Growing up in Shaker Heights, Bill Stewart used to drive past all the historic mansions on Fairmount Boulevard and gaze inquisitively at them. "I always wondered who lived there and what they looked like inside," he says.
So, two years ago, when Bill and his wife, Heather, began moving their belongings into a U-shaped Tudor in Cleveland Heights, they had a moment of shock.
"You feel a sense of responsibility owning a house like this," explains Bill, a corporate lawyer, as he sits in the great room, with its soaring 10-foot-high beam ceiling and arched, white stucco entryways. "There's the responsibility to maintain the house in the way it should be maintained, and to stay authentic to its original design and material."
Walker and Weeks architect Harold Burdick, who also helped design the Federal Reserve Bank of Cleveland, designed the Stewarts' home back in 1924, and the house maintains many of the trappings of the period.
"The Tudor revival was the most prevalent architecture style in Cleveland Heights in the teens and '20s," explains Kara Hamley O'Donnell, the historic preservation planner for Cleveland Heights. "It ranged from simple wood and stucco bungalows all the way up to the houses on Fairmount, which were built using the highest quality and most expensive materials."
Indeed, the Stewarts' sloping slate roof is original. ("We had a roofer look at it recently and he said it should probably last for another 50 to 75 years," says Bill.) So too is the brick double chimney mast, and the leaded, stained glass window engraved with the image of a sailboat on the front door.
Within the eight-bedroom, 4 1/2-bathroom house are a few secrets, including a first-floor library bookcase that swings open to reveal a large closet used to store alcohol during Prohibition.
The basement, next to the boiler room, hides another gem: a room filled with a sloping pile of sparkling black coal and a wheelbarrow half buried in the rubble.
The original homeowners owned a coal company, the Stewarts explain, and the coal was used to heat the property.
"We tell our kids: If they're bad, they'll get a lump of coal for Christmas," Bill laughs. "We can deliver on the threat."
The heart of the brick-and-timber space, however, is its outdoor courtyard. Retiled in 2008, it is surrounded by manicured gardens and features a 1920s-style fountain adorned with images of open-mouthed fish. "I just love the sound of falling water," says Heather, a small business owner. "It's just very calming to me."
Their daughters enjoy the fountain for other reasons. "They love to fill their squirt guns with the water from it," Bill laughs.
Despite the formal appearance, the presence of the Stewart children — their abandoned pool towels, their crayoned drawings, their bathing suits drying on the racks — fill the place with spirit. As Bill says, "This is a house that is very much lived in."
Decade of Design
Check out these other popular styles built around the 1920s.
GEORGIAN This 9,000-square-foot, seven-bedroom, eight-bathroom Cleveland Heights spread was built in 1919. "The lines in a Georgian have always been really appealing to me," says homeowner Sharon Abel, who restored the space over the last four years. "They're very symmetrical, and they're very clean lines."
FRENCH COUNTRY Despite its Shaker Heights address, this 1928 home "felt authentically European" to owner Julie McGovern Voyzey, who fell for the 4,000-square-foot space's exterior details. "There are Juliette balconies on the outside, which have wrought iron railings that go up against all of the French casement windows," she says of the six-bedroom abode. "This quality of craftsmanship you just can't find anywhere anymore."
ENGLISH COUNTRY The 3,456-square-foot Lakewood beauty Ned Hill calls home may be old (it was built in 1921), but that's exactly what the dean of Cleveland State University's Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs and his family love about it. "We liked the fact that it had a distinct style," he says. At the same time, the six-bedroom, 3 1/2-bathroom property is "spacious, it's flexible, and the quality of the construction carries on into the interior," Hill says.