CLEVELAND, Ohio — Bryan and Darby Schwartz’s hilltop home isn’t an architectural style one would expect to come across in historic Chagrin Falls, where there’s an array of century-old Colonials and Queen Annes, some drenched in period colors.
The couple’s cedar-clad home, built in 1965, features clean, simple, symmetrical lines. Rooms on the main level flow one into the next. A floor-to-ceiling brick-framed fireplace accents the living room, and soaring windows throughout visually blend the home with its natural surroundings.
“I call it a midcentury modern,” Bryan says of the home that sits back from Summit Street, visible from the streets below but not to passers-by. “With the open floor plan and carport, it feels like more of a California-style place. In the winter, when the leaves have fallen off of the four walnut trees in back, we have a panoramic view of downtown and the church steeples. But it’s a great view through all of the seasons.”
Bryan bought the two-level, four-bedroom, mostly move-in-ready place in 2006 after having lived at Bridgeview Apartments on West Ninth Street. He and Darby met in Chagrin Falls, and he proposed at the falls. They married in 2010 and have a blended family with four adult children.
“When I moved from Bridgeview, I was looking for a view and someplace historic,” Bryan remembers. “And I wanted a walking community.”
He landed in the middle of Chagrin Falls history, literally. The Schwartzes’ place is sandwiched between much, much older homes on top of the hill, known as Grove Hill, where the pumpkin roll, Euclid Beach Rocket car rides and other yearly festivities happen.
The home on one side belonged to Chagrin Falls’ founding father and manufacturer Noah Graves. The other is the Harry Bancroft House, built in 1878, on the corner of West Summit and North Main streets. The Schwartzes’ home incorporates some of the old foundation walls from the greenhouse operated by the Bancrofts in the late 1800s.
“The old walls are part of the charm of our house,” Bryan says. “They provide a unique a wonderful outdoor space for us.”
The Schwarzes’ house was designed by two locally famous artists.
“They were Philip and Binnie Wilson, and they resided in the Bancroft House during the mid-1900s,” says Bryan. “Philip was known especially for his portraits of Ohio’s famous citizens, such as John Glenn.”
The Wilsons never lived in the home that they designed. The first resident was Richard Campen, an architectural historian who wrote a coffee-table book called “Distinguished Homes of Shaker Heights” that’s still in print.
“According to letters left by a prior owner, his [Campen’s] far more famous cousin and Shaker Heights native, Paul Newman, used to stay here overnight when he was in town for auto racing and other events,” says Bryan.
Yes, Paul Newman slept here.
The Schwartz home incorporates natural elements, such as beamed ceilings, terra cotta tile floors and the like. Both levels have decks that look out over the village.
Furnishings are an eclectic mix, with everything from a midcentury-style sofa to a grandfather clock, and lots of antiques.
“Part of that is because my parents, Freddie and Mary Bentoff, owned Shaker Square Antiques on Shaker Square and then Larchmere,” says Darby.
Bryan is a senior legal editor at Thomson Reuters Practical Law, a publishing company that provides legal know-how for business lawyers and corporations. Darby is senior executive director for the Arthritis Foundation. She was executive director in Cleveland for eight years before she became a traveling executive director, most recently overseeing operations in San Francisco and Santa Barbara, California.
The couple is involved with a group that’s fighting the demolition of the Bancroft House and its property.
“We are working hard with neighbors, and we now have over 2,000 signatures asking the village do something to save this property,” says Darby. “The Western Reserve Land Conservancy has made an offer to buy the property and give part of it to the village for a park. The Land Conservancy could sell the Bancroft home to a restoration buyer that agrees to restore the home. We’re really passionate about making sure the house is saved and preserved.”
Bryan says, at their home, the couple loves getting up in the morning and walking into the great room to be met with the eye-popping, panoramic view of the heart of the village.
“It’s a great way to wake up,” he adds.
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