A really beautiful building

Submitted by Norm Roulet on Wed, 07/18/2007 - 02:41.

Sorry not to have been posting and updating REALNEO very often the past few weeks. We took possession of our house on Roxbury, in East Cleveland, last Monday, and I've been there every day since, extracting the offenses of over a century, from 1,000s of square feet of drop ceilings to as many as three layers of linoleum... all that has protected the exceptional wood and plaster hidden beneath. The most critical extraction is the many layers of paint, the bottom few being hard-core lead... on miles of wood trim and scores of doors and windows, all of which we are desmantling and completely stripping to bare wood.

While this is a huge amount of work, it is the only way to address lead in such old homes, like most in Cleveland and the older suburbs. Obviously, we knew getting into this project that we would have lead everywhere and need to strip all the wood - until we are done with this phase and the clean-up the kids and Evelyn are rarely at the job site and we are taking great care to contain dust and debris and isolate anything that contains lead.

I would only bother to do this with a really solid building worth saving, of which there are 1,000s in East Cleveland, alone. The more I dive into my house the more I am awed by the quality of design, construction and materials, all the way down to the foundation. 101 years old and this house is as solid as a rock. And, I've had a chance to tour several other homes in my neighborhood and each are as excellent in their own unique ways.

I've also found in my neighborhood caring homeowners working hard to keep their old and at times difficult properties in order - many are in transition between generations - most need significant renovations but are well worth saving. And, I've found there are talented tradespeople in my neighborhood well qualified to work on these historic properties, and reasonably priced... I have two neighbors helping me on my house now.

I know there are funds available to help owners of historic and lead contaminated properties make renovations, especially in low income situations and with young children and senior citizens involved, and it seems there is local workforce available to make repairs. As we are renovating our home, we are exploring how all this fits together to drive neighborhood redevelopment and workforce and wealth creation.

In my neighborhood, at the micro-level, right now, we are employing two people and we'll create $100,000+ in real, new value on our street, with our home, nearly overnight. If we can leverage that to drive other historic renovations of other boarded up homes in our neighborhood, we'll multiply the micro-level beneift, and will have a macro-level impact... the marketplace will shift completely.

The tricky thing in making such a shift happen is attracting new home owners to the area who can restore or maintain historic properties - there is a workforce development opportunity for the current tradespeople who know how to work with these old buildings to train a next generation for them, including property owners.

Considering the costs, hazards and benefits, historic property is not for everyone, but it is highly desirable to many buyers and such buyers and historic properties are a great core for a community. East Cleveland has history in abundance. It is interesting to be part of this changing fabric, in a city whose history spans from the origins of Cleveland sprawl, being its first suburb, through the whirlwind of White-flight and Xurban sprawl, to a period when all here may be renewed.


July 4, 1906 inscription from "carpenter" at 1894 Roxbury, found on original plaster, under wallpaper in breakfast room - updated by "laborer" in 1976 and again in 1977.


BathroomShootDoor650.JPG39.81 KB
Carpenter650.JPG48.59 KB
LeadPaintOnWood650.JPG50.4 KB
StarTeam650.JPG45.1 KB
LivingRoomCeilingTransition650.jpg28.73 KB
( categories: )


I am glad that you take the long-view Norm, just like the carpenter who scrawled his mark on your wall.  What lasting reminders of our time will our current generation leave for others to find 100 years from now?  I don't need to tell you that it is hard to persuade some people that a parking lot is short-sighted. Very short-sighted.

Planning for the next 7 generations

It is cool to realize this house has been around for about 7 Generations. We will find out who built the house, and name it after them. And who was the architect, and anything else possible?... that should be at East Cleveland City Hall. Then, hopefully, we'll determine who were the next owners, and next, to us... perhaps 7 in 100 years? I see three or four layers of paint, so I'm going to project the house has had five owners, before Evelyn. And we are erasing all traces of all but the first, and in many cases erasing their imprint, where we are taking wood closer to nature than the builders intended (still evaluating the wood in the house and how to finish). When we are done, the house will live exactly like it was designed in 1905, except there will be a green roof - most of it will be original.

Disrupt IT

 oh yes...best of luck! 


oh yes...best of luck! 

 The county has the


The county has the archives on the property no need to guess who owned it; there is also a place on Franklin, county archives that would have a picture of the home in 1965 when they did a mass appraisal. 


You can be sure that home had more than 7 different families that lived in it.  I would bet it changed hands many times.  I would bet it was rented often.  100 years are three going into four generations, unless they procreated all at 15 years old….

the fireplace?  it needs some consideration, does not look orginal? 

East Cleveland has interesting archive as well

Thanks Oengus - we'll be sure to check with the County archives. There are also some cool old records at East Cleveland City Hall - I'll photo some and post them.

I'm asking Joe Stanley to come up with a fireplace solution - either something contemporary or we'll find an old mantle and fit it... there are also two windows, a section of bannister and two screen doors we need to match in... know any sources of salvage doors, windows, etc. in town?

Disrupt IT

I actually have a couple, I

I actually have a couple, I have two real cool old wood screen doors and and two old eight panel doors, swinging doors used to seperate a kitchen and dinning room.  The screen doors are 29" wide and the swinging doors are 31" wide.   They are in storage what is the opening you have and I'll check to see if these would work for you. 

A good place for salvage is Antiques in the Bank, they are on Lorain Ave, they are very good for that and have all kinds of hardware. 


Is the home a Craftman?  for some reason I think it is?  If so the fireplace would not have been overly ornate, I see maybe square columns from the mantle to the ceiling and also some thick crown molding.  These doors I have may be good for the fireplace the panels are 10 x14 they could be used above the fireplace, and flanked with two columns?  That makes me think about matching all the wood grains! 


let me know what size doors you need. if these are larger you can have them.

bOO ya

norm - your project looks freeking boOOmbastic.  I love the house and your peeled away the layers photos.   I see your requests for natural or more eco-preferrable building options and would love to lend a hand and share what i know on the high and low green tech sides.

email me and perhaps i can drop by next week if u r down.

the greenest building

  is the one that already exists--