Occupying a choice corner lot on one of the more revered thoroughfares of the Ohio City Historic District is a bed & breakfast called the J. Palen House. The b&b’s website says that this “was originally the home of one of the area’s finest brew masters.”
This establishment is a strong contender to “out-folly” all of the rest of the follies of Ohio City!
(A) This was not originally the home of “J. Palen”, or anybody named Palen. This was originally (which, by the way, was 1897) the home of one James Stotter (City Of Cleveland Building Permit 27575, dated June 29, 1897). Stotter remained the occupant through at least part of 1907 (historic Cleveland City Directories).
(B) For that matter, no one with Palen as his or her last-name ever lived here. This was determined via an exhaustive search of historic Cleveland City Directories, which were published every year. (NOTE: The building permit application reveals that local architect Fenimore C. Bate designed the house. The "premier" local designer of structures in the Queen Anne style, the most notable of which is the Grays Armory on Bolivar Avenue.)
(A) Even the occupation alone of the home’s original occupant was not a “brew master”. James Stotter was a physician. (The occupations of persons in the historic City Directories are also provided.)
(B) Even if all the names of all the persons who ever lived here are disregarded, not a one was employed at a brewery – as a “brew master” or anything else.
The front-porch, the tiny side-porch, the balcony above it and the door to and from it, are all, essentially, false. The original front-porch was on this house up to 2009, when the owners, disregarding the house’s true history, had it removed and replaced with the “Lowe’s-Special/Fake-torian” features seen there today. The front-porch had slender paired columns and closed balustrades, which were typical for turn-of-the-century designs. The side-porch had originally been an open one (it was enclosed long ago), but there had not been a balcony above it.
Other architecturally “false” features and damaging actions include the misguided attempt to make the house more decorative by the addition of a tiny odd balcony over the lower half of the attic window on the façade, and a strange bracketed shelf imposed over the front door [these are the least of the damage to the house in that they could be removed]. The original window openings of the house have been altered as well. Several have been removed and sided over. One small horizontally broad window on the top of the two story bay on the west side of the house was removed and filled with paired double-hung windows. The present almost monochromatic purple of the house is drab. The porch seems to disappear altogether, in comparison to the bold look of the original porch.
Despite being a historically contributing building within a National Register District and a Cleveland Local Landmark District, all of the above changes are out of compliance with the national guidelines for historic renovation and restoration -- the Secretary of the Interior’s Standards. This project is not in compliance with 4 out of the 10 standards, specifically:
2. The historic character of a property shall be retained and preserved. The removal of historic materials or alteration of features and spaces that characterize a property shall be avoided.
3. Each property shall be recognized as a physical record of its time, place, and use. Changes that create a false sense of historical development, such as adding conjectural features or architectural elements from other buildings, shall not be undertaken.
5. Distinctive features, finishes, and construction techniques or examples of craftsmanship that characterize a property shall be preserved.
6. Deteriorated historic features shall be repaired rather than replaced. Where the severity of deterioration requires replacement of a distinctive feature, the new feature shall match the old in design, color, texture, and other visual qualities and, where possible, materials. Replacement of missing features shall be substantiated by documentary, physical, or pictorial evidence.
Incidentally, these 2009 demolitions, alterations, and additions were aided and abetted with unprecedented intervention by a local politician, circumventing the normal review process and application for construction permission required in local Historic Districts. A building permit from the City Of Cleveland Building Department is required by law for all such construction, and all this construction was done without one, with full knowledge of the Building Department.
Someone that is associated with this house believes that there are almost no buildings in the Ohio City Historic District that are historically correct – that nearly all have been incorrectly altered. To some degree, this statement is true, but it isn’t acknowledging the fact that nearly all of these alterations happened BEFORE the establishment of the Historic District, which, at least in part, was done so to end this sort of activity. Some conditions have to be satisfied for a district to be designated as historic. This has a great deal to do with an abundance of historically original architectural features, scattered throughout the buildings of a district. If this sort of travesty continues to be allowed, ultimately there will truly no longer be justification to call Ohio City ‘historic’.
-- C. B. and Tim Barrett