GWINN is a private lakeside residence located at 12407 Lake Shore Blvd. in BRATENAHL. Industrialist, WILLIAM GWINN MATHER consulted with architect Charles A. Platt to design an estate for him and his half-sister Katherine Livingston Mather. From 1916 to 1931, Platt was placed in-charge of the design of the residence, interior design, and landscaping. Three local architects were hired to handle logistics. Landscape architect, Warren Manning advised on plantings. Civil Engineer, General Jared A. Smith provided design suggestions and estimates for the retaining wall.

Gwinn as Seen from Lake Erie
Gwinn as Seen from Lake Erie

Mather choose a six-acre site that sat on a bluff with an uninterrupted view of Lake Erie. The Italian Renaissance Second Revival and Neoclassical style 16-room mansion was built between 1907 to 1908. Mather named the estate “Gwinn” after his mother Elizabeth Gwinn. The rectangular house with service wing and gardens which modeled in the style of 16th century Italian Mediterranean palaces cost 1 million dollars.  However, the original planned size of the structure was reduced to save on costs.

An unusual Neoclassical design element is on the north façade which is modeled after the White House in Washington D.C. A two-story semi-circular Ionic portico and a terraced series of steps descends to a second-floor Renaissance balcony and first-floor amphitheater landing with an Italian Mannerist style sculpture fountain. A beach is accessed by this same set of terraced stone steps flanked by two lions which descend 28 feet above the level of the lake. An asymmetrical six-foot high concrete retaining wall stretches across the entire lakefront area of the estate. Two circular columnated gazebos are located on the west and east ends of the retaining wall.

The west section faces a circular driveway and formal gardens facing Lake Shore Blvd. Stucco-covered walls prevented the visitor from viewing the gardens until the visitor entered through the main gate. The formal gardens included a teahouse, pergola, gardeners’ cottage, greenhouses, sculptures, reflecting pools, and fountains. Artist J. Albert Twachtman, painted a mural in the tea house in 1910. Later an additional 25 acres was purchased to design stables, coachman’s house, garage, bowling green, and a wild garden. Lillie Jacques managed the entire 55-acre estate as head gardener and was the only woman at that time to manage an estate.

The narrow main entrance is a Tuscan doorway flanked by Doric columns that leads to a central hall that opened to a reception room that leads to the portico. The library is paneled in walnut and houses a collection of rare books by descendants of the Mather family. The Withdrawing Room is filled with artwork by Thomas Dewing. The opulent dining and morning rooms were attached to the service annex which included 2 pantries, kitchen, laundry, and servant’s hall. The second floor housed a sitting room, 6 bedrooms, bathrooms, and servants’ rooms.

NY decorator, Emil Feffercorn handled the interior design logistics. Over $24,000 was spent on décor and furnishings. American Empire, French 18th century, and Renaissance décor graced the interiors. Platt worked with William on acquiring 15th and 17th century Italian art, sculptures, tapestries, ceramics, and paintings by local women artists. Many of the pieces were donated to the Cleveland Museum of Art.

In 1929, Willam married widow, ELIZABETH RING IRELAND, who lived next door at 12521 Lake Shore Blvd. James Ireland Jr., her adolescent son damaged Williams’s Murano blown glass globes with a new bb gun. He was forced to pay the damage out of his pocket money. This incident brought William and Elizebath together as he asked Platt to create a walkway between the Ireland and Gwinn estates. Following the honeymoon Elizabeth and James moved to Gwinn and Katherine left.

Elizabeth made large impact on Gwinn by hosting fundraising events and fabulous parties. In 1935, she hired preeminent landscape architect, Ellen Biddle Shipman to partially redesign the walled garden with new plantings. At one point in the 1950s, The CLEVELAND ORCHESTRA considered purchasing the estate's property located south of Lakeshore Boulevard as a site for its summer home but withdrew consideration due to the large volume of noise from the adjacent I-90 highway.

Major renovations included new furnishings and décor to the interior. The second-floor bedrooms, closets, and bedrooms were renovated. The third floor remained unfinished. A beach was created in the library as a “sand room” recreating a Michigan lake scene for a family party. A permanent sand room was added under the immense portico of Gwinn in the billiard room. An artist was commissioned to paint a seascape in the circular room. Beach umbrellas, chairs, and toys were added to complete the nautical theme.

In 1951, William passed away and his wife in 1957. James D. Ireland Jr. inherited the estate on 9 September 1959. James and wife Cornelia decided honor their late mother’s wishes to turn the mansion into a civic center. Both Ireland and his wife lived at the neighboring Ireland property.  Gwinn was sold to the Elizabeth Ring Mather and William Gwinn Mather Fund, a non-profit corporation. The original art treasures, book collection, and antique furniture stayed with the house. From 1959 to 2007, the home was used as a conference center for meetings, luncheons, and dinners. Gwinn was added to the National Registry of Historic Places in 1974. James and Cornelia oversaw the management of Gwinn and its formal gardens. On 26 January 1991 James passed away and his wife died on 6 August 1997.

Terwyn Properties LLC purchased the mansion and converted it into a private residence in 2007. JERA Contractors, Inc. renovated the mansion and added a modern kitchen, theatre, and wine cellar. The cost of renovations was $7 million.  In 2021, Gwinn was listed for $6.5 million-one of the highest asking prices ever sought for a Cleveland area residential property. It was purchased by the Sagebrush Properties which undertook a comprehensive restoration project of the 8.25-acre grounds and mansion.

Angelina Bair

Cleveland Town Topics. Beautiful Homes of Cleveland. (1917).

Karson, Robin. The Muses of Gwinn: Art and Nature in a Garden Designed by Warren H. Manning, Charles A. Platt & Ellen Biddle Shipman. (1996).

Morgan, Keith. Charles A. Platt: The Artist as Architect. (1985).

Smith, Kelsey. Cleveland Historical: Gwinn Estate A Garden Retreat for Cleveland’s “First Couple.”

Warren, Charles. The Architecture of Charles A. Platt. (1998).

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