Showing posts with label Shaker Heights. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shaker Heights. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Strange Disappearing Houses of the Lomond Neighborhood, in Shaker Heights, Ohio

My colleague, Korbi Roberts, put together this video, The Strange Disappearing Houses of the Lomond Neighborhood, in Shaker Heights, Ohio. It illustrates that the issues concerning the demolition of homes in historic neighborhoods are not limited to the inner city.

Rather than reading my continued ramblings (I could go on and on, you know) please take a look at the video.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Don Hisaka: The Cleveland Years

Don M. Hisaka residence

A while back, I wrote about a more recent piece of this region’s built history – this house, built by Don Hisaka as his personal residence. The structure, an AIA honor recipient in 1970, is located at 14300 Drexmore Road, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation is presenting an exhibit of the structures designed during Hisaka’s time in Cleveland – 1960 – 1985. The show opens tomorrow and runs through May 21. After that date, the exhibit will travel to the Cleveland Clinic, and then, in January, 2012, to the Mansfield Art Center - a structure designed by Hisaka.

Full disclosure: I’m curating the CAF’s next exhibit, set to open June 3 and running through the middle of July.

Seven of the structures in the exhibition are in the greater Cleveland area. What follows is a look at four of them.

Don M. Hisaka residence

I wrote about the first structure, Hisaka's personal residence in Shaker Heights, back in 2009. The label from the Cleveland Artists Foundation exhibit provides more detail:

Don Hisaka's home received a national Honor Award from the American Institute of Architects. The 1970 AIA jury stated: "An interesting and difficult site, the desire to relate to adjacent homes, the need for outdoor privacy, the need for a reasonable amount of living space, and an obviously austere budget have all been brought quietly and with great delicacy into handsome balance."

The two-story home is located on a triangular corner lot in Shaker Heights. Although it is a contemporary design in a traditional neighborhood, its roof-line geometry blends with homes on both sides. In conforming to strict setback requirements, Mr. Hisaka had to place his family's home in the furthermost corner of the site.

Four connected blocks-three living units and the garage- almost completely surround a private courtyard. Inside the house is a world of space, light, and serenity. Every first-floor room has floor-to-ceiling glass walls and overlooks the courtyard.

Architectural Forum, July-August 1969, devoted four pages to the Hisaka residence. A comment: "Even though the neighbors cannot look into the Hisakas' court, they can tell it is there, and perhaps they realize that the scheme of additive units around a court solves some of the basic problems of housing in the suburban setting. It shows one way to enjoy private outdoor living space and large glass areas - without living either in a goldfish bowl or behind a stockade."

Exterior walls are rough-sawn cedar, stained to blend inconspicuously with the trees.

The Hisaka residence was one of the homes featured in the Fortune article, "When an Architect Builds for Himself" (November 1971)

The Gund Residence, also designed in 1965, was featured on the cover of the catalog for Cleveland Goes Modern. The house is located on the south side of Major Road, between Riverview Road and Oak Hill Road, in Peninsula, Ohio. The site is not visible from the road.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation, in the exhibition label, describes the challenges the site and the client presented to Hisaka and the manner in which he addressed them.

The clients chose a heavily wooded site, south of Cleveland, amid slopes and ravines. Then, in discussing a holiday & summertime retreat with Hisaka and Associates, they talked about a home with large decks and an international style “treehouse” floating over a densely wooded site. They wanted a view of four small, man-made lakes and asked not to destroy a single tree.

Hisaka’s solution places two stark white cubes on an expansive wood desk. The entire structure is perched on concrete stilts, and a glass-enclosed bridge connects the two-story wings. After the house was completed, the client allowed one tree to be chopped down. As a result, three of the four manmade lakes on the property and broad expanses of forest are visible from the interior of a light-splashed home that gives its residents a sense of living outdoors.

Giddings Elementary School

Giddings Elementary School, completed in 1970, is located at 2250 East 71st Street, Cleveland, Ohio. The exhibition label describes the reasoning behind this Brutalist design.
The award winning Giddings Elementary School in Cleveland has three stories of classrooms surrounding a skylit courtyard. Here exterior windows are minimized to discourage vandalism in a modern structure that replaces a burned-down 19th century schoolhouse. The new school turns inward toward the courtyard, which is enlivened with greenery, a prominent staircase and a two-story glassed-in core housing offices and a library. The mustard brick exterior steps down in one- and two-story levels to harmonize with the scale of traditional wood-frame houses in the neighborhood.

When built, square lintels topped the entrances - one is seen off-center here - not unlike a brick piece of stonehenge. They have since been removed, to the aesthetic detriment of the space. The band of paint, eight or nine feet high, around the bottom of the building has not helped the appearance. The architect can accept some responsiblity for this - graffiti in this situation is almost an inevibility, and it must be painted over, as chemical and mechanical means of removal either pollute or damage the brick - it should be considered as part of the design process.

Eric Johannesen, in the authoritative Cleveland Architecture, 1876-1976 selects this school as one of the best examples of its type. The text (page 233) illustrates the atrium described above and an entrance, before it was altered.

I can't speak to how well the building does or does not function as an educational institution. It's worth keeping in mind that the design was a product of the times, and that the lack of windows on the exterior was meant to reduce distractions. Natural light was to come from the atrium.

The presence of this building in the neighborhood could be improved by the replacement of the missing brick lintels. Compared with many other building restoration projects, the cost of this is low. Perhaps those involved in mounting the exhibition would consider donating the work and materials to accomplish it.

Interior, University Center Atrium, looking south. Photograph taken in 1980 by Clay Herrick. Used courtesy of The Cleveland Memory Project.

Don Hisaka's University Center for Cleveland State University was completed in 1974. The structure, which was located on the north side of Euclid Avenue at about East 22nd Street, is described, in an object label in the exhibit as
[A]n L-shaped building which joins the plaza on two sides. Lecture rooms and public functions, located on the lower three floors, are accessible to students and outsiders. Offices are on the upper three floors. Lounge and dining facilities are on the second floor, handy to the enclosed bridges which, connecting with library tower and classroom buildings, create an all-weather campus.

The oblique wall at the entrance on Euclid Avenue is an invitation to pedestrians from Cleveland’s main business area, only a few blocks west.
Unfortunately, while the structure was visually stunning, it was also quite unusable. It was demolished in 2008.

Don Hisaka's buildings shaped, in their way, the built landscape of the greater Cleveland area. While they're not as old as the structures we usually call "historic", they've clearly had an influence. Take his house, a better answer to a skinny triangular lot in Shaker Heights than the usual boring duplex. Look at Thwing Center, at Case Western Reserve University, which brings together two historic structures. Take a look at Giddings Elementary, which might be seen as a fortress to protest those who wish to learn, while still bringing in plenty of natural light.

The exhibit, Don Hisaka: The Cleveland Years, opens tomorrow - Friday, March 25, and continues through May 21. An opening reception will be held from 6 to 8 pm.

The Cleveland Artists Foundation is located in the Beck Center, at 17801 Detroit Road, in Lakewood, Ohio. A catalog has been published to accompany the show. More information on Hisaka's work can be found in the CAF catalog Cleveland Goes Modern.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Cold War Relic: The Sister Cities Rose Garden

Sister Cities Rose Carden

This wood sign is located on Park Drive, at the east end of Horseshoe Lake, in Shaker Heights. The sign and rose garden commemorates the joining of Cleveland Heights and Shaker Heights and Volzhsky, U.S.S.R. as sister cities.

The presence of the garden indicated a change in political policy, which would lead to the fall of the Soviet Union less than three years after the sign was installed. I'm assuming, given Decembers being what they are in northern Ohio, that the sign was not installed until the following spring. (The official agreement was signed on December 5, 1988.)

It surprised me to see this sign, with a Soviet flag painted on it, still standing in 2010. I'm pleased that it's still here - it remains a monument to our history.

Monday, June 14, 2010

A great 1920s home interior

Copper lantern

One of the most interesting, most impressive houses that we saw during our search was this one, at 3170 Ludlow, in Shaker Heights, Ohio.

On the exterior, it appeared like an ordinary late 1920s brick Tudor Revival style home. There were aluminum awnings over the windows, which have since been removed, and shrubs that took up a bit too much of the yard. The price was about right, and it looked interesting, so we thought we'd take a look.

The layout of the interior was what we might expect for a house of this vintage in this area, but the way it was finished, oh!

Tile hood over gas range

The kitchen was tiled in yellow with green accents. The massive hood, built for the original gas range remained. There are some who will express a strong dislike for the wallpaper. I agree. Wallpaper, one must remember, can be changed easily ehough without affecting the fabric of the house.

Built in cabinets and tile, kitchen

The tile continued around the kitchen. The top cabinet shown here is original, while the bottom one is a later replacement, in the original location. The tile continued to the right, into the icebox nook.

Built in cabinets, breakfast nook

The breakfast nook, which featured this nice built-in cabinet, was also tiled.

The rest of the first floor was much as we had expected. The dining room included two nice built-in cabinets with leaded glass in their doors. The stairs to the second floor featured a simple, almost art deco wrought iron railing.

One especially nice feature I noticed on the first floor, which continued throughout the house, involved the windows. The windows were wood casements, meaning that they swing out rather than sliding up and down. Screens and storm windows are usually mounted on the inside. As a result, you have to remove the screens to open or close the windows. This was not the case with this house. Each screen had a small hole at the bottom through which a crank could be fit. With the crank in place, you could open or close the window without having to undo the various bits of hardware holding the screen in place.

Then I saw the first floor bathroom.

Purple and green tile bathroom

The bathroom features purple and green tile. Even the floor has purple and green tile. While not original, the current sink fits into the space nicely. I haven't seen a 1920s sink that would work as well as this one does in a bathroom this size.

Pink and green tile bathroom

On the second floor, it got even better. Both bathrooms were tiled in pink and green. Even the tub in one bathroom was pink!

Pink and green tile bathroom

While one of the sinks and both of the toilets on the second floor were replaced, I doubt that they too were pink originally. This sink is period-correct and likely original. As it is white, it suggests that the other sink and toilets were originally white, too. Pink toilets and sinks were available, as were many other colors.

The colors of the tile would stand out even more if the wallpaper was removed and the walls painted a good color. I'm not sure what that color would be. My inclination is white, but I'm inclined to paint everything white, so take that for what you will.

I hope that this helps illustrate that 1920s and 1930s bathrooms color choices were not limited to white, white, and white. The dominance of white as the bathroom color of choice ended in the early 1920s. A wide variety of colors became available, both with regard to tile as well as fixtures. Even massive drainboard sinks were available in a variety of colors (here's one example), though white remained most popular.

I admit that these colors aren't for everyone. If you have a bathroom or kitchen like this, I strongly encourage you to retain it. Colored bathroom fixtures are hard to find and tend to be very expensive when they do show up. If you're going to get rid of them, please let me know and I'll offer them up to the readers - I'm sure there will be many people eager to give them a good home.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Made in Cleveland! Clips from Cleveland Film History

The Cleveland International Film Festival has become an important part of our recent history. In celebration of the festival's 34th anniversary, here are a few clips from movies that were filmed in and around Cleveland.

The Fortune Cookie (1966)

This classic comedy starring Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau was the first major commercial film made in Cleveland.

Project Discovery: A Demonstration in Education (1965)

This educational film, credited with kicking off the era of the filmstrip, was filmed at Mercer Elementary School in Shaker Heights. It contains some good footage of 1960s-era Shaker Heights streetscapes and school buses -- not to mention people! (Source:

The Deer Hunter (1978)

Probably the quintessential "it was filmed here!" movie, which features St. Theodosius Russian Orthodox Church in Tremont.

Light of Day (1987)

This all-but-forgotten rock and roll family drama starring Joan Jett and Michael J. Fox is set against the backdrop of Rust Belt-era Cleveland. Unfortunately the movie is not available on DVD, but there is one VHS copy still floating around in the CLEVNET library system.

You can also check out the Plain Dealer's list of movies that were filmed in Cleveland, and read more at the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Don M. Hisaka residence

Don M. Hisaka residence

Unlike many of the other buildings mentioned here, it is not likely that this one will be demolished anytime soon. The house, at 14300 Drexmore Road, in Shaker Heights, was built in 1967 by architect Don M. Hisaka as his personal residence. It recieved the American Institute of Architects Honor in 1970. Hisaka also won the Cleveland Arts Prize for architecture that year.

Other Cleveland buildings designed by Hisaka include the atrium connecting Thwing and Hitchcock Halls at Case Western Reserve University and the University Center at Cleveland State University, which was demolished in 2008.

Don M. Hisaka residence

The house is built on a skinny, triangular lot at the intersection of Coventry and Drexmore. The layout of Shaker Heights makes for quite a few lots with these proportions. They've been perieved to be of lower value, due to the difficulty of building on them. Many are occupied by duplexes, presumably due to the lower value of the land. Hisaka saw the potential for this space and created a house that fits it quite well.

Hisaka had to deal with the restrictions associated with building in Shaker Heights, which tended to cause other progressive architects to look further out when choosing a site on which to build. The house fits in quite well with the neighborhood, I think.

Don M. Hisaka residence

The house is made of four rectangular blocks, enclosing a pentagon-shaped courtyard. With the exception of the one shown here, windows on the blocks tend to be long and skinny, allowing for more privacy. As the house has no real back yard, this is critical. Windows on the sections joining the block are larger. The house is presumably illuminated by large windows on the courtyard.

Don M. Hisaka residence

Somehow, it fits into this neighborhood where most of the houses were built in the 1920s. At one point I would have suggested that it is the materials, but few houses here use cedar shakes on their roofs anymore, and none have half-round gutters.

Don M. Hisaka residence

The interior courtyard allows this house to succeed where so many of the duplexes in the neighborhood fail. The triangular lot doesn't allow for much, if any, back yard. What little back yard space there is lacks privacy. We considered one of these duplexes quite seriously, and it seemed the only way we could really make the yard ours would be to plant massive hedges. An interior courtyard is a much more reasonable approach.

Don M. Hisaka residence

Each of the four blocks has a chimney, adding a visual theme that helps tie them together and break up the shape. Three of the four are sided in the same manner as the rest of the house. One, on the block with the entrance, I suspect to be merely for aesthetics. I wonder whether this one was painted originally.

Don M. Hisaka residence

Even the garage seems to fit in well with the house. I am curious about the sliding door on the second floor. I doubt it was intended for a balcony. Was it just a cheaper way to replace the windows?