HUNTING VALLEY — Rich with history dating back to the early 1900s, Roundwood Manor remains largely unscathed after nearly a century atop the highest peak of the Daisy Hill subdivision.
The now 55,000-square-foot mansion on 7.69 acres of land was transformed in 1928 from a barn into a 90,000-square-foot estate by notable architects Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen who made their home there.
They designed countless houses and are best known for building the Terminal Tower in Cleveland and developing the city of Shaker Heights. While Roundwood Manor was reduced in size in the 1950s, much of the iconic Van Sweringen brothers’ architecture remains intact.
But a house that size is expensive to maintain. Annual taxes alone, according to county records, add up to nearly $60,000.
The home features a three-story sky lighted central hall, 14 bedrooms, more than a dozen bathrooms, nine fireplaces, a tennis court, indoor swimming pool, sauna and steam room.
Owner Sylvia Korey lives alone in the house now that her four daughters are grown up.
She has been trying to sell the mansion since 2002.
With no buyers in sight, she also has been trying to find new life for the historic house by proposing to convert it into spacious condominiums, an idea that has so far been rebuffed.
“It’s heritage. It’s legacy. It’s history,” Ms. Korey said. “This house is an icon. It is the history of the Van Sweringens and they are the history of Cleveland.”
Ms. Korey purchased the house in 1989 for $1.025 million and has since restored much if it back to its original grandeur, including removing cement and carpet that covered original slate floors on the ground level. She also refinished one section of the property once used just for storage and installed a new slate roof.
The original mosaic-tiled indoor pool room – which features a 60-by-25 foot swimming pool – Dickens Library, living room, wood-burning fireplace and hardwood beams, floors and banisters throughout the home retain their original elegance. The ceiling beams in the “ship room” still contain the metal rings where farmers hung and butchered meat when that area was used as a barn in the 1910s and 1920s.
In an effort to sell the property, Ms. Korey has used numerous Realtors and reduced the asking price from $7.5 million to $4.5 million.
Paramount to her is preserving the house. A few residents, she said, want to see it torn down so the land can be used for new construction. But she said she will hold onto the property for as long as it takes to find a buyer dedicated to leaving the house standing.
“We have to act responsibly and can’t just discard it like yesterday’s lunch,” she said. “We need our old buildings to maintain a sense of permanency and heritage for ourselves and for the future generations.”
Her idea to convert the mansion to condos is a preservation strategy catching on across the U.S. A retired civil engineer, Ms. Korey drafted plans for converting Roundwood Manor into seven condos, each about 2,500 square feet. She presented the idea to the Daisy Hill Homeowners Association Board of Trustees, but the five-member group denied the request, she said.
None of the Daisy Hill trustees responded to the Times’ requests for comment. Ms. Korey said members did state that they don’t want multi-family units within what is now a single-family subdivision. Daisy Hill is home to about 60 large homes.
“I’ve heard that some people may see this house as a relic of a bygone time that no longer serves a purpose. So I say, ‘people, let’s use our heads and repurpose it.’ I don’t want to see it torn down.”
Historian Daniel Ruminski, known as Cleveland’s Storyteller, agreed that the condominium idea is a good one. He hosts talks on the area’s history and historic homes throughout Northeast Ohio.
Mr. Ruminski is scheduled to give a walking tour and talk at 2 p.m. April 23-24 at Roundwood Manor. Admission is $20 and about 100 guests are expected on both days. A limited number of tickets still are available with proceeds going to the Hunting Valley and Gates Mills historical societies as well as the Cleveland Restoration Society.
“To get into Roundwood Manor for people to see the extraordinary craftsmanship and size of it is what we’re really excited about,” Mr. Ruminski said. “People are going to be able to feel and touch Cleveland’s gilded age.”
The condo idea, which would allow the exterior and interior of the property to remain intact, is a great solution for preserving historic estates, he said. It has been done in other locations in Northeast Ohio, he said, including some mansions in Shaker Heights. Historic estates formerly owned by prominent Clevelanders Walter White and Francis Drury have remained intact in their new role as schools on the campuses of Hawken and Gilmour Academy, respectively, he said.
“I think her goal, of all the things she could do, the condominium idea is the best,” Mr. Ruminski said. “To preserve these mansions, this is something that you have to do.”
Some Daisy Hill residents support the condo idea, Ms. Korey said.
One outspoken supporter is Village Councilman Bill O’Neill who said condos on that property would be a good fit for Hunting Valley, providing an alternative housing option.
“For a long time, I have been concerned that Hunting Valley did not have a place for its residents who want to downsize as they get older,” Mr. O’Neill said. “I believe many of those people would like to live in Hunting Valley, they have strong attachments to it, but there’s not a suitable place that (the village) can offer to them.
“I think that converting Roundwood Manor into condominiums as Sylvia proposes, is really a perfect solution.”
He doesn’t think condos would disrupt or change the current quality of life in the community and neighbors likely wouldn’t notice a difference.
Mr. O’Neill, who now resides about a half-mile from Roundwood Manor, lived in Daisy Hill for more than 40 years. He recalled playing football on the property as a kid and referred to property as an “asset to the community.
“I think it’s important for the community to preserve Roundwood Manor,” he said. “It’s a very important structure in Northeast Ohio and certainly in our community and to have it torn down I think would leave a great hole in the future.”
Mr. O’Neill said council has not formally discussed the idea and the Daisy Hill Association would need to approve the concept first.
“My hope would be that the Daisy Hill Association would open up a conversation with Sylvia so they can understand exactly what she’s proposing, and if they have any reasons to object any of it, bring those reasons up and let them be talked out,” he said. “I’m quite confident that any reason they may have against it could be satisfied with dialog. If that could be done, I think you could have the pathway to a solution.”
For more information and to make reservations for “Fortunes & Misfortunes” call 440-951-1323 by April 21. The tours are 2 p.m. April 23 and April 24. The Sunday tour is sold out, but the Saturday tour is still available.