Preservation celebration: Historic preservation projects honored by Restoration Society, AIA

The Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) and the American Institute of Architects (AIA) Cleveland will recognize 11 historic preservation projects on Thursday, July 13 at the organization’s annual Celebration of Preservation awards ceremony at the historic Ariel LaSalle (formerly the LaSalle Theatre)—a past Celebration of Preservation winner.

Here’s sneak peek at six of the restoration projects being honored this year:

AIA Award for compatible design of new construction in an historic district

The College Club Townhomes adjacent to the historic Tudor revival College Club built in 1903 are the kind of development Greater Cleveland’s historic neighborhoods need to see more of.

The two-phase project is an excellent example of how modern and historic architectural designs can exist harmoniously without one overshadowing the other.

In the first phase of the project, the home and adjacent historic carriage house were converted into 14 apartments. The second phase presented an opportunity to celebrate or overpower the historic property. Design compatibility was wisely chosen and successfully executed.

Defining Features include double gable ends of the front façade of the club house and replicating it on the front façade of the townhome that fronts Overlook Drive

As the row of townhomes progresses deeper into the site, the façades successfully feature a mix of materials, textures and colors. Brick, gable and cross gable roofs are carried over into the townhome design and a new feature ― horizontal siding ― was introduced and harmonized by the color scheme integration with the existing Club House brick.

AIA Cleveland also cited the window designs, well-blended modern and historic elements.

Outstanding retrofit of a historic structure award

Constructed in 1920 as the St. Clair Avenue Public Bath House, the E. J. Kovacic Recreation is one of five remaining bath houses in Cleveland—four of which continue to serve as neighborhood recreation centers. The center had been updated several times over the years, and demolition has often been recommended because of obsolete layout design. T (DASD) made the case to the city administration to provide enough additional capital to implement an innovative, transformative design that enhances user experience by removing partial floors and load bearing walls.

A new, open central space carved from a warren of small spaces, creates a "heart" that reflects the spirit of the community, providing visual connections to every program space in the facility. The work has preserved a Cleveland Landmark for future generations for about one-third the cost of demolition and replacement.

Exeter Road residence in Cleveland Heights’ Shaker Farm Historic DistrictExeter Road residence in Cleveland Heights’ Shaker Farm Historic DistrictReinstatement of historic character award

An Exeter Road residence in Cleveland Heights’ Shaker Farm Historic District—an early 20th Century suburban residential development first laid out in 1904— was built in 1916 with both Tudor Revival and Craftsman architectural characteristics. Over the years, the house was subject to several projects that covered or removed many of its historic features.

With this restoration project, the original masonry stoop at the front door was restored, part of the original layout had been reconfigured with mis-matched floors. So, wood flooring was made consistent throughout the home. A small and drafty late-mid-century addition was reconstructed with modern insulation and re-roofed, and non-original bookcases were removed.

Many of the original double-hung windows had been replaced with modern casements. The renovation project revealed blocked windows and new double-hung windows were installed that match the home’s historic character.

A new master bathroom had been built, which necessitated an unfortunate soffit in the living room to conceal plumbing. The homeowners put in tremendous effort to restore the glory of this beautiful home.

Dedication to preservation award

The 1872 Italianate Robertson-Lawrence House in the Ohio City Preservation District, first occupied by Dr. Erving Robertson, a surgeon who served in the Union Army, has been restored by homeowners Paul Meeker and Ann Michaels.

The house had been awkwardly divided and much of the original historic material was lost. D.H. Ellison Architects reinstated lost historic material on the exterior using a high-resolution historic photograph and graphic manipulation and computer-aided drafting software to get an approximation of original decorative millwork and other exterior design elements, like the original side entrance.

The house was sinking into the ground and needed major structural work at the basement level. On the second floor, the ceiling to the attic had been removed to create a vaulted space, so the ceiling was reinstated to restore the original third floor space.

The homeowners remodeled the basement, which now functions as another living space that opens to a back garden.

Original pocket doors were removed from the wall, refinished, and replaced. The staircase and balustrade were restored. New curved portions of the stair railing were crafted by Paul Meeker, who is a self-taught carpenter and did a significant portion of the work himself.

Studio West 117 FieldhouseStudio West 117 FieldhouseAward of merit for community impact

Originally the 1909 Bomgardner Manufacturing Company building, the structure that is now Studio West 117 Fieldhouse is part of the historic industrial fabric at the east end of Lakewood, located just north of Detroit Avenue.

The building played an important role in the growth of the company, a funeral supply manufacturer, which held a patent for an innovative funeral casket bier.

Now, it has been fully renovated and adaptively reused as part of the new Studio West 117, a development created to provide a welcoming environment for Greater Cleveland’s LGBTQ+ community and its allies.

Much effort was made to preserve as much of the industrial character of the buildings as possible. The brick of the original historic structure was preserved, along with the original volume of the space, and some of the historic windows. Found materials were repurposed, such as the safety glass manufacturing equipment from the last building owner, which is now prominently on display in the private dining room.

Studio West 117 is first-of-its-kind, created for and by the LGBTQ+ community of Greater Cleveland and spans over 300,000 square feet. The complex is an evolving collection of venues and amenities, and includes a rooftop patio, gymnasium, and restaurants.

Future plans include housing, a health clinic, and small business retail space

Heritage Home Program award

Built in the early 1920s in the Larchmere neighborhood, the Downer/Muscarella residence at 2697 East 127th St. benefitted in 2022 from a Heritage Home Program loan for renovations.

Owners Nick Downer and Sara Muscarella worked with local contractors to renovate the kitchen, add a bathroom on the first floor, and make changes to the back porch.

The original kitchen was disjointed with the sink located in the butler’s pantry. The sink was relocated to the main kitchen area and new cabinets and shelving were added that modernized the space. The pantry area was remodeled into a half bath for the previously one-bathroom house. Work was also done on the back porch off the kitchen.

The previous owners had sided over the exterior porch door, which was re-opened, adding another exit to the driveway and backyard. The stabilization and renovation of the back porch allowed for an additional seating area near the back door.

The Celebration of Preservation awards take place at the Ariel LaSalle, 823 E. 185th St., on Thursday, July 13 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $40 for CRS or AIA members, $60 for nonmembers. Note there are no paper tickets. Names will be on a list on the event night. Tickets are transferable but non-refundable. For more information, email or call (216) 426-3102.