“I’ve been aware of the time going by… they say in the end it’s the wink of an eye…”
Hanging-on by a thread on Cleveland’s Lexington Avenue– an old farmhouse built and lived-in in the mid to late 1850’s by accomplished shipbuilder, and land owner, Luther Moses. Moses was born in West Farmington, Ohio in 1811, moving with his 6 brothers and sisters to Cleveland when he was five years old.
The old house originally faced west toward then Willson Street (East 55th Street) but sometime after Luther Moses died in 1895, the house was converted to a Lexington Avenue address with adjustments made to the original right side of the house, rendering it the “new” front, facing south.
Moses owned significant land in the general vacinity, which was on the “outskirts” of Cleveland at the time the house was built. Eventually the land was parceled off with additional streets created. New houses were built– today one of these houses still sits on the lot to the left of the old Moses House, on what was once the front yard of the farmhouse facing Willson Street.
According to local historians, the Luther Moses House is estimated to have been built in 1854, shortly after Mr. Moses retired as a wealthy ship manufacturer. Cleveland librarian and historian, Christopher Busta-Peck, believes the house “… is of a finish quality unmatched in pre-Civil War construction in the city of Cleveland, east of the Cuyahoga River...”
The building is in rough shape today. In an inner city neighborhood that struggles against poverty, crime, and urban decay, the antebellum home seems bunkered down, patiently in waiting for a rebirth.
The interior of the structure has been stripped of almost everything that once made it a home. What does remain is much of the original woodwork, door and window framing, and two first floor fireplaces. There is evidence, as well, of redesign– both from when the “front” of the house changed from Willson Avenue/East 55th Street to it’s current Lexington Avenue front facing, as well as when, some time along the way, the structure was converted to a multi-unit dwelling. It was fascinating, if not a bit unsettling, to explore the cellar that Luther Moses must have utilized toward the end of his life. So many raw nooks and crannies that still exist in amongst the original disheveled stone foundation.
Almost unseen from today’s busy East 55th Street, the old Luther Moses farm house is another surviving urban historic relic, and official Cleveland Landmark that needs to be saved. From historical accounts, Luther Moses was a generous man with a big heart. He gave his wealth away during his lifetime, to those in need. I really do hope that his generosity can somehow be “paid forward” decades later, and the house at 5611 Lexington Avenue will be restored and preserved, for future generations.
“The Pretender“ – Jackson Browne (1976)
Photos taken on May 12, August 27, and September 17, 2015.