Secret passages and childhood fantasies: Historic 1910 Harcourt Manor restored to its original glory

When Anya Rudd was a child living in University Heights, she would admire the house sitting at 2178 Harcourt Drive, perched on the side of Cedar Hill in Cleveland Heights’ Ambler Heights Historic District.

Years later, her husband, John, followed suit. “My husband, who is not a Cleveland native, would take detours just to admire the home and wonder what in the world it looked like inside,” she recalls.

The Rudds sought to make Anya’s dreams come true when in 2016 they bought the 1910 Elizabethan Revival, 7,422-square-foot mansion known as Harcourt Manor.

The couple spent two years restoring the mansion and its grounds. They did so with such attention to historical detail that their work earned the Rudds the American Institute of Architects Cleveland (AIA) Craftsmanship Award at Cleveland Restoration Society’s May 22 Celebration of Preservation.

The Rudds now live in the home and regularly host community events and fundraisers.

“In certain ways, I feel like this home had been waiting for me my whole life,” says Anya. “I remember seeing it as a very little girl from the backseat of our family car—the impressive back of the house looming large over Cedar Hill—and asking my parents if it was a castle and imagining what it would feel like to live there. Now, decades later and with grown kids of our own, here we are living in this restored, magical place.”

In 2006, the Rudd family moved to Seattle, where they lived for 10 years. Meanwhile, Harcourt Manor—designed by architect Frank Meade and built by Terminal Tower builder Kermode Gill as his personal residence—sat on the market for six years, in desperate need of repairs.

"Because it was such an iconic, beautiful house and so full of potential, many people had been very interested in the property,” recalls Anya. “But the extent of work that was needed to bring the house back to life could seem overwhelming.”
 

Harcourt Manor before the restorationAnya says the price kept dropping as potential buyers were deterred by the amount of work needed. The roof was compromised; a sewer system was crushed under the house; many of the seven bathrooms weren’t functioning; the exterior stone had turned black from industrial-era pollution; balconies were unsafe to walk on; and the huge gardens were overgrown.

For years, the Rudds—now empty nesters—had dreamed of restoring a classic old home. After looking around the world for the perfect house to buy, they kept coming back to Harcourt Manor—despite the amount of work needed. “One day John just put me on a red-eye flight and said, ‘Go get that house,’” Anya recalls.

With that, the Rudds spent an entire year on the infrastructure and the following year on the decorating and furnishing. The final landscaping was just completed in 2019.

Stone on the entire exterior of the house was cleaned and restored. As the exterior balcony was being repaired, general contractor Dominic Buccilli of Buccilli Contracting reconstructed missing items and added items that were never built after referring to the original Meade drawings.

All double-hung windows were refurbished with new ropes and weights. The heating system was converted to forced air in certain parts of the house with new duct work wonderfully placed in unobtrusive areas using impressive finishing work. During restoration, the entire third-floor flat roof collapsed. Buccilli, along with 25 staff members, worked promptly to rebuild it before the weather changed.

Buccilli brought in architect Richard Gates to work on the project, and David Thorn of DTR Associates designed the gardens and outdoor spaces. Exscape Designs did the installation of the exterior hardscape and landscape.

Anya, an interior designer who specializes in grand and gracious homes, designed the interiors. She relied on Rudi Benedejcic for his expertise with architectural salvage and Cleveland Heights artist Haley Cavotta, to detail the ceilings, moldings, furniture, and fixtures throughout the home.

 

“Over 200 antique and vintage light fixtures were brought into the home, and furnishings, art, hardware, and decorative items were found from every imaginable resource,” says Anya, who admits this was a dream job for her. “Many times, I would come across a piece that I didn’t have a particular place for, but I just knew it belonged in this home. The fun was in figuring out the puzzle pieces and creating each room with a story of its own.”

Secret passages and movable walls add to the character of Harcourt Manor. Anya says the second owners of the house added a secret passage, as a nod to the hidden rooms found in English manor homes. A restored hidden bookcase that opens into a trunk room now hides a room where the Rudds store luggage.

In John’s office, gothic panels that came from an old church in Pittsburgh make up a movable wall that hides modern office accessories, like a printer and a white board. Rudd originally found the panels at Century Antiques on Lorain Avenue, but Benedejcic bought them before Rudd could. Months later, he agreed to use them in the Harcourt home.

Benedejcic engineered the panels to make the sliding wall so that it was hidden within the crown molding. “Wanting modern conveniences but not wanting to sacrifice the integrity of the historical vibe, this solution solved that problem beautifully,” John explains.

Anya won’t disclose the cost of the project, but she says it was worth every penny: “This investment was about saving an iconic, historic home in a neighborhood and city that we love, inspiring others to invest in these local treasures, and being able to live and entertain in a most extraordinary way in a home that gives back far more in quality of life than we spent on fixing it up."

Read more articles by Karin Connelly Rice.

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.
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