In an article titled "Cleveland's Shaker Heights is a model worth emulating,"
writer John Conti describes the attractiveness of this well-planned neighborhood, which will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2012.
Thanks to the Van Sweringen's keen vision and planning, Shaker "appealed to the upper-middle classes in Cleveland in the 1920s, and the result today is neighborhood after neighborhood of stunningly good-looking houses built in the '20s and '30s. Some of these houses are mansions, some are just big, and some are modest. But all are still exceptionally attractive today."
The article goes on to describe with great detail just how the Van Sweringen brothers turned their vision into reality.
"[They] began accumulating land here in the early 1900s. In the teens and '20s, they laid out lots to sell and developed a rapid transit line directly into the center of Cleveland. They also set down the rules for what the owner-built houses in Shaker Heights would look like."
Those rules dictated that "houses were to be in the romantic Tudor, Colonial or French styles popular in the '20s. They had to be individually designed by architects. Brick and stone walls and slate and tile roofs were encouraged. Tudors had to have dark trim; only Colonials could have white. Buff-colored brick and certain colors of mortar were forbidden. Even the look of leaded-glass windows were regulated. Finally, the Van Sweringens had to approve every design."
All that would have been meaningless if the houses were not maintained. So the city inspects the exterior of every home every five years. An architectural review board must approve any changes to the exterior of a house.
"These are undoubtedly some of the toughest municipal standards anywhere in the United States," Conti writes. "And they can cost money. Considering its top-tier school system, Shaker Heights residents pay the highest property taxes in Ohio. Yet real estate people here will tell you that -- though the general real estate market in Cleveland has been abysmal in recent years -- Shaker Heights houses have held their value."
Read the entire report here