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Homes Worth Having:
About Highland Park

by Dave Duricy

The Paul A Baden Residence by George W. Barkman.Shaker Heights, the prestigious Cleveland suburb renown for its elegant houses, understood the worth of artful family homes. "Can you not realize," said a 1927 Shaker Heights brochure, "what the influence of such homes must be upon the lives of the children living in them? Do not character and refinement depend much upon the manner in which they are housed?" 1

Even the President of the United States, Warren Harding, spoke on the importance of quality homes. Harding dedicated the 1923 exhibit "Home Sweet Home" with these words, " . . . [W]e seek to make better homes in order that we may avoid the necessity for conflict and turmoil in our world. The home is the apex and the aim, the end rather than the means of our whole social system." 2

In Hamilton, Ohio, the better homes Harding wished for -- homes designed to foster character and refinement -- went up in Highland Park.

668 Emerson in 1971

The former Baden house, 668 Emerson, with the author in 1971.

County records and neighbors' memories suggest that building began in the mid Twenties. The land bounded by Eaton Avenue and Main Street was subdivided into lot groups given the pastoral titles of Lawn Park, Lawn View, Elm Park, and, of course, Highland Park. Local architects such as Frederick Mueller and George W. Barkman filled the lots with high-fashion residences specially designed for the leading citizenry of Hamilton.

On the outside, Highland Park homes reflected the unique tastes of their occupants. Highland Park homes were built in Tudor Revival, English Colonial Revival, Dutch Colonial Revival and Spanish Colonial Revival styles. Whether they realized it or not, Highland Park home owners paid homage to the diverse origins of the American dream, the very dream they were building with bricks and mortar, hammer and nails.

On the inside, these first Highland Park homes were family homes where the lady of the house could entertain the garden club just as easily as she could marshal her family through the daily routine. Conveniences such as a gas-starter for the hearth, a clothes chute for laundry, central heating - sometimes extended even to the garage (itself an innovation), and gracious floor plans made her achievement possible.

Often kitted out with a breakfast room in addition to a dining room, the Highland Park home encouraged the gathering of friends and family. So too did wide living rooms centered on a welcoming fireplace, sometimes flanked by a baby grand piano where practice was expected. Sunrooms, with their warm and breezy corners, were the leisure time reward made possible by talent and hard work.

Highland Park homes were well-built homes. Bathrooms were often Rookwood tile featuring the newest in American Standard sanitary fixtures. Baseboards and crown moldings finished off rooms with a protective flair. Hardwood floors, oak doors, stone sills, leaded windows, even cedar closets indicated that Highland Homes were built for life, and that their families were here to stay.

Judged by any standard, the homes of Highland Park are a success. Many of the children they nurtured are active members of the community, even owners of their own Highland Park homes. The houses themselves have moved gracefully through time, collecting memories and spirit, while creating an irreplaceable neighborhood aesthetic.

Newer and larger homes have been built since Highland Park began. They face the future with less confidence. Uniquely, the homes of Highland Park remain homes worth having.

- The End -

1. Alan Gowans, The Comfortable House: North American Suburban Architecture 1890 - 1930 (Cambridge, Massachusetts: The MIT Press, 1986), p. 13.

2. Ibid.