Words & photos by Lindsey Bistline
When Miriam and Daryl Rush went house hunting, they
were looking for something that could accommodate a merger of two
households that involved two adults, three children, three cats,
and a serious need for space. They wanted a brick house in a hospitable
neighborhood, and they knew it would have to be something special.
Beyond that, they figured they would know it when they saw it. Luckily,
they rediscovered Glenville’s Historic District, another of
Cleveland’s hidden gems.
Named for its thick, shady glens, Glenville was established
in the 1880s as a fashionable summer resort for wealthy area families.
Located just east of the stunning Cleveland Cultural gardens along
Martin Luther King Boulevard, Glenville is within walking and biking
distance of the museums and University Circle, and less than a five
minute drive from several hospitals, including the world-renowned
Cleveland Clinic. With a predominantly African-American population,
Glenville is characterized by a strong sense of community, old homes,
and quiet brick-lined streets.
“I like old houses, so I wanted something with
character, woodwork, craftsmanship,” Daryl, Director of Community
Development for the City of Cleveland, says over apple-spiced tea
in their spacious living room. It is a rare sunny spring day, and
golden afternoon light pours into the room from large bay windows
overlooking Rockefeller Park. Several potted plants bask in the
warmth, and I can almost hear them growing, reminding me that spring
really is here.
Built in 1914, during the first year of WWI, the house
follows the Georgian Colonial style. Adopted from Great Britain
between 1900 and 1940, Georgian Colonial involves free interpretations
with details inspired by colonial precedents, rather than exact
replicas of the English Georgian style. Thus, the Rush’s house
is nearly square in shape, and features four main rooms on the first
floor of about equal size that flank a central stair hall extending
through the depth of the house.
In October, 1993, the U.S.
Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) foreclosed
on the house, and the Cleveland
Housing Network stepped in and purchased it for a mere $41,000
through their Homeward
|The Rushes pay homage to their heritage
By the time Miriam and Daryl bought it in 1995, the
house had been vacant for four years. Although the three sturdy
layers of Flemish
Bond brickwork were still intact, the interior of the house
was badly damaged. Not only had previous owners mangled the classically
symmetrical composition of the Georgian Colonial floor plan, but
vacancy had left its own particular brand of devastation in the
form of burst plumbing, multiple holes in the roof, and boarded
But Daryl wasn’t deterred by the house’s
decrepit state. He and Miriam had looked all over town for a home,
from Edgewater, to Shaker Square, to North Collinwood and Detroit-Shoreway.
They liked Glenville. Daryl had lived in the area as a child, and
remembered seeing the house in its prime as a child. Even though
it was abandoned and boarded up, he kept driving by, checking it
out, dreaming about it. When he finally had a chance to see the
inside of the house, he knew immediately that it was the right place.
Miriam, who works as the personal bailiff for the
Cleveland Municipal Housing Court Judge Raymond L. Pianka, wasn’t
as certain. “I was disappointed this [house] had been modernized…I
didn’t have the vision for this place that Daryl had,”
Miriam remembers. She has warm brown eyes and a direct, intimate
way of speaking. I find myself talking to her as if we’ve
known each other for years.
“I thought the damage could be overcome if it
was structurally sound,” Daryl notes, explaining that he called
three people to inspect the house before committing to buying—his
father, former Building Commissioner for the City of Cleveland;
local architect, designer and friend Tim Elliott; and a structural
engineer to inspect the joists.
the gardens inside
Once he received the seal of approval from his holy
trinity, Daryl and Miriam sought financing to restore the house.
They approached Key Bank, who at first appraised the structure at
only $125,000. The Rushes were shocked and disappointed at such
a low appraisal; especially considering the house was 4,000 square
feet with 4.5 bathrooms, and easy access to the bike path and the
“We had to fight the bank to get a better appraisal,”
“It was personal and also professional, because
we have to replace and restore value in Cleveland housing stock,”
Daryl chimes in. They decided to challenge Key Bank and pay for
an independent appraiser to assess the house, which spurred Key
Bank to take a closer look.
“Ultimately, the chief appraiser came out from
[Key Bank] and we walked through the house [together] and showed
him the specs,” Daryl says. The Rushes were able to show him
the latent value of the home, and they ended up with a more reasonable
appraisal of $159,900.
With the financing under control, the Rushes moved
forward with the renovation, employing a small army of architects,
designers, construction workers and vendors to restore the house
to its former splendor. The Cleveland Restoration Society (CRS)
even got involved, providing a loan to clean the clay tile roof.
The previous owners were influenced by the Modernist
art deco movement, which was completely at odds with the original
style of the house. Curves and dropped ceilings marked what decoration
was left from the former owner’s renovation. Much of the traditional
marble had been removed, and glass block windows had been installed
at every opportunity, reflecting the Art Deco use of crisp, symmetrical
Again, the Rushes turned to their friend Tim Elliott
for help. Elliott, known for his work around Cleveland, helped them
re-design the interior to incorporate the Georgian Colonial style
with modern twists—suggesting recessed tray ceilings and floor
to ceiling windows in the living room and dining room. They tore
down the walls of the enclosed main hallway on the first floor,
creating a calm open space with a wonderful sense of symmetry. They
purchased a traditional old mantel from an antique store on Lorain
Avenue, and commissioned transom and sidelights for their front
door from local artist Kate Dupree.
classic and modern
To help make the structure more energy efficient,
they installed a zoned two-pipe hot water system. Four thermostats
control a different section, or zone, of the house, and each can
maintain a different temperature, helping to keep their heating
costs down. They also switched to fluorescent light bulbs, and insulated
the third floor.
They turned the kitchen into an enchanting combination
of old-world detail and modern technology.
“Every time we have people over, we always find
ourselves gathered in the kitchen,” Miriam says, perching
on one of the bar-style chairs at an eating counter that overlooks
the built in cook-top. Maple cabinets line the walls, and a cooking
island with a downdraft cook-top occupies the center of the room.
The floor is covered in marble-styled ceramic tiles, and the walls
are comprised of luminescent white Vitrolite tiles. A large butler’s
pantry connects the kitchen to the dining room, and built-in dishwasher
and self-cleaning oven make this space the envy of any cook.
In January 1996, after nearly a year and a half of
construction, the Rushes finally moved into their new home.
“We want people to see what people can do and
hopefully excite others… It’s a close knit, caring community,”
Miriam remarks, noting that their move has already had a sort of
ripple effect on the neighborhood. Other homebuyers are taking a
second look at Glenville and following their example. “Our
neighbors, David and James, heard an interview I did on NPR about
the house and the neighborhood, and they were interested. They bought
a house from the Cleveland Restoration Society [nearby], and started
with no [interior] walls— just a shell.” The house is
now fully restored and arguably one of the most beautiful homes
in the city.
“I’d do it again,” Miriam says now.
“It was a project we wanted to do given our commitment to
the city. I love this neighborhood.”