Model home of yesteryear on track for rebirth in Shaker Heights

Built in 1922 for the then-princely sum of $30,000, the stately home at 2834 Courtland Blvd. in Shaker Heights is long on history – including its celebrated inception as the future of Cleveland residential living and, more recently, a dark period when it was abandoned, neglected and slated for the wrecking ball.

But now with the careful ministrations of the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS), this fascinating home is set to return to its former grandeur.
The home was built as one of four swanky demonstration units put forth by the Van Sweringen brothers, an iconic Cleveland real estate development team that was heavily involved in the development of Shaker Heights. Famed architects Howell and Thomas designed the quartet of homes, all of which are located at the intersection of Shaker and Courtland Boulevards near what was the terminus of the Shaker Rapid at that time.
"These demonstration homes represented what you could expect in Shaker Heights," says Michael Fleenor, director of preservation services for CRS, noting that the homes were marketing tools similar to the model homes we see today heralding a new residential development. The original architectural drawings for 2834 Courtland, as well as a 1933 addition (also designed by Thomas and Howell), are available via the Cleveland Public Library.
The 4,738-square-foot home, for which CRS is asking $379,000, features a two-story great room with a vaulted ceiling, seven bedrooms and four full and two partial baths. It also has an attic, basement and in-ground pool, which is rumored to be the first in Shaker Heights. Enduring design elements of the English Tudor include half timbering, projecting gables, fireplaces, leaded glass with some stained glass embellishments and a slate roof, one wing of which required significant work by CRS.
"We had that wing done in slate and copper," says Fleenor, noting it had previously been covered in asphalt, which was an interim measure the city took after a roofing contractor walked off the job in 2009, leaving that entire wing open and exposed to the elements.
Other work included extensive drying as all the gutters had been salvaged by the previous owner. Also, a billiard room had to be completely demolished on account of moisture damage.
"We took out mold in another section," says Fleenor.
The home at 2834 Courtland had eight owners, the last of which abandoned it. The property rapidly became a tangled legal nest of mortgages, unhappy bankers and liens. For over a year, CRS worked to straighten out the mess while simultaneously getting the neglected structure stabilized and grounds cleaned up.
Although the structure is sound and in generally good condition, the current status is very rough as evidenced by a lengthy repair list compiled by the city. Fleenor notes, however, that many items on that list will likely be moot when the new owner guts spaces such as the kitchen or bathrooms.
Challenges notwithstanding, Fleenor says that several parties are interested in the home and that CRS is optimistic about forthcoming offers and an eventual sale. Interest was evident last month, when the group held two open houses that garnered more than 200 visitors. They included the serious, the curious and the nostalgic.
"Several former owners came through," says Fleenor. They recalled everything from teenage years spent in the house to fond memories of a grandmother. Conversations understandably included recollections on how different spaces therein were previously employed, which is par for the course for the restoration group. After all, every notable and historic structure has as many stories as the people it's housed.
"So much of what we have… " says Fleenor referencing the group's portfolio, "the properties have different stories related to different people's lives."

Read more articles by Erin O'Brien.

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and others. The sixth generation northeast Ohioan is also author of The Irish Hungarian Guide to the Domestic Arts. Visit for complete profile information.
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