Thursday, December 14th, 2017

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Cleveland’s historic Bicknell mansion serves as gracious home for Cleveland seniors

By CAROLINE R. MERK

Mansion Courts at Judson Park is a piece of Cleveland history. The stately brick and sandstone Tudor was originally the home of Warren Bicknell, president of Cleveland Construction. Built in 1920, it was designed by the notable Cleveland architectural firm of Meade and Hamilton, and its gardens were designed by Central Park landscape architect, Frederick Law Olmsted. The magnificent house is a reproduction of a 17th century Jacobean English manor and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mansion sits on the bluff in the Historic Ambler Heights District, also knows as Chestnut Hills, in Cleveland Heights.

Judson Park is a highly-regarded, interdenominational retirement community that includes three properties: the aforementioned Mansion Courts, South Franklin Circle in Chagrin Falls and Judson Manor at University Circle. Judson’s history began in 1906, when women from area Baptist churches decided to establish the Baptist Home of Northern Ohio. The group acquired two residences on Prospect Avenue and Cedar Roads before purchasing the Bicknell mansion in 1939. For a time it served as a home for aging women, later as offices for Judson Park. Over the years as the group expanded, numerous additions were built, and the organization renamed itself Judson Park.

In the late 1990s, the Bicknell mansion was divided into seven spacious and updated apartments for seniors, called Mansion Courts. The painstaking renovation was honored with the prestigious Cleveland Restoration Society Preservation Award in 1998. My guide through the mansion was longtime resident, Bob Oldenburg, a delightful gentleman with a wealth of historical knowledge. He showed me many of the original features that were preserved, such as the grand staircase, paneled walls, carved woodwork, leaded glass windows, massive fireplaces and even a secret door. The grand original living room is among the areas that remain as they were, and are for all the residents’ use. The former game room in the mansion’s basement, a terrific space with decorative brick arches, is now used for storage. Bob thinks it would make a great wine cellar!

Amenities at Judson Park include a fitness center, a warm-water pool, multiple dining venues, an auditorium and an expressive art center where residents can delve into painting, paper art or any other form of self-expression. Two additional highlights are the Lamport Conservatory, a gift of resident Marjorie Lamport and her late husband, and the Howson Art Gallery, which has monthly shows organized and run by a committee of residents. Dr. Leonard Trawick chairs the committee. Bob said the opening nights at the Gallery draw many people from outside of Judson and are good fun.

The mansion originally had a ballroom on the third floor. One of the suites on that floor is currently available. The 800-square-foot apartment features a skylight in the living/dining room, an updated kitchen, a laundry room and a full bath. The bedroom has a vaulted ceiling, a large walk-in closet and beautiful, leaded glass windows. A room outside the apartment can be used as an office or sitting room. Services include weekly housekeeping, all maintenance and repairs, 24-hour security, scheduled transportation and a 24-hour personal emergency call system. Residents also have access to all social, recreational and educational programs and events. Anyone interested may call 216.791.2004 or visit judsonsmartliving.org.

As part of Judson’s marketing program, complimentary services are offered to assist those moving in. Susan Kent’s “Moving by Design” helps people decide what to give to their children, what to liquidate and how to do it, and what to take with them. By providing a floor plan and scale models of furniture, people can lay out their apartments ahead of time. Realtor Lee-Ann Spacek specializes in working with older adults. She assists with staging homes for sale. In most cases, people need the income from the sale of their home for the entry fee at Judson Park. “Coming to live here is for people who are planners and rather well-established,” says Bob. “The entry fee can put off some people.”

 

 

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