Monday, March 1, 2010

Another historic house lost

Greek Revival house

This nice, historic, circa 1850 Greek Revival farmhouse at 4340 Turney Road, in the South Broadway neighborhood of Cleveland has been lost. At 1900 square feet, it was larger farmhouses of that vintage in the city. Note the excellent proportions. A three pane transom was probably present over the front door. A vent graces the eave. The trim is simple and clean. A barn sat off to the left and would have likely looked similar to this one.

This illustration by Shawn Hoefler shows what the house might look like once restored.

The house appears to have been on the northwest corner of the property owned by one Thomas Garfield, who, at the time, owned at least 100 acres of land in the area. His holdings stretched from present day Turney Road on the north to Grand Division Avenue on the south, and were bounded on the west and east by Warner Road and Turney Road, respectively.

I can't be absolutely sure of the date of the house, nor of this being it's original location, but I am certain that it was built before 1860. It was most likely built between 1846 and 1850. This 1881 map shows the house, on the corner of Force Avenue, to the left, and Turney Road. It shows small outbuilding and a barn. One addition was already present to the rear of the house, suggesting that it had been there for some time. In the time since this map was made, two more lots have been cut from this property on Turney Road and one more on Force Avenue.

To clarify: this house has not yet been bulldozed. It sits, some windows broken out, slowly decaying. Unless we take action and convince city council to enact the necessary legislation, it will be lost. Until that time, this and so many other interesting structures should be considered lost.

The problem is back taxes. The current owner, one William F. Hodges of 2846 East 128th Street, has not paid property taxes on this house since 2004. The back taxes now amount to more than $30,000. While the county can foreclose on a property after taxes haven't been paid in a year, in practice, it can take much longer - I know of one where property taxes haven't been paid since 1999. Given current policies granting homeowners some leeway with regard to back taxes, houses like this one will sit vacant longer and fall further into disrepair. While this house should be saved, no one is willing to pay $30,000 for it. Even $15,000 is likely too much. I haven't seen the interior, but I would guess that the cost of a reasonable rehab would be about equal to the market value of the property.

We need a legislative solution. The problem is finding one that doesn't simply provide incentives for people to stop paying their taxes. I have no idea what this solution should be. We need to figure out some way to deal with this mess. Until we do, this house and so many others like it are lost.

What should we do?


  1. who's the councilperson for that district? I'd get in touch with them.

  2. “Saving” 4340 Turney is a function of restoring neighborhoods across the region. Any potential buyer/restorer must find the neighborhood attractive and love the house as a resource within it.

    This area, Mill Creek or Newburg, is one of Cleveland’s more historic neighborhoods. More than two hundred years ago, Newburg’s rock shelf (200 feet above the Cuyahoga) made it the first “Heights” community. A confluence of small valleys also gave easy access to Public Square, a few miles to the north. By the 1850s, railroads had taken over the channel and industry quickly followed. Today, South Broadway exemplifies Rust Belt.

    Nevertheless, Newburg has great natural and historical features, which are great bases for restoring post-industrial neighborhoods. One may look to Cedar-Fairmount (Cedar Glen) and Cumberland-Mayfield (Dugway Brook) as similar natural settings to the northeast. These two areas share Newburg’s natural setting, but lack the nineteenth-century heritage.

    Are there urban pioneers to see Newburg’s basic attractive qualities? Might they dream of restoring the neighborhood around urban nature and local heritage? The local resources are certainly available and the future is open. To save houses such as 4340 Turney, a new group of settlers must see re-emergence in Newburg’s setting. With neighborhoods, we must go to the basement to see value.