The Ghosts Houses of Cleveland Ohio

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PHOTOGRAPHS BY CLEVELAND BORN AND RAISED, LOS ANGELES BASED ARTIST AND WRITER VINCENT JOHNSON.

WHEN I WAS A CHILD IN THE EARLY 1960’S. EVERY DAY ON THE RADIO I WOULD HEAR: THE GREATEST LOCATION IN THE NATION, AS CLEVELAND CALLS ITSELF.

WHAT I DID NOT KNOW WAS THAT CLEVELAND, PITTSBURGH, DETROIT, CHICAGO, WERE LARGELY BUILT TO BE THE AMERICAN EARLY 20TH CENTURY VERSIONS OF INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION ENGLAND. THE MIDWEST WAS MANCHESTER, BIRMINGHAM AND LIVERPOOL.

PEOPLE USED TO CATCH FISH AT LAKE ERIE AND SELL THEM TO OTHER PEOPLE TO MAKE A FEW DOLLARS. CLEVELAND ACTUALLY HAD A REAL RELATIONSHIP WITH THE GREAT LAKES.  WE SOMETIMES WENT WALKING ON THE FROZEN POND OF THE CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART.

AS TEENAGERS, WHEN BORED WE WOULD WALK ALL THE WAY FROM FIVE-POINTS IN COLLINWOOD, TO DOWNTOWN AND LOOK AT THE MILITARY MONUMENTS IN PUBLIC SQUARE. THE CITY WAS NOT LIVELY IN ANY PART OF DOWNTOWN THEN. THERE WAS PROSTITUTION ON PROSPECT AVENUE, NEAR WHERE A GORGEOUS REMNANT OF ROW HOUSES STOOD AND ARE NO MORE.

DURING THE EARLY 1960’S, DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND WAS AMAZING WITH ITS CHRISTMAS LIGHTS AND WINDOW DISPLAYS. ALSO WHAT WAS GREAT FUN WAS WATCHING GHOULARDI AND ALSO HOULIHAN AND BIG CHUCK ON TELEVISION, AND THEIR COMIC ANTICS BEFORE SCREENING BAD HORROR FILMS THAT WERE SO MUCH FUN TO WATCH AS CHILDREN.

THERE USED TO BE THIS AMAZING ARCADE PLACE DOWNTOWN THAT HAD STRANGE AND IMPOSSIBLE TAXIDERMIED ANIMALS. THE CINCINATTI ROYALS BASKETBALL TEAM, FEATURING OSCAR ROBERTSON, PLAYED OCASSIONALLY IN DOWNTOWN CLEVELAND. ANOTHER FOND MEMORY I HAVE OF CLEVELAND IS THAT CONCORD GRAPES GREW ACROSS EVERYONE’S BACKYARD FENCE, AND THERE WERE APPLE AND PEAR TREES, CHERRY AND NUT TREES ALONG LAKEVIEW ROAD ON THE PROPERTY OF THE PRIVATE RESIDENCES.

THE CLEVELAND RIOTS DESTROYED AN ENTIRE AREA OF GLENVILLE. WE WATCHED FROM OUR APARTMENT FRONT WINDOW AS TANKS AND ARMED NATIONAL GUARD TROOPS ENTERED OUR NEIGHBORHOOD. A GAS STATION ACROSS THE STREET EXPLODED. WE HID IN THE BACK ROOM UNTIL MORNING. THERE WERE PEOPLE LOOTING THE STORES. GUNFIRE WAS HEARD. IN THE MORNING PART OF GLENVILLE WAS GONE. YET AS BAD AS IT LOOKED, IT NEVER LOOKED AS DEVASTATED AS CLEVELAND’S EAST SIDE LOOKS TODAY.

YET THERE IS GREAT HOPE BECAUSE OF THE TWO STELLAR HOSPITALS IN CLEVELAND, THAT ARE CAUSING HUGE CHANGES IN THE AREA SURROUNDING CASE WESTERN RESERVE AND UNIVERSITY CIRCLE, CLEVELAND’S STELLAR ARTS DISTRICT.

I TOOK These photographs during the beginning of summer of 2013. It is where I was born, enjoyed so much fun with my family and went to school. It was strange being there this time, as so much of the East Side of Cleveland has been destroyed. Yet there are many signs of new life in the middle of this part of town, as one sees near the hospital district hundreds of brand new homes not far from empty lots. I learned that The Lake Effect did do much greater damage to Cleveland’s East Side while the West Side was protected from the worst of the weather system. Yet still it is strange to see how the West Side is basically intact from the point of its architectural integrity, including apartment buildings and an amazing array of home styles that also can be found on Cleveland’s East Side, but often in a state of complete distress or devastation. My taking these photographs is a way for me to grasp that so many decades have passed since the 1960’s, and the world I knew as a child has nearly vanished.

My fascination with Cleveland’s myriad of vernacular architectural private properties is also a strong element in my wish to document Cleveland. One thing that struck me when taking pictures there in June was how as a car driving adult touring Cleveland, I was seeing so much more of the city than I ever had as a child. I remembered the countless A-frame and Two-flat houses, but had never seen the gigantic boarding houses, and had mostly not seen most of the row house styles. I do distinctly recall there being an awesome row house block on Prospect avenue, which I did not see on my trip but would like to find.

Vincent Johnson

Los Angeles

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photo

Six Stories Of Decay

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There were about 300 mansions built in Cleveland on Euclid Avenue between East 12th and East 55th streets. The photos by Dan Mann are of what remains.

Vincent Johnson


File:Stockbridge Apartment Building.jpg – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Re: Cleveland – The Vintage Photo Thread (note: lots of images)
« Reply #339 on: January 03, 2012, 02:20:51 AM »
I decided to go into ClevelandMemory.com and get some pictures. I’m focusing on Champlain Avenue, since it completely disappeared as a result of the Terminal development. This is the area of the Terminal development, before it became known, in 1916:But let’s turn to the view that made otherwise-proud Clevelander ashamed of their city in 1922 (think of this view as the same some proud Clevelander not wanting to show Jacobs’ parking lot on Public Square)…..The street directly behind those building is Champlain, a street that went west down the hill from Ontario to Columbus Road. This is at the intersection of Ontario, showing the backside of the buildings that faced Public Square in the shot above….Showing more of the backside of the buildings that faced Public Square…..Just west of those buildings were these, in the 200-block of Champlain, which had outlived their usefulness. Not many people were using horses any more in the 1920s:And stepping farther west down Champlain to the intersection of West 3rd Street, we look east again toward Ontario…..In the shot above, see the man in the foreground? Behind him is what was considered as perhaps the greatest architectural loss from the terminal development. This was the American Telephone & Telegraph exchange/switching building at Champlain and West 3rd, which was replaced by the art deco beauty on Huron which briefly became Cleveland’s tallest scraper before the Terminal Tower was finished, but served as the model for the Daily Planet in the Superman comic strips. So perhaps this building sacrificed itself for pop culture immortality….

Another architectural loss was the Central Police Station at Champlain and West 6th. It was replaced by an art deco gem on Payne Avenue, which unfortunately was demolished only a few years ago…..

Some buildings were already demolished by the time this picture was taken, revealing the back sides of buildings in the 700 block fronting Long Avenue, another “lost street” south of and parallel to West Superior….

Making our way farther down the hill in terms of topography and building conditions were these in the 800-900 block of Champlain…

At first glance this probably doesn’t look like a sloped road, but look at the angle of the buildings against the street/sidewalk surfaces. This view is looking east from Canal Road which ended at Champlain Avenue….

And, finally, at the bottom of Champlain hill was this view at Columbus Road, which climbed up the hill to the left to West Superior. This was one of the oldest commercial districts of Cleveland, dating from the heyday of the Ohio Canal…..

And if you’re still having a hard time picturing where Champlain Avenue ran, this picture reveals it because the Public Square buildings shown at the start of this post are gone, revealing Champlain behind. Ontario is at left…..

By the end of 1924, nearly all buildings were gone and the excavation for the Cleveland Union Terminal Group was well underway. The last building to be demolished was the AT&T building (shown earlier and seen at right, below) at Champlain and West 3rd. The cable ducts that ran below Champlain are seen extending west from the old AT&T building, which was kept intact until the new AT&T building (north of Progressive Field today) was operational…..

And that is a tour from the 1920s from the neighborhood that predated the Terminal Group. It truly was a neighborhood left over from the 1800s, its location to the transit hub on Public Square and its accessibility to nearby railroad lines was why this holdover from the canal era was vulnerable. It was ultimately replaced with this……

« Last Edit: January 03, 2012, 02:38:34 AM by KJP »
“There should be no more reason for a motorist who is passing through a city to slow down then there is for an airplane which is passing over it.” Norman Bel Geddes, author of the 1940 book ‘Magic Motorways’ & designer of General Motors’ Futurama exhibit at 1939 New York World’s Fair
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from the peedee archives — smoke’m if ya got’em!  :laugh:  & 1948 world series
 

This section of euclid ave now dead

I
East 55th and Euclid Avenue:

Euclid Ave HIPPODROME!  R.I.P.
« Last Edit: September 19, 2008, 12:17:36 AM by MuRrAy HiLL »

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Cleveland – The Vintage Photo Thread (note: lots of images)
« on: July 27, 2004, 06:48:27 PM »
Case and CSU have a lovely collection of old photographs of Cleveland before its “peak” and during.  Thought id post a few of my favorites:A 1930s view of the city from Detroit-Superior bridge.  I think at this time the subway trollies ran inside the structure
The Academy of Music in the 1880s
1899 Streetcar Strike on Lower Euclid
The Cleveland Ship Building Company in 1890
One of the many mansions on Millionaire’s Row Euclid Avenue 1890
The Blizzard of 1913
Rockefeller himself in, yes, East Cleveland
The Central Market on East 4th Street in 1946
The Cuyahoga Building in 1893
The riverbank “The Flats” back in 1870
Cleveland Municipal Stadium 1931
Millionaire’s Row
Euclid Beach
First Baptist Church on East 9th in 1875
Public Square in 1910
Public Square celebration of Germany’s Victory over France in the Franco Prussian War in 1871
Haymarket on Ontario Rd in 1930
A Lorain-Carnegie Bridge pillar and their craftsmen
Ah streetcar suburb in the 1920s
The May Company Building in 1941
The Feast of the Assumption in Little Italy 1950 (wow its still the same today!)

Public Square facing the terminal in 1929

Artist touching up a mural in 1938 (wow holding a cig and messy hair, again, so little has changed haha)

A Nike Missle in 1958

Wade Lagoon in 1900

Public Square in 1895

The Perry-Payne Building in the 1880s

Constructing Terminal Tower in 1927

What was originally proposed

1970 war protesters at CWRU

Public Square 1943

more pictures here
http://ech.cwru.edu/ech-cgi/gal-frame.pl

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w.flickr.com/photos/danthemann5/sets/72157629251632928/with/6995469593/ – PHOTOS BY DAN THE MANN

H. W. White Mansion - 8937 Euclid Ave.

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From Millionaire’s Row to Riots: A Comprehensive History of Cleveland’s Hough Neighborhood

8 May 2012 No Comment

8000 BCE. Humans and mammoths co-exist in Northeast Ohio until we hunt them into extinction.  Hough probably not settled due to bugs.

1200 AD. Native peoples begin settling into villages in river valleys.

1500 AD. Mound builders start to disappear.

1600s. Iroquois take over Ohio in a bloody war with various tribes.

1700s. Iroquois move east to fight the French and English. Wyandot move into region (most artifacts near Sandusky). They were known for their “rough hair”  (read: mohawks—my husband is a descendant.)

1799. Doan family builds tavern at E. 107th & Euclid Avenue in East Cleveland township.

1854. Area settled as a farm by Oliver and Eliza Hough.

1860s. Oliver and Eliza die, and their land is divided into parcels.

League Park railway car

1872. Hough incorporated into Cleveland, which doubled in size in 10 years.  Millionaire’s Row built on Euclid Avenue.

1890s. Two electric streetcars run down Hough & Euclid Avenues.  League Park built at E. 66th and Lexington as home of the Cleveland Spiders (now the Cleveland Indians). Eliza Bryant built the first “Retirement home for Colored Persons,” later moved into Hough. Area filled with single family homes and exclusive schools like Beaumont School for Girls, University School, Notre Dame Academy, and East High School.  Houses of worship built include St. Agnes Parish and Congregational Church.

University School (Cleveland Memory Project)

1900s. Hough Bakeries founded at 8703 Hough Avenue and Rainey Institute on E. 55th.

1920s. Apartment buildings constructed as wealthy residents migrate to the Heights to avoid air pollution from their own factories.  Millionaires destroy their homes before moving out.

1930s. Hough fills with middle class immigrants and laborers.  Homes take in boarders or split into multi-family dwellings.

1950s. Urban renewal and highway development force African-Americans from Central into Hough, increasing from 14% to 75% of its population.  Realtors threaten reduced home values; Polish, Irish, and Spanish-speaking immigrants move out.

1960s. Mounting racial tension caused by deteriorating and overcrowded housing owned by whites and occupied by blacks. (Tip: Don’t be a slumlord).

July 18-23, 1966. Hough Riots cause massive property damage and four deaths until the National Guard takes over. A grand jury ruled that the Communist Party organized the uprising.

1970s. Middle class families flee the neighborhood while activists work hard to rebuild with little outside support. Religious communities collaborate to provide food and other social service programs. Nonprofits like Hough Multipurpose Center, Fatima Family Center, Famicos Foundation, and Hough Salvation Army are formed.

Reverend Jesse Jackson at East High

1976. Jesse Jackson speaks at dedication of new East High School building.

1985. Lexington Village opens, signaling a new era of residential development.  Crack and AIDS weaken the community.

1990s & 2000s. Population continues to decline while large number of new, single family homes and townhouses are built.  Church Square Shopping Plaza built and visited by President Clinton.

2010-2012. Euclid Avenue significantly rebuilt with Health Line bus connecting Downtown to University Circle. Deteriorating schools replaced with new buildings. Funds dedicated to maintain and restore portions of historic League Park.

Cities Burying ‘Dead’ by Demolishing Homes

Cities Burying ‘Dead’ by Demolishing Homes

David Levitt/Bloomberg

A boarded-up home stands in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

Rust Belt Cities Demolish Homes as Defaults Blight Neighborhoods

Cleveland’s population has been shrinking for 60 years as the city lost manufacturing jobs. Now, after more than 33,000 foreclosures since 2005, it’s demolishing hundreds of deserted, derelict homes.

An agency started last year to manage abandoned houses in Cuyahoga County, which includes Cleveland, plans to acquire as many as 1,000 properties next year, and tear down as many as 900 of them. The city of Cleveland may raze double that amount, according to Gus Frangos, president of Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp.

  Cities Burying ‘Dead’ by Demolishing Homes

A boarded-up home stands in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. Photographer: David Levitt/Bloomberg

Nov. 18 (Bloomberg) — Cities across the Rust Belt, saddled with abandoned properties under their control as owners stop paying taxes, are choosing to tear down some buildings rather than sell them as residents move to the suburbs and steel, automotive and manufacturing jobs disappear. Bloomberg’s Monica Bertran reports. (Source: Bloomberg)

  Cities Burying ‘Dead’ by Demolishing Homes

Cleveland has lost more than half its population since 1950 as the decline of steel, automotive and manufacturing jobs forced residents to leave for parts of the U.S. where employment was growing. Photographer: David Levitt/Bloomberg

“You really have to bury the dead right now,” Frangos said in a telephone interview. “You have to remove blight. It’s unfortunately on a grand scale.”

Cities and counties across the Rust Belt are ending up with abandoned properties under their control as owners stop paying taxes. In Cuyahoga County, a record 2,400 tax foreclosures may occur this year, said Chris Warren, Cleveland’s chief of regional development. The governments are choosing to tear down some buildings rather than sell them as residents move to the suburbs and steel, automotive and manufacturing jobs disappear.

“That decision reflects a perception of what the future is going to be,” said Nicolas Retsinas, director emeritus of the Joint Center for Housing Studies at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. It’s “the phenomenon of the shrinking city,” he said.

Detroit Demolitions

In Detroit, like Cleveland, the population has dropped by more than half since 1950. The city is in the process of demolishing more than 3,000 houses, according to Dan Lijana, a spokesman for Mayor Dave Bing. The mayor, elected last year, has pledged to tear down 10,000 abandoned and dangerous homes in his first term, Lijana said in an e-mail.

Detroit has almost 51,000 properties for sale and may add more through this year’s tax foreclosure auction in Wayne County, where the city is located.

“These cities really have to take on the properties,” said Alan Mallach, a senior fellow at the Washington-based Brookings Institution. “If they’re going to be responsible stewards, they really don’t have a choice.”

Detroit, which has about 911,000 residents, plans to spend $14 million of $47 million from the first grant it was awarded in the federal Neighborhood Stabilization Program to get rid of vacant properties that breed blight. Detroit razed 12,600 homes in the decade before Bing took office, Lijana said.

Homes Being Razed

In Ohio, Cuyahoga County Land Reutilization Corp., also known as the Cuyahoga Land Bank, won a $41 million grant in a second round of funding from the federal government’s stabilization program. The land bank has budgeted about $6.3 million to demolish 605 houses in Cleveland and some of its suburbs, according to a report filed with the U.S. government.

“There’s just not nearly enough money to solve the devastation in these neighborhoods,” Frangos said.

A block on Kinsman Avenue near East 144th Street in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of southeast Cleveland is pocked with boarded-up homes and empty lots where homes once stood. Nailed to one house, its front gutter dangling over the porch, is a piece of plywood spray-painted with “NO COPPER,” an attempt to keep metal scavengers away.

Another neighborhood bearing the plywood scars of foreclosure is Slavic Village, also southeast of downtown. On a residential side street off the main thoroughfare of Fleet Avenue, about every seventh home is boarded up.

Demolitions Scheduled

Cleveland is scheduled today to demolish 11602 Cromwell Ave. on the city’s east side, and 6530 Hosmer Ave., in the southeast part of the city, according to Andrea Taylor, a spokeswoman for Mayor Frank Jackson.

The Cleveland area’s foreclosure rate ranked in the top third of more than 200 U.S. metropolitan areas in the third quarter, according to Irvine, California-based RealtyTrac Inc.

“Foreclosures continue unabated,” Jim Rokakis, the treasurer for Cuyahoga County and a board member of the county land bank, said in a telephone interview. “It’s an ugly situation.”

Ohio’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 10 percent in September, the latest month for which figures are available, higher than the national rate of 9.6 percent in October, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Michigan’s was 13 percent. The Cleveland metropolitan area’s jobless rate, which isn’t seasonally adjusted, was 9.4 percent, and Detroit’s was 13.4 percent.

‘Seriously Distressed’

Cleveland has 7,000 “vacant and seriously distressed properties,” according to a report by Warren, the city’s chief of regional development. That’s down from 8,009 last year as the city rehabilitated and demolished homes.

Municipal groups teamed up to target 20 neighborhoods in several cities in the region as part of a revitalization program, according to an “action plan” the Cuyahoga County Land Bank filed with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Neighborhoods in such suburbs as East Cleveland, Shaker Heights and South Euclid are among the targeted areas.

Dayton, Ohio, with a population of about 153,800, is also using money from the second round of federal grants to demolish properties and build new homes and apartment buildings for low- income families. In one neighborhood, the city is spending $1.55 million to buy 40 abandoned properties that will be torn down and replaced with homes for families earning less than 50 percent of the area’s median income.

Urban Agriculture

Cities also are encouraging urban agriculture through the planting of community gardens on vacant lots. In some cases, homes acquired by a municipality are rehabilitated and occupied again.

When buildings are demolished, the lots left behind may be cleaned for agriculture or the planting of gardens, or used for new construction. In the Cleveland area, multiple plots may be put together to allow for larger developments, which won’t go forward until demand for redevelopment emerges, according to Cuyahoga Land Bank.

Phoenix, which has the eighth-highest U.S. foreclosure rate, also received money from the federal government and plans to spend 3 percent of the first round on “clearance,” which includes cleaning up vacant lots and demolishing properties, according to government records.

For Sun Belt cities such as Phoenix, where there likely will be greater growth than in Cleveland and Detroit, the more practical strategy may be to hold on to homes until the real estate market recovers, said Terry Schwarz, director of Kent State University’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative in Cleveland.

“Depending on the property and climate, it may be possible to mothball the buildings,” Schwarz said.

Buying Foreclosed Homes

That’s what Phoenix is doing. The city of 1.6 million is buying foreclosed homes through the National Community Stabilization Trust, according to Kate Krietor, deputy director of neighborhood services for Phoenix. The Washington-based trust, sponsored by six nonprofit groups, helps local community- housing organizations buy foreclosed properties from lenders.

Phoenix-area home prices fell 52 percent in August from their peak in June 2006, according to data from the S&P/Case- Shiller home-price indexes. Farther east, values in and around Detroit dropped 44 percent from their 2005 record. Cleveland- area prices are down 13 percent from the peak four years ago.

Foreclosures are likely to continue in Cleveland as the economy struggles to rebound.

“It’s a dismal picture,” said Rokakis, the Cuyahoga county treasurer. “The only thing positive is this land bank and what we’re doing.”

Cleveland, Cuyahoga County allocate $14 million for demolition of blighted homes, hope for federal match

Published: Friday, March 16, 2012, 5:40 AM     Updated: Friday, March 16, 2012, 5:42 AM
demolished home.JPGView full sizeA pile of rubble is all that remains after a home on West 32nd Street in Cleveland was demolished in February.

CLEVELAND, Ohio — Cleveland and Cuyahoga County expect to put up $14 million, a little more than previously estimated, in hopes of getting a matching amount for the demolition of blighted homes countywide.

The Cuyahoga land bank, the county prosecutor and the city of Cleveland sent a request to the Ohio attorney general’s office last week. They are seeking a portion of the money received by Ohio in a 49-state mortgage fraud settlement with major mortgage lenders.

The county could also see some federal dollars coming its way to battle the problem of abandoned homes. On Thursday, U.S. Reps. Steve LaTourette, a Republican, and Marcia Fudge, a Democrat, announced plans to propose legislation that would create a bond program to finance demolition of blighted buildings. A news conference is slated for Monday in Cleveland.

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said last month that he is committing $75 million of Ohio’s $335 million share of the settlement to the razing of abandoned and blighted buildings throughout the state.

The land bank, created in 2009, has offered to put up $5 million of the $14 million needed in local money. The land bank, which gets most of its revenue from penalties and interest on delinquent taxes, recently demolished its 750th building. It expects to knock down 700 more properties by the end of this year.

The leftover lots are typically sold to neighbors for a nominal fee or given to the cities where the properties are located, land bank President Gus Frangos said.

The county prosecutor is also willing to kick in $5 million, with $1 million devoted specifically to the city of Cleveland. That money also comes from penalties and interest on delinquent taxes, Frangos said.

Initially, Prosecutor Bill Mason had committed $3 million, Frangos said, but he upped the contribution because he felt it was a worthy cause. Cleveland, which has demolished more than 5,000 properties since 2005 and has its own land bank, has estimated that it can put up $4 million.

The average cost of demolition is about $7,500, Frangos said. Additional asbestos removal costs could range from $500 to $5,000. Plus, there are other costs to maintain the properties pending demolition.

If a full match comes through from the state, it will probably take a few years to spend the $28 million, Frangos said. He said he’s unsure if the state will cap matching amounts.

DeWine said last month that the state money could be forthcoming by late spring. He declined then to say specifically how much Cleveland might get but said it would be millions of dollars.

Regardless of the state contribution, the local commitment of $14 million will not be reduced, he said.

The money “would provide a needed root canal for some neighborhoods that are on the brink of collapse,” Frangos said.

CLEVELAND, OHIO: Historic churches near Cleveland Clinic for sale

Date 2012/1/24 9:30:00 | Topic: News

CLEVELAND, OHIO: Historic churches near Cleveland Clinic campus at center of debate over preservation, land-banking
The Episcopal Diocese of Ohio has put the Church of the Transfiguration up for sale, for $1.9 million

By Michelle Jarboe McFee
The Plain Dealer
http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2012/01/historic_churches_near_clevela.html
January 20, 2012

The Euclid Avenue Church of God and the Church of the Transfiguration sit empty on Cleveland’s former Millionaires’ Row, remnants of a heyday when mansions marched east from downtown.

Their congregations have fled. And historic preservationists fear that both churches will disappear, swallowed up by the Cleveland Clinic’s appetite for land.

Now the Cleveland Restoration Society, with nine employees and a million-dollar annual budget, is pitting itself against the city’s largest employer, a health care giant that says it has no interest in redeveloping dilapidated churches at the edge of its main campus.

The Clinic has offered to pay $500,000 for the land beneath the Euclid Avenue Church of God, northeast of Euclid and East 86th Street. On the other side of Euclid, the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio has put Transfiguration up for sale, for $1.9 million.

Real estate insiders say the sites would make sense for parking or commercial development. The property owners see a chance to unload unwanted buildings to a deep-pocketed buyer. But two city boards have rejected a request from the Euclid Avenue Church of God to demolish its building, a city landmark. And the Restoration Society is trumpeting that the Clinic should use its muscle and money to remake both churches.

“I don’t think that anybody thinks they’d be able to do heart surgery in one of these buildings, but there are many other uses,” said Kathleen Crowther, the Restoration Society’s president.

This tug-of-war comes as Northeast Ohio is grappling with vacant churches across the region. Religious buildings might be the biggest challenge facing the preservation community. Shrinking congregations and migration to the suburbs have left churches empty, or with fewer members — and less cash.

Local developers have remade churches as condominiums, offices and galleries. Still, the supply of empty buildings eclipses demand. The most likely user of a vacant church is another congregation, but banks are skittish about lending to faith-based groups.

“I think you’re always going to run into challenges like the situation with the Clinic,” said Melissa Ferchill, a Cleveland developer who remade a historic church for Baldwin-Wallace College’s music program and helped industrial design firm Nottingham Spirk transform a former Cleveland Heights church into an innovation center.

“Unfortunately for someone like the Clinic, a church just doesn’t repurpose very well,” she added. “It just doesn’t have spaces that will fit any of their needs very well.”

The Clinic would not make executives available to discuss the Euclid Avenue Church of God or Transfiguration. A new master plan for the Clinic’s main campus does not include the churches. But it’s clear the Clinic, which buys and holds property for development, is interested in the land.

“That’s not something that’s in our plans, to redevelop the property,” said Eileen Sheil, a Clinic spokeswoman. “They’re not our churches.”

Cash-strapped church sees Clinic as a savior

Built between 1890 and 1891, the Euclid Avenue Church of God is a small stone building designed by Sidney Badgley, a Canadian architect who crafted plans for several local churches. The Restoration Society believes one of the building’s stained glass windows was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany’s studio. Inside the sanctuary, the walls are stained and the carpet feels uneven underfoot. In the bell tower, the plaster is crumbling and the floor has been replaced with plywood.

In the late 1980s and early ’90s, the congregation amassed a building fund and made repairs, members say. That effort stalled as pastors changed and the church’s leaders considered selling. The Clinic has expressed interest in the 0.16-acre property before, said members of the church’s board of trustees. But, they stressed, the Clinic never initiated the conversations.

“We went to them, asking them to help us,” said the Rev. Kevin Goode, the church’s current pastor. “We see them as our savior more than anything else.”

In June, the church asked the Cleveland Landmarks Commission for permission to knock down the building. The commission designates historically or architecturally significant buildings as city landmarks, a status that brings added scrutiny to demolition requests.

The Landmarks Commission turned down the congregation’s request. In September, the city’s Board of Zoning Appeals upheld that decision. Now the cash-strapped church is appealing, in a lawsuit filed in Cuyahoga County.

Meanwhile, Goode has moved his ministry out of Cleveland, merging his 80-person congregation with a small one at the Middleburg Heights Church of God on West 130th Street. He hopes to use the $500,000 from a potential sale to the Clinic to renovate the church’s new home.

The hospital system is helping the church pay for its legal battle, Goode said. Sheil said she could not confirm that. The congregation’s lawyer, Kenneth Fisher, would not say who is paying him.

Goode says the Euclid Avenue property is not safe. An engineering report predicts that a complete redevelopment would cost $1.5 million. Cleveland’s building department has no open citations on the Euclid Avenue Church of God building, according to public records. A city spokeswoman said officials would not discuss the property because of the congregation’s lawsuit.

“My building and Transfiguration, they’re not worth crap,” Goode said. “They’re not worth two dead flies smashed.”

Several longtime members of the congregation disagree. They’re skeptical about the pastor’s pronouncements, and they want multiple opinions on potential redevelopment costs.

“I didn’t have enough information,” said Ulysses McNair, a board member who voted against selling the property. “I also have a thing about being a party to tearing down God’s house. I said that to them. And they were saying to me, ‘Well, God’s people make up the house.’ ”

Restoration Society fears for city landmarks

The Restoration Society believes either building could be reused for office space, a restaurant or a library. But the preservation group hasn’t found other potential buyers for the Euclid Avenue Church of God.

In separate interviews, Crowther and Goode pointed fingers at each other.

Goode: “They [The Cleveland Restoration Society] blow a lot of hot air, but they’re not putting any money on the table.”

Crowther: “Our job is not to bail out every deteriorated landmark in the city. The city has laws that govern how you deal with properties in protected zones, and this is a protected property.”

Crowther criticized the congregation for approaching the Clinic, rather than putting the church on the market. Yet she agrees that the Clinic is the logical buyer — but that the institution should pay more attention to historic preservation, instead of land-banking.

The Clinic demolished the old Hathaway Brown School building in Cleveland and the former Ohio College of Podiatric Medicine building nearby. But the hospital has preserved two historic mansions on Euclid Avenue.

And the institution’s new master plan calls for reusing the Cleveland Play House complex, at 8500 Euclid Ave., as an education center. Preservationists have worried about the building since the Clinic bought it in 2010.

“We care about historic preservation,” said Sheil, the Clinic spokeswoman. “What we try to do with each of the properties that are on our land, that are historic landmarks, is we try to do what’s best for the community and the Cleveland Clinic.”

Sheil said she could not confirm whether the Clinic is looking at Transfiguration, which was listed for sale last month. Built in the early 1900s, the church stands on 0.83 acres just north of a Clinic parking garage.

The Gothic Revival church once offered programs serving up to 1,900 families a month, according to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. More recently, it was home to a congregation of just 40 to 45 people.

One of several churches that broke off from the Episcopal Diocese of Ohio, the congregation at Transfiguration asserted that it owned its building. But the diocese claimed ownership of the property through a trust. A Cuyahoga County judge sided with the diocese in September.

Under the leadership of an Anglican priest, the congregation recently leased a former Methodist church on Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. The Rev. Constance Harris said some members were reluctant to leave Euclid Avenue, but they couldn’t afford to maintain a historic building.

“There’s been a problem with the roof for years,” Harris said. “The plaster falls down. Over the one kind of cloistered aisle, it rains inside if it rains outside.”

Citing safety concerns, diocese officials would not let a Plain Dealer reporter tour Transfiguration. The Rev. Brad Purdom, canon for congregations, noted that the diocese is renovating some properties, including the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church in Ohio City.

But, he said, the diocese cannot restore every building.

“It breaks our hearts,” Purdom said. “But at the end of the day, you have to make some choices about how you’re going to spend the limited resources that you do have.”

END

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Issue Date: March 2010
Tear it DownForeclosure, sprawl and a sagging economy have left a crumbling American Dream in their wake. These ruins remain, scarring our city. But there is hope for a fresh start.
Erick Trickey
trickey@clevelandmagazine.com

CLEVELAND WON’T BE reborn until it buries its dead.

Empty, decaying houses haunt Cuyahoga County’s neighborhoods — 8,000 dispirited shells where yesterday’s factory workers, nurses, lawyers and mechanics lived. Today, those residents are deceased or bankrupt or they’ve started over in a new part of town, a different city, another state. Many streets wait in vain for new owners and tenants to replace them. No one is coming, at least not until the old bricks and timbers are gone.

Last year, 14,800 foreclosure cases hit Cuyahoga County’s courthouse, about the same as the year before and the year before that. Blame our region’s economic stagnation and the nation’s recession; blame lenders who bent and broke old rules to make loans to people who couldn’t afford them; blame Wall Street speculators who bundled and resold those toxic loans, poisoning the economy. Or blame our drive to expand, leave the old neighborhoods and make new suburbs out of countryside. All those reasons help explain the ruins on these eight pages, the abandoned city that must be laid to rest before a new city can grow.

Vacant houses can hide muggers, drug dealers and rapists. Boarded windows, sagging porches and graffiti wreck the value of homes nearby. Gloom settles into the minds of the adults driving down the street and the kids who walk past the wrecks on the way to school.

“We don’t ever come out after dark,” says Lonnie Marie Woods, whose home on Cleveland’s Nevada Avenue faces three abandoned houses. “Just ask the neighbors. We’re petrified! We are in danger!”

So it’s time to send the bulldozers. Cleveland Mayor Frank Jackson has greatly expanded City Hall’s demolition program: It tore down 1,624 houses in 2009, up from about 300 a year before he took office. Another 1,500 are planned for this year. Cuyahoga County recently created a land bank to take over abandoned properties, demolish the worst and least-wanted homes, renovate the best and hold others until they can be fixed and sold.

“As much as I’d like to tell you [otherwise],” says county treasurer Jim Rokakis, “the majority of what we get’s going to be demolished.”

Not every vacant house should disappear: In strong neighborhoods, rehabbers buy, restore and sell foreclosed homes. New owners buy them as fixer-uppers, often with help from government grants and nonprofits. But in the hardest-hit neighborhoods, a house’s first, second or third foreclosure can mean its end. Some abandoned houses are stripped and vandalized, even burned down by vagrants seeking shelter and setting fires to stay warm. Condemnation comes next. Or, the market pronounces a quieter death sentence: The house has no value left because no one wants to buy it.

“There’s a lot more supply than there is demand,” says Rokakis. “If there was huge demand for this housing, people would be moving into it.”

It costs about $6,000 to $10,000 to tear down a house. Cleveland uses federal funds or city bond money to pay demolition contractors then bills the property owner. Private demolitions have also grown, to 1,090 last year. Owners of decaying houses know the city is serious, so they’ll tear them down before the city does.

Still, the problem is bigger than the budget. The city counted 6,820 “vacant, distressed” houses in December, down 1,189 from 2008. So it tears down the worst first: the fire-damaged, the falling-down. It takes down clusters: five on one block. Derelict houses near schools are also high priorities, as are houses on main streets, in high-crime areas, near new economic development and on near-vacant streets.

In Cuyahoga County’s suburbs, which saw more foreclosures than the city last year, vacant houses are far more likely to be rehabbed, resold or maintained.

Even so, suburban governments now condemn and tear down the most-troubled houses. Maple Heights has demolished dozens in the past year. Lakewood took down a handful.

Worst off is East Cleveland, where 1,450 vacant buildings mar the town’s 3.2 square miles, overwhelming its unstable government’s tiny budget. Fire-gutted houses, collapsed porches and rows of ruins, sights rare in Cleveland itself, scar the worst streets. Mayor Gary Norton wants to speed demolitions; the county land bank has offered to help.

At least 8,200 houses in the county are likely too far gone to save. And that’s a conservative figure. Rokakis thinks it’s closer to 17,000.

Once a house is gone, the land can have a new future. Abandoned property often goes into tax foreclosure then to the city or county land bank, which assemble large chunks to offer to developers when an economic recovery finally arrives.

“Everything is cyclical,” says Joe Sidoti, Cleveland’s real estate commissioner. “Eventually, when the market returns, we can dictate what type of development should go in.”

The land banks also split single lots between occupied houses to give the neighbors bigger yards; because a typical Cleveland lot is 30 feet wide, plenty of residents are eager to stretch out. Nonprofits are helping the city start pocket parks, planting trees and shrubbery along busy streets. Residents have started more than 200 community gardens. (At the one above, founded last April on West 48th Street, neighbors are growing collard greens, cabbage and peppers.) Urban-agriculture pioneers also envision farms on newly vacant land. Or, eco-minded planners can create ponds and lowlands to keep storm water from overflowing the sewers.

Cleveland could become “a city in which viable homes have large lots, and commercial strips and viable streets have more green space,” says Gus Frangos, the county land bank’s president. “It’s amazing what a little bit of water and a little green does to attract people.” It’s an opportunity to create a more environmentally friendly region, to take a city built for 900,000 people and remake it for today’s 430,000 residents — and to open up places for Cleveland to grow again.

Thousands of cars pass 5717 Grand Ave. every day, taking a shortcut between Kinsman Road and I-490. The house, one of the last on the block, had one owner from 1956 to 1992. It’s had five since. The Bank of New York Mellon owns it now after two foreclosures. Cleveland Housing Court Judge Ray Pianka signed a warrant Jan. 5 that allowed inspectors inside. A search warrant “can be a death warrant of a house,” Pianka says. It’s the first step in the grimly nicknamed “stations of the cross”: search warrant, inspection, condemnation, demolition. “We’re seeing this section of Grand Avenue disappear,” the judge says. The city found 25 code violations, including holes in the roof and walls and a failing foundation. It condemned the house Jan. 12.

The house at 5241 Dolloff Road scares Joyce Alvino. She lives next door, and at night, she and her husband, Bernie, listen for noises. “People come in from the windows on the other side,” she says. “You don’t want a fire if it’s a windy day.” Her husband shot an arrow into the empty house’s side to warn trespassers away.Dolloff Road, in the North Broadway neighborhood near I-77, is devastated. Vacant houses surround the Alvinos on three sides. They bought the house on one side and use it to store their summer furniture. The empty house across the street is maintained by the guy who’s owned it since 1983. A community group has painted bright flowers and curtains on its window boards.Wells Fargo bought the vacant house to the north at a sheriff’s sale after the Alvinos’ former neighbors lost it to foreclosure in 2007. The bank then sold it to a Utah-based house wholesaler. Go Invest Wisely LLC owns 144 properties in Cuyahoga County and has 25 cases pending against it in Cleveland Housing Court, some for code violations, some for failure to provide disclosure forms. A December probation order requires the company to keep all its Cleveland properties clean and secure.“You’re kind of stuck here,” says Alvino, a retired Cleveland State University office manager who’s lived on Dolloff since 1981. “One time, it was a really beautiful neighborhood. Everyone knew everyone. Now you don’t know anybody.” The last few neighbors trade rumors that an investor will come in and buy all their properties. “That’s our only salvation for any of us to get out of here.”

This house, which fell into foreclosure in 2006, stands six doors down from the house where Anthony Sowell allegedly killed 11 women. JP Morgan Chase Bank bought it in a sheriff’s sale for $49,300 then sold it for $1,000 in April 2007 to its current owner, Cleveland-based Mars Urban Solutions LLC. Foreclosure and vacancy have made many Cleveland neighborhoods more dangerous. One disturbing question about the Imperial Avenue murders is, how could Sowell have buried his alleged victims in his backyard without anyone noticing? One answer: He lived between a sausage shop and a vacant home, better maintained than this one, that was foreclosed on in early 2008.

Three decaying houses stand side by side on Nevada Avenue, a one-block street near Woodland Avenue that dead-ends into railroad tracks. “Tear this down!” shouts Lonnie Marie Woods, who owns a house across from them. “Tear this one down! All three of them!” The county land bank acquired this house, 8624 Nevada, in a tax foreclosure in November. It’s scheduled to be one of the land bank’s first demolitions. The green one next door was seized in another tax foreclosure in October. Woods says she’s waited seven years for the ruins on her street to go. In 2003, two 13-year-old boys were raped in another vacant house on the block. The city tore that house down, she says, but left the others.
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6 thoughts on “The Ghosts Houses of Cleveland Ohio

  1. Pingback: URL

    • That would be great if the police station building was kissed by some major historic preservation. i hold out hope after having seen NYC be completely transformed from the totally hopeless situation that was there during the 1980’s. I was a student at Pratt Institute back then. Recall that I had never seen a place as mean, defeated and broken as Brooklyn. Also realized that Midwest factory workers were much higher wage earners than most working class folk along the Eastern seaboard before the factories disappeared out of the U.S.

      Vincent Johnson/Los Angeles

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