The Birth of a Planned Community
Euclid Avenue Temple
Since 1910 this Jewish synagogue or temple was located at 82nd and Euclid Ave. As time went on, the Jewish population moved further east to two neighborhoods of Cleveland: 105 th and Superior, and East 125th and Kinsman. Many of the people who were now moving into Beachwood grew up in one of those neighborhoods. This group, under the leadership of Rabbi Barnett R. Brickner, had grown to be one of the largest reform Jewish congregations in the country. As many of their members had moved up into "The Heights," it was time for the temple to relocate closer to its members.
In December of 1951, The Euclid Avenue Temple requested a building permit to build a new temple on 32 acres on Fairmount Blvd. just east of Edgewood Rd. Ellis and Cora Hendershot had owned this land. At this point in time, there was only one religious structure in the Village - the Centenary Church next to the Village Hall, which had been built in 1884. However, in 1949, the Catholic Diocese purchased the land at the southeast corner of Richmond and Fairmount Blvd. with the intention of building a church. The Village advised the diocese that they would be denied a permit should they ask for one. This battle lasted for many years until the church ultimately sold the land.
On January 21, 1952, during a regularly scheduled meeting of the Village Council, Mayor Harvey .J Bruggemeier announced that the Euclid Avenue Temple had requested a special use permit for the construction of the Temple on Fairmount Blvd. Rabbi Brickner informed village officials that the size of the congregation peaked to 1800 families, or about 5400 people. This response gave the Village fathers a legitimate reason for concern. Imagine 1800 cars driving down Fairmount Blvd. with only a stop sign at Green Rd. Consequently, the meeting lasted several hours with many citizens voicing opposition to the plan.
On February 4, 1952, the Village Council met and presented a petition with 218 signatures against the issuance of a permit. Judge Bernon, who represented the Temple, put into writing the commitment of the Temple to never allow a rear entrance or exit for the property. The original plan called for an exit at the corner of Beachwood Blvd. And Ranch Rds. Many of the nearby residents had a concern about traffic flowing onto the side streets. This move by the Temple would hopefully put to rest as much as possible the concern about traffic for the people living on these streets. This was critical because many of those residents were Jewish. On February 18, 1952, the Village Council voted on the matter. Councilman Henry Hopwood, John W. Cronin, Arthur Zalud, Otto Knutsen Jr., and David Champion voted "no". The only one that voted "yes" was John W. Bankhurst, who lived around the corner from the site at 2595 Larchmont Rd.
In May of 1952, E. M. Elder, the Temple president, sent a letter to the members of the congregation that the Temple would file a suit against the Village. By this time, the old guard took a variety of steps to force the Temple to reconsider the move to Beachwood. At the same cards were placed by unknown persons in mailboxes with a copy of the publication Plain Truth that said the following:
This move clearly demonstrated the anti-Semitic feeling of many of some residents. This would be the same group that would fight the newcomers to the community several years later relative to the development of the schools.
By December of 1952, the Village Council attempted to defend their view. They mailed a two-page letter to every home in the Village explaining that the reason they were opposed to issuing a permit was simply the size of the project. Their overall concern was the large number of people that would be using the facility and they also felt that they could not afford to give up the taxes that the property would pay if it were a housing development instead of a tax-exempt religious structure.
By January of 1953, the Council was deciding whether or not to appeal the decision by the Common Pleas Court that forced the Village to allow the Temple to be built. One of the Council’s concerns was the amount of money it would cost to fight the battle. Clearly the Council felt it was worth spending the money because they took the matter to the County Court of Appeals. While the Council was standing its ground based on the size of the project, in June of 1953 a second Temple known as "The Suburban Temple" requested a special zoning permit to build in Beachwood. The Suburban Temple had bought land on Kinsman Rd. from the Van Sweringen Company with the intent of building a sanctuary and schoolhouse for their 250 members. At the time, the group, which had formed in 1948, had been holding its prayer services in Shaker Heights at Lomond School.
In September of 1953, there were several council meetings to discuss the Suburban Temple’s plans. On September 7, 1953, one particular meeting centered on traffic concerns. Several Halburton Rd. residents were concerned about traffic exiting out of the parking lot onto their street. Others were concerned about the value of their land. At the September 14th meeting, several objections were centered on the issue of allowing Jews into the Village. Mr. Larry Bordonaro of 23580 Bryden Rd. objected to the synagogue construction because he thought the land was restricted against use by Jewish Persons. Mr. Joseph Sibert of 23581 Bryden Rd. said that he was "screened" when he purchased his lot and felt that no change in the land from residential use
should be made in favor of the Suburban Temple. During this meeting, Mr. David Dietz, the Temple’s Chairman of the committee for submitting the proposal reminded the Village Council that this building was being built for 391 adults and 375 children. Along with Mr. Milton Daus, also a temple representative, Dietz explained that the Temple was not soliciting new members and if they were it would require a 2/3 vote by the membership. Daus also read a letter from The Trinity Presbyterian Church, a neighbor to the Suburban Temple, which welcomed the congregation to the neighborhood. The Trinity Church had just broken ground and had 400 members.
By the third meeting, held on September 21, Council endorsed construction of the Suburban Temple. The Council realized they were losing the battle against Fairmount Temple and knew if the issue of the size of Fairmount were really the issue, they had to allow this smaller congregation to have a place of worship in the Village.
In October of 1953, the Court of Appeals agreed with the lower court regarding Fairmount Temple’s desire to build. The Village fathers were now entrenched in the issue of construction and, unwilling to surrender, took the matter to the Ohio Supreme Court. However, the Village again lost the battle. In February of 1954, the State Supreme Court ruled in favor of the Temple construction, forcing the Village to issue a building permit.
Groundbreaking for Fairmount Temple took place on April 3, 1955, with Alfred I. Soltz, Temple president, turning the first shovel of dirt. Others involved in the festive event included Rabbi Brickner, Associate Rabbi Bernard Perelmuter, J.W. Grodin, James Miller, Emil M. Elder, Elmer Babin, William Weinberger, Myron Stanford, Eugene Bondy and Harvey Strauss. Also joining the group was Beachwood’s Mayor Henry Hopwood and Dr. Harold C. Phillips of the First Baptist Church in Cleveland Heights.
The Birth of New Leadership in the 50’s
In 1955 Harvey Friedman, Stanley Weinberger and Sanford Likover ran for council and won. This move was very much in concert with the effort that had been going on at the School Board. It was clear that new leadership was needed in both areas if Beachwood was going to have the funds to educate its children properly, and prosper as a community. The new leadership at the school board started in 1951 when Viola Co1ombi was elected followed by Connie Cowan in 1954, followed by Si Wachsberger in 1956, Fred Isenstadt in 1958, Margaret Lubin in 1960 and Sherman Hollander in 1961. When looking back on the community’s history clearly these young pioneers set the foundation for the quality of life that has been built over the years in Beachwood.
As three freshman council members Friedman, Weinberger and Likover knew what changes had to be made to allow the Village to prosper. They also knew that many of their neighbors did not want them living in the community because they were Jews. However, with the support of the newly formed Voters League, (see chapter 4) their work was cut out for them. It should be noted that while many people did not want Jews in the community, there were many that embraced them with open arms and, in fact, the latter was more the rule than the exception. Stanley Weinberger served as the Chairman of the Finance Committee, Sanford Likover was the chairman of Public Works, and Harvey Friedman was appointed Chairman of Planning and Zoning.
Several years later George Zeiger would join in the leadership as the Clerk. George was Harvey Friedman’s accountant and provided an excellent balance to the "new vivacious group". The hard-nosed old timers felt that Zeiger could be trusted because he was quieter and gentler than the others were.
Commercial Developers, Councilmen, and Lawyers.
The first developer to present a plan for a shopping center was the Kangesser Company. Their 1951 plan was to build a strip-type shopping center on both sides of the northeast corner of Fairmount and Green Rds. The land had been zoned for commercial use. However, at the recommendation of the Regional Planning Commission, the Village rezoned it for residential use at the same time as Kangesser presented his plan. Kangesser filed suit in Common Pleas Court and lost. Up until the late 1980’s, the one-room office of the Kangesser Development Company stood at that corner. The balance of the corner was developed with homes in the late 1960’s.
The next major shopping center development proposal to be considered by the Village would be at the southeast corner of Cedar and Richmond. For several years the landowners and the Village Council had danced around the idea of developing the
land into residential streets. However, the developer and the Village could not come to terms on who was going to pay for the construction of the streets and the installation of water lines and sewers.
In May of 1955, Attorney Jules Eshner presented a plan to council on behalf of his clients Joseph Diamond and Jacob Davidson, who envisioned a twenty-five million dollar project that would include Saks Fifth Avenue and Chandler and Rudd, a local super market know for high quality products. Then Council President Hopwood’s immediate response was that the land was zoned residential and suggested to Mr. Eshler that he present his plan first to the Village’s Planning and Zoning Commission, however, P&Z took no recorded action. While the southeast corner of Cedar and Green Rds. is not in Beachwood, 1955 also brought a new shopping strip to this corner. The developer was Sam Weiser and the architect was Rudolph Orgler. One of the features of the building was the plan for a second floor to be built within a few years of the completion of the first floor. While this building is not in Beachwood, it would be the closest place to buy a quart of milk and a loaf of bread on the north side of town.
Richmond Rd. at Cedar Rd. looking south. Approx 1957
Photo courtesy of Beachwood City Archives
The effort to develop shopping centers in the booming eastern suburbs was simply a race to secure agreements from major tenants for long-term leases. By this point in time, The May Company (now Kaufmann’s) had just announced, with the blessings of University Heights, their plans for a four-story department store (opening late in 1956) on the southeast corner of Cedar and Warrensville Center Rds. This was just a mile and a half west of Cedar and Richmond Rds.
By January of 1956, Beachwood Village had a total of three major shopping center plans presented to the council. The first was the one at Cedar and Richmond Rds. The second was a plan by Albert Ratner and Albert Lavin to build a shopping center on Richmond Rd. on land where a second and third phase their Fairmount Park Estates is now located (the Richmond and Cardington Rds. area). The third plan was presented by Anthony Visconsi to build a shopping center on Richmond between Shaker Blvd. and South Woodland Rd. The developers were attracted to Beachwood and were confident that certain city council members would support their projects. By this time, William Shelton, an Architect, and one of the first settlers on Hurlingham Rd. had been elected to council. Mr. Shelton was very much in favor of the necessary commercial and retail development of the community.
In March of 1956, the Richmond and Cedar Rds. site was sold to Albert Lavin. Other partners from time to time would include but were not limited to Milton Wolf, Max Ratner and Dominic Visconsi. The new developers were willing to give Beachwood whatever type of shopping center they wanted. At about this point in time Albert Ratner and Albert Lavin dropped their plan for a shopping center on their Fairmount Park Estates land that would soon be developed into residential housing. This site had grown to a 130-acre development. Their new plan included not only a shopping center, but also apartments and homes that would be on a new street parallel to the homes on Richmond Rd. This street was to run from Cedar Rd. to North Woodland Rd. An added feature of the shopping center was an entrance and exit onto North Woodland Rd., which at that time was not a dead-end Rd. In fact, early plans for I-271 included a bridge over the highway to allow North Woodland traffic to pass over the highway into Pepper Pike. While many Beachwood residents were supportive of the planned shopping centers, there were those who lived near the proposed area dubbed "Beachwood Center" that believed it would attract too much traffic. At that time, of course, in all of Beachwood there was no road wider than two lanes. The major opposition came from those families on North Woodland and families living on Community Drive.
Albert Lavin's Beachwood Center. Photo courtesy of the Estate of Albert Lavin
While the decision on which site to endorse had to be made - the Richmond Cedar site or the Richmond site between Shaker and South Woodland - an added twist was thrown into the formula. Then Council President Henry Hopwood, who also served as Assistant Director of Public Relations for Republic Steel, was presented a plan by the steel magnate to build a research and development Center on Richmond Rd. between Chagrin and South Woodland (where Science Park is today). This 40-acre site would be another great source for increasing Beachwood’s tax duplicate, which needed to grow immediately as bond issues (crucial to the development of the school district) were contingent on the size of the tax duplicate (see Chapter 5). The Village Council was ready to rezone this land that was once the Matthews farm and once owned by The Van Sweringens.
1956 public meeting (held at Fairmount Elementary in the gym)regarding Republic Steels Plans for Richmond Rd.
Left to Right: Sanford Likover, Harvey Friedman, Henry Hopwood, then Mayor Harvey Bruggemeier, Vincent Lavin and then Council President John Bankhurst. Photo taken by B. Tomsic and courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University.
In May of 1956, the Village Council did rezone the land from residential to commercial with strict standards on what development would be allowed. The strict zoning rules required that the buildings not take up more than 15% of the total land available, which would insure a spacious, park-type atmosphere. Under the direction of Mayor Bruggemier, Council held a public meeting to debate the issue. A group of residents living in the southern part of Beachwood protested the zoning changes. The group was known as the "Beachwood Property Owners Association" and was led by Mr. Peter M. Oddo of 24500 South Woodland Rd. While Republic Steel assured the concerned residents that the research & development center would not have smokestacks like a steel mill, the residents were strongly opposed to it in fear that it would someday evolve into a typical steel mill. The issue became such a battleground that Republic Steel decided to avoid the negative publicity and decide to build their research & development facility in Independence. That building is still used today by the current owner of Republic, LTV steel. Unfortunately, Beachwood would have to wait close to ten years before any other industry would locate in the Village. This was extremely devastating to a school system that badly needed an increase in tax values and revenues.
With the focus back on the two shopping center proposals the Village fathers were being pressured into making a decision. In late May of 1956, Albert Ratner, a principle owner of the land at Richmond and Cedar Rds. appeared before the Beachwood Zoning Commission requesting that the commission take the long awaited action that was necessary to rezone his land for commercial use. On September 24th, a special council meeting was held regarding the shopping center dilemma. This was a meeting filled with finger pointing and much dissension. Councilman Sanford Likover presented legislation to rezone the land in favor of the developer. Past chairman of Zoning and Planning, John W. Cronin accused Likover of working for private interests and not for what was best for Beachwood. Henry Hopwood suggested that the land that Republic wanted to build on be rezoned in case a developer came along and wanted to build an office park. He felt this would be one solution to end what was known as "spot zoning". Council made these convenient changes to one particular piece of land as a favor to developers. By the end of the meeting however, no action was taken on either development.
If the matter was not complicated enough, a new proposal for a $15,000.000.00 shopping mart on Kinsman Rd. was announced by Leo Goldberg of Midwest Builders and his company Zehman-Wolf & Sherman Construction Co. This development would be between Green and Richmond Rds. on the north side of Kinsman Rd. The property went back anywhere from 500 to 800 feet. The plan called for two story apartment buildings, a 100,000 square foot shopping center, office buildings and a residential street in the rear of the property consisting of 78 homes. That street would be the continuation of Halburton Rd., a street that was originally planned as part of the Van Sweringen development. The lots for the homes would be 100 by 200 feet and the prices of the home were to be in the $45,000.00 range. Dominic Visconsi and Anthony Visconsi made a second proposal for a $5,000,000.00 shopping center on the south side of Kinsman just east of Green Rd. With these two plans being added to the list of shopping centers and the Council’s concerns about the development of Kinsman Rd., they decided to ask for help from the County Planning Commission. Kinsman Rd. was viewed as the major Rd. through Beachwood, and the Village wanted it developed with some sort of a master plan. It is interesting to note that at one point in time, the Visconsi family had investments in three potential commercial sites in Beachwood: Lavin’s Cedar and Richmond lot, the Richmond and Shaker site, and this location on Kinsman.
Many of the old guard wanted to continue the relationship in which Beachwood High School students attended Shaker Schools. However, Shaker had informed Beachwood in 1955 that their school system was unable to handle its own growth and, therefore, Beachwood would need to build its own high school. The old guard, generally being those south of Fairmount, knew the only way they could continue to use
Shaker Schools was to form a separate township. (See Chapter Five). If they succeeded, then the area would be developers’ paradise. Under state law, a township has very little control over what is built. For that reason, the land on Kinsman Rd. was equal wager for developers, along with Cedar Rd.
In November of 1956, the council finally took action to rezone the Cedar and Richmond site. Albert Lavin stated that construction would start in 12 - 14 months. Anti-shopping center resistance started immediately. Edward Meister of 2150 Richmond Rd. called for a referendum vote by the voters of Beachwood. By March of 1957 the legal battle over the rezoning was off to a good start. Almost immediately, residents formed what was known as the "Beachwood Home Owners Association." Most of the members lived on North Woodland Rd. The leader of the group was Attorney Richard Gonda, who still lives on that street. The group had circulated petitions for voters to sign that would require a zoning vote during the November 1957 election. For the issue to reach the voters, they needed at least 10% of the citizens who had voted during the last gubernatorial election to sign the petitions. There were 2,141 Beachwood voters in the previous election. While it is believed that the group got the 10%, this issue did not get to the ballot.
There was no additional action relative to commercial zoning in 1957 until the Council heard from the Regional Planning Commission in late November. The help of the Regional Planning Commission occurred back in 1956 when freshman councilman Harvey Friedman was named chairman of the Village’s Planning and Zoning Committee. At that point Beachwood had no zoning for any commercial business. This appointment made by then mayor Harvey Bruggemeier suited Friedman perfectly. Harvey Friedman felt it was imperative that Beachwood have a plan for not only its residential development but also for apartments, shopping districts and commercial development. Having a vision far into the future Friedman called upon the Regional Planning Commission for their help. In 1957 their recommendation was complete. The south side of Chagrin should be (from Green to Richmond) office buildings, the north side should be apartment buildings, a shopping center and office buildings. The commission also supported the idea of developing Commerce Park. With this plan in place, the Village had reason to start putting into place the zoning requirements to kick-start the desperately needed tax duplicate from commercial development.
There was no immediate action on any of the proposed shopping centers. However, there was a commercial ground breaking for a building on Kinsman Rd. For the last few years there was talk of building a home for the aged by the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union Benevolent Association. The ground breaking was held in late March of 1958 on thirty-five acres. The building was designed to house 300 residents.
In April of 1958, the Village Council was again in an uproar over several development issues. It seems that Edgar J. Ryan, a developer of homes in the Village, had approached several councilmen regarding the idea of building an apartment building and commercial complex at the southwest corner of Richmond and Kinsman Rds. that would be impossible to pass under current Beachwood zoning rules. However, Ryan was promoting the idea of voters choosing the establishment of "Canterbury Township" for the land south of Fairmount Blvd. Ryan knew that once the land was in the newly formed township, he could get away with building just about anything. This infuriated the councilmen who told him to appear at the council chambers to respond. Ryan denied it, and said he did not own any land in that area of the Village. The other issue that had the Council upset was the move by Ratner and Lavin to join forces with Visconsi to build on Richmond Rd. between Shaker and South Woodland Rds. While there was nothing wrong with this merger, it seemed odd that they would join forces. The multiple ownership of undeveloped land in Beachwood was commonplace among the Ratters, Lavins and Visconsi. It has been said that every Sunday morning this group would get together with others and set strategy for Beachwood’s Development. With this new joint venture it was decided to drop the Cedar- Richmond shopping center plan and focus their efforts on the Richmond, Shaker, and South Woodland plan.
In May of 1958, the Village Council heard a request from the Jewish Community Center (JCC) to build a community center on Fairmount just west of the city hall on eight acres it owned. Though this plan did not have much of a life to it, the JCC ultimately built its new facility the following year on Mayfield Rd. east of Taylor Rd.
Realizing that Beachwood needed to have zoning laws for what would be an acceptable office building on Chagrin Blvd. and sections of Richmond Rd., a new ordinance allowing for small office buildings that did not take up more than 15% of the land was passed in August of 1958. Then, in November of 1958, Zehman - Wolf asked that there land on Kinsman Rd. between Green and Richmond Rds. be rezoned for apartments and small office buildings. Zehman-Wolf knew they could get the plan approved if they left out any plans for a shopping center because the regional planners believed the best location for the shopping center was at the Visconsi site.
While all this planning was underway for Kinsman Rd. clearly the look of Kinsman Rd. was changing. Just 10 years earlier, the road was lined with about a dozen older farmhouses. There were only a few businesses with a sense of history to them on Kinsman, such as Eickoff Flowers, which had been at that location since 1914 and is now known as Gali Flowers. The gas station run by Mel Lindquist on the northwest corner of Green and Kinsman Rds. and the Green Acres Tavern, which was just west of the gas station also comprised the sparse business population. At the east end of Kinsman Rd. was Jim and Mary’s Tavern with a gas station on the northeast corner of Kinsman and Richmond Rds. And probably the most popular place to be in Beachwood was Jolly Jon’s Drive In Restaurant, which is now called Yours Truly.
While the look of Kinsman Rd. was changing, the road and land beside it was lacking two important factors, sewer installation and street expansion. Until the decision in 1958 to install sewers, Kinsman Rd. like many of the older streets of Beachwood utilized septic tanks for sewage and wells for water. Unfortunately, the dire need for wider streets would not happen for another thirty years.
In November of 1958, the Van Sweringen Company announced a public land auction scheduled for December 19th of that year. Its projected success was perhaps linked
to the highly successful 1952 auction held by the sheriff to sell smaller lots that belonged to the Van Sweringen Company (discussed later in this chapter under residential growth). The back taxes on the land they owned amounted to $1,556,257.51. As part of the bankruptcy agreement, Beachwood was to receive 60% of the selling price on each parcel to cover the back taxes. This auction was the final attempt the Van Sweringen Company would have before surrendering the land to the County Sheriff for disposal on behalf of the bondholders. The bankruptcy court named National City Bank as the trustee for more than 1300 bondholders.
The auction was held as scheduled, however, there were no bidders. Several of the parcels were withdrawn prior to the sale as part of the bankruptcy agreement. A subsequent auction held on January 23 was just as bad. There was only one offer and it was rejected. In April of 1959, the Van Sweringen Company sold to Central Motors Corporation the last 170 acres of land located in both Beachwood and Pepper Pike. It was between Richmond and Brainard Rds. and Kinsman and South Woodland Rds. The owners of Central Motors, the Porter’s have over the years made several attempts to develop this land for commercial use. However the leadership of Pepper Pike has refused to rezone the land and that refusal has resulted in a legal battle between that city and the developer. This was finally decided in 1996 with the courts ruling in favor of the city of Pepper Pike for 2.5 units per acre.
Highlights of the 1958 Annual Report to the citizens of Beachwood included:
In December of 1959, the Village Council invested in its own land needs. It exercised an option to purchase seven acres of land, located behind the current Village Hall, for future use. Albert Lavin, Frank Feingold and Sam Miller owned the land. The Village realized it would soon be without space for further development and needed to plan for the future. This move was made after some deliberation about prospective sites for a future City Hall. One attractive location included the land on the West Side of Richmond Rd. between Shaker and South Woodland Rds, which would also be to accommodate the police and fire departments.
In 1959, a major change would occur as the last chapter of the Van Sweringen Company’s efforts to go out of business once it sold all its lots and paid all its tax obligations. Knowing that their company would fully cease operation in a few years, the Van Sweringen Company turned over control of its own deed restrictions to a newly formed foundation known as the Van Sweringen Foundation. The foundation was formed for the purpose of perpetuating the deed restrictions. The foundation was also the holder of unsold shares of stock of the Van Sweringen Company. Articles of incorporation provided that the mayors of Shaker Heights, Beachwood, and Pepper Pike would be trustees, or any other person that they might designate. The Mayor of Pepper Pike, John Homchis Jr., was elected foundation chairman. This foundation would be the controlling group, or at the time thought of as the controlling group, over the deed restrictions. These three men had the ultimate say over whether land with deed restrictions limiting its use solely for single family homes could be changed to allow the land to be used for commercial development. In the next few years this foundation would find itself in the newspapers and in the courts on a regular basis. It should also be noted that the trustees served without pay.
While there was still no commercial construction and no rezoning yet on the Visconsi land at South Woodland and Richmond Rds. in 1959 plans, were put into place to develop what we know today as Commerce Park. The planned 200-acre industrial park was the brainchild of Councilman Harvey Friedman, School Board member Sherman Hollander, and Councilman and past Mayor Henry Hopwood. In lieu of letting the valuable land be built up one piece at a time, all of the land, which belonged to numerous owners, including the City of Cleveland, was rezoned as a whole for light manufacturing and warehousing. Retail sales would be prohibited. Under the plan, a building on 3 to 3.9 acres may use up to 25% of the land, 4 to 4.9 acres could use 28% of the land, 5 to 5.9 acres could use 31%, 6 to 6.9% could use 34%, and 7 acres or more could use up to 35%. At least 5% of all the land had to be landscaped. It would take several years for the park to become a reality because the land had so many owners. Commerce Park became a reality in August of 1962 when council approved the zoning change known as ordinance 1962-112. At the time the rezoning was approved the landowners had been consolidated to include; Rhoda and Joe Siegal, James and Lena Anderson, Harry and Eisele Pollock, William and Aileen Brew, Anthony and Pauline Visconsi, and Henry and Freida Miesz. While Mercantile Rd. was the first Rd., Commerce Park Rd. quickly followed. Highpoint was added in the fall of 1973.
While 1959 was a quiet year for commercial development, the 1960’s would be turbulent with the Village becoming a city as its population grew to exceed 5000 residents. 1959 also brought a change that was spearheaded by the City of Shaker Heights. Kinsman Roads name was changed to Chagrin Blvd. The City of Cleveland was having a problem with increased crime on their portion of Kinsman Rd. Shaker wanted to avoid any negative publicity and decided to change the name of the road to Chagrin Blvd. because the road did lead east to the Village of Chagrin Falls. This angered many of the African Americans living in Woodmere. Chagrin Falls over the years had been known to be an anti Black community and in the 1930’s was a regular meeting place for the KKK.
In January of 1960, Beachwood Council reviewed a revised plan for Visconsi’s shopping center at the Richmond & Shaker site. The plan now amounted to $10,000,000.00 and included a commitment from Halle Bros. Department Store
to build a full line store. At the time, Halle Bros. had a small East Side location on the southwest corner of Cedar and Warrensville Center Rds. and had made a commitment to build a store at the new Severance Shopping Mall located in Cleveland Heights. Halle’s was a Cleveland landmark department store with its main store being located at 1220 Euclid Ave. in downtown Cleveland. The plan shown to the council members also included the Shaker Rapid Transit System. In the 1960’s, there was a short-lived dream that the Shaker Rapid would be extended from its current East End at Green Rd. out to the Brainard Circle in Pepper Pike. While there were many who wanted to see this happen, the Shaker Rapid was starting to see a decline in ridership, and since 1944 it was owned by the City of Shaker Heights, who was unwilling to put additional money into the Rapid. In fact, the Shaker Rapid did not see much money put into it until it was totally overhauled in 1981, when it became part of the new regional transit authority.
In February of 1960, while the Council was reviewing the revised Visconsi plans, attorneys Jules Eshner and Ivan Miller obtained a temporary restraining order banning the Van Sweringen Companies from changing the deed restrictions on the property they had sold to Visconsi and his partners. The attorneys represented the Beachwood Home Owners Association. Stanley Busch, president of the group, read a statement at a February Council meeting stating that his group represented over 300 residents and they "categorically oppose" any rezoning by the Village.
1962 Site of proposed Shopping center on Richmond Rd. and South Woodland Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University
In April of 1960, Common Pleas Judge Merle Hoddinotts heard the case filed against the Van Sweringen Company and the developers. The issue at hand was whether the Van Sweringen Company, who was the seller of their land to the developer, or the new developer Visconsi, Lavin and Ratner, could change the deed restrictions on the land. Marion Risman, 26581 Shaker Blvd., Stanley Busch, 26690 Hendon, and Herbert I. Merlin, 24561 S. Woodland filed this case. The case was heard as the result of the restraining order that was earlier requested by the homeowners Association and had an interesting twist from the first day it was in court. The defense, under the direction of attorney Roland Baskin, quickly pointed out to the court that Stanley Busch was a cousin of Sidney Zehman, who was a developer with a conflicting interest in building a shopping center on Chagrin.
April also brought yet another short-lived shopping center contender. Frank Porter, president of VanEst Corporation, planned a 10 to 15 Million Dollar shopping center on the land that borders Kinsman to South Woodland Rds. and Brainard to the proposed location of the new Super-highway now known as I-271. While this land was in Pepper Pike, it would have as equal an effect on Beachwood, as Beachwood’s shopping centers would on Pepper Pike. The plan, however, was quickly withdrawn because the opposition from Pepper Pike residents was heavy. This land continues to be undeveloped, including two eroded overgrown streets put in by the Van Sweringens. (See aerial photo in Chapter 2).
In June of 1960, more than 500 people jammed the Fairmount School Gym for a court ordered meeting to debate the issue of rezoning the land at Richmond and South Woodland. While the group was somewhat calm, battles exploded between Mayor Hlavin, who supported the issue, and Stanley Busch, who opposed the issue. Busch claimed that over 300 people had signed petitions opposing the shopping center. Busch further said that the group he represents "relied on the deed restriction and the zoning that called for single family homes" and he ended his argument by saying that the courts would decide the matter. Joseph E. Lynch, 24613 Wimbledon, told the group "I live closer than any of the members of the Beachwood Homeowners Association whoever they are. I have three small children. We would like to keep our standards up in the public schools even though we send our children to St. Dominic’s." Citizens supporting the construction summarized the problems at hand. After many years, Lavin and others had wanted land at Cedar and Richmond rezoned. Now that it was, there was no shopping center. Citizen opposition had forced Republic Steel to withdraw their plans to build on Richmond Rd. eight years prior. Five years ago Halle Bros. and Visconsi asked for rezoning to bring a shopping center to the area. The pro-shopping center group believed that industry and commerce, retail or wholesale, was badly needed to support the schools and the increasing costs required to keep the growing city in good order. Hlavin reminded the group that the City had been living off of income for the last few years that had come from old tax revenues collected as the Van Sweringen Company sold its properties. That was about to end and an increase in the value of the land was needed from either the homeowners or from non-residential development. Si Wachsberger, a school board member, confessed his hesitance to appear at the rezoning meeting, but disclosed "I cannot sit by. I cannot overemphasize the needs of our Schools. We have no frills." On this note, the hearing ended with council going back to the crowded City Hall, where it voted to rezone the land. It was clear that the Village was taking the action needed.
Council had rezoned the land and the court had not yet ruled on the issue of lifting the deed restrictions, when a second suit was filed by Mr. Anthony Williot of 26131 Shaker Blvd. Williot, who was also represented by Attorney Jules Eshner, filed suite against the city for rezoning the land. Not only was the city now entangled in this legal matter, but also the Village of Pepper Pike went on record in opposition to the plan. Finally, in August of 1960, Judge Hodinott denied the injunction to stop the Van Sweringen Co. from lifting the deed restrictions, thus permitting the commercial development to move ahead. Stanley Bush’s response was that his group would continue its fight indefinitely.
While 1961 was coming to an end with no resolution to the shopping center dilemma, Beachwood was making some headway in its desire to develop the Chagrin Blvd. corridor as a commercial-light industry zone. There had been negotiations with many of the landowners - including the City of Cleveland - regarding the land needed for Commerce Park. Cleveland owned a tract of land that spanned Chagrin Blvd. through the Sunny Acres Hospital area, roughly at the current location of Mercantile Rd. In the early 1900’s a train ran up the tracks to the hospital from Kinsman. Cleveland recognized the land’s value and played hard ball on selling it. Beachwood also rezoned the land between Green and Old Green Rd. for two story apartment buildings developed by L.M. Gunderson. There was little opposition to this change.
1961 also was the start of what would be Beachwood’s first modern light industry building and the year Beachwood’s first office building was built. Beachwood Schools sold 18.2 acres of land on Richmond Rd., just north of Chagrin Blvd. next to the phone company building. The buyer was Gilmore Industries, which was started with $150.00 in capital nine years earlier by G.E. Geronomi and Richard Carleton, Jr. The firm anticipated sales in 1962 to be $2,500,000. The company did research work in instruments and weighing equipment relative to the jet engine industry. The building, which consisted of 30,000 square feet all on one floor, remained there until the 1980’s when it was razed for construction of a new multi-tenant office park known as Corporate Park. Beachwood’s first Chagrin Blvd. office building was also given the green light. Located just west of the water tower, L.N. Gunderson built Beachwood’s first office building.
Beachwoods first modern commercial structure. Gilmore Industries located at 3355 Richmond Rd. Photo Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University
In January of 1961, The Heights Sun Press, a local weekly newspaper, took a survey of Beachwood residents. The headlines of the January 12th Edition read, "Poll of 100 Shows Beachwood Widely Split on Shopping Center" The survey indicated that 42 favored it, 29 were against, and the balance had mixed views. The issue of the shopping center at Richmond and South Woodland was now in its third year. Unfortunately, a solution was far from over. In February of 1961 W. J. Best, Shaker’s representative to the Van Sweringen Foundation, was on record as opposing the center. The Van Sweringen Foundation would have to be the overriding body to lift the deed restrictions at the request of the Van Sweringen Company who had sold the land. Keep in mind that the Van Sweringen Company was just about out of business and the Foundation was set up to be the keeper of the deed restrictions. At the same time the Foundation also owned the majority of the company’s own stock. Therefore, the controlling decision was clearly in the hands of the Foundation’s trustees. This was trouble for the developer. There was an unwritten agreement among the three municipalities that none of them would oppose the lifting of a deed restriction in either of the other corresponding communities. Clearly, Pepper Pike and its representative James B. Lewis were opposed because they did not want the traffic in their bordering community. When the official vote was taken, the only one of three representatives who voted to lift the deed restrictions was Beachwood’s representative John B. Mullaney.
In August of 1961, under the direction of Shaker Heights’ former law director Ralph Jones, W.J. Best was replaced by Meyer T. Wolpaw as Shaker’s Representative and proxy voter for John Hecker of 18928 Winslow Rd. Hecker was a holder of 37% of the stock in the Van Sweringen Company. This action did not sit well with the members of Shaker City Council, who believed that their mayor, Wilson G. Stapleton, forced the removal under pressure from Beachwood. About the same time, Judge Hover ruled that the Beachwood City Council had the right to rezone the land. While these two suits were decided, they were also appealed. This process only lengthened the long-awaited need for a shopping center. At this point, Beachwood had over 5000 people but no stores were they could buy a quart of milk or a loaf of bread.
In October of 1961, Council received a revised, smaller plan from Albert Lavin regarding the use of some of the land at Cedar and Richmond Rds. Lavin’s new plan called for the use of ninety-five acres for a small shopping center that included a bank and medical offices. Council gave Lavin approval for the construction of a one-story bank building. The approval came; however, with a few deed restrictions to put to rest the fears brought by the residents of Community Drive. Those deed restrictions required that the building of any structure on the property be of the same architectural look as the homes on Cedar Rd. and Community Dr. the building was the home of Beachwood Savings and Loan, a bank that Lavin had started. There were several additions to the building and over time this development would be known as La Place.
In January of 1962, the Court of Appeals ruled that the Van Sweringen Company had the right to lift the deed restrictions. While the Van Sweringen Company was ready to lift the deed restrictions, the appeal on whether or not the city could rezone the land had not yet been heard. By May of 1962, an added suit was filed on behalf of Seymour Berger, Charlotte Pearlman and the Beachwood Homeowners Association. The suit sought to stop the lifting of the deed restrictions based on the following conspiracy charge: Beachwood and Shaker Heights officials purportedly conspired to replace W. J. Best because of his decision to vote against the deed restrictions as the representative of Shaker Heights serving on the Van Sweringen Company’s Board. This case was not heard until October of 1962. Best testified that Mayor Stapleton pressured him to change his vote and recalled, under oath, that Stapleton disclosed to him, "I am on the hook" concerning the agreement not to object to another member’s plans. "I don’t care if Beachwood wants to build a pig pen out there." Stapleton said he did not recall ever making those statements. This case took two weeks to be heard. The Judge was Common Please Judge Warren C. Young who was a visiting judge from Lebanon, Ohio.
While this case was pending, Albert Lavin was not sitting idly by. In April of 1962, he proposed the construction of Tudor-style townhouses on his property on the north side of Fairmount Rd. between the church and Fairmount School. At the same time he asked for the approval to construct three high rise apartment buildings, a convenience store and 151 homes on the land at Cedar and Richmond Rds. It seemed that by 1962 every feasible plan for Cedar and Richmond Rds. had been proposed. These and other plans would have to wait. Beachwood City Council was waiting for the outcome of the current conspiracy suit against them and was unable to focus on any other matter.
However, there was a project that Beachwood could focus on: Commerce Park. This crucial development would bring Beachwood the long awaited increase in the tax duplicate that was necessary to provide its residents with the city services they needed. There were several key players from Beachwood’s civic leadership that made Commerce Park a reality, including former Mayors Henry Hopwood and Harvey Friedman. However, the man who made it all happen and worked relentlessly was school board member Sherman Hollander, a real estate attorney and president of his own title company. Hollander worked to track down several landowners that did not live in the area and also did all of the negotiating with the City of Cleveland for the land they owned. This project was no easy feat. Typically, he also turned down any payment from the city for his work. He said his pay would be the pleasure of seeing the tax base of Beachwood increased. One of the first businesses planned for the park was Old Meadow Dairy, though for some unknown reason this did not materialize. The first business in Commerce Park was the Reed Cromex Corporation.
In the year 1962 a landmark building came down. While it was a landmark, it was also an eyesore. As previously mentioned, the corner of Chagrin and Richmond Rds was the home of an old style outdoor gas station and restaurant. The building was in such bad repair that the building inspector condemned it. Mayor Zeiger was concerned that the eyesore would be a deterrent to potential companies being courted to move into Commerce Park. By the end of 1962 an agreement was made to raze the building and construct a new Standard Oil gas station along with a separate building that would house a restaurant. The destruction of the building was left to the Beachwood Volunteer Fire Department as a practice exercise. That restaurant now known as Charlie’s Crab was first known as the Green Turtle.
Once the unofficial center of town and favorite watering hole located on the northeast corner of Chagrin and Richmond Rds. Courtesy of The Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University
The summer of 1962 brought an outpouring of plans for over 5000 apartment suites. (The city plan was looking to end up with around 900.) One of those plans was from developer William Nudelman. Nudelman had a six-month option to purchase land just north of North Woodland and east of Richmond Rd. His plan included two ten-story crescent shaped apartment buildings and 34 three-story garden apartments buildings. Beachwood’s new mayor, George Zeiger, was very upset with Nudelman over two issues. The first was the fact that Nudelman went to the council before presenting the plan to his office. The second and more relevant to the running of a city was the issue that the site was not conducive to this type of development. Due to the Mayor and others council members dislike for the plan, Nudleman did not want to spend his dollars fighting the issue and decided to develop parts of the west side community of Fairview Park.
Original plan of Nudelman's for the land now occupied by part of "The Village" Development.
An additional plan was presented by George Gall to build a complex of 12 story apartment buildings on the 40 acres that Republic Steel was going to develop ten years earlier. This proposal went no further than being presented to council.
In March of 1963, the Court of Appeals voted in favor of the Beachwood Home Owners Association that the city’s ordinance rezoning the land was void and of no legal use. While the city’s fathers knew they had to continue on with other rezoning issues, they appealed this issue to the Ohio Supreme Court. The City clearly felt it was in their right to rezone land. They approached this matter with as much vigor as a very different council had fought 10 years earlier to stop the rezoning for Fairmount Temple.
In April of 1963, the Council approved the construction of several smaller office buildings on Chagrin Blvd. and in April endorsed the rezoning of land on Cedar Rd. into a new classification known as U-3A, which would allow for high rise apartment buildings. Council was not unanimous on their vote for this change. Councilmen Hlavin and Hopwood, also past mayors, voted against it. Hopwood maintained:
"We are completely out of step with the concepts that went into the development of Beachwood. Under the Van Sweringen provisions it was never planned to be anything but a community of single family homes with a few buildings that were necessary. It is only in the last two years that I have seen a movement to make this another Bronx. To conceive a high-rise apartment building here is an affront to the people of this community, including myself." Interestingly, this land was not part of the Van Sweringens development.
Mayor Zeiger responded with:
At the same council meeting approval was given to establish a zoning classification known as U-9. This would allow for hotels, motels, drive-in restaurants and service stations.
Finally, in May of 1963, Common Pleas Judge Warren C. Young ruled against Lavin and Visconsi preventing them from using the property at Richmond and South Woodland for anything other than single family private residence. The Judge’s findings stated that: "To know that the Van Sweringen Company, through its trustees to negate the bond made with these purchasers in order to permit more recent purchasers to build any type of commercial establishment, even though such an installation would benefit other persons many blocks away, taxes must certainly shock the conscience of the chancellor to such an extent that it cannot be allowed."
This was thought to be putting a final blow to the planned shopping center at the Richmond, Shaker and South Woodland Rd. locations. By this time Severance Shopping Center was planning their grand opening, The May Co. store in University Heights was open, and Eastgate and Golden Gate in Mayfield Heights were thriving. The need for a regional shopping mall had diminished for a time as the residents of Beachwood, like residents of other cities, were gaining increased mobility with the popularity of the two-car household.
The Richmond, South Woodland Shopping center issue came to rest in 1964 when the Ohio Supreme Court ruled that "The lower courts could not usurp the legislative function and substitute its judgment for that of council." This ruling made in March of 1964, simply meant that the City could in fact zone the land as they saw fit. The second case however decided by the appellate courts in July of 1964 favored the plaintiff. This was the other case that was filed against the developers and the Van Sweringen Company, which claimed that the owners could not lift the deed restrictions. In this case the three appellate judges, J.P. Corrigan, Joseph Sibert, and Joseph Artl voted for the plaintiffs. Their ruling stated that the restrictions contained in all deeds and imposed upon all properties in the area affected be declared binding. This put to an end, once and for all, the four-year battle that had transpired to try to rezone the land. This action left the city stuck in a spot. While they had Commerce Park developing, they were looking forward to the quick increase in tax value this large shopping complex would have provided.
At the same time, knowing all their eggs should not have been in one basket, Lavin and his partners pushed for approval to build apartment buildings on Cedar Rd. on their newly rezoned land. This development ultimately became known as the Mark IV, and is currently known as the Hampton’s.
There was one issue that stood in the way of this development’s fruition. With a high-risk rating and a high price for fire insurance, a municipality could not have apartment buildings over a specific height without having the proper fire equipment needed in case of a fire emergency. Committed to building the apartments, Albert Lavin funded a major portion of the cost for the communities first new ladder fire truck. This would be the city’s first aerial ladder and fire-fighting equipment since the purchase of the Ford pumper in 1953. Finally in August of 1963, Lavin received the approval to build his apartments, and in 1966 the city’s first ladder truck went into service. It was nearly eight years since Lavin had bought the land and was finally building something on it that had been a part of his original plans.
Chagrin Blvd. saw the addition of a second nursing home in October of 1963 just west of the first one built several years earlier by the First Catholic Slovak Ladies Union Benevolent Association. This nursing home was known as Beach Haven. Clearly Chagrin was becoming the center of Beachwood’s commercial development.
The next major non-residential issue for Beachwood in 1964 would be the move to annex 67 acres that were in Pepper Pike. This land ran from Cedar Rd. to Fairmount Blvd. between the former east border and the new state highway. While the Jewish Welfare Federation wanted to buy the land to build a nursing home, Pepper Pike was unwilling to rezone the land. There were eleven registered voters living on the land. Eight of them agreed to sign a petition asking to be annexed to Beachwood. They knew if they were going to sell the land to the Jewish Federation, this action was necessary. Pepper Pike attempted to fight the issue, but by law it could not be stopped. Pepper Pike also picked up a piece of land in this boarder change. Beachwood allowed a portion of Porters property east of I-271 behind the Village shopping center that had been in Beachwood to become part of Pepper Pike. This transition took yet another year to be resolved and was completed by the end of 1965.
In the fall of 1964, Carl Milstein presented council with plans for a 20-story multiple use building on Chagrin Blvd. (formerly known as Kinsman Rd.) and Green Rd. The high-rise was envisioned to have offices, convenient stores and apartment buildings. Council did not accept this plan because they were concerned that there would again be too many apartments in the City.
By 1964, Beachwood’s Chagrin Blvd. was continuing to develop with smaller office buildings and several small apartment buildings between Green and Warrensville Center Rds. One of these buildings was the new corporate office of Leaseway Transportation, which had become a long-time corporate leader in the Beachwood Community. Many years later it built a newer office building on Park East. Leaseway’s Corporate
offices stayed in Beachwood until the mid 1990’s when they were acquired by Penske Trucking.
In 1965, Beachwood’s commercial development took on an unexpected new tenant. Telerama, a forerunner to today’s Cable TV, came to Beachwood. Telerama provided a cable networks to Warrensville Heights, Shaker Heights and parts of Beachwood. Their offices were located on Mercantile just south of Chagrin Blvd.
The Residential Side of the Baby Boomers Bedroom Community
In 1950, Beachwood’s residential development was in full swing. Developers had essentially come from everywhere to take advantage of the opportunity. For the most part, new homes were being built on a variety of lots on existing streets, though new developments did not happen for several years. For many of the homebuilders, this would be their first venture into the trade. Many of them were the same young age as the homebuyers and many of the lots they bought were the results of a variety of bankruptcies due to the Depression. The largest sale of lots in any wholesale format would happen two years later when the Van Sweringen Company liquidated their lots through a sheriff sale.
In 1951 Beachwood was paving Edgehill Rd., one of the last streets planned by The Rapid Transit Land Co. Twenty-four of the thirty three lots had been acquired by Archie Drost, one of Beachwood’s long term developers who developed many streets in Beachwood. The last street to be paved that belonged to the Rapid Transit Land Company was Halcyon, which would not be paved until the mid 1960’s. It should be re-emphasized however, that these streets were originally constructed in the late 1920’s.
Streets such as Greenlawn, Isabelle (now called Wendover) and Woodway were being reconditioned and the lot sizes were being changed. The developers of these streets included Cohen and Copelin, Finegold, Marvin Helf, R.C. Hummer and the Sunshine Land Co., which was a part of the Forest City Lumber Company. One of the issues the Village and the developers would have to resolve, besides the issue of the lot sizes, were the sewers. Greenlawn, Woodway and Isabele had no sewers. After months of debates, the Village paid to install them and assessed the landowners upon the sale of the lots. It was about this time that Isabelle Ave was changed to Wendover and East Scarborough was changed to Timberlane. It is said that the reason Isabelle was changed was because future Police Chief Sexton felt uncomfortable calling in on the police radio stating that he was "on Isabelle." The name Wendover was picked because then councilman and future Mayor Vincent Hlavin had served at an Air base called Wendover and he had fond memories of the base. Therefore the name sounded good enough to the rest of council and the change was made. It can be assumed that East Scarbourgh was changed in so it would it not be confused with a street with the same name in Cleveland Heights. With all of these new streets starting to show signs of serious housing construction the Village needed to increase it’s police department staffing from three to five officers. In 1952 Beachwood hired two new police officers, they were Ben Collins and Bud Billings. Ben went on to be the Chief of Police in the 1970’s. Bud was injured in an accident while on duty in the early 1960’s. Because of his injuries he was unable to continue as a police officer, and he was appointed Beachwood’s first fire inspector.
Taken 1954 Top row Left to right; Tom Sexton, then police Chief John Havel, Rudy Meisz, Sitting left to right Bud Billings and Ben Collins. These five men compiled 100% of the Beachwood Police Department's full time staff. Photo courtesy of Myrle Wascko Tresney.
In 1952 a settlement was reached on how the land that was still owned by the Van Sweringens would be sold. Keep in mind that the court had ordered as part of their bankruptcy agreement that the company needed to sell off all of its land, and then go out of business. However, at the end of 1952, the Van Sweringen Land Company still had 2300 residential lots to sell in Shaker Heights, Pepper Pike, University Heights, Hunting Valley, Gates Mills and Beachwood. While this might seem like an outrageous number of lots, at the beginning of the bankruptcy (in 1937) they owned 7684 lots. Of the 2300, 900 were in Shaker and 400 were in Beachwood. The settlement called for the company to sell off the land and, if it was not done in ample time to please the municipalities, then the Sheriff would sell the land. The municipalities were anxious to sell the land because a portion of the proceeds went to each city or village. They were in most cases, single lots and not part of a major tract of land.
The sale, however, would be delayed until 1954 because Shaker Heights decided to force the Van Sweringens’ Company to increase the percentage that the City would
receive from the sale. The agreement was that Shaker would receive 60% of the proceeds. The new agreement forced by Shaker allowed them to receive 65% of the proceeds from each lot sold. In exchange for this, Shaker City Council allowed the land west of Warrensville, where most of the vacant lots in Shaker were, to be rezoned from 2 story to 1-1/2 story. Rezoning would allow the lots to sell quicker as many new homeowners wanted to build split-level homes. An additional issue that delayed the sale was the re-institution of a covenant by the Van Sweringen Company to require approval of five of the closest homeowners of a prospective buyer. When Shaker’s Councilman Wilson G. Stapleton heard of such practices, he demanded the Van Sweringen Company cease such a motion immediately. The company, however, claimed it was pressured by the city to re-institute the policy. Shaker quickly passed a resolution that excluded the policy from being practiced.
While developers were buying up the land most of the lots had a problematic deed restriction. Clearly it was illegal to enforce the deed restriction which required that neighbors approve who lived in a home. However, most title guarantee companies refused to sell title insurance to mortgage holders unless they waived insurance relative to this deed restriction. The title companies position was, while it was illegal to enforce this document, it was still a part of the deed. Therefore, they required the homeowner to get the neighbors signatures or waive the insurance guarantee. In many cases people refused to sign off because they knew it was illegal and asking neighbors for their approval to live somewhere simply was wrong. Without title insurance homebuyers could not get a mortgage to buy their home. Because of this dilemma, those buying Van Sweringen land needed to find an understanding title insurance company. One of those was Beachwood’s own Sherman Hollander. Mr. Hollander was able to find underwriters out of state who were willing to underwrite the title insurance without the sign off by the neighbors.
While this sale was delayed for a year, 1953 did bring to Beachwood its first planned development since the 1930’s. In May of 1953, the Village Council gave a reluctant approval to Albert Lavin and Albert Ratner to develop Fairmount Park Estates on the old Foote farm property. This land had sat empty since the 1920’s when the Van Sweringens had bought it for one of their many planned developments. This development of over 300 homes is located north of Fairmount Blvd. to Penshurst Rd. and from parts of Richmond Rd. to Deborah. Early plans included an idea that the sidewalks should be in the back yards of the homes. This concept would allow neighborhood children to visit one another without being close to the street traffic. The Council was reluctant to approve the plan. However, after five years of working with Lavin and council meetings that lasted until two in the morning, the Village was ready to give it their blessing. A story is told that Albert Lavin wanted the lots to be no more than 70 feet wide and the Village was adamant that they be 100 feet wide. During a planning and zoning meeting where the issue was reviewed, Albert Lavin was unable to attend and sent his brother Robert as his representative. The brother brought the wrong set of plans. He brought the Village’s version with the 100-foot lots. His brother did not know he had the wrong plans and was not as well versed on the matter, as was Albert Lavin. With the brother’s approval the Village was happy to approve the plans he brought, subsequently ending the issue of how wide the lots would be. While one would look at this as a quick underhanded move on the Village’s part, it was believed by most that Lavin always got the better end of the deal and it was time that the Village got what they wanted. Lavin’s partner, Albert Ratner, was one of the owners of Forest City Lumber Company and the Sunrise Development Company. Sunrise was the actual developer and sold the lots to a specific group of builders that met their approval. One of the conditions on buying the lot from Sunrise was that the materials to build the house were to come from Forest City. It has been said that Forest City was also one of the only lumberyards in town to have lumber for hardwood floors.
Taken 1952 from the upstairs window of 2400 Richmond Rd. looking west towards the area were Maidstone and Brian Drive is now located. This photo shows the barren farmland that Fairmount Park Estates would occupy.
There were three phases to this development: Phase One consisted of Buckhurst Deborah, Deptford, Sittingbourne, Greenwich, the west end of Penshurst and Twickenham, along with the west end of Maidstone and Tunbridge; the second phase which was started around 1966 and consisted of Biscayne, Cardington and Bridgeton and the east end of Maidstone. Originally, Maidstone was not planned to go through to Richmond. Actually the original plan called for Maidstone to make a 90 degree turn south where Biscayne intercepts it and continued south to Fairmount Blvd. were Biscayne is now located. Brian was the last street in phase two. Brian and Deborah were named after the two children of Albert Ratner. In 1966, the portion of the land in phase two that fronted Fairmount Blvd. was sold to Beachwood at a favorable price for development of the municipal pool and park. The latter portion, which included the extension of Twickenham and Penshurst to Richmond Rds., did not happen until the mid 1970’s. Excluding the streets that were named for Mr. Ratner’s children the remaining streets clearly have a British "ring" to them. According to William Warren of Forest City, the original names picked were types of wood. For example Oak, Pine, and Ash, however the Village fathers did not like them. So he looked on a map and decided to pick names of towns that were all within 50 miles of London, a town he enjoyed in England.
February 1953 Police Chief John Havel measuring the new signs while patrolman and future chief Ben Collins holds the older sign. Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University.
By the beginning of 1954, the empty lots in the two older developments, Kangasser’s and The Rapid Transit Land Company, were starting to fill up. When the Sheriff sold the Van Sweringens’ properties in 1954, many of the lots went at bargain prices. One property that was sold with 23 lots on it was the proposed Bernwood Rd. purchased by Mr. John Rosner for $7667.00 This Street and its lots were not developed until the late 1980’s. It has been said that many of the lots that were sold went for more than they had to go for only because the bidders were inexperienced newcomers to the marketplace.
The Sheriff continued to sell the Vans lots in the beginning of 1955. For the most part, they were all single lots excluding the parcel that made up Hermitage Rd. and the lots on the West Side of Richmond Rd. between South Woodland Rd. and Kinsman Rds. Lots on Ramsey Rd. were selling in the $600.00 range and going fast. By the middle of 1955, a year after the Sheriff’s auction started, $1,125,140 had been raised for the taxpayers of the East Side communities involved. Imagine what The Vans would say of they knew how much their land had now increased in value.
There was one piece of land bought from the sheriff in 1955 for the sole propose of leaving it undeveloped. Justin Zverina of 3304 Belvoir Blvd. heard that the "Triangle" was going to be sold at the sheriff’s sale and an apartment building was to be built on it. Not wanting such a structure on his land, he bought it at the sheriff’s sale, and gave it to the Village of Beachwood with a deed restriction that it remain as a simple park with no structures on it. The triangle is bordered by Farnsleigh, Somerset and Belvoir Blvd. and provides a scenic entrance to one of Beachwoods more picturesque neighborhoods.
1955 also brought a new housing development to the Village. In February of 1955, PAR development announced the construction of an 86 home development south of Kinsman on the West Side of Richmond Rd. These streets are known as Beacon and Concord. PAR stood for the three principals in the project: Palachek, Adler and Rubin. The cost of these homes would be between $22,000.00 and $25,000.00.
Photo taken 1957 looking north. Note: Concord and Beacon is located in the lower left hand corner. Photo courtesy of the Beachwood Archives
One of the firsts to move into the PAR development was former Police Chief Herb Giesler and his family. In the early 1940’s, Herb had built his family a new home on Kinsman Rd. where the Don Jordan car dealership is now located. In an effort to cooperate with the Village’s plans for commercial development, Herb sold the property and moved to the new development. His youngest son, Les, a third generation Beachwood resident, has fond memories of growing up in Beachwood. One of Les’s favorite pastimes was to climb the new water tower with his friend Corky Meisz. Corky’s father Rudy, who grew up in Beachwood, was also a former policeman on the Beachwood Department. Les recalls "Police Chief Sexton (then a sergeant) always trying to catch Corky and me as we would climb down from the water tower on Kinsman" (built in 1954). After all, one of Chief Sexton’s dreams was to catch two police officers’ kids in an act of mischief. Like so many others in the community, Les also remembers having the utmost respect for Sexton, who was not only the police chief but also the fire chief, and for a time, the service director. While Beachwood was growing with great strides, it still retained its hometown atmosphere when it came to the police department.
Another great hometown place to be in the 1950’s and near the PAR development was Jolly Jons. This drive in restaurant, owned and operated by John Frank, was a favorite hang out for the high schools kids. Jolly Jon’s was one of those great roadside drive-in restaurants that had carhops. The restaurant located at 25300 Kinsman was converted from a former gas station and residence by Jon and his wife Lucille in 1949.
Several new single street housing developments happened in 1955, one of which was Hermitage. While most of this street is located in Shaker Heights, over half of the rear portion of each lot is located in Beachwood. Louis Luxenberg, a well-known residential developer in Shaker, developed this street. There was an effort on Beachwood’s part to swap some of the partial lots in Beachwood with some in Shaker, in order to have 100% of each lot in one community rather than two. Hermitage was one of those streets with split lots. However, Shaker was not interested. Currently, there are 18 homes on Hermitage and Bryden that are in both communities. The other new street was Hilltop Drive. Vincent Aveni of Hilltop Realty developed this street, now known as Realty One. Hilltop drive was the second project during Aveni’s early career as a developer and realtor in the community. His first venture was the development of Glenlyn Rd. in Lyndhurst. Many of the homes were built and sold by The Caputo Bros.
In 1956, Beachwood’s second large post-war development was announced. Known as Shakercrest, the site was developed by Benton, Lefton and Meldon and consisted of 145 homes on land once owned by the Van Sweringens. The price of a new Shakercrest home ranged from $35,000.00 to $50,000.00. The housing development is located between Fairmount and Shaker Blvd. from Sulgrave Rd. to the property line of the high school. Many of these homes are a ranch and split level style with a very modern flair. While it is easy to understand that Meldon Rd. is named after Sam and Harry Meldon, one might ask who Diane Drive is named after. Originally Diane Drive was named Oakwood Court. According to former Mayor Vincent Hlavin, when the houses were first being built, a young boy by the name of Bobby Laks wandered off into a small pond and a girl by the name of Diane Leeb saved the boy from drowning. Apparently Diane Leeb, who was at the time a student at the new Beachwood High School decided to "cut class" to practice playing the clarinet with two other friends, in an effort to gain a trophy in an upcoming contest. As Diane was walking from her home at 24695 Shaker Blvd. to her friend’s house she heard the boy screaming for help. When she got to the make shift pond of frozen water, she found the boys brother Mark on the side of the pond and Bobby in the water up to his shoulders. She quickly ran into the freezing water and brought the boy to safety. Now Dr. Diane Leeb practices medicine in Atlanta and is noted to be the first female plastic surgeon to practice in Georgia. Today this development continues to be one of the premier locations to live in Beachwood. Diane graduated from Beachwood High School and is a member of the Beachwood High School Gallery of Success.
Photo taken Sept. 4th 1956 of children playing on the quiet and serene Campus Rd. Photo taken by Herman Seid Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University
While most of the lots in the Rapid Transit Land Company area had been developed, Cedarview Rd. (originally built late 1920’s) was about the last one to be completed with post war construction. In May of 1957, Jerome Miller and Sam Simon received the approval from the Beachwood Council to build 23 homes on that street. The homes were in the $30,000.00 range and featured attached garages and had either three or four bedrooms. 1957 also sparked debate among Village residents, which centered on final attempts to preserve the rural image of Beachwood. For the most part there were no sidewalks in the Fairmount Park Estates or the PAR development. There were many that wanted to keep what was left of Beachwood’s rural image and, therefore, did not want the sidewalks. However, with the growing number of children walking in the streets, sidewalks were needed. After a public meeting on August 13, 1957 at the Fairmount School gym, it was decided to put sidewalks on all of the new streets. The cost was to be assessed back to the homeowners. The only streets not done were the older streets such as Letchworth, Hurlingham and Bryden. This project came at the right time because Beachwood schools decided to reduce costs by cutting back on the amount of bus service provided to students.
As Beachwood was developing its residential base, the U.S. government was constructing a base of its own. Just south of Concord Drive, in Warrensville Township, the U. S. Army was setting up a NIKE missile site. There were seven of them scattered throughout Cuyahoga County. This one was right at Beachwood’s back door, with the control center located just behind Concord Drive. The 33-foot missile "battery" was buried in the ground just south of Harvard Rd. and east of Richmond Rd. If there had been an attack, the missile would lock onto the target and be fired from the control center. While the control center was visible from above ground, the actual launch buttons were located in a bunker made of concrete and steel 30 feet below
ground. The missiles were located there until they became obsolete in the mid 1960’s. The buildings continued to stand until the late 1980’s. These missiles were located in the area because northern Ohio was a high profile target for Russia due to the large amount of defense contractors in the area and our proximity to the U.S. northern boarder.
1958 began with Councilman and future Mayor Harvey Friedman resisting the British names used in the Fairmount Park Estates. The names came from towns in England. Friedman thought the streets should have more American names, such as "Melody Lane" rather than "Maidstone," which is the county seat of Kent, England. He similarly, disliked "Penshurst" which was named after George Percy, the Baron of Penshurst. Friedman anticipated introducing legislation to change the names, but this inevitably did not happen. About the same time the people on Hilltop Drive wanted the street name changed to Suburban Rd. The residents felt that there were too many streets named Hilltop. Council told them that they would change it once the road was paved and all the improvements were in.
Caption to read: The above picture appeared in an August 1958 edition of The Cleveland Press with the following caption: Entrance to Suburbia is symbolized here by Mrs. Merrill D Gross (left) and Mrs. Jerome B. Burkons,members of the committee planning the first annual luncheon of the Women's Organization of the Jewish Community Federation Sept. 10th. "Suburbia: a Candid Close-up" will be the theme of the meeting. The house in the background is located at 24111 South Woodland Rd. Photo Courtesy of the Cleveland Press Collection held at Cleveland State University.
After many years of being no more than a dirt path, Beechwood Blvd., between Greenlawn and Ranch Rds., was finally being developed by Frank Brown and his son Erwin a long time resident of Beachwood. Erwin’s first visit to Beachwood was in 1936 at the young age of nineteen and he remembers there being nothing beyond Green Rd., and the feeling of being out in no mans land. This development consisted of 28 homes with lots 70 feet wide by 146 deep. The opening of this road finally allowed for a continuous route from Green Rd. east to the Kangesser Development. For many years the area east of Beechwood Blvd., near Ranch Rd., was used as a baseball field for neighborhood kids. It should be noted that the spelling of this road was "Beechwood" until the mid 1980’s when it was changed to "Beachwood."
In 1958, Beachwood had to deal with an another attribute of a growing community: superfluous sewage. Its sewers could not handle all the new housing. Beachwood was not the only municipality faced with this problem. Its neighbors in South Euclid encountered the same problem, as did many communities in the Hillcrest area. The solution consisted of a variety of local and county projects. Spending $220,000.00 on new sewers in the Green to Richmond, Fairmount to Cedar area solved Beachwood’s problem. These new sewers replaced those that were installed in the 1920’s and tied into what is now called the Hilltop Interceptor, part of the Regional Sewer District. As this program took time to install, it was not secured in time to handle the great Glenhill Rd. flood of 1956. Apparently, there had been a lot of five year type storms in the past year and the sewers on Glenhill Rd. at Lyndway just could not handle the amount of water. In fact, many homes had sewage backing up into their basements. The water in the street was reported to be 14 feet high. The new Buckhurst Rd. and Fairmount Blvd. area also had the same problem. Former Mayor Henry Hopwood remembers one frustrating moment when he answered his phone at his downtown office where the sun was shining to hear from an irate resident that the streets were flooding from the current rain storm. He responded by saying "its not raining here." The issue was resolved by the installation of larger than normal sewers and drains in the area and tying them into the new Hilltop interceptor.
Housing construction continued to boom in Beachwood through 1959. Many of the lots the Sheriff had sold for the Van Sweringen group were now being developed. One of the builders, Jerome Miller, was over anxious in allowing the home he built on Fenway Rd. (part of the Rapid Transit land Co’s 1920’s development). The Village had an agreement with Miller that the homes would not be occupied until the street was repaved. However, Mr. Fred Weisman had moved in and this upset Mayor Hopwood. He instructed Miller to move Mr. Weisman’s family to a hotel and pay all of their expenses until the street was repaved. The issue was quickly resolved by stepping up the work order on the paving of Fenway Rd.
From 1960 through 1965, the frequent issuance of building permits in Beachwood continued. While there were no major new developments, lots in the Shakercrest and Fairmount Park Estates continued to sell with no major problems. It was a builder’s paradise; construction permits were being issued daily for new construction.
In 1961, council approved the Annesley road plot plan. Homes on that street would not be built for several years. C.E. Roseman, the son of the owner of Standard Drug, owned much of the land on Annesley Rd. The Roseman family had been one of those few families that bought land from the Van Sweringens as a part of the original larger lot sizes in the 1920’s.
1961 also brought to a close what was known as the Knittle Farm. In 1933 the Ernest Wascko family bought the existing 10 acre farm which consisted of a house, a barn and a granary at 2406 Richmond Rd. The farm consisted of grape vineyards and
fruit trees. Mr Wascko also grew large crops of tomato plants. Many of the items grown were sold in the Little Italy area of Mayfield Rd. In 1938 Mr Wascko built a new home on his land next door (2400 Richmond Rd.). He then sold the home at 2406 Richmond Rd. and five acres to Jack and Elsie Varcoe. Mrs. Varcoe remained there until the mid 1980’s. The Varcoe’s farmed the land and sold produce from a roadside stand in front of their house. In 1941 Mr Wascko built another home on his five acres of land. The address of this home is 2404 Richmond Rd. For many years this home was owned by retired Beachwood Policeman Dave Nank.
According to those living in the area, a large percentage of the two five acre pieces of land were sold to one of Albert Ratner’s companies because Mr. Ratner informed them that he owned the land behind theirs and he would landlock their properties if they did not sell to him. The price paid for the land was $2000.00 per acre. Mrs. Wascko’s husband Ernest died in 1945. She then married Mr. Bodenweber in 1948. Mr. Bodenweber also farmed the land and ran a roadside stand in front of their house. When Mr Bodenweber died in 1960, Mrs. Bodenweber (Wascko) sold the home to the Leone family. Today several of those homes have been purchased by trustees on behalf of Warrensville Center Synagogue.
In 1962 while new homes were being built and old ones were being torn down, the oldest home in Beachwood was being saved. The home at 2338 Richmond Rd. had for many years belonged to two women by the name of Lulu Diahl and Mary Cooke. Prior to that the home was owned by Frank Kerruish who had farmed 50 acres since the turn of the century. Frank’s descendants built the home in 1825. When Diahl and Cook decided to sell the home they were fortunate to find Irwin Apple a connoisseur of old homes, to buy it and restore it. Apple spent the next 30 plus years fixing up the home and converting the chicken coop located in the back yard into a separate living space. Some of the features of the home include a metal ceiling in the kitchen and the bricks in the kitchen floor were once the foundation of Richmond Rd. when it was a two lane highway.
In 1960 the village had become a city since its population exceeded 5000 in the 1960 census and had gained respect from others in a variety of ways. A report published by the Citizens League of Greater Cleveland listed Beachwood as having the second highest median family income, at $15,724.00. The highest ranking was Pepper Pike at $18,969.00; the lowest was Cleveland at $5,943.00.
As the housing construction continued at a steady pace, the city was being pressed to address the problem of Halcyon Rd. It came to the forefront in 1963 when property owners between Cedar Rd. and Hilltop Drive offered to pay for the paving of the street so they could sell lots and develop the street. Halcyon Rd. was a street that was of the least importance and value to the development of The Rapid Transit Land Company. The reason was simple: without the construction of this street, the others streets within the Rapid Transit Land development were still accessible. Therefore, it was not completed prior to the demise of The Rapid Transit Land Co. developer. The city now needed to pay for paving the street or allow the owners to pay the $30,000.00 and assess it to the new homeowners. After several months of renewed debate, the city allowed the developers to pave the street and open it up to create the intersection at Cedar Rd.
While it was not a residential structure, 1963 brought to Beachwood a new home for the Cleveland Hebrew Schools. Located at 25400 Fairmount Rd., the new modern building constructed by Zehman-Wolf would have 12 classrooms and a small auditorium. That building replaced a building on Lee Rd. and brought the classrooms closer to the new emerging Jewish Community of Beachwood. This would make after-school Hebrew language classes and Sunday school more convenient to those who lived nearby. The building would also be the home of Ganon-Gil nursery school, known as a leader in early childhood education. Today the building continues to be the home for the Cleveland Hebrew Schools, Ganon-Gil and Beachwood Kehilla, a newly created congregation, which was once a part of Taylor Rd. Synagogue.
1964 also brought another sidewalk debate to the city. Bryden Rd, one of Beachwood’s oldest residential streets, was excluded from the sidewalk improvement plan completed several years ago. The need for sidewalks on Bryden Rd. again emerged as a pressing issue. The council and Mayor Zeiger were in favor of spending the necessary funds needed to put in the sidewalks. They were clearly in favor of improving the safety of the children that walked to school. For the most part, the homeowners on the street did not want them. The issue escalated when Sanford J. Berger, President of the Bryden Homeowner’s Association, hired an attorney to prepare to take the city to court over the matter. In October of 1964, over fifty Bryden Rd. residents appeared at a council meeting with their attorney Joseph Kalk. The two-hour discussion became a shouting match and in a rare manner Mayor Zeiger cleared the council chambers, sending the loud debate outside City Hall. While Zeiger was always able to control a group, he was not one to dominate the leadership of the community. While the issue was debated over the next few months and into 1965, it was decided to drop the issue at that time. While the issue has been raised many times, as of today Bryden Rd. still has no sidewalks.
While the development of the city’s residential housing stock continued, so did the quality and service of the Beachwood Volunteer Fire Department. At this point the "BVFD" was at its maximum staffing of 25. The fire department continued to thrive under the Police / Fire Chief, who at that time, was the well-known Tom Sexton. Being a part of the BVFD was an honor and it was reputed as one of the best departments in the area. By this time, the dependency on Shaker was reduced to calling them on rare occasions only if they needed extra help.
Beachwood's Volunteer Fire Department in front of their one and only piece of equipment: At that time a 1953 Ford Pumper. This picture was taken in the fire station of the new addition to the old City Hall. At that time, there were two doors that led north out of the garage. Today, the building still shows signs of the old doors, as there is an outline of brickwork on the north side of the building.Front row (left to right): Arthur. Marcus, Don Raith, B. Ryan, WilburSchachtel, Cliff Soper, and L. Lowy. Second Row: Ernie Benchill, Arthur Rindfleisch, Peter Leone, Paul Volpe, Bud. Scheinbart, B. White, Charlie Takacs, Larry Pile, J. Backer, R. Zehry, G. Waltson, Sherman Hamel, Police/Fire Chief Sexton. Back Row: Ed Hovan, Ed Adams, Joe Haney, J. Skigan, H. Fisch.
1961 Beachwood High School Basketball Team. Kneeling: Greg Shelton, Roger Goldfarb, Jim Cowan(co-captain), Dave Marsh(co-captain), Phil Horwitz, Blaise Giusto, Don Wachsberger(manager). Standing: Coach Bob Bracale, Bruce Carl, John Forsythe, Bob Dubbs, Les Baskind, Chuck Ruffing, James Turpin(faculty equipment manager).