Bratz Manor Breathes New Life Into Brinkman-Dress Funeral Home

As a local real estate entrepreneur and owner of CLE Turnkey Real Estate I focus primarily on offering turnkey rental properties to passive landlords and buying apartment buildings for my own investment portfolio. But my heart stopped, and I decided to stray from my typical business plan, when I saw the restorative potential in the Neoclassical century home at 13443 Detroit Avenue in Lakewood. The 7,368 square foot home consists of three floors, a full basement with finished "parlor room", four bedrooms, four bathrooms, three huge porches, and a grand third floor ball room. The home is adorned with leaded glass windows, back-lit stained glass artwork, and ornate woodwork throughout. Here's some cool history about the home...

The property was designed in the Neoclassical architecture style by famous architect, Otto K. Stapf. Stapf, born in Pittsburgh in 1878, was an active architect and design master in Cleveland from 1905 to 1917. He gained popularity for pioneering the use of reinforced concrete, and was hired to design and build residential and commercial buildings throughout Cleveland and Lakewood, many of which are still standing today.

John N. Hahn, president of J.N. Hahn Co., commissioned the home at 13443 Detroit Avenue to be built in 1910. Hahn earned his fortune by inventing and holding patents of machines used to corrugate paper board, creating what we know today as cardboard. J.N. Hahn Co. was one of the largest manufacturers of corrugated paper boxes in the country in the early 1900s. Hahn was chairman of a committee that worked closely with the Interstate Commerce Commission, and he was able to pass an ordinance that mandated the railroads to move from shipping items in wooden crates to utilizing Hahn's corrugated paper boxes. Hahn lived in the home at 13443 Detroit for over 30 years.

In the 1940s, Hahn sold his home to Erving J Dress, Sr. Dress, son of Frederick Dress and Anna Mary Brinkman, was an undertaker, and turned the house into the Erving Dress Funeral Home. The living quarters were completely moved to the second and third floors, while the first floor was transformed for funeral visitations. I've been told that Dress held his daughter's wedding reception in the ball room on the third floor.

In 1979, the property was purchased by John and Joanne Brinkman (relatives of Dress' mother, Anna Mary Brinkman), who were also in the funeral business. They continued to operate the property as a funeral home until 2016 when John passed away. His funeral was the last one held at the property.

The house was listed for sale, and sat on the market for many months. Different ideas were suggested for a new use -- bed & breakfast, restaurant, or even turn it back into a primary residence. But the home was in significant disrepair, with broken windows, wood rot, roof leaks, plumbing issues, and outdated electric, which would be extremely expensive for any new owner. Being in real estate and making a living from taking dilapidated properties and turning them into beautiful homes, my mind is trained to look for the opportunity in the obstacle. I thought it would be awesome to turn the building into collaborative office suites for local entrepreneurs. So despite the condition, I decided to purchase the property in December 2016.

It took over seven months and hundreds of thousands of dollars to restore the historical home. Improvements include repair of the terracotta Spanish tile roof, new energy-efficient windows, new code-compliant electric service and wiring, new concrete driveway, restoring the original hardwood floors, fresh paint, 1900-era fixtures, a luxury classical kitchen, updated bathrooms, preserving all the wood work and trim throughout the home, and reviving the original leaded and stained glass windows.

Today, "Bratz Manor" now operates as collaborative office space for local entrepreneurs and business owners. The building boasts 10 independent office suites, with a community conference room, lounge, kitchen, and fitness center. It leased up quickly, with only two more suites available for rent (call 216.505.1253 if interested), showing there is much demand for this type of space in Lakewood. I plan on holding a community open house to showcase the property in September, so stay tuned!

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Volume 13, Issue 15, Posted 5:08 PM, 08.01.2017