Hidden Lakewood: The Gold Coast

courtesy of the Lakewood Historical Society

It's not quite three-quarters of a mile from Edgewater Towers at Lakewood's easternmost edge to the entrance of the 20-story Carlyle on the Lake. The hallowed strip known as Lakewood's Gold Coast contains 13 high-rise residential buildings housing 2,840 suites. This vertical neighborhood contributes in no small part to make this city Ohio's most densely populated, with approximately 9,500 people per square mile.

The Gold Coast dates back to 1929 when the elegant Lake Shore opened at the intersection of Cove and Edgewater. In July of that year, James G. Monnett of the Plain Dealer first associated the term "gold coast" with the area by quoting the developer, C. H. Cummins, who viewed his dazzling $3 million Lake Shore residential hotel project as the inception of "beautiful development" along Lake Erie's shore and very similar to that of Chicago's north shore, that city's "so-called "gold coast.'" The name stuck and so did the idea — even if it took a few decades.

While the original stone carved sea horses and gargoyle waterspouts on the Lake Shore's exterior belie that grand old dame's opulent art deco origins, modern sophistication would characterize the future development of this skinny patch of real estate.

Construction of the Gold Coast started in earnest with the easternmost 10-story Edgewater Towers opening in 1954. The row's best example of brutalist architecture, the $8.5 million Waterford, built in 1972, would cap the boom.

It all came at a cost: elaborate mansions were razed, such as that of business tycoon James A. Paisley with its ballroom and elevators, although one of the outbuildings survived. The Paisley "barn" is now a private residence on the south side of Edgewater nestled between the Georgian Manor and Travelodge. (Hint: look for the telltale turret.) Other estates dismantled to make way for the modern neighborhood included the Obermiller and Winton properties, the later of which was the namesake of Cleveland auto pioneer Alexander Winton and became the grounds for the $20 million Winton Place, which at 30 stories is the tallest on the Gold Coast (initial plans, however, included four residential towers and a 100-slip marina). As for the Obermiller estate, owner Ms. Mary L. Obermiller testified in court in 1902 that knights of the Masonic order were conspiring to kill her as part of an extended legal battle with her sister. Whether or not similar dramas ensued in the Shoreham, which was erected on the property in 1960, is unknown.

More recognizable names dot the Gold Coast's timeline. While Art Modell's 1960's bachelor pad in the Winton Place featured brass gladiator helmets that oversaw notorious parties, Carol Channing was a regular at the Lake Shore when she was in town. Mike Douglas also set up shop there, albeit more permanently. "The Mike Douglas Show," which ran in Cleveland from 1961 – 1965 was live on air when NBC interrupted the broadcast with the news of JFK's assassination on November 22, 1963.

Dining options on the north side of Edgewater were always slim, but what they lacked in numbers they made up for in style. Of course the venerable Pier W remains. The swank eatery has employed the same bouillabaisse recipe since it opened in 1965 as part of the Stouffer's chain. This was back when Stouffer signaled a renowned Cleveland family of restaurateurs that had yet to stamp its name on endless rows of red boxes in the freezer case.

The bar at the Silver Quill in the Carlyle was often three or four deep while the dashing Marius Eggelmeyer held court over the dining area as maître d'. He was a commanding presence: barrel-chested with a thick shock of silver hair. Truly the face of Gold Coast dining, the former Dutch Merchant Marine eventually opened his own restaurant in the grand dining hall of the Lake Shore in 1978. The Marius featured unparalleled views of downtown, tableside flambé dishes and Caesar salad made the authentic way, with raw egg and anchovies. The space is now occupied by Larsen Architects. The Silver Quill became part of the famed Swingo franchise. It went dark in 2009, but not before Paul Anka and an entourage of 75 noshed on Lebanese fare personally prepared by Jim Swingo in 1992. One other quaint dining room still overlooks Lake Erie from Lakewood's Gold Coast: the Lake House Restaurant offers up diner style eats from an airy space on the first floor of that 1959 tri-winged edifice.

As with any enclave wherein money meets celebrity, The Gold Coast's reputation is replete with legends in which mobsters and molls carried on amid marathon parties. Tawdry stories dot its history as well. As part of an illegal gambling investigation, a search of David Hammon's Winton Place apartment in 2004 unearthed two bags of suspicious white powder. More recently, Roaa Al-Dhannoon disappeared from her Gold Coast apartment in October 2016. Her body was found in May 2017 in Brooklyn and her ex-husband was charged with murder. Conversely, Norman Liver's killer was never found. The 57-year-old bachelor was stabbed to death in his Edgewater Towers unit — and then some. "Sexual organs are still missing," reported the Plain Dealer in October 1980.

A lesser-known tragic note comes from December 1976. Granger Avenue resident Thomas P. Moraghan was washing upper story windows at the Winton Place without benefit of scaffolding or safety lines. The 21-year-old slipped from the 17-inch ledge and fell to his death.

A 16-year-old clerk discovered the body, which landed on the low structure that housed the mailroom where he was working. That clerk was John O'Brien (LHS 1978), who would go on to author the novel "Leaving Las Vegas" 14 years later.

Erin O'Brien

Erin O'Brien's eclectic features and essays have appeared in local and national publications. Visit erinobrien.us for a complete profile.

Read More on Features
Volume 14, Issue 8, Posted 3:27 PM, 04.17.2018