Newsletter Articles-->Faeber-Morse House: 13405 Lake Avenue
First Property Owner: Anna Barbara Gehring purchased land on south side of Clifton from Jackson to Nicholson, and two lots on SW corner of Lake and Nicholson. She purchased the property from her brother, Charles Lang. Charles Lang was part of Rausch and Lang, electric car manufacturers. Mr. Lang purchased large amounts of land in Lakewood, for which he couldn’t pay the taxes. He sold some of this property to his sister.
In 1904, she built the current home located on the SW corner of Clifton and Nicholson, with a carriage house south along Nicholson. Anna B. Gehring was a widow and lived in the Clifton house with her father, Joseph Lang, and three children, Elma, Meta and Carl Walter. The children were young adults at this time. Anna B. Gehring purchased two lots at SW corner of Lake and Nicholson to construct tennis courts for her children, which she did.
First Home Owner: The first owners of the house were George P. and Katherine (Katie) E. Faerber, who purchased two pieces of property from the Gehring Family during the first half of 1911. The main parcel, 105 feet wide x 197 feet deep, was bought for $3,200 from Elma C. Gehring, with the stipulation that a home constructed on the lot must have a minimum value of $5,000 when built. The second parcel, 20 feet wide by 197 feet deep, transferred on July 18, 1911 from Anna B. Gehring to the Faerbers.
The Faerbers hired architect Gustave B. Bohm, a Cleveland native trained in New York City, to design their Neoclassic style home. The August 19, 1911 edition of The Cleveland News includes a rendering of the home, along with the following description:
George Faerber was the secretary/treasurer of the Forest City Savings & Trust Company, located on the southwest corner of Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street, which still stands today. He was also a partner in the insurance firm Shotter Faerber & Company, which had its headquarters downtown with a branch at Detroit Avenue and West 25th Street. He was a self-made man, never finishing high school but becoming a respected banker by the age of 31. He was a member of the Cleveland and Lakewood Chambers of Commerce, the Clifton Club, the German Evangelical Church and his favorite hobby was billiards.
Faerber lived in the house with his family for about one year, until his death at the age of 52 on December 3, 1915. The monument of the Faerber plot at Lake View cemetery is carved to duplicate the Philippine mahogany pillars in the foyer. Katie Faerber sold the home to Agnes D. Morse on April 18, 1916.
Features Include: Philippine mahogany woodwork, gold-threaded tapestry wall coverings, sterling silver wall sconces, molded ceilings, grand entryway with twin staircases, colorful leaded-glass windows in the servants’ quarters, a back staircase leading to the basement with a vaulted ceiling, marble stairs and decorative plaster pediments over the windows, beveled leaded-glass windows and doors, terra cotta and marble floors, built-in bookcases with beveled leaded-glass doors, shower stall with nine shower heads, bedroom closets with extensive built-in storage, electrical system with master switches in the dining room and the master bedroom that controlled all the lights in the house, a third floor billiard room and a built-vacuum cleaning system through the house. A basement board room has a slate ceiling embellished with gold leaf, a floor of handmade tiles, stained-glass windows, an intricately carved fireplace and coffered wood-paneled walls which contain a secret storage space.
The 26 room mansion includes a foyer, living room, dining room, library, sun porch, kitchen and powder room on the first floor; five bedrooms, a sleeping porch and two baths on the second; servants’ quarters on the third.
Second Home Owner: Katie Faerber sold the house on April 18, 1916 to Mrs. Agnes Doyle Morse for $49,500. “Mrs. Morse watched the place go up, board by board,” said Mrs. Faerber. “She told a near-by realtor that if it was ever sold, she wanted to hear about it first.” Agnes Doyle had gone to work as a bookkeeper at 16, later becoming the secretary of George W. Morse, president of the Parish and Bingham Co. Located at 10615 Madison Avenue, the firm made steel stampings, specializing in frames for bicycles and automobiles. He died in 1910, eight months after their marriage, about the time the house was being built. The stock of the company was left to her in his will, until she remarried. The 1918 City Directory listed Mrs. Morse as the secretary/treasurer/general manager of the Cleveland operation of Parish & Bingham. A “precise business woman, she helped the company prosper and expand.” In 1923, Parish & Bingham merged with two other firms to create Midland Steel Products Company, of which she became president and general manager. Mrs. Morse was also a major owner of land north of Lake Avenue, west of Nicholson.
Mrs. Morse almost immediately began to make changes to the property. In September, 1916 she purchased an 80-foot wide strip of land immediately west of the existing property for $5,650. In October, 1916 she added a 65-foot wide strip of land, thereby creating the full 1.2 acre parcel seen today.
Mrs. Morse loved the house and lived lavishly, spending about $100,000 on improvements. She built the greenhouse, solarium with gently curved French doors, pergola, fountain, and rose garden, then added a $25,000 conservatory, a $17,000 iron fence on a cut stone foundation and an addition to the house. She also had a beveled-glass canopy erected over the entrance from the drive. The canopy is crowned with Mrs. Morse’s personal crest, which is also carved into the marble base of the sundial in the gardens. She enclosed the side and back porch with glass. The downstairs had fabric-covered walls and oriental rugs. She engaged an artist to copy the design from each oriental carpet on the second floor and duplicate that design as a wall border encircling the rooms. She remodeled the third floor ballroom into servants’ quarters.
Two projects required building permits. A permit was issued on June 15, 1916 for a 22x27 foot garage, which represents only a portion of the size of the current garage on the property. The garage, with a cost of $700, was built by The Webber Companies. She subsequently changed the simple two-car garage by adding a second two-car stall and an apartment above, and included an automatic car wash in the ceiling and an underground gasoline tank under the left bay of the ceiling. A permit was issued on January 12, 1917 for a 20’x60’ greenhouse to be built by Lord & Burnham, costing $3,000. The three individual rooms of the greenhouse had separate temperature control, so that various plants, bulbs and cuttings could be grown according the temperature needed. Under the greenhouse, a basement included a water pump and a large heated storage tank for the gold fish during the winter months (also used to grow water lilies for the pool). The garage and greenhouse had their own heating plants.
Mrs. Morse installed a fireplace in the downstairs “den” with intricately carved oak to suggest small cathedral or gothic doors, duplicated in three sections. The entire fireplace is recessed into the wall and the brickwork is in small pieces measuring one-half inch thick by three to eight inches in length. There are inlaid tiles, as are in the floor, patterned throughout those brick pieces, some depicting ancient Egyptian drawings. The ceiling is unique in that it is made with gold leaf with a silver finish. There are small stained glass windows around the u-shaped ceiling.
The garden cost $15,000 a year for up-keep, more than the expenses for the house, according to Miss Clara Doyle. They spent about $3,000 each year for nine thousand tulips, creating a “sea of color.” The full-time gardener was Adolph Stephan. The elaborate landscaping featured fountains, ponds and statuary, as well as a greenhouse, a pergola and gazebo.
Mrs. Morse moved in with her mother, Mrs. Ann Doyle; a sister, Miss Clara Doyle, and three children from another sister, Hattie Doyle Brimicomb. Agnes’s niece and two nephews lived there after their parents were divorced. Dorothy Gallagher (niece) lived there from 1916-1928. Agnes’s sister Clara helped to take care of the house and the three children.
After her death on June 7, 1947, the house was held in trust for two years. The contents of the house were sold by Walter M. Forsythe, who bought the house and its contents for a client. Silver service alone was worth $30,000. When house was for sale in 1949, a daughter of Mr. Faerber tried to interest Lakewood groups in making an art center of the house.
Third Home Owners: Willson H.L and Wilma Hunter bought the house in 1949 for $28,000. Sale price is little more than half of what Mrs. Morse paid 35 years before, and only a small fraction of her investment in additions, rebuilding and remodeling the home. Mr. Hunter was a research scientist at NASA. The family lived there for five years.
Fourth Home Owners: Margaret and Elmer Nyerges purchased the house in 1955. They had three grown children, who did not move into the house. Elmer was a local businessman and Margaret taught piano. After her husband’s death, Margaret remained in the house for another ten years. A descendant remembered the property as a little overgrown in a romantic way. “Pulling in through one of the two big gates, flanked by their stone pillars, and past the centered pond with its fountain was enchanting.”
“From the potted palms on the black & white tiles of the sun room—with its curvaceous, rattan seating covered in moss green, rose, & grey fronds, you could see out over the wrought iron, fence-bound corner of Nicholson & Lake up to the shining, blue W high atop The Winton Place; to the cushioned window seat nestled in the vaulted embrace at the top of double staircases—gently curving upward to become one ascent on the way to second floor bedrooms; through the mahogany pillared, central hall which divided the house form front entrance to back…; through folding oak & beveled glass doors into the dining room where the ceiling was distinctively molded-as were nearly all of the primary rooms in the house; down to the Billiard room & castle inspired, Old English card room with its bar beneath the solarium—there was a 'secret' marble staircase from which to come in through a door in the paneled wall.”
Fifth and Current Home Owner: 1977-present (2005), Otto and Judy Lombardo and Family
Hope House: Sponsored by the American Cancer Society and the Ohio North chapter of the American Society of Interior Designers. It was the first west side house to be selected. 20 of the 26 rooms were refurbished by area designers and displayed from April 28 to May 20, 1979. The original furnaces and water heater were still being used. For the first time since designer show houses were introduced in Cleveland all room were color-coordinated to suit the tastes of the owners.
Architecture: From Ohio Historic Inventory: “The symmetry of this classically inspired residence is brought out by the Ionic engaged columns that support a full entablature, a projecting balustrade, and a wide hip roof with its segmentally-arched dormers entrance with sidelights. This is flanked by round-arched windows and two enclosed porches. The site of this residence was still subdivided in the 1903 atlas. A wood frame structure appears on the 1914 atlas and is attributed to a George Morse in a 1917 publication. The two side porches were added in the 1920s. The house stands on the corner of a busy residential street, surrounded by an iron fence with stone entrance stanchions.” Sources of information included Cuyahoga County Atlases and Beautiful Homes of Ohio, Cleveland Topics Co. 1917, pg. 107.
The house was photographed for the book Beautiful Homes of Cleveland, published in 1917. The single photograph shows a three-quarter view of the north and east elevations, including a portion of the new garage. This photograph was also taken prior to the exterior changes executed by Mrs. Morse, including construction of the existing iron fence.
Architect: The house was featured in the December 1916 issue of The Ohio Architect, Engineer and Builder, as part of the article “Mr. Bohm’s Work.” Bohm designed fashionable residences throughout Greater Cleveland, including several on Lake Avenue in Cleveland that were photographed for the article. He also designed the Rocky River Library. The Morse house was illustrated in five photographs: front elevation, front entrance, rear elevation, dining room, and stair hall. The house, photographed in the summer of 1916, shows the exteriors prior to the changes by Mrs. Morse.
Prepared by Richard Sicha and Mazie M. Adams, July 2005
Update - November 2005
Update - February 2006
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