Shiny and not-so-new: Celebration of Preservation honors CLE's shining stars in historic restoration

Cleveland has had its shares of ups and downs in the 223 years since Moses Cleaveland first set up shop, but many of the city’s homes and buildings have remained—marking the days of industry, education, Civil Rights, and prosperity. Their endurance is largely due to those who have put forth tremendous efforts to preserve and restore the structures that form Cleveland’s unique history.


On Wednesday, May 22, the Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS) and the American Institute of Architects Cleveland (AIA) will recognize groups and individuals who have gone above and beyond in restoration efforts at the annual Celebration of Preservation at Playhouse Square’s Ohio Theatre, which itself was restored in 2016.

“This region has seen so much disinvestment and now is seeing reinvestment in preservation,” says Michael Fleenor, CRS director of preservation services. “There are a lot of new uses for old buildings because they were built so well originally.”


2018 was a particularly good year for reinvestment, and it showed in the 30 nominations received for this year’s awards. “The economy has really turned in Cleveland, and this has been one of the most competitive years,” he says. “We had a lot of good projects. There seems to be a lot going on in Cleveland right now—a lot of energy and a lot of things happening.”


Nominations for the Celebration of Preservation are collected in January, after which an 11-member jury—six from AIA and five from CRS—meets in April to review the nominations and choose the winners. CRS has been giving the awards since 1973 (although, in the early years, just one project was recognized). This year, there are 12 projects recognized, as well as the Heritage Home Program award.


Get an in-depth look at this year’s winners:

Heritage Home Program Award: The Heritage Home Program, operated by CRS subsidiary Heritage Home Educational Society, provides resources and services for homeowners to repair, maintain, and restore the historic features on their homes.

<span class="content-image-text">4014 Fulton Court</span>4014 Fulton Court

This year’s Heritage Home Program Award goes to Nancy Scarcella and Michael McBride, who purchased 4014 Fulton Court in January 2017 with plans to turn it into a rental property. This is the first house on Fulton Court to be renovated.


The north side of Fulton Court—a small street that joins W. 38th Street and Randall Road in Ohio City—is lined with small one-and-a-half story Worker Cottages (commonly found in Great Lakes industrial cities in the mid-1800s and built on narrow lots).

For seven months, the abandoned property underwent an extensive exterior restoration of the historic façade that included removing aluminum and stone veneer siding and installing Hardie Board Siding, building a new front stoop, and installing a new exterior door to the basement.

The interior received new mechanicals, drywall, and flooring. A two-story addition was built on the rear of the house that resituated the stairs to create more open living space, a larger kitchen, two bedrooms, and two bathrooms.


By keeping the property as a rental unit, Scarcella and McBride provided an affordable living option in Ohio City and demonstrated how historic homes can be adapted for today’s living.

<span class="content-image-text">Paul Meeker project that won the Neighborhood Enhancement Award at 4201 – 4207 Clinton Avenue - after restoration</span>Paul Meeker project that won the Neighborhood Enhancement Award at 4201 – 4207 Clinton Avenue - after restorationNeighborhood Enhancement Award: Four terrace row houses at 4201-4207 Clinton Ave. in Ohio City were converted in 14 apartments during the Great Depression. The homes were built in 1888 by Jesse Brainerd and designed by architect Andrew Mitermiler.


After 130 years of wear-and-tear, the building was condemned. But, in 2016, owner Paul Meeker began a complete rehabilitation to the home—returning the structure to its original four attached dwellings with the help of architect David Ellison.


“This was one of the last remaining examples of Andrew Mitermiler’s Victorian homes,” says Meeker, noting that the structures suffered termite and rat damage and leaked. “We ended up replacing every floor and, since it was built without a foundation, we had to jack it up by 60 percent. The end result is an absolutely wonderful place.”


Additionally, expanded porches are decked with Brazilian walnut, and the landscape has been shaped into a shared French courtyard between the houses and the new alley garage. Stone and brick paving have been repurposed from the original building.

<span class="content-image-text">Hessler 113 Townhomes</span>Hessler 113 TownhomesNeighborhood Preservation Award: The Hessler Court Historic District in University Circle was the first neighborhood to be designated a historic district by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission in 1975. In 2017, Berusch Development Partners purchased five connected 1900s townhomes at 11319-11327 Hessler Road and converted them into Hessler 113 Townhomes.

Berusch worked with RDL Architects and American Preservation Builders to perform the exterior restoration work and update the interior units as affordable housing for students, while at the same time preserving the neighborhood’s legacy.

AIA Craftsmanship Award: Part of a 20th century suburban residential development, the 1910 Elizabethan Revival Harcourt Manor in Cleveland Heights was designed by architect Frank Meade. The home was built by Kermode Gill, builder of the Terminal Tower, as his personal residence.

The house overlooking Cedar Hill had fallen into disrepair and sat vacant for six years until Anya and John Rudd purchased it. After two years of repairs and renovations, the stone on the home's exterior was cleaned and restored. When the exterior balcony was being repaired, Buccilli Construction consulted the original Meade drawings and reconstructed it, adding new features and creative touches.

Outstanding Adaptive Use Award: Sustainable Community Associates (SCA) reimagined the former 1922 Mueller Electric Building (1587 E. 31st St. in AsiaTown) by converting the old factory into Mueller Lofts, a 55-unit residential complex with a new courtyard, community rooftop deck and open floor plans.

<span class="content-image-text">GBX Group in the Empire Improvement Building</span>GBX Group in the Empire Improvement Building

Innovative Industrial Rehabilitation Award: GBX Group adapted the former Empire Improvement Building, once a sewing factory in the heart of Cleveland's Garment District, into its headquarters—showcasing the potential of historic structures to be updated for modern uses.

Distinguished Restoration Award: Built in 1926 by the City of Cleveland, the Highland Park Mausoleum (21400 Chagrin Boulevard in Beachwood) was the first municipally owned-and-operated mausoleum in the country. In addition to the mausoleum, the building housed administrative offices for all of Cleveland’s cemeteries, a crematorium, and chapel.

The building functioned in this capacity until 2010, when it fell into disrepair and was vacated. City officials considered preserving just the mausoleum crypt and abandoning or demolishing the rest of the building. But ultimately, the city used R.W. Clark to restore the entire building.

<span class="content-image-text">Highland Park Mausoleum</span>Highland Park MausoleumMuch of the structural damage was due to water infiltration. Portions of the exterior granite veneer walls were rebuilt, and the remainder cleaned and repointed. The slate roof was repaired. New marble was installed in the mausoleum crypt, and the historical bronze doors were restored. New plaster walls were installed in the chapel; the beamed and stenciled ceiling and slate floors were cleaned; and original light fixtures were refurbished.

Elsewhere, wood doors and moldings were restored, and original quarry tile floors cleaned. New plumbing, electrical, and mechanical systems made the building safe and functional.

Preservation of a Community Landmark Award: Constructed in 1911 by Henry Whitfield, brother-in-law to Andrew Carnegie, the Cleveland Public Library’s (CPL) South Branch (3096 Scranton Rd.) is one of a few Carnegie Libraries still in operation within the greater Cleveland area.

After the Tremont community voiced its objection to closing the facility in 2013, CPL embarked on a $3.3 million renovation to create a modern library in a historic building.

Original drawings from 1911 included a planned expansion that never happened, including an auditorium, along the west side of the building. But HBM Architects developed an extension that is ADA-compliant and features a second entrance off of Clark Avenue, along with a large community meeting room.

The original interior elements were preserved and restored including the rich, dark woodwork and bookshelves, the detailed ceilings, and a programmable LED skylight element crowning the central space. The restored branch also includes quiet study rooms, separate teen and children’s spaces, a sound booth, a multipurpose room, and a large meeting space that can be accessed after hours.

Restoration of a Cultural Landmark Award: Most longtime Clevelanders have fond memories of the Agora Theatre and Ballroom (5000 Euclid Ave.). But when current owner AEG Presents opened the doors to the fully restored 1913 building last July, the crowd went wild.

Following its grand reopening on July 19, 2018, the Agora Theatre and Ballroom has been able to increase attendance at events, increase bookings for non-concert events, and continue its traditional role as a leader in the Cleveland music scene.

Community Impact Award: Cleveland Heights High School was designed in 1926 by architects Franz Warner and W. R. McCormack. But over the years, additions and changes altered the campus dramatically.

The school was modernized for 21st-century learning while unveiling and rehabilitating the Georgian Revival/American Colonial architecture of the original 1926 building. In 2015, the school began a $102 million renovation to bring it into the 21st Century.

The project revealed the 1926 building’s historic façade, created light-filled interior spaces, and increased community access to the auditorium and natatorium. Important historical and architectural aspects of the building—such as the iconic clock tower, brick facade, and ornate auditorium—were renovated. Several key sustainability features, including a hybrid geothermal system, were implemented. The school reopened in August 2017.

Excellence in Restoration and Rehabilitation Award: Designed by New York architect Charles A. Platt, the 1913 rectangular-shaped Beaux-Arts style Leader Building (526 Superior Ave.), is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and is part of the Euclid Avenue Historic District.

In 2016, The K&D Group began restoration of the building, including tuck-pointing and cleaning of the block limestone façade, as well as rehabilitation of the grand marble lobby.

K&D discovered and restored stone pillars and ironwork underneath the drywall in the space that was once home to the Cleveland Leader and Cleveland News business offices. The original Tiffany & Co. elevators and many marble corridors were brought back to life.

Today the Leader Building offices make up floors two and three, while the Residences at Leader comprise 224 studio, one-, two- and three-bedroom apartments the fourth through 15th floors.

Careful consideration was given to the historic openings, which were maintained throughout all floors of the building and all plumbing, electric, and mechanicals were upgraded.

<span class="content-image-text">The Madison</span>The MadisonPreservation Partnership Award: The Madison (1464 East 105th St.), was designed by renowned Cleveland architect Robert P. Madison—the first African-American registered architect in the first African-American-owned firm in Ohio (and recently profiled in Shaker Life Magazine).

The building was constructed largely by an African-American crew and built for African-American doctors to practice in the Glenville neighborhood.

The building rehabilitation was launched as a host to national and international artists though the Front International's artist-in-residence program—The Madison Residencies.

The adaptive use of this structure is the neighborhood's newest market-rate apartment building in nearly a decade and represents a $3.1 million investment orchestrated by Famicos Foundation, FRONT International, and the Cleveland Foundation as part of the Glenville Arts Campus.

With the intention of maintaining the building’s design and presence on the street, the storefronts were restored; the windows were replaced adding performance improvements; and the exposed steel structure was repaired and painted. The interior was reconfigured from a medical office to apartments. Unique decorative concrete masonry unit screen walls in the corridors were maintained and preserved.

Additionally, a Main Street Rehabilitation Award was given to Keith Saffles of Crooked River Holdings LLC for his efforts to restore the 1922 Wayne Agency building in Cuyahoga Falls and contribute to the city’s redevelopment of historic Front Street.

The Celebration of Preservation runs from 5:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 22, and tickets are $20 for CRS and AIA members; $30 for non-members.

Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: 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.