2956 Washington Boulevard (1982)


Sited on rising ground and designed to face the street boldly, this Prairie Style house is now almost hidden behind overhanging foliage - a hint of the beautiful deeply wooded park which stretches behind. The house was built in 1913 and the first occupant, Frederick C. Werk, was in residence by 1914. The Prairie Style, America's first modern architectural style, was widespread in the Chicago area where its most notable architect was Frank Lloyd Wright. In Cleveland, however, the cubic simplicity of Prairie houses never became popular and examples of it are rare. Characteristics of the style in this house, whose designer is still unknown, are the low, horizontal proportions, wide windows, the strong contrast of brown trim against white stucco, broad sheltering roof and the stark geometry of the forms. The overall plan, with its central hall and almost symmetrical facade flanked by porch and porte-cochere, is almost standard at this date.


In the entry hall, the graceful staircase tempers the severity of the facade. Its curved railing are subtly echoed in the rear doorway arches and the concave wall of the second floor landing. Elsewhere in the house the straight line and the undecorated richness of mahogany and oak paneling are dominant. Perhaps the simplicity of the design is a reflection of the practical tastes of F. C. Werk, an electrical engineer and contractor, who lived in the house most of its first twenty-five years. Certainly the innovative electrical devices installed here show his influence.


At the rear of the house the kitchen, back hall and servants' rooms upstairs were remodeled into a new kitchen and master suite for the current owners by Philmore Hart in 1973. The contemporary design complements the earlier style but maintains its own sense of period. Hart also remodeled and enlarged the original garage into an apartment and new garage and added the redwood garden entrance. The unique doggie door with its bubble-top and hidden ramp is also Hart's work. The brick patio fenced garden area was designed by Thomas Hill. The new garden includes native but uncommon plantings and enhances the original gazebo that broods over the secluded rear garden protected by the drooping boughs of grand old trees. A hidden treasure indeed.