Monday, June 7, 2010

Inside the Beckenbach residence

or: The St. George's Lithuanian Church rectory

Photograph by Tim Barrett

A little while ago, I expounded the virtues of one of the properties being offered for sale by the Diocese of Cleveland - St. George's Lithuanian Church and rectory. The property, at 6527 Superior Avenue in Cleveland, consists of 2.75 acre lot with three buildings. The main structure is a 40,000 square foot church and school, built in 1920 to plans by architect J. Ellsworth Potter. There is also a 4+ car garage and a rectory.

The rectory, known as the Beckenbach residence, was built for Henry and Catherine Beckenbach between 1874 and 1881. It remained in their family until it was sold to the Diocese of Cleveland in 1917. The 5,000 square foot house appeared to have good lines. I tried to make the case that I doubted there would ever be another house in the city this old available at this price point with all of the land originally associated with it. Given my use of this exterior photograph, my case may have been less than persuasive.

I assumed that the interior was in decent condition, as it had been in use by the church until recently, but I assumed that it had likely changed considerably over the years. Imagine my surprise when Tim Barrett told me that he had had a chance to see the house last June, before it was boarded up.

Photograph by Tim Barrett

Note the beautiful front door in the first picture. This image illustrates the door as seen from the inside of the house.

Photograph by Tim Barrett

A beautifully detailed railing curves out into the main hallway, leading one up to the second floor.

Photograph by Tim Barrett

This is one of three fireplaces that serve the house. Note the detail in the marble.

Photograph by Tim Barrett

A pair of pocket doors feature a faux walnut burl finish. The dark wood trim, probably walnut, continues through the rest of the house. You might notice a dropped ceiling in this photograph - I suspect that once this is removed, elaborate crown mouldings will be revealed.

Overall, the interior of this house is in much better condition than I might have expected. Get rid of the carpet and the ugly dropped ceilings, add some paint, and the interior of the house might again be stunning.

Italianate house on Superior

Yes, the present aesthetics of the exterior of the house do leave a bit to be desired. However, it doesn't appear that much damage was done to the it in the installation of the imitation brick shingles. It should be easy enough to remove, revealing the wood siding underneath. The house would benefit from the removal of the front porch, which was added in the 1910s. The side porches should remain, as they appear original, though the form of the one on the east side may have been changed over time.

Securing the property seems to have been a concern, given the presence of the window bars. My suggestion would be to commission a local artist, perhaps Brinsley Tyrrell to create wrought iron window bars that were more suited to the house.

The Beckenbach residence is directly across the street from what I've called the best frame Italianate house in the city. Look at some of the photographs of that house and imagine what a pair these two could be, telling some small part of the narrative of the history of this neighborhood.

This house and church are still being offered for sale at $175,000. They are both landmarks within this neighborhood that cannot afford to be lost.


  1. Having been on the Parish Council of St. George's for a many years, I always discovered new things about the rectory. The baseboards,the high victorian doors, house and the bones of the home are great. Those pocket doors and the front "coffin doors" are absolutely beautiful.
    I have always been able to see through the coats of paint and the carpet, this beautiful example of the past. The thought of this building being torn down just is a travesty. A similar Italianate home with a barn which was across the street on Superior was torn down 2 years ago. Last year, a beautiful stick Victorian lady was torn down on the corner of 67th & Superior. They just don't build them this way anymore. I think everyone in the parish said at one time or another, if they had won the lottery, they would bring back these structures to their grand elegance. $175,000 for this entire property is a steal. Not to mention the the sequoia tree that frames the front of the rectory and the huge yard with many different mature trees that were planted by a former pastor who had a passion for horticulture. A beautiful restoration of this building could breathe new life into the neighborhood. Just think if the W 14th homes of the Tremont neighborhood or the Victorian ladies of Ohio City were torn down? It only takes a few....

  2. So sad!I left Cleveland many years ago,but my heart still bleeds for the neighborhoods,the beautiful homes and the architecture that is being lost.My Uncle had a house on Russell Ave,that,even as a child, I recognized the beautiful wood and interior design.