Commentary - Outstanding save for Chagrin Valley
May 14, 2020
The Chagrin Valley stepped up. Even during a global pandemic, when daily life around the state has been put on pause as we work to contain the contagious coronavirus, area residents managed to raise enough money to save a historical house.
That means a piece of Chagrin Falls history has a chance at survival.
The Bancroft house, built in 1878 between West Cottage and West Summit streets, overlooks downtown Chagrin Falls from its perch on Grove Hill. Though the house has been a familiar sight for generations of village families, few likely know its history.
According to a local historian John Bourisseau, Harry Bancroft and his wife were the first owners of the house. She was a prize-winning horticulturist and her plantings were said to be a sight to behold.
The house changed ownership over the years. According to an article in a local magazine, artists David Philip Wilson and his wife Binnie bought the property in 1946 and made their studios on the property. Mr. Wilson was a portrait artist who did paintings of President Lyndon B. Johnson, Neil Armstrong, John Glenn and others. Mrs. Wilson was a well-known wallpaper designer.
In 2019, local developer Robert Vitt purchased the property and later submitted plans to the village to raze the house and build five townhomes on the land.
Many residents, upset by the proposal, said loss of this landmark would forever change the landscape and character of the village. Residents quickly formed the group, Save Grove Hill, and posted bright yellow signs all over town encouraging everyone to join the movement.
The Western Reserve Land Conservancy stepped in, offering to help raise funds to buy the house and surrounding land. The conservancy secured a tentative purchase agreement with Mr. Vitt on March 26 that hinged on the community coming up with $600,000 to go toward the purchase. The full price of the house and other details of the agreement have not been made public as of this week.
The deadline to raise the money was May 9. Individuals stepped forward as did organizations, like the Chagrin Falls Historical Society, donating thousands of dollars. It was touch and go during the last few days, but according to conservancy President and CEO Rich Cochran, the fundraising goal was met and exceeded by $3,400. Mr. Cochran referred to Grove Hill and the Bancroft House as a keystone property that helps preserve the character of the community.
Plans call for a section of the property to be donated to the Village of Chagrin Falls for a park – something we all can enjoy. The remaining land with the house would be sold with the stipulation that the new owner renovate and keep the house in place.
Local business owner Bill Weber said the proposed park and historical house will be a legacy to generations to come. Chagrin Falls Mayor William Tomko, who has championed historic preservation around the village for years, said reaching the goal shows that people want to maintain the charm of the village. He called it an outstanding save for the heritage of the town.
We commend the citizens who dug deep into their pockets to preserve this house. And we commend the leadership of the conservancy whose members mapped a fundraising plan and negotiated the deal. Regardless of who lived there, the simple fact that the house survived 142 years and is a familiar sight to so many makes it historically important to the community.
"Commentary - Outstanding save for Chagrin Valley". Chagrin Valley Times. Retrieved October 16, 2020.
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