Transitional Times for Beachwood
1940 heralded the often-difficult onset of urban development for Beachwood. Legislation by the state of Ohio allowed communities several options for the refinancing of their improvement bonds. With the approval of 51% of their bondholders, Beachwood was able to restructure their bonds over 30 years. The amount of the debt financed totaled $1,812,249.39 and the rate varied from 1% for the first 3-1/2 years to 5% for the last 11-1/2 years. The resolution that allowed this action was introduced by councilman W.R. Weh, and was passed April 9th, 1940. In July, the Village Council was informed that 84% of the bondholders had agreed to the program. While a municipality did not customarily file for bankruptcy, a date of September 10th was set at the U.S. district Bankruptcy Court for a hearing to regulate municipality restructuring. The court granted approval in 1941 allowing the Village to start its life all over again.
It was a quiet year for the Villages small Police Department in 1941. (L to R ) Mel Lindquist and Police Chief John Havel. Lindquist owned the gas station at the northwest corner of Green and Kinsman Rds. Like several others he served as a part time policeman within the village.
Beachwood was then on a slow road to recovery. The F.B. Company was developing much of the Kangesser Development, known as Fairmount Greens. This area, along with the Rapid Transit Land Companies Development in the East Groveland - East Baintree area, was beginning to show some signs of new home construction. For another twenty years, however, Beachwood would evolve very slowly with no master plan.
1940 photo taken on East Groveland Rd. looking east, just up the hill from Lyndway. Photo courtesy of Murial Long (Thomas) who grew up at 23600 East Groveland in the 1930's when her family was one of six to own a home in the Rapid Transit Land Company's allotment.
This map shows what is today known as "the north end" of Beachwood.
The years between 1941 and 1950 were pre-development years for the housing boom of Beachwood, from which emerged a 25-year debate over the development possibilities for the land at the southeast corner of Richmond and Cedar. It was also the time period when the last of the farmers existed in the Village, and conflict arose over the construction of a synagogue on Fairmount Blvd. In 1941 the Village was even confronted with the installation of sewers and natural gas lines; apparently, some of the streets put in by the Vans and Kangesser had no sewers or water mains. Through 1941 Beachwood was still dealing with their financial situation. By 1950 the discussions turned to major housing developments and drive-in restaurants.
In July of 1941, the Beachwood Village Council was presented a proposal from Mr. A. Mednikoff to develop 131 acres at the southeast corner of Cedar and Richmond roads. Mednikoff asked the Council to approve the plat map and have the Village pay for sewer, water and street improvements. Mayor Frank Marous informed Mednikoff that it was impossible for the Village to do this because it lacked the necessary funds. Discussions would continue regarding this project for years to come.
At the same July 1941 meeting Police Chief Havel received the approval to spend $200 on a new police radio for the department cruiser. Thereafter, during the 40’s Beachwood received their emergency radio calls from the City of Cleveland’s dispatch office, for which Cleveland charged 25 cents per call. During the average month the total charge to the city was about $3.00. The Beachwood Police Department was not staffed 24 hours a day, so when Beachwood had no one available they arranged for Shaker Heights to handle the call. Likewise, when emergencies requiring the fire department arose, Shaker would again respond, as Beachwood did not start its own Volunteer Fire Department until 1949.
In September of 1941 Mayor Marous reported to council that traffic at the corner of Green and Kinsman, along with Fairmount and Richmond, warranted a traffic light. Council also reviewed the proposal for the 131 acres at Cedar and Richmond, but took no action on it. One of the concerns seemed to be the type of development prospects for the two corners in Lyndhurst: would they be business or residential? This land in Beachwood was known as the Acacia Club reserve because the Acacia Country Club owned at one time 131 acres of the land at this southeast corner.
Another issue of land usage for Beachwood was the legal continuance of hunting, which was extended exclusively to Village residents and their guests. This was amended in November of 1944, when the hunting rules were geographically limited to the south of Shaker Blvd.
While Beachwood had very little industry, it soon became the birthplace of modern day earth moving equipment. Until the late 1980’s there was a building at 26011 Kinsman Rd. which would later house a technological wonder. In the 20’s it was a modest farmers’ market and gas station, and during the Prohibition it was known as a holding area or drop point for bootlegged whiskey. In 1941 two brothers, Ray and Koop Ferwerda, rented the building and designed a piece of earth moving equipment. After perfecting the machine, they sold the idea to Warner and Swasey, who gave it the name GRADE-ALL. Today the GRADE-ALL is manufactured in New Philadelphia Ohio. As the years went on, the building would be used for many other businesses, including a metal shop and later an outdoor pool company owned by B.C. Bourne. The son of the early Beachwood resident A.C. Bourne, Mr. B.C. Bourne was also the clerk of Council for many years and lived at 26435 North Woodland Rd.
One of the five original Ferweda Grade-All's made in the Swetland building once located on Kinsman Rd. across from Park East Drive where Enterprise drive is now located.
International involvement in the war had repercussions on the very streets of the Village, which found itself in a bit of a problem when it came to plowing snow in late 1942. Its one and only snowplow was not in running shape, and with all the equipment being manufactured earmarked for the war effort, they could not buy a new one. The best course of action was to pay Art Rindfleisch to do some plowing, and late in the season they were able to buy a used 1936 tractor and plow for $250.00.
In 1942 Beachwood residents’ concerns went from local to international. While there is no Village Hall record of who or how many, certainly Beachwood’s youth had been called up to defend the United States in the W.W.II. The Village’s eleventh ordinance of 1942 was to join all the other municipalities in the formulation of a civil defense agreement. One of the rules established were blackout rules, in which no lights were to be on past certain hours of the day.
On December 4th of 1942, Mr. Balog, the father in-law-of Herb Giesler, took the bus downtown to the Federal Building to be sworn in as a U.S. Citizen. He had lived in this country for many years and thought it was time to become a citizen. This was not
only a special day for him because he would become a citizen, but it was also his birthday. Unfortunately, while he was returning home from being sworn in, he was killed on Kinsman Rd near Green rd. as he was getting off the bus. While this is a tragic story, it would be his son-in-law, Herb, who was the police official on duty that day that had to inform the family of an accident, which could have been avoided, had the Village been equipped with the necessary traffic lights.
In 1943 Beachwood entered into an agreement with Lyndhurst to share the cost of a traffic light at Cedar and Richmond. Again, Mr. Mednikoff presented a plan to build homes on the 131 acres at Cedar and Richmond. This time Mr. Mednikoff proposed building defense housing. The Village Council told him to present a model plan of a home and to submit it to the building inspector. Getting the Village’s approval to build homes on this land was not going to be an easy accomplishment. Likewise, the Village’s blessing on a shopping center would not be any easier. Mr. Poulson also appeared at the Village with an interest in building homes for returning veterans on land that is now Hilltop. He thought they would sell for $12,000. though no formal proposal was made. It would take another 15 years before other interested parties would develop Hilltop Rd.
While W.W.II, like all previous war conflicts, brought death to every community, it also brought jobs to Northeast Ohio, and many Beachwood residents secured employment in local factories. Veteran Police Chief Herb Giesler took a job with Jack & Heintz, a manufacturer of precision parts used in airplanes. He stayed with them for several years and then ventured into several businesses. It was about this time that he built his first new home in Beachwood, located where the Don Jordan Chrysler/Plymouth car dealership is now located, on Chagrin. Of course Chagrin Blvd. was still called Kinsman Rd. in the 40’s, and I-271 wasn’t even a dream.
1944 was a bit busier than 1943 for the Village. Roads were in need of resurfacing, as some were not built with the best materials, and many dirt streets needed to be oiled. Because many of the streets had no homes on them, and the Village had very little money, it was decided that some of the streets would be barricaded until they had homes built on them. Those streets included a portion of Hendon, Letchworth and Bryden. This created a "what comes first - the cart or the horse" scenario. In the next few years the village would have to deal with several residential development issues, such as inadequate road surfaces and the lack of sewers. Again, these were incomplete infrastructure problems that occurred as the Village and the Vans had run out of money in the early 30’s.
In 1944 the Village passed ordinances that defined its zoning rules. These rules clarified what could be done within each classification and what how each lot would be classified. Essentially, Kinsman Rd. was the only area at that time zoned for non-residential use.
By 1945, Beachwood was becoming a little Mayberry RFD. It had a police department, a few traffic lights, and a corner tavern. At the corner of Kinsman and Richmond, where the B.P. Service Station is now located, was a filling station and a tavern. The tavern then known as "Mary and Jim’s" was the source of many small-town stories. The tavern had several owners, therefore the name changed several times. Some of those names included Mary and Perry’s and Reggie and Edna’s. One well-known customer of the tavern was a Beachwood service department employee by the name of Nick Poval. Nick, who lived in a shack located on Richmond Rd. in the area of Bridgeton Rd., frequented the tavern regularly, and after having a few drinks at Mary and Jim’s, and playing the slot machines would then walk back to the Village Hall singing. When he would get to the Village Hall, he would appropriately lock himself in a jail cell. In the rare instance that the police had an evening prisoner Nick (if he were sober) would be woken up and put in charge of keeping an eye on the prisoner. Nick was a friend to everyone in the community. When Nick died in November of 1958 he received the funeral he deserved. According to then Mayor Harvey Bruggemeier, The Village knew Nick had no family or money, therefore felt it was the Villages obligation to provide him with a simple but respectable funeral. The services of the undertaker were just about donated and Nick was buried in Beachwood’s own cemetery on Green Rd.
A drinking friend of Nick’s was Mr. Adolph Fuchs, who owned a home and a filling station on the north side of Fairmount Blvd. between Ramsey and Richmond Rds. The filling station was an early landmark for the Village and well known for its wide variety of penny candy. The filling station along with Mary and Jim’s was a convenient hang out for the Villagers. Nick’s other friends included the Waskos who lived on a ten acre farm at 2400 Richmond Rd. Ernest and Esther had two children, Fay and Myrle, who both attended Beachwood Schools and grew up as two of the very few children who lived in the area during the 1930’s and 1940’s. Myrle’s recollection printed below provides an explanation of just how much of a hometown feeling there was during Beachwood’s transitional times.
The best way to understand Beachwood in the 1940’s would be through the eyes of one whom lived here like Myrle Wascko.
My Dad, Mr Wascko, who grew up on a farm, wanted to have a small farm of his own. The 10-acre property at 2406 Richmond Rd. had a house, barn, garage (which is still standing) and a granary. The wood beams in the barn and most likely the house were cut from timber that existed on the land at that time. The barn is quite beautiful on the inside showing the hand cut beams held together with wood pegs. To enlarge the basement under the existing house, my dad hand dug a much larger cavity. Dad raised tomato plants in hotbeds. (About a 1000). These plants covered most of the
land except for about 40 rows of grapes. There was also a small apple orchard. The tomatoes when ripe were trucked by my dad down to little Italy where they were sold by the bushels to the women to be used for juice and sauces.
In 1938 my Dad decided to build another house on the north boundary of the land which we moved into in 1939. The address is 2400 Richmond Road. The original farm house and part of the land was sold to Jack and Elsie Varcoe. They later sold off part of the land on the south side to Don and Blanche Craiglow. Then about 1941 my dad decided to build again. That house is located at 2404 Richmond Rd. My mother sold the house at 2400 in 1961 to Pete Leone.
Growing Up - What To Do!
There were only four kids that lived on Richmond Rd. between Cedar & Fairmount. Most of the time was spent playing baseball, kick the can and hide and seek. Bicycles were a must. Our travels to South Euclid, (Theaters) pictures show at Center-Mayfield, Cedar -Lee and the Fairmount were all done on bikes. For swimming we biked to Cumberland Pool in Cleveland Heights or down Mayfield Road hill to Chagrin River. That always proved to be an exhilarating ride we were too young to be scared. In the spring we would go down to the creek and catch tadpoles, which we took home and put into aquariums to watch their transition into pollywogs and frogs. Those that survived were taken back to the creek and let loose. Also all day treks into the woods in the spring produced a lifetime memory of abundant wild flowers. After sundown we would sit on the back porch and listen to the "Greener"(frogs) sing a sure sign of spring.
On Fairmount Blvd. - between Richmond Rd. and North Woodland on the North side was Fuchs’ farm, which had a brick gas station in front of the house. It had one gas pump and an air hose. But inside the best part was a small glass enclosed case, which held boxes of penny candies. This was our only close source of snacks. Bubble gum was a priority on the list. This was usually shared with a friend after you had chewed it a while. We would try chewing the tar off the street - on a hot summer day, as my mother said she did when she was a kid. This did not go over to well. In the spring we always had field fires. Sometimes they burned for days. In the evening you could look out the window and watch the ring of fire. This would cover Fairmount to Green to Cedar to Richmond. This happened all over. If they ever got out of hand the Beachwood fire Department which consisted of the Police car towing a two high wheeled cart with a fire hose on it. (Like a large garden hose holder). The hose would be hooked up to the nearest fire hydrant. That and a broom-wielding brigade would do the trick. The Police Department had many diversified duties. One was that they washed the one and only cruiser.
On clear, quiet warm sunny days we would lie on our backs in the grass and would watch through a clenched fist, opening just enough to leave light in and watch an accomplished pilot in a bi-plane write the word PEPSI in the sky. Sometimes it would last at least on hour. Slowly drifting and the letters getting wider until they disappeared from view. He would even dot the "I". Also the 4th of July was exciting. Our neighbors the Gieslers lived at 2478 Richmond and always had a stand on the southeast corner of Richmond & Cedar Rds. For 25 cents we could bring home a fair sized assortment of fireworks. Several trips would be made to insure a glorious 4th. Also there was a certain time of the year when the Northern lights (Aurora Borealis) were visible. In the evening, we would climb up on the garage roof and watch the beautiful colors in the wavering streamers of lights in the night sky.
In the winter we would skate on what we called the "Beachwood Pond". The pond can now be found on the south side of Hendon Rd. and east of Selkirk. We did a lot of skiing and sledding at the Acacia Country Club. On Saturdays and Sundays there would be a fair sized gathering of people. We were very appreciative of Acacia for letting us on their property. Many happy times were spent there. At night the four of us would take our sleds and sled down Richmond Rd. hill - north of Cedar. Traffic was very light in those days. Also car counting and naming the makers was a great past time.
One time while picking tomatoes with my mom and dad all of a sudden here comes a large group of soldiers running thru the fields with guns. What a sight to see. I believe it was the National Guard on maneuvers. They came from the east heading west. I understand they were camped out on the property were the JCC is now located.
"And Now to School"
I attended Beachwood School 1st thru 6th grades. Probably around a dozen of kids. Give or take a few Mr. Hoxter was our Superintendent - Miss. Fisher, stern and unfriendly and Mrs. Smith my favorite. Recess was playing on swings, teeter -totters or my favorite the Merry - Go- Round. These were a few favorite games played by the whole group. In the spring on a really nice day, teachers would take us out on a spring walk. We took our sack lunches and would eat in the woods, which was behind the school. We would look and find the different spring flowers that were identified but not picked. This was a special day. In the fall, we would go out and pick dried weeds that we took back to school and painted different colors for bouquets that we proudly took home to Mom. We also had bus trips to the Art Museum, Museum of Natural History and to Severance Hall. Once we took a trip to a farm that had a maple sugar bush. That was quite a tour. Took some of the raw sap back to school where we cooked it until it became syrup. Though the portion was quite small, boy was it ever good. I remember being vaccinated at Orange School. At the end of the school year we were treated to spending day at Geauga Lake. Some of the parents came along to chaperone us. A picnic was also planned. We finished our school years at Shaker Hights High School where we were treated as outsiders and known as the kids who rode "The Yellow Bus" from the farms out east. Enough said.
Our milk was delivered by "Old Meadow", or Telling-Belle Vernon (later Belle Vernon) I believe from Novelty. Dean Dairy was also another competitor (Mayfield Road) Cleveland Heights. In those days milk was not homogenized. You always had
to shake the bottle to mix the cream. In the winter the cream would freeze and rise right out of the bottle. This was always a treat if our mother didn’t catch you. We also had "Star" bakery truck that would come 2 to 4 times a week. They would have pull out trays with all kinds of good stuff. My favorites were the Lady Locks and of course a variety of 5 cents small pies that were usually packed in my school lunches.
Then there was the "Victor Tea Co." which carried coffee, teas, blankets and cooking utensils. I’m still using the "Dutch Oven" pot that my Mom bought around 1940. Then, of course there was the "Fuller Brush" man to keep you supplied. Then came the "Ice Man" with blocks of ice for the icebox. This was before we got a refrigerator. We would beg for a chip of ice on hot days to suck on.
Mr. Ellis Hendershot
Mr Hendershot was my school bus driver during all my years spent in school. He was very reliable about getting his kids to school no matter what. He and his wife Cora (no children) lived on a farm west of the school on Fairmount. He would always honk the horn on the bus as he was nearing your house so you would be on your way out by the time he reached you. To this day I can still hear it. Mr.Hendershot chewed tobacco, so the bus door was opened on a regular basis. His aim was very good. Many times he would alight from the bus with a shovel in hand to disengage us from being stuck in the snow. During these times we would hoot and cheer thinking we were not going to reach our destination (school) and during this he would vigorously dig - always freeing us much to our dismay. So with a stern look, off we went. Mr Hendershot was an average size man, thinning hair and a gravel voice. If anybody got too rambunctious, a stern look in the rear view mirror almost always cured that. If not he would stop the bus and let the pupil (boys) walk home. Besides being the driver, he was also school custodian and grass cutter, Mr.Fix it and dressed up like Santa Claus at Christmas time. He would distribute any gifts and always white boxes filled with chunks of mouth-watering milk chocolate. He was also the custodian of the church in Beachwood.
Our Friends and Neighbors
Across from 2400 lived Valentine (Val) and Bertie Yahraus and their three sons, Wilbur, Erwin, and Ray. Ray was Superintendent of Service Department for Beachwood around 1946. The Yahrauses grew creeping bent grass that was mostly sold to landscapers. They also raised chickens and sold eggs. They also had a vegetable garden so a small fruit stand was evident during the growing seasons. They had a huge sweet cherry tree in the front yard that the birds dearly loved when ripened. So to distract them, a bell was installed in the top of the tree. The string was attached to the front porch. So as soon as the dawn light began, so did the ringing of the bell. This was not particularly appreciated as my bedroom window faced the street. It was early awakening until the cherries were gone.
At 2353 Richmond Road lived John Thomson, his wife, two children Jack and Jean. Much of my free time was spent here as Jean and I were the same ages. Like I said before, bicycles were our main means of travel. If you didn’t have one, you stayed home or walked. A bike was a luxury. You learned on a tricycle and graduated to a size 26 - 28. One bike was bought. That was it. You took great care of it. Being of a Scottish background, Jack was a teenager when we became interested in the bagpipes. Many times he was heard parading about the yard playing the pipes. He became a dancer, which was very strenuous. (Jack became a lifetime member of the "Kiltie Band" which performed for many occasions, parades etc.). They moved around 1945-1946.
North of the Thomsons was the Richardson family. The family consisted of the husband who worked for Acacia Country Club, a very distinguished man, his wife, two children Tony and Ruth. Tony had the greatest collection of iron toys (cars). Today a toy collector’s mouth would water at the sight. After they moved, others came and went until the Knutsens bought it. My sister Fay (age 14) also worked at the Acacia serving dinners to club members. A very hard and demanding job. Across the street was Walter Kerruish. a bachelor who pretty much stayed to himself. Coming back up south at 2338 Richmond was a German couple. They too might have been Kerruishs. My sister says she remembers the man walking down Richmond Rd. with a yoke (pole) about his neck and shoulders, with two baskets attached. He would be heading for the market. Where? I don’t know. This was sold to two schoolteachers, Ms. Lulu Diehl (a school was named after her in Cleveland) and Ms. Cook .I remember that they pretty much kept to them-selves. They lived there quite awhile. Then back to our neck of the woods were the Varcoes, who were good friends and neighbors and worked hard on the land. First they had a horse, then a mule and then graduated to a tractor. Also had a roadside stand where they sold grapes and vegetables.
South of home was the Giesler house. This house always had some sort of activity going on. The Gieslers were one of the first families on Richmond Rd. One of the sons, Herb, was the police Chief. Across from Gieslers, lived Nick and Pavel and his friend John. They were both, from Romania. They worked as teamsters for the Miesz family. There had been a farmhouse on the premises, but had burned before my family moved to 2406. There was still a barn and a bunkhouse where Nick and John lived. They were regular visitors at our house and many hours of idle talk would ensue. They had a little pig that followed them around like a dog. One night while they were over, their bunkhouse burned to the ground. They in turn built a shanty type house. One large room with a wood burning stove. Not long after John became ill and died of cancer. Nick continued to live there. Around 1942, a Mr. Munson raised mink on the property. Nick worked for him. This lasted a couple of years. Nick did not have any immediate family in the states. If he had a family in Romania, he never really spoke of them, so he adopted us. He and my dad worked together. My dad had his own truck and was a jack of all trades. He was never out of work, so Nick was usually with him. My dad also worked for Beachwood say, 1942 - 45. Nick was always at our house after the dinner hour. This sounds odd, he always came in thru the basement door up the stairs and always singing He-Le- Hi-Low and he sat on the stair at the landing. We had a large country kitchen and this is where we would spend most of our time. There
were always friendly debates between my dad and Nick. They could take a short story and make it last the evening. Then about 10:00 he would say good-bye and head on home. The next night it started all over again. This ended when my dad died. Nick was lost. He stayed on Richmond Rd. a few more years. He later moved to a small house very near the Town hall. Until his death he worked for Beachwood. It had become his homeland.
Up from Gieslers was another farm that was no longer worked. Besides the house, barn, and outbuildings was a large granary that had been rented out to two different families. One was the Root family that consisted of husband Al, his wife and one son Al, Jr. The father worked for the railroad (engineer). They lived there quite a few years. Mr. Root drove the only Chrysler AirFlow that I ever saw. It was a car that was way ahead in time in body style. (Say 1938-39). Mrs. Root made all of the costumes for the school plays. The boy got a new bike, beautiful green, chrome, headlight and a siren. It was a Schwinn. Boy it made our tongues hang out.
On North Woodland lived the Mason Family. Their home is still standing on the south side of the road just before the road curves and dead ends. Marie Mason (widow), children Bob, Willis and Betty (who is a dear friend of mine). They were residents of Beachwood many years. Mrs. Mason was a wonderful mother. She had the air of being tough as nails, but had a soft heart. Many happy childhood days were spent there.
I also worked for the Village of Beachwood 1951-54. My job was very diversified. Did the typing, police work, filing, stencils, mimeographing etc. It was an interesting job, lot of nice people. It was like a big family. Hubert E.Johnson was my boss. A retired "Colonel, who never forgot his authority. I believe his job was "Clerk". Harry "Pop" Moyer was Building Inspector. He was already quite elderly knew his business though. A wonderful person. He and his wife were a charming and devoted couple and remained friends until they passed away. I grew up with John Havel as the Police Chief and Tom Sexton as his right hand man. Then came Rudy "Roots" Miesz. Bud Billings and Ben Collins. They were all rookie policemen in those early years. When I married in 1964, and moved away I lost contact with many of my childhood friends. However, I will always cherish my childhood growing up in rural Beachwood.
In the summer of 1945 there was a change in ownership of Beachwood’s longest running business, Eickhoff’s Flowers. It was sold to Steve Gali who renamed it Gali ‘s Garden Center. Henry Eickhoff had two children Henry Jr. and Frank. Frank took over the business from his dad and ran the business with a lot of help from one of his daughters Sweetie until his death in 1943. Henry Sr. stepped in and ran the shop for a few years before the family decided to sell it to Gali. Both Frank and his dad served the Village of Beachwood as members of the Village Council and School Board for many years. Frank had a total of four children. Sweetie, Rosemary, Jeanette, and Loretta. It is interesting to note that Loretta married John Havel, Beachwood’s long time police chief.
In April of 1945 the Village approved the Van Sweringens’ plans to re-subdivide the balance of the land they owned in the village. This would allow their land to be sold in reasonable sized lots for development. However, there were several Van Sweringen streets in the Crestwood Development that had a few problems that needed resolution before anyone would be willing to buy the lots for development. Bryden Rd., from Green Rd. to Letchworth Blvd., was one of them. This was one of the dirt roads that did not have water or sewers. Bryden was in such bad shape it had to have its drainage ditches along the road cleaned and reshaped. The solution to this problem became an issue that went on for a few years. The Village was unwilling to make the improvements and finally the landowners took the improvements on themselves at their own expense, with their property assessed the cost.
In May of 1945 the Building Inspector, Charles G. Thomas informed the Village, that a family that was using it as a residence occupied the building at 25100 Kinsman Rd. The building department instructed the people to move from the premises or they would be fined because the area was not zoned for residential use. Prior to the family moving in to the building it was a gasoline station, and for many years after it was a favorite restaurant known as Jolly Jon’s. Today it known as Yours Truly.
In 1945 a longtime Beachwood residents John and Helen Thomson moved out of their home and farm at 2359 Richmond Rd. to Mayfield Heights. The property was just south of George Zeiger Drive. The Thomsons had lived there since 1925. Mr. Thomson was a landscaper and well known for the high quality work that he and his team had done. The Thomsons had two children, Jean and Jack. Jean recalls with fond memories going to school in the large eight room school house on Fairmount and spending time playing with the Richardson family and the Wascko Family. Jean says that ice skating down the Richmond Rd. hill in Lyndhurst was always a fun time for the few children that lived in the area.
In that same year Colonel Edward Higbee and his new wife, Barbara, purchased the Thomson farm. He had been the Mayor of nearby Gates Mills prior to moving into the Village, had previously been married to Kate Holden and had one son named Holden. He was a decorated war hero from W.W.I and was called back into service for W.W.II. He was also the great grandson of Edward Congress Higbee, the founder of Cleveland’s once premier department store, The Higbee Company (presently Dillard’s). When the Higbees bought the 90-acre farm, they renovated the house and fixed up the land so that children from all over would utilize it as a fun place for recreation. They named the farm "Fox Hollow Farm". The Higbees were a family of stature and having the farm for family and friends to admire was upheld by the Higbees as an important value. Higbee involved himself in several activities within the community: he first served on the Village Council from 1946 through 1950 and on the school board from 1950 through 1954. When Albert Ratner bought the 90-acre farm for $90,000 in 1954, the Colonel moved with his family to Pepper Pike. He died in 1977 at the age of 80. Just as his wife was an important part of his life, so was his daughter Trew, who attended Beachwood schools from the first through sixth grades and then went on to Laurel School, a private girls school in Shaker Heights. Trew remembers playing with the Chilcote and Hanger children that grew up on Community Drive. Today, Trew lives with her family Virginia and operates a gift shop.
Home at 2353 Richmond Rd. Approx 1940 (southeast corner of Zeiger and Richmond Rds.) before it was bought by the Higbees. The Thompson Family had previously rented the home for many years.
Higbee home after it was remodeled.
In 1946 Beachwood Council faced the reality that the special assessments placed on properties with past due taxes would hinder the development of the large number of vacant lots. Under pressure from developers, the Village passed several ordinances canceling certain special assessments. Over the next few years ordinances would be passed by council canceling any special assessments levied against the properties. This would allow developers who were holding properties, such as the Van Sweringen Company, to have the ability to market their properties for a quick sale.
A change to the Village’s farming community began in 1946. For many years the Matthews farm existed on Richmond Rd. where much of Science Park is today. Apparently, the Vans had bought the land in the early 1920’s except for the small farmhouse that sits at 3283 Richmond Rd. Until 1946, Roy Matthews, a son of the original farmer, lived in the house. At that time the Williams bought the small parcel of land that the home was on and extensively remodeled the home. While the home appears to be a 1940 vintage bungalow, underneath it lies a farmhouse that was built in 1870.
3283 Richmond Rd. Once the Matthews' Farm house. Built in 1870. It was remodeled in 1946 by its current owner the Williams. Photo courtesy of the William's Family.
In addition to the changes experienced by the rural community, 1947 was a quiet year in the Village Hall for urban development. Edgar J. Ryan had earlier acquired the land known as Duffield Downs from the Van Sweringen Company and was now ready to develop the lots. Again, like most of the developers, he needed the special tax assessments removed by the Village in order to sell the lots. The special assessment that Mr. Ryan was addressing needed to be resolved before any developer would build in the Village because in many cases the assessment for past due taxes was more than the value of the property. Once again, the Village would be taking a "hit" for revenue they had not anticipated. However, with a changing view toward the future, this time it would prove to be a worthwhile step. Beachwood was already having a busy year issuing building permits for new homes. In a few years the baby boomers would be riding their bicycles on the sidewalks and in their driveways.
Beachwood would have a variety of issues to deal with as it developed into a bedroom community starting in 1948. In May the Van Sweringen Company asked that the Village re-zone the land they owned at the southeast corner of Richmond and Fairmount from residential to special use for a church. The Vans were successful in selling the property to the Catholic Diocese. However, the Village was unwilling to make the zoning change at that time. This issue would continue for many years.
Matthews Farm House in 1999
1948 would also be an historic year for another religious organization that wanted to build in Beachwood. Long time resident Ellis and Cora Lippert Hendershot sold their 32 acres of farmland on Fairmount Blvd. to the Euclid Avenue Temple. This organization was located for many years at E. 82nd and Euclid Ave. While the temple did not present their development plan until 1951, there was opposition to the temple
from the very beginning. The Ohio Supreme Court would ultimately decide this issue several years later.
It was in 1948 that two Meadowbrook Blvd. residents, Mr. Ralph Rokoph and Dr. R.O. Turek, asked that the name of their street be changed from Meadowbrook to Ranch. Apparently one of the early plans of the Van Sweringens was to extend Meadowbrook in University Heights up past Green where Ranch is now and continue through Beachwood all the way to Chagrin Falls.
1948 also brought the start of one of Beachwood’s finest community-driven programs: the Beachwood Volunteer Fire Department. Until 1948 the Village had a contract with Shaker Heights for fire service. Canterbury Golf course was paying a higher than acceptable price for fire insurance because the municipality it was located in had no fire department. After little debate it was decided that the Village would start its own volunteer fire department with the help of Shaker Heights.
Beachwood's first fire truck was a 1917 American LaFrance that they rented from Shaker Heights...
Arthur Marcus, Art Rindfeisch, and Ed Adams in September of 1959 on Beachwood's first new fire truck a 1953 Ford. Photo from the Cleveland Press Collection at Cleveland State University.
1948 also brought a bit of a humbling and tragic experience to the community, which reflected its ongoing struggle towards urban growth. Bovard Jacob, along with his wife Eleanor and their seven year old son Jeffrey, lived in a barn at 25234 Fairmount Blvd. For six months the Village had been pressuring Mr. Jacob to make the improvements to the barn he had originally promised to make or he would have to move out. The family had bought the barn six years previous with the intention of tearing down the barn and building a new home. Instead he remodeled the second floor of the barn into several bedrooms, a kitchen and a lavatory, all of which caused further complications. Consequently, in September of 1946, R. A. Rose, the Beachwood building inspector, issued an affidavit to the Village that the work was done without a permit.
The Village and Mr. Jacob had been battling the issue for two years without progress, and both parties were bent on their own positions. Mr. Jacob felt he could do as he pleased and the Village felt the importance of enforcing their laws. Tragically overcome by the issue facing him, however, Mr. Jacob took the life of his wife, his son, and then himself on or about October 12, 1948. This barn sat where the Cleveland Hebrew School building is now located.
Tragedy was accompanied by triumph within the Village, however, as 1948 would be an historic year for Beachwood; all the eastern suburbs that the Van Sweringens had owned land in were affected by the US Supreme Court ruling that deed restrictions regarding race were unconstitutional.
A deed restriction is generally put into place by the current owner of land and is operative within a time frame. Should there be a violation of the deed restriction it is the owner’s place to take legal action against the violator; governments do not enforce the restrictions. For example, if I own land and sell it with a deed restriction that the land never be used for the sale of blue cars for the next 100 years then blue cars can not be sold on the property. If the restriction is violated it is my responsibility to ask the court to address the issue. Should I die my trust or estate would then be responsible for such action. At the same time my trust or I could waive the deed restriction and allow blue cars to be sold.
The Van Sweringens had deed restrictions on all of their residential land relative to race and religion. One stipulated that only Caucasians could reside in any of their homes. There was also an exclusion for hired help. The second required that 10 neighbors approve any potential resident who would occupy a home.
When The Vans came out of bankruptcy their goal was to sell off all the land they could and essentially go out of business. During the forties they re-divided their parcels and worked with a variety of developers to dispose of the land. At that time they did not enforce their own deed restrictions. However, developers did require that the Van Sweringen Company provide them with a release from the deed restrictions.
When the company ceased operations in the early 1950’s the deed restrictions needed to have a trustee. While the deed restriction on race was legally unenforceable there were other restrictions that demanded attention. They were issues of paint colors, rooflines and use of the land. Many of the lots sold were deed restricted as to their use.
When the Van Sweringen Company went out of business the watchdog of the deeds fell into a new group known as the Van Sweringen Foundation. This consisted of three members: the mayor or some other representative of Beachwood, Shaker, and Pepper Pike. It would be these three who decided if a deed restriction would be lifted by a simple majority vote. Despite the practicality of this arrangement and the feasibility that all three would agree on how their portion of the east side would be developed, the system soon collapsed. In the 1950’s there would be battles over shopping centers and traffic that would occur because of changes in the deed restrictions. The deed restriction that required that 10 neighbors approve for one to move into a home did not go away, however, as it was not one that was enforced by the foundation.
Another a transitional year for Beachwood was 1949. The Rapid Transit Land Company’s lots were selling well as the Village continued to remove special tax assessments that were placed on them. That year one of Beachwood’s new and long-term leaders, Leslie and Connie Cowan, moved into their new home on East Baintree Rd. They were quick to realize that they were like many others in the community, not knowing how the government and the schools worked. Connie served for several terms on the School Board and both Connie and Leslie were instrumental in the development of the Beachwood Civic League. According to Connie, one of the nuances about living on East Baintree was the mail service. They did not have door-to door service. They had a mail box with their name on it along with others neighbors, nailed to a post at Cedar and Green Rds. much like a rural route.
The same year the Van Sweringen Company tried to finalize a settlement with the county and the villages on their entangled debts for past taxes owed. This, unfortunately, would not be settled until 1952.
The Village was now ready to enter the decade that would put it on the map as a premier bedroom community of Cuyahoga County. The next ten years Beachwood would see countless proposals for development and numerous zoning battles, many of which would be resolved in court and foster the start of their own school system.
It would also be the last decade that the Village would still be a village. By the end of the next ten years the little farming village with its eccentric group of people would become a city.