By Sue Botos
Nestled behind rows of hedges on Frazier Drive, a casual passerby would not notice the stately home situated on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie. The only clue, aside from an occasional break in the overgrown shrubbery revealing a glimpse of the house, is a pair of brick gateposts, guarding a winding drive, one covered by vines, the other displaying a brass plaque declaring the property “Sunset Point.”
Once home of Frank Mosier, past president and CEO of BP America, the 100-year-old white stucco house was the site of “Party at the Pointe”, a $150-per-ticket 2006 fundraiser for the Rocky River Historical Society.
“That open house at Frank’s really got us off the ground. That was the turning point for our society,” the historical society’s Phil Ardussi commented. He explained that in 2006, the society’s funds were just about dried up, and members were considering disbanding. But due to the success of the gala, the group received the seed money to keep growing.
Although Sunset Point helped the historical society, the group can’t return the favor as the house has been slated for demolition to make way for three new homes.
“I’m glad it’s just going to be three homes. That cliff is an iconic part of Rocky River,” stated the historical society’s Tom Barrett. Giving a brief history of the site, Barrett said that the current house was predated by three other structures, including a hotel and the home of Daniel Eells, director of the Nickel Plate Railroad.
The Italian Riviera-styled home was built in the early 1900′s on what was then called Tisdale Point, and the property stretched to the historic stone fence along Lake Road. The Great Depression eventually forced the owner into foreclosure and, in 1935, the house was purchased by Lee Wilson through a Cuyahoga County sheriff’s sale. The president of Rocky River’s Lee Wilson Engineering Inc. then sold it to Mosier in 1985.
“He lived there until a few months ago,” said Barrett. The historical society did have a discussion with family members about having the house declared a historical site, however, Barrett recalled, they(the family) were worried that such a designation would reduce the property value.
Barrett said that historical designation for various areas in the city is sometimes brought up by various groups, but the rules and regulations attached to this description often scare people off. “Property owners don’t like restrictions put on their property telling them what they can and can’t do with it,” he stated. For example, he said that the Clifton Park area of Lakewood was once identified as a potential historic district, but neighbors did not want to put up with the sometimes rigorous restrictions placed on these areas.
During discussion at a recent City Council meeting regarding the Detroit Road/Linda Street streetscape project, Councilman at large Mike Harvey noted that there were several historic buildings near the area. Without a historic designation, he asked what impact the project would have on these properties.
Mayor Pam Bobst responded that there have been many talks about historic properties in the past. She stated that the county has identified two potential historic areas, Old Detroit and Tangletown, the winding streets north of Lake Road, which includes Frazier. “A proposal was requested and it identified a very detailed process and is a serious undertaking,” she stated. Once an area is defined, she said city code must be changed, involving a number of steps.
“The mere fact that they are designated means nothing. The code has to be changed,” she added.
A West Life story about the 2006″ Party at the Pointe” described the interior of the home. “Many who attended found the inside of (the) residence as breathtaking as the vista outdoors. Masterful oil paintings adorn the walls and the main hall boasts an intricate mahogany mantelpiece carved from a single piece of wood. Mosier explained that the artist had to keep the creation underwater while working so the massive structure wouldn’t crack.”
While Sunset Point won’t survive, some of this interior grandeur will live on in other settings, as stained glass windows, woodwork and roof tiles are being repurposed.
“I just hope the developer respects the property,” Barrett said.