The Clifton Park Lakefront District [†] is a residential district along an avenue paralleling the shore of Lake Erie just east of the mouth of the Rocky River, and three short subsidiary streets. It is bounded on the west by the steep bank of the access road to the beach, and includes an early waterfront pumping station. The boundary on the south is the right-of- way of Clifton Boulevard, which has made short dead-end streets of West Forest, Forest and West Clifton Roads.
The houses on the north side of Lake Road are ranged in a stately procession along the cliff above Lake Erie. The lakeshore lots average some 300 feet in depth and 100 feet in width on the street. The houses are in all of the eclectic styles of the period, and various mixtures of them. The majority of the houses were built 1900-1915, and a few were added between 1920 and 1929.
The Clifton Park Lakefront District, while containing a number of striking and interesting architectural examples, is far more significant because of its ove_rall coherence as a turn-of-the-century upper class residential district with its origins in a lakefront resort. The residents were industrialists, manufacturers, businessmen, engineers and architects, and their homes represent nearly all of the architectural styles common between 1890 and 1920.
The mouth of the Rocky River was settled as early as 1808 by Philo Taylor, but he was forced to move when plans were made to lay out a city, which never materialized. The present name dates from 1868, when the Clifton Park Association was formed by a number of prominent Clevelanders to promote a summer resort. The Rocky River Railroad was built to bring tourists to the lake, and opened in 1869. In 1873 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers constructed a stone pier on the east side of the river channel, and about the same year the Rockport Pumping Station was built at the beach. In 1874 the first platting of roads and subdivision of lots was done, but the park remained a popular public amusement spot during the 1870s and 1880s.
The first house was built in 1897 by William J. Starkweather, but it no longer exists. In 1899 the Association's interest was sold to the Clifton Park Land Improvement Company. In the same year the third house to be built, and the oldest still standing, was the John G. Jennings home, a Jacobethan Revival house of frame and shingle construction. All of the most important lakefront residences were built between 1900 and 1915. Among the typical residents of the district were Robert Wallace, a naval architect for American Shipbuilding Company; Paul North, president of the Chamberlin Cartridge and Target Company; Charles Root, a municipal civil engineer; Stephen L. Pierce, president of the S. L. Pierce shoe company; Julius Rodier, a vice-president of DuPont Chemical; and George McKay, a Great Lakes ship captain.
Stylistically, some of the more notable houses are represented by the following:
Shingle Style: A few of the houses suggest the original nature of the district as a resort. Not in any pure style, some combine the sheathing of the Shingle Style with Jacobethan half-timbering and even Gothic windows. The general effect is one of spaciousness, calm, and a generally rustic quality. These were all constructed at the turn of the century, 1899-1903.
Art Nouveau: While not an architectural style, this characterizes one house (1903) of no particular external style which is unique in its decoration. The modest dormered exterior is of stucco, but an arched window is framed by Tiffany mosaic and the upper lights of the first floor windows have inserts of Tiffany glass. Inside, mosaic border designs, leaded windows, lamp shades, and bathroom mosaic tile are all by Tiffany, reputed to have been a f rend of the owner. At least one other house has windows with curvilinear leading in the Ar Nouveau style, compared to the usual rectilinear leading of the period.
Neo-Classic and Georgian Revivals: The two major classical domestic styles produced a number of homes, all from the first decade of the century (1901-1908), and in two basic forms. Both kinds have symmetrical facades. There is either a one-story porch or veranda, sometimes with a bowed extension, and usually associated with a Palladian or Adam doorway; or a large two-story pedimented portico, usually with coupled columns and a wide center interval. Both types have pedimented roof dormers,
Bungaloid: A few of the houses are related to the Bungaloid style, and characterized by the wide sheltering roof contoured so that it undulates and wraps over the eaves. The one-story cottage-like style has been enlarged to make full two-story mansions,
These were built between 1905 and 1910.
Renaissance Revival: There is at least one fully-developed example of the Second Renaissance Revival. Built in 1915, its most notable feature is a recessed portico with three arches on columns in the. Florentine style. The ceiling of this entry is finished in agraffitto, a technique of carving designs in two or more layers of vari-colored plaster.
Jacobethan Revival: There are Jacobethan style houses from two periods, showing the persistence of the idiom, but clearly distinguish¡©able. In the first period (1900-1910) the houses tend to have flatter, more symmetrical facades, with very pronounced half-timbering prob¡©ably related to the late nineteenth century Stick Style. The second group of houses (1920-1929) is much more sculptural in effect, with massive pronounced chimneys, more projecting gables, Tudor door¡©ways, and great polygonal bays and towers; all of these forms being the result of the more self-conscious eclecticism of the period.
Mission Style: While the Mission and Spanish Colonial Revival styles are more properly found in the Southwest in this period, there are a few houses with the characteristic use of simple stucco surfaces, red tile roofs and slightly baroque gables. One of the most pretentious of these has a jutting entrance loggia with pure Doric columns.
The district forms a coherent physical unit because of the limited access to traffic and the winding character of the streets, the spacious lawns and generous set-back of the houses, and the relationship of the area to the lake.
Near the west end of Lake Road, two of the original houses, including the oldest one, have been demolished and replaced by four smaller modern homes. At the corner of Lake Road and Beach Road, the original Lakewood Yacht Club burned, and was replaced by the Clifton Club in 1950. On the north side of the east end of Lake Road, there are several houses built since 1945. None of these historically non-conforming structures seriously alters the integrity of the district. The district includes 103 individual buildings.
† Eric Johnson, Western Reserve Historical Society, Clifton Park Lakefront District, nomination document, 1974, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
Beach Road • Clifton Road West • Forest Road West • Lake Point Drive • Lake Road