Back to the Future: The Land Bank Assists in a Historical Home Restoration

Sometimes, a family’s search for their dream home brings them to another family’s dream, from another time. For Derek and Jennifer Clayton, the fantasy started nearly two centuries ago, in 1836.
That was the year Asa Upson and his wife, Chloe, migrated from Connecticut to farm the rich soil of the Western Reserve. Their gabled farmhouse in Shaker Heights is one of the oldest homes in Cuyahoga County, and when the Claytons saw it, they knew it would be theirs.upsonhouse
Like the Upsons in the 1830s, Derek and Jennifer also had moved to Cleveland; they moved here so that Derek could work with “Iron Chef” Michael Symon as executive chef in Lola’s Restaurant. They settled four years ago in the Detroit Shoreway neighborhood while they got to know Cleveland, and were in no hurry to buy a house until their son, Sullivan, was born.
At that point, the Claytons had to step up their search, and while they had come to love Detroit Shoreway, they were smitten by the farmhouse. Its previous owners had donated it to the Cleveland Restoration Society, which partnered with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to restore and sell the property. A number of “point of sale” violations had been assessed by Shaker Heights, and the Land Bank’s support enabled the Society to correct the violations, make energy-efficiency improvements, research the home’s history and market it for sale. The Claytons then purchased it with a historic preservation covenant to ensure its future preservation. The Plain Dealer recently featured the Clayton’s and their home when it was granted official landmark status by the Shaker Heights Landmark’s Commission.
crslogoThe Asa Upson house suits its new owners perfectly, down to some quirky rooms-but that’s part of what appealed to the Claytons, who had no intention of living in a subdivision where the houses looked alike. They wanted to live in a vintage, authentic neighborhood, close to Derek’s work and the amenities of an urban community.
If anything is “off” about the Asa Upson farmhouse, it’s the tiny kitchen-a bit of a dilemma for a professional chef. Derek and Jennifer may expand the kitchen someday, but for now it’s serviceable. They’re going to take some time to enjoy their new home and its unique features, including original windows and doors, original wide-plank flooring in an upstairs bedroom and its still-intact gables. This fall, they will harvest the bounty from their large vegetable and herb garden-“farming” the land, just as Asa and Chloe Upson did in the 1830s.

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