1801 Chestnut Hills Drive (1978, 1986, 1999)


The Bicknell Mansion


In 1920 when this Meade and Hamilton mansion was completed, a reviewer in a contemporary architectural magazine spoke of the tendency in modern residences to emphasize a home-like atmosphere, looking for comfort and avoiding the theatrical. "The home of Mr. Warren Bicknell," wrote I. T Frary, "illustrates this tendency. It is commodious, to meet the requirements of a man of affairs. It is dignified, as befits his social standing. It is undoubtedly costly, yet is restrained and decorous, and is withal a comfortable place in which to live." And so it is today, when it incorporates seven spacious apartments for senior living as part of the Judson Retirement Community.


During the twenties and beyond, the house was the scene of a lively social group, often centering on the elegant third-floor ballroom. Interestingly enough, a "secret" staircase led from one corner of the living room to the master bedroom above and the wine cellar and billiard room below, perhaps an escape route from the numerous festivities. In 1939 the property was converted to a home for "worthy aged ladies, preferably Baptist, where they can spend their declining years as members of a happy family with gracious living and pleasant surroundings." According to the permit issued by the City of Cleveland Heights, changes included such items as putting a permanent partition through the center of one large room, cutting a door into the hallway from a bathroom that connected two bedrooms, and taking all of the cupboards out of the linen room to convert it to a single room. Thirty-four years later, the Baptist Home began operating as Judson Park in newly constructed facilities on the property.


In the recent renovation process, attention has been paid to the minutest detail, and where the demands of security required changes, they have been made as unobtrusively as possible. The intricate carving in the grand staircase, fireplaces, and paneled walls is the work of carvers imported from Holland who actually lived in the house as it was being built. The leaded glass windows have been restored or rebuilt to the original design. In the case of the two doors leading from the outside and through the foyer to the reception hall, the inner door was moved to the outside and the outside door was replaced with a new security door. But a place will be found to display the original door, which is in itself a magnificent work of art. The little elevator was in place from the beginning, but it has been rebuilt with interior paneling, chandelier, mirrors, and interior accordion doors.


In the new apartments, Amish carpenters built all of the cupboards in the kitchens and bathrooms. Each suite contains a washer and dryer configured to the shape of the area, and the old radiators have been replaced with baseboard hot water heating while still operating from the huge original boiler. On the second floor a guest suite with kitchenette and bath offers a thoughtful convenience for the residents.


The gardens! What can one say about the Florence Cellar gardens? Laid out on the south side of the two buildings and created by the Pattie Group in 1994-95, they are both magnificent and restful. A curving pathway leads to a lovely waterfall and pond. Here it is easy to imagine oneself on an English estate rather than on the border of a busy metropolitan area.




2B - This was the first of the new suites to be occupied, with the owners taking up residence on March 18, 1998. Here the ceilings were lowered to 9 1/2 feet to accommodate the air conditioner and sprinkler system. A large living room and dining area and the two bedrooms are beautifully decorated. The original bathroom, which must have been huge, has been converted to three closets, a good-sized dressing area, and two separate baths, one of them quite large. There are 37 leaded glass windows, some original, some rebuilt. The tile on the fireplace is original, hut the gas log is new. It is hard to believe that these very commodious living quarters were formed from the original master bedroom.


2D - This suite consists of two levels. On the first level there is a large living room with ample dining space, a study, a bath, and the kitchen. Five broad, shallow steps lead down to two bedrooms, each with its own bath. (These will not be shown on the Tour.) Note the sculpture from Tanzania, the fountain with four birds, and the virtual gallery of prints, acquired over the years by the owners, who are long-time members of the Museum of Art Print Club.


3F - On the same floor as the ballroom, this apartment is known as the Loft, formerly the attic. The suite consists of a living room with dining area, kitchen, bed/sitting room, bath and a long narrow closet that extends 15 feet under the sloping roof. The washer and dryer are in an enclosed area off the bathroom, an exceedingly handy arrangement. The low, leaded-glass windows in the bedroom are filled with plants, including orchids. Note also the whimsical ceramic and soft sculptured figures. The drawing board under the skylight in the living room clearly reveals that the owner is an artist. The water color of the Lighthouse and Cleveland skyline on the west wall is her work. The owner is particularly fond of this suite because it is very private, it probably has more storage space than the larger apartments, and best of all, she has a view of Lake Erie, something she has always dreamed of.