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Tour de Farce 

The Ohio City Home Tour

Just a stone's throw from Dave's Supermarket, on Bridge Avenue in Ohio City, lies the birthplace of John Heisman, the football legend for whom the college trophy is named. The unassuming stucco structure, one of the seven homes featured on the Ohio City Home Tour, even flaunts a marker that states Heisman was "born here on Oct. 3, 1869."

But Ohio City architectural historian Tim Barrett says it ain't so. "That is not the house," he adamantly declares, noting that county records show Heisman's family owned property between Randall Avenue and West 38th Street. The alleged birthplace on Bridge Avenue is nothing more than "one of those Ohio City misnomers."

Like the Heisman House, the tour's Stone Gables Mansion boasts a curious past. The manor was built in 1883 and was later converted into a tenant house. Rumor has it that an area bank robber stashed a wad of loot somewhere in the place, but so far, no one has found it -- despite the many attempts that have left holes in the floors and walls.

Now in its 12th year, the popular home tour gives visitors intimate glimpses of some of old Cleveland's most intriguing structures, including the new chapel at St. Ignatius and the historic Trinity Lutheran Church. "We've pretty much covered the bases, from a simple brick worker's cottage and traditional frame home to a Queen Anne Victorian and stone mansion," says Bernie Thiel, a volunteer for the home tour planning committee and a member of the board of directors for Ohio City Near West Development.

While the homes are adorned with stunning architectural features, they also showcase equally eye-catching interiors. Patty Williams, an interior decorator and former Cleveland Heights resident, bought the Heisman House a year ago and transformed it into two apartments. The lower quarter is a handsome corporate suite, while the upstairs revels in splashy colors and eclectic accessories. "I love using old antiques juxtaposed with modern pieces," says Williams, who rents the lower suite for a cool $1,200 a month.

Juxtaposing old and new is what the Ohio City tour is all about. "The homes on the tour really give visitors a sense of the diversity of architectural styles in the neighborhood, as well as the creativity and personality that each owner brought to the interpretation of the structures," says Thiel. "If anyone ever wanted to see Ohio City from the inside, this is the best way to do it."

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