Many tour-goers will be surprised
to discover that this recently-designated Cleveland Heights Landmark is
no longer the “Coventry Convent.” It was, after all, owned by
St. Ann Church from 1948 through 1983. Since then, the home has changed
owners several times. However, the current residents have given it a “life”
not seen since it was occupied by the family of banking executive Joseph
Nutt more than 50 years ago.
Built around 1910, the house was designed for Mr. Nutt by Harlen E. Shimmin,
a widely known architect who designed at least eight homes along Fairmount
Blvd., as well as numerous theatres, auditoriums, schools and apartments.
The property originally ran through to Stillman and actually included
50 percent more frontage on Stillman than on Coventry. Large formal gardens,
pools and other features clearly gave the feeling of a country estate.
The main rooms of the house reflect a variety of architectural detail
that is delightfully incongruous with the English manor appearance of
the exterior. Part of the reason is that the Nutt family apparently took
an extended vacation to Europe in the late 1920s. Inspired by the architecture
encountered in their travels, they redid much of the home, replacing the
dark, somewhat heavy, interior with a lighter Italianate look. Elaborate
oak panelling was installed in the dining room and the original beamed
ceilings were replaced with sculpted plaster. The stone porch on the north
side of the home also was added around that time.
Many of the home’s original features did survive the redesign.
Principal among these is the fantastic wrought iron grillwork that graces
the front door. It was concealed for many years by a storm door, and uncovered
only recently by the current owners. Similarly elaborate grillwork—all
commissioned from the Rose Iron Works of Cleveland—adorns the door
in the back foyer, as well as many of the heat registers throughout the
house. (A Rose fireplace screen is on exhibit at the Cleveland Museum
of Art.) Other examples of the home’s elite heritage are evident.
For example, hidden doors and work areas are abundant, making it possible
for the original owner’s servants to keep things running smoothly
yet invisibly. Far more unusual is the location of the home’s steam
boiler: in the basement of the detached garage! Most likely, this was
done to minimize noise or perhaps to avoid the dirt and soot that accompany
a coal-burning heating system.
Interestingly, an overly segmented three-room kitchen was not opened
up until the mid 1990s, when one large, open area was fashioned. Much
of the cabinetry installed at that time was salvaged from another Cleveland
Heights estate. The current owners have improved on that renovation and
added many of their own touches throughout the house, including the recasting
of a living room fireplace, the unobtrusive installation of whole house
air-conditioning, and the finishing of several bedrooms and baths. Because
of these well-conceived efforts, the house remains faithful to its elegant,
early-20th-century roots, but also accommodates the 21st century’s
reverence for comfort, convenience and flexibility.
Fantastic foyer with original chandelier in the front, and marble
flooring and decorative etched mirrors in the back.
Teak floors throughout the first floor, with Herringbone design
in the living and dining rooms.
Italianate paintings in the foyer above the entrances to the
living room and reception room.
Elaborate plaster ceilings, decorative moldings and silk upholstered
walls in the living room.
Double vaulted ceiling in the solarium.
Leaded glass windows in the main staircase landing.
Unique overhead lights in the kitchen. Owner speculates that
they may have come from a decommissioned ocean liner, perhaps the Queen
2nd floor “linen room” with pull-out work tables.
Several 2nd floor bathrooms with “exterior tub plumbing,”
which increases the amount of room inside the tub. Bathroom off the master
sitting room is panelled in (glass) Vitrolite.
Exposed stone in a 2nd floor alcove, a space that may have been
used as a hot-weather sleeping area.