3540 Glen Allen Drive (1982)


Tucked deep in the garden behind this house is a treasure preserved from a more romantic age. Nearly lost to view beneath its cloak of creeping hydrangea, a stone bridge arches once over a stream bed and then once again, more narrowly, over a garden path. Early in this century, Mrs. Dudley P. Allen, sister of John L. Severance, could look east, from this bridge, over three ornamental ponds that were the jewels of the back acreage of her estate, Glenn-Allen.


The upper two ponds were filled in around 1960 when a 40" sewer line was laid down just to the south of the bridge. The second owner of this house, Mr. George Selden, saved the pond nearest the bridge by building the cement wall that now defines the pond's eastern rim, but the sewer drew off so much water that the pond went dry. Undaunted by the disappearing water, Mr. Selden added the wood deck that now fills the pond space. In 1957, William Behnke, a Cleveland landscape architect of distinction, designed for Mr. Selden the system of retaining walls of railroad ties and the staircase that make the garden its own special world. The couple who currently occupy the house were so entranced by its secret garden that they bought the house and were married on the pond deck. When some of the railroad ties began to sink into the earth, the current owners replaced the easterly retaining wall with a handsome array of interlocking, precast Loffelstein blocks.


The lattice-roofed deck along the rear of the house was designed by Philmore Hart for Mr. Selden in a way that would allow the sun to reach the living room in winter but not in summer. The carefully executed ceiling molding in the living room reflects the bias of the person for whom the house was built, the head of a plasterers' union. The same man had, at another house, suffered a tragic fire and installed in this house a fire alarm system whose heat sensors are still visible on the ceilings in several rooms.


The current owners have redecorated almost every surface in the interior and have fully remodeled the kitchen. A marvelous collection of South African and South American baskets provides decorative accents on the kitchen walls.


Viewed from the street, this house discloses only a vintage 1955, automobile -centered design: a horizontally stretched brick ranch house with attached two-car garage and front entrance off the driveway.