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Issue Date: April 2003 Issue

Where the Wild Homes Are

Diane DiPiero

Rolling on the River

Floating on Styrofoam in the Cuyahoga makes a self-described "river rat" feel at home.

Owner : Brian Pierce
City : Cleveland
Built : 1998
Purchased by Current Owner : 2002
Extremity Factor : 9

"I'm a river rat," says Brian Pierce, sipping from a Crooked River beer bottle. Years ago, he lived in a marina-side house in Rocky River, and he has maintained a connection to the water ever since.

So when this floating house just beneath the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge came on the market last year, Pierce, who works for an audiovisual company in Lakewood, decided to have a look.

Built of a steel frame surrounded by wood, the 950-square-foot house floats on a thick layer of Styrofoam. Inside, exposed steel-and-wood beams running the width of the house resemble the many nearby bridges. Pierce admired the sturdy dwelling (it weighs 18,000 pounds and can support a total of 25,000 pounds) and the one-of-a-kind view of downtown Cleveland through its windows. He made an offer.

The surrounding property is maintenance-free, although spring cleaning includes having an 800-gallon sewage tank pumped out by a professional. In inclement weather, wending your way down the dock becomes a daunting task. "There are challenges to living on the water," admits Pierce, "but I pretty much knew what I was getting into."

In summertime, Pierce is surrounded by neighbors, as boats dock up and down the Cuyahoga. The Holiday, a charter boat docked beside Pierce's house, carries patrons on dinner cruises. Freighters chug less than 30 feet away, creating a gentle wake that causes the house to sway.

Winter silences the area, but Pierce can rely on daily talks with his neighbor, who lives year-round on a boat. Waterfowl flock to the relatively warm water here, and a beaver makes his home on a nearby bank. Inside, propane heating keeps Pierce warm.

With the onset of spring, the Cuyahoga starts buzzing again and Pierce is preparing to make some home improvements. "I want to put in new hardwood floors and new carpeting," he says, adding that he also plans to display some of his extensive art collection. "And I want to enclose the deck upstairs."

He's looking forward to entertaining friends. "Everyone thinks I'm crazy for living here," he says, "until summer comes."

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