch break, I found three houses - two solid Greek Revivals and one suspect.

Greek Revival house

This one is hard to see, due to the trees, but I didn't venture further up the driveway to take a photograph, out of respect for the owner. This photograph shows the lines a bit more clearly. The house is located at Located at 1158 Addison Road, Cleveland, Ohio.

Greek Revival house

This house, at 1209 East 71st Street, has really nice lines. The windows, in their original locations, would have looked great. For the purposes of this argument, we're going to assume that they're currently ugly vinyl replacements (I actually have no idea) and that you'd want to replace them, so they might as well be replaced in the original locations. The foundation is locally quarried sandstone, and there's exterior access to the cellar.

Greek Revival house

The addition to the rear, presumably the kitchen, is reasonably harmonious with the rest of the house. The other addition, with the flat roof, should probably be removed.

Greek Revival house

The addition has the same style of sandstone foundation as the rest of the house, suggesting that it wasn't built terribly long after the main part of the house. I'd almost be inclined to think that the space I've been calling an addition might have come first, except that the pitch on the roof is slightly steeper than the rest of the house.

Greek Revival house

The other side of the house looks quite presentable, too. Street presence would be improved by a bit of pruning of the tree in front of it and removal of the porch.

The house is owned by Great Lakes Home Remodelers, Inc., which purchased the property on 13 July 2006 for $4,800 from the Federal National Mortgage Association (Fannie Mae). It is one of five properties that they own, four of which were foreclosures. They are delinquent on taxes on all five of the properties as of today, according to the Cuyahoga County Auditor's website - the balance owed on this property is $2719.32. The auditor states that this house is a duplex. It is 1536 square feet.

At this point, I suspect that the current owners would be happy to get rid of this house, even at a loss. There's enough vacant land nearby to have some serious potential for gardening or a yard.

Greek Revival house?

This house, at 6833 Bayliss Avenue, is the last I will mention today. It's a bit of a puzzler to me. The proportions seem just about right, but there's simply been too much work done on it for me to be sure one way or the other.

The arch is falling! The arch is falling!

Maybe we've just been in denial all this time

Fallen arches

When we got back from our vacation, we saw this brick hanging down, which we knew wasn't good.

Fallen arches

Upon further observation, the crack seemed to extend to the wall of the garage.

Breezeway between house and garage (detail)

We were sure that this was mostly new, perhaps the result of the big wind storm a couple weeks back, until I looked at this photo, taken in September, when we were first looking at the house.

I think that the loose chunk of brick may have settled a little bit. However, I no longer feel that I can blame the replacement of the garage floor and the theoretical shifting of the walls on this. Nope. Just regular old settling and time.

Since I took these photographs, I've jacked the bricks back up into place, awating the inevitable repairs that will surely come.

In the second photograph, you can see where the section of damaged gutter has been removed so that a proper replacement may be fabricated. Note that the wood underneath the gutter was never painted, yet remains in excellent condition. This is why you want to save the original woodwork when possible - the old growth wood that they used is rock-solid, and can often last forever with minimal care.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Buffalo ReUse - Finally!

I've written previously about Buffalo ReUse, a non-profit organization in Buffalo, New York, dedicated to salvaging the architectural detail of homes that are being demolished. While on vacation, I visited their retail outlet, and was totally blown away. The inventory was about three times the size of all the stores dealing in such things in the Cleveland area put together. I can't believe how much great stuff there was at bargain basement prices.

We'd planned to make a stop on the way home, too, but decided not to. This means that a road trip, soon, is in order. I'm talking to you, Really Bad Cleveland Accent and Lead Paint Cookbook. Those doors that you desired? That claw-foot tub? Yup. Let's split the cost of gas and tolls and do this!

Pedestal tub

There were many many bathtubs, with nice ones priced around $200-300. I'd bring something to clean them with before purchase to ensure that there wasn't significant damage or staining, as they are stored outside.

Buffalo ReUse

This was but part of their outdoor storage lot. Yes, that's a marble sink slab from the 1880s or 1890s leaning up against the windows there.

Drainboard sink

Is this the sink you're looking for, Anastasia?

Pedestal sink with integral faucet

I couldn't believe this great sink with integral faucet for a mere $125.

Case lowboy "kidney" toilet

Or the Case "kidney" toilet sitting next to it for $120.


There were doors, doors, and more doors, interior and exterior. I recall interior doors being priced at around $15-35 each.

Great tile, $1.25 each!

Handpainted tile for $1.25 each!

Tin ceiling $2/square foot

There was plenty of oddball stuff, too, like tin ceiling at $2 a square foot.
Electric bathroom heater

Or this electric bathroom heater.

Nice brass shower valves

Or these brass shower valves, which I would have investigated further, if not for the hands of my son trying to grab and chew said fixture.

Dirt cheap vintage switchplates

Would you believe the brass switchplate in the center for a dollar?

Nice wood armchair, $15

This wood armchair, the better one, was $15. The one in front was $5.


I'm not sure how much this railing was, but WOW.

Overall, I was really impressed. I can't wait to go back.