If These Walls Could Talk

Anyone who has taken a stroll along Lake Avenue from Cove to Nicholson has walked past a series of stone or brick walls, each of them unique and each of them reminding us of a bygone era in Lakewood’s history.

This stretch of Lake Avenue tells a story. Houses are gone but the walls remind us of what was here before. From Cove to Nicholson once stood eight estates: Shady Cove, Bon Air, Elmhurst, Belmar, Roseneath, Waterside, Adar and Lake Cliff. The walls and the names on them pay homage to Lakewood’s past. Preserving these walls is a reminder of the property owners who shaped Lakewood’s early history.

“Elmhurst” was the property at 12574, now the site of the Meridian condominiums. In 1901, Charles and Martha Wieber purchased the property (4.54 acres), where there was a cottage onsite. Nearby neighbors at that time were Mars and Frances Wagar and Ezra Nicholson. They hired the architectural firm of Hubbell and Benes to design their home. Hubbell and Benes was a highly regarded firm in the early 20th century that designed many landmark properties throughout Cleveland, including a number that are on the National Register of Historic Places: West Side Market, Wade Memorial Chapel in Lakeview Cemetery, Masonic Temple, and the downtown YMCA.  They had many other Cleveland structures to their credit, including the original wing of the Cleveland Museum of Art and the former St. Luke Hospital.

Hubbell and Benes designed a 5,300 square foot, 14-room home along with a 1,000 square foot carriage house, and a wall at the entrance of the property. All three structures used Roman Brick Veneer, a treatment favored by Frank Lloyd Wright in a number of his Prairie Style designs. Elmhurst was occupied by the Wiebers until Martha sold it in 1935 after Charles passed away. The home was gutted by a fire in 1963 and razed in 1969. However, the brick wall along the entrance remained intact.  When the Meridian condos were built in the early 1970’s, the developers kept the wall, recognizing its place in the history of the neighborhood and as a nod to the architectural firm that designed so many significant buildings in Cleveland.

When a portion of the wall collapsed in late February 2022, many assumed the wall would be repaired. However, the entire wall removed in late May. The seven-member Board of Directors of the Meridian voted to remove the wall without the benefit of input from any owners of the 197 units in the building in an open meeting. There was no opportunity to explore funding options to repair the wall nor to submit an application to the Lakewood Heritage Advisory Board for a possible historic designation, given the stature of the architectural firm that designed the wall.

The Heritage Advisory Board has identified potential historic districts throughout the city and one such district is “Lake Avenue East”, which includes properties on the north and south side of Lake Avenue from Cove to Nicholson. Historic preservation is important to our city. It defines our character and helps to tell the Lakewood story.  It is our housing stock, commercial buildings and architectural elements such as walls that give Lakewood its charm. When we lose these historic structures, we lose a piece of Lakewood history. If we're not careful, we will become just another suburb. And that would be a shame.

Mary Gagen is a longtime resident of Lakewood with a passion for historic preservation. Mary and her husband are owners of a unit in the Meridian Condominiums.

Mary Gagen

Mary is a longtime resident of Lakewood with a passion for historic preservation. Mary and her husband are owners of a unit in the Meridian Condominiums.

Volume 18, Issue 12, Posted 12:51 PM, 06.15.2022