|Sandwiched between the Shoreway and the lake, Bratenahl may as well be an island. “If somebody’s sick, you hear about it. It’s like a small town,” says resident and Realty One agent Paula Kaval. |
Not only do you meet the police chief when you move in (somewhat common in these enclaves), but if you’re out for a jog on a hot day, don’t be surprised if the police stop to give you a bottle of water.
Bratenahl got its start at the turn of the last century when the wealthy industrialists decided their homes on Millionaires’ Row weren’t suitable for warmer weather. So they built “summer cottages” in Bratenahl. “This was the hovel by the lake,”
jokes mayor John Licastro. The old families either died off or moved away, though, and by the ’60s, the village was almost bankrupt. Its revival began in the ’80s, sparked by a development of new homes and the Shoreby Club.
Today, Bratenahl is known for its well-kept old mansions, as well as its new construction. It’s also known as a place for empty nesters. Up until the ’70s, however, the village was full of families and had its own topnotch grade school. When the state ruled that districts must also have high schools, they built one. But they missed the construction deadline and Judge Frank Battisti (of busing fame) ruled that its schools would be forfeited to Cleveland.
Helen Moss stands in the library of her nearly 15,000-square-foot mansion and looks out at Lake Erie. “In 100 years with all the violent winds here, you find no cracks,” she says.
J. Milton Dyer, the architect of Cleveland City Hall, built Breezy Bluff in 1905. He constructed the home with commercial building methods, including using 24- inch steel beams in the roof. The old boiler in the basement is the size of a car.
Moss is a survivor, too. In 2000, she was diagnosed with stage-4 breast cancer and assumed she would die.
Today, her cancer is in remission, and she lives happily at Breezy Bluff with her husband, architect Richard Fleischman, and her mother. Her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter came to live with her as well in 2004 after Fleischman invited them, saying, “If you live with your mother, she will live a long life.”
About the house: It has 10 fireplaces, eight bedrooms, an elevator, a great hall, library, living room and tearoom. The kitchen is still original and connects to a butler’s pantry, a storage area and a small office.
Her dream: “I want to live in a great mansion,” she told Fleischman after they married in 1987. They both fell in love with Breezy Bluff. “Good architecture is what he likes,” Moss says. “In his opinion, no house is better designed in the whole country.”
More than just a house: “It represents to me all my success. It represents all the agony I’ve overcome.” Moss was born in a working-class neighborhood in Akron. She married at age 20, had four children, started college at age 29, got divorced at age 35 and became a successful stockbroker.
The restoration: Moss and Fleischman bought the house in 1989 for $1 million. They have spent $1.5 million on its restoration, including stripping layers of white paint off the mahogany and oak woodwork.
Going modern: Over the last 17 years, the couple has subdivided the property and built eight glass houses designed by Fleischman. They consider their home to be the “best of the 20th and 21st centuries.”
Funny question: “Do you like to cook?” I ask Moss, while standing in her kitchen. In retrospect, it was a ridiculous question. In almost every old mansion I’ve seen, the kitchen is the one area where owners cheat and renovate rather than restore. Not here. Plus, the appliances are old — and not vintage, just old. “I don’t have time,” Moss laughs. Not only does she still work as a stockbroker, she also established the Helen Moss Breast Cancer Research Foundation and volunteers for Hillary Clinton’s campaign.
Looking forward: The couple has listed their house for sale for $3.4 million, but intend to stay in Bratenahl, perhaps building a house. Their daughter and sonin- law are also building in Bratenahl.
Insiders who live here:
People who want to be close to downtown and can afford lakeside mansions, including former KeyCorp chairman Robert Gillespie, former Cavaliers coach Mike Fratello and Cavaliers guard Larry Hughes. Former residents include ex-Tribe players Kenny Lofton and David Justice.
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