Charles Schulman of Carlyle Management describes the history and operations of Shaker Towers, including the initial condominium conversion, property management, as well as his family's residence in the building across several generations.
Schulman, Charles (interviewee)
Gibans, Nina (interviewer)
"Charles Schulman interview, 25 September 2011" (2011). Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection. Interview 914002.
Charles Schulman [00:00:01] OK.
Nina Gibans [00:00:02] You're Chuck Schulman and I'm Nina Gibans, and we're talking about Shaker Towers.
Charles Schulman [00:00:08] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:00:08] So, how long have you been involved with Shaker Towers?
Charles Schulman [00:00:15] Well, my family has been involved with Shaker Towers since the mid 1960s. My father had a company called Metropolitan Management in the 1960s and managed the building as a rental building. It was later sold by my father and my uncle, Carl Glickman, to Al Weissberg in the mid-1970s to become a condominium conversion. In the meantime, they attempted to do a simple conversion of the property, but Al was not really prepared to do a conversion of an existing rental property and didn't have a lot of success. So they immediately turned around and brought in Jim Adair, who was at the time the person in Cleveland doing most East Side conversions, along with Jim Male at Parkview Federal. And the two of them partnered up and did the condominium conversion. The second attempt at conversion was very successful. About 80 percent of the existing tenants bought within the building and it was considered a pretty quick sell and a big success for them. We had been managing the building as...
Nina Gibans [00:01:29] [coughs] Excuse me.
Charles Schulman [00:01:31] Sure. We'd been managing the building as an apartment until the condominium conversion.
Nina Gibans [00:01:37] So that's from... Nineteen...
Charles Schulman [00:01:40] From the mid-1960s until the early 1970s. For a short time, my uncle's company, Bates and Springer, ran the building and then it came back to us to manage the building and the... Everyone's related [laughs], especially in real estate in Cleveland. For a short time he managed the building. He and my father owned it together. They managed the building as Bates and Springer and then turned it back to Carlyle Management back in the... I think 1973 or 1974. In 1975, the building was sold to Al Weissberg. He brought in another company to manage it, Village Management, who was here for about a year. And then there was another company that managed also Moreland Courts at the same time for about another year, and then it was turned back over to us in 1979 and we've been involved in the management of the property ever since in one fashion or another, either as the managers or as a consultant or just doing administration and bookkeeping.
Nina Gibans [00:02:48] That's sort of amazing. Are we the owners? Ongoing?
Charles Schulman [00:02:48] I think probably currently, yes. There are some properties that we own that we've, of course, managed longer. But I think as an outside contract, probably is. So it's been a long time. And, you know, I also have a special involvement with the building because after my grandmother died, my grandfather moved into the building and lived here with his second wife for many years in Suite 404. So I was always in and around the building. As a child I played in the building. So I remember that well. Even before he moved into the building, I remember coming with him since he was working with my father as a property manager as well as with my father, because underneath the building there are tunnels. And it was a great place for a child to play. Probably not the safest place now, when you think about it, but I got to explore all the buildings they managed and this was one of them. And remember playing inside those tunnels well.
Nina Gibans [00:03:52] Talk about the tunnels. You'd be the only one that would know about those tunnels, maybe.
Charles Schulman [00:03:55] Well, it's possible. The tunnels were underneath the buildings and were the areas where all the piping and all the plumbing ran. And I remember as a child thinking how strange it was because it was always lined with toilets and with sinks, because during the actual construction of the building, they bought plenty of extra ones because at the time they were using unusual colors in the building and didn't want to take a chance of not having them when they needed to replace them. So still in those tunnels are some of the original toilets and sinks...
Nina Gibans [00:04:29] Are they still there now?
Charles Schulman [00:04:30] That... They're still there now this many years later.
Nina Gibans [00:04:33] If you wanted an original toilet you could have it?
Charles Schulman [00:04:36] It's possible there's still a few down there in the red colors because they just stored everything down there. And it's funny because I remember years later bringing my son, and actually my daughter too, and letting them go into the tunnels to see and explore the same way that I did as a child.
Nina Gibans [00:04:53] So this is underneath the garage.
Charles Schulman [00:04:55] It's actually, where it is, is, it's off of the two launder rooms. There are three-quarter height doors in the laundry rooms that nobody really pays attention to. If you open those doors up, they wind their way around on the front of the building, underneath the building, as well as out into the yard itself, too. So, they're unusual shaped tunnels and they're... It's like a child going through a maze. It was a lot of fun doing that. And it's really interesting because we have to use them still on a regular basis to go in there to check for valves or to make sure we don't have leaks. And it is something that's, you know, [inaudible interjection] integral for the building. Absolutely. So.
Nina Gibans [00:05:41] Now, what about the link to Van Aken? Your office was here.
Charles Schulman [00:05:45] Right. Right. There was... There... This building, just the same as across the street at Moreland Courts, all the buildings were interconnected. As the buildings were constructed, each garage was connected from building to building, which linked it to Van Aken and more importantly, actually, underneath the rapid tracks into the retail centers at Van Aken. So...
Nina Gibans [00:06:12] You're kidding.
Charles Schulman [00:06:13] No.
Nina Gibans [00:06:13] You can go underneath now?
Charles Schulman [00:06:14] You can't anymore. They're they're blocked off anymore. But it used to be... Actually, though, across the street at Moreland Courts, you can still go. It was the way for everyone who lived at Moreland Courts to quietly and simply and very dry and warm be able to get to the Stouffer's restaurant.
Nina Gibans [00:06:32] Oh, I remember that. Yes.
Charles Schulman [00:06:33] Right. But you could also do the same thing, because I remember years ago being able to go to where the Punch and Judy Tavern and the barber shop inside that alcove that you'd walk through the retail strip was, and my family happened to own that corner, so as a result we were always involved. And I remember as a child, again, going there on a regular basis.
Nina Gibans [00:06:59] So you sold to the next people?
Charles Schulman [00:07:03] Yes. Mm hmm. And the same people... We sold it in 1978 or '79 to Stuart Graines, who still owns it today. So. Yeah.
Nina Gibans [00:07:16] He's been such a problem.
Charles Schulman [00:07:19] Well, I understand, but from the standpoint of a real estate investment, it was a good move. So.
Nina Gibans [00:07:25] Yeah. Right. And I remember, of course, the bowling alley.
Charles Schulman [00:07:28] Sure. Absolutely. And Miller Drug and, you know, there were wonderful things. And Clark's restaurant was always the staple there. It was the cornerstone of that.
Nina Gibans [00:07:38] Miller's Drug.
Charles Schulman [00:07:39] Mm hmm.
Nina Gibans [00:07:42] I used to go in after dancing school.
Charles Schulman [00:07:44] Sure. Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:07:46] And Miller's actually had two locations.
Charles Schulman [00:07:49] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:07:50] And at one time, I interviewed the telephone operator across the street...
Charles Schulman [00:07:56] Mm hmm.
Nina Gibans [00:07:56] Who had never been across the street.
Charles Schulman [00:08:00] OK.
Nina Gibans [00:08:01] So when she came, she was really surprised. And, you know, she told us things and wonderful stories.
Charles Schulman [00:08:08] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:08:10] But that's not our story.
Charles Schulman [00:08:10] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:08:11] So, all right, so the people who first came in were pioneers? Ex-[inaudible]? Who were they?
Charles Schulman [00:08:14] Well, who first came into the building itself?
Nina Gibans [00:08:22] Yes.
Charles Schulman [00:08:23] Well, the building itself's history is unusual because the Van Sweringens, when they created the area and built Moreland Courts, put in a number of deed restrictions, which if you go back and take a look at the old deeds can find to this day where it was a very segregated area and that anyone who was a minority basically was not allowed to live in the Shaker Square area. The Van Sweringens were trying to create a bastion of basically a white Christian community. And the people who built Shaker Towers built it with the idea that it would desegregate the area. And they also decided they didn't want to be the norm because most other buildings at Shaker Square, especially up until that time, were all built with the same style, the same look, the same architectural integrity. They changed that entirely with this building in that this building was constructed to look like a New York high rise. It was very unusual in that there are only four suites per floor. It was built as two towers, which was very unusual. It really differentiated itself from all the other buildings, which had a very strong theme running through it. And this building was very modern, very unusual compared to all the other buildings at Shaker Square. And they did that intentionally. The idea was that they wanted to differentiate themselves from everyone else. And they also opened it up immediately to anyone who wanted to live in the building. And as a result, there were some Black residents for the first time at Shaker Square. There were some Jewish residents for the first time. It was a completely different community.
Nina Gibans [00:10:16] And we're talking 1948?
Charles Schulman [00:10:19] Right. Exactly. It was... It was at a time when most of the other buildings still were completely segregated. I know that my grandfather and mother, and grandmother, moved to the building at 12701 Shaker, but they had to have someone else sign the lease for them because they weren't permitted to sign the lease because at the time the restrictions were still in place. So.
Nina Gibans [00:10:45] 127 is what?
Charles Schulman [00:10:47] 12701 is northwest of the Square and it's approximately two blocks northwest of the Square.
Nina Gibans [00:10:56] Because it went that far.
Charles Schulman [00:10:58] No, and it wasn't... And then later on that the building back in the '60s was purchased by a Jewish family, which was an unusual thing to happen. And then all of a sudden, many of the other buildings in the area were either purchased by Jewish families or actually built by Jewish families, which changed the whole makeup of the Square. My uncle, great uncle, Charles Bernstein built quite a few of the buildings in the area. And then also the Appelbaum family. Morris Appelbaum built quite a few. He'd been a brickmason on many of the buildings. But by then with the changes that had taken place at Shaker Square, he then started to own some of the buildings as well and built them for his own account.
Nina Gibans [00:11:41] What about the fact that it's the last of the apartment buildings with windows in the kitchen and the...
Charles Schulman [00:11:52] Well, it, actually, that's what differentiates itself. It really was completely different in that there are windows in bathrooms, windows in kitchens. It really is an unusual building. The architect, a fellow named Joe Ceruti, had a kind of storied history in Cleveland also because he built unusual buildings. He built East and West Side, which was also a little different because most people had a niche and would stay with their niche. Joseph Ceruti really didn't. And I was fortunate enough to have spent some time with him before he passed away because during the early days of this association, there was always a need for the drawings. So Joe actually gave us the original drawings. Went through them with us. Whenever we would have a question or a problem, he was always terrific to deal with because he'd explain why he did what he did. And the interesting thing was he built this building as the only one of its kind. He never copied it. And many of his other buildings were cookie-cutter in that he'd create them and then he'd have someone build them in different places. Here, this was the only one built like this one.
Nina Gibans [00:13:03] So you have the original drawings.
Charles Schulman [00:13:06] The original drawings are here on site. We have scanned them so that we have them in digital form. But the original drawings were brought in a tube here to the building and are down in the maintenance shop in the building. So the originals are here, both sepias as well as blueprints.
Nina Gibans [00:13:29] I went to the historical society and they couldn't find them. They are out in Macedonia.
Charles Schulman [00:13:33] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:13:34] And they aren't really cataloged.
Charles Schulman [00:13:38] Ah.
Nina Gibans [00:13:38] And we found the drawings for the condominiums but...
Charles Schulman [00:13:44] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:13:45] But not for the original building, so...
Charles Schulman [00:13:47] Those are here on site.
Nina Gibans [00:13:49] OK.
Charles Schulman [00:13:50] And Joe was actually brought back by Jim Adair to do the condominium drawings, which Jim felt, and I still speak with Jim on a pretty regular basis, jim felt that it was important to use Joe for that and it was, I think, a very good idea.
Nina Gibans [00:14:06] Could you do a copy of the disk?
Charles Schulman [00:14:08] Sure. Absolutely.
Nina Gibans [00:14:08] Of the original drawing.
Charles Schulman [00:14:10] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:14:12] I'd love to have that for this.
Charles Schulman [00:14:12] Yeah.
Nina Gibans [00:14:14] OK, so we've been here forever... And what are some of, I mean, what am I skipping? What are some of the memorable moments?
Charles Schulman [00:14:27] Well, there've been quite a few people who have, you know, significant involvement in Cleveland's history who've lived in the building. Carl Stokes, the first Black mayor of a major metropolitan city, lived in the building for many years. Dorothy Fuldheim, who was a trailblazer as far as a television journalist, lived in the building for quite a few years with her daughter and granddaughter. There was also Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, who was a trailblazer also for human rights and marched with Martin Luther King, lived in the building for many years as well, actually up until his death, lived in the building. Also, Sam and Maria Miller, who are tremendous philanthropists in Greater Cleveland, tied very closely with Cleveland State, actually, lived in the building for quite a few years. So there had been...
Nina Gibans [00:15:32] But not as a condominium.
Charles Schulman [00:15:35] Actually they lived here after it was conversion.
Nina Gibans [00:15:36] Oh, did they?
Charles Schulman [00:15:36] They did. Maria lived here. And then when she and Sam were married, lived here for a while before they moved to their current home. So they lived here... Actually, all of them lived here during the time that it was a condominium. Carl Stokes lived here up until 1985. Dorothy Fuldheim lived here until her death, which would have been in the early 1980s. Rabbi Lelyveld has only been gone for a couple of years. So they all were here during the time it was both an apartment and a condominium.
Nina Gibans [00:16:12] Now we have a good mix of wonderful people today. We have judges. We have teachers. We have teachers in a lot of different categories.
Charles Schulman [00:16:24] Right. Number of lawyers, doctors as well.
Nina Gibans [00:16:26] Lawyers. We have four people who went to kindergarten together.
Charles Schulman [00:16:32] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:16:33] We have a lot of wonderful folks that carry out that tradition, if you will.
Charles Schulman [00:16:45] Well, this building is a building of community and always has been. From the time it first started, it was intended to be, and it always has been in that it has attracted people who've moved into the building who've then attracted their friends or family members to move in. You have a number of people who are related living in different units in the building and always have. It seems to have always been the case from the time it was a rental through the time it was converted to a condominium. So it's... It has always been a welcoming building, which is unusual for a high rise and especially in a condominium.
Nina Gibans [00:17:21] You can talk about where it is, but the most important thing, I think is all the amenities that we have, and have had over the years. What about the cleaning? What about the beauty part?
Charles Schulman [00:17:37] Sure. It's interesting because the building physically doesn't have a lot of amenities. It has amenities in services. There is a beauty salon that's been located in the first floor of the 13800 building for many years. The current operator, Diane Kitsaidas, has been here close to 30 years at least. I think she may actually have predated my coming back in the early 1980s or in late 1970s, rather. Diane has been here servicing the building for many years. We also have had staff members who've been here, had been here, for many, many years. Toyce Anderson, who ran the garage for approximately 35 years, came during the construction. The owner of the building at the time liked him so much on the construction crew, asked Toyce to stay and run the garage, which Toyce did and did with an iron fist. And I always laugh because I tell people about during the times in the 1960s when racial issues were difficult and there were different things going on and there was crime in the area at the time, Toyce would literally back a car up against the doors to each of the garage entrances to the building so that you'd have to call downstairs to get Toyce's permission to come get your car, but he also protected the people's cars because he sat in the garage office. No one came or went without Toyce knowing about it. And later in his life is as Toyce got older and it was more infirm, he actually brought his dog Lady, which was a beautiful Great Dane, into the building, who sat with him and greeted everyone as they'd come and go to the building.
Nina Gibans [00:19:25] [inaudible] But then there was the next generation of the garage people.
Charles Schulman [00:19:30] Sure. Well, Chris Pollard actually was here from the early 1960s until the mid-1990s. Chris came... He was the night man working for Toyce Anderson and twice actually ran the garage. He paid all the personnel. We paid Toyce, and then he paid the personnel. Later on it became our own staff. But we always had a 24-hour garage. There were always different services that they provided, anything from a quick run down to the airport or if somebody wasn't feeling well, you know, a drive to the hospital, taking them out for grocery shopping...
Nina Gibans [00:20:10] Can they do that now?
Charles Schulman [00:20:11] That's... They don't do it now. Unfortunately, with times changing and litigation the way it is, we've had to curtail a number of the services that we did. But we still wash cars. We still do minor repairs. They'll jumpstart a battery for someone who's been away for a while, change a tire, but the garage is still staffed 24 hours a day. Currently, it's with an outside service and they do a terrific job. And the people seem to really appreciate knowing that someone's there. They're not security, but they give you a feeling of security, knowing that someone is watching out for you, and it's here 24 hours a day.
Nina Gibans [00:20:49] It's worked out well.
Charles Schulman [00:20:50] Absolutely. We've also had people living on site as managers in the past. We've had... Currently, we have a manager who does not live on site, but he's a professional manager who's been in business and been in the property management business for close to 30 years. So he also is able to take care of people and really provide a nice service for the residents. We've always had a housekeeping staff that's kept the building clean. We have an unusual amenity in the garage roof deck, which up until about 1980 was just a roof with stones and there was one patio out there in that at some point along the way, Taffy Epstein's unit had a patio installed on it and a door going up to it. But that was the only one that used that garage roof. In the early 1980s, Esther Ensten, who was a board member living in the building, who was very involved in the Cleveland Botanical Gardens and the Cleveland Garden Society, really kind of pushed to have something done with that roof deck. And the thought was that it's really a large, expansive area that could be a tremendous amenity for the association. So a decision was made to put eight inches of stone on that deck after replacing the roof, putting in a full sprinkler system, enhancing the drains up there, then putting in 10 inches of topsoil and planting it. And now there's a full lawn up there. And then there are multiple gardens which each person living in the building has the opportunity to have a garden spot and maintain. There is a beautiful rose garden that was over by Dorothy Fuldheim's unit that Esther Ensten maintained. And...
Nina Gibans [00:22:44] Until Jim came.
Charles Schulman [00:22:46] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:22:47] Until Jim Gibans came.
Charles Schulman [00:22:48] That's... Well, but there was a large circular one also...
Nina Gibans [00:22:50] That was...
Charles Schulman [00:22:50] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:22:53] That was his test.
Charles Schulman [00:22:53] OK. So...
Nina Gibans [00:22:55] To see if he could do it.
Charles Schulman [00:22:56] Right. Well, they really were very careful about who they let have garden spots for a number of years because they wanted to make sure that it really was kept up with the look of the building and that it was truly an amenity. But it gave many people who wanted to live in an urban setting, a very suburban and rural feel because they could just walk into their backyard, which was a beautiful backyard, and be able to see the grass and be able to really garden any way they wanted. So it became a tremendous amenity for the building.
Nina Gibans [00:23:29] The garden isn't really accessible.
Charles Schulman [00:23:32] Well, it can be. It can be made accessible. They'd... You'd need to ramp it to, that would be a way to do that to make it much more accessible and as well as there are two fire escapes that come off the sides of it, which could be converted in different ways to get people up there.
Nina Gibans [00:23:50] And we'd love to see that.
Charles Schulman [00:23:50] Yeah.
Nina Gibans [00:23:53] Then there's also the shade.
Charles Schulman [00:23:55] Right. It's... And it's a beautiful area, as well as the area of that Taffy has up there is terrific. And she for many years would go out there and have parties out on the...
Nina Gibans [00:24:05] Oh, yeah.
Charles Schulman [00:24:07] Deck. And I remember as a child coming to the building and she would have huge gatherings out there even before they had any landscaping out there. It was just her patio up there. And the current board president, Steve Jaimo, was talking about that as well, because he remembers as a child coming into the building for the same thing, having gone to school with Taffy's children. So.
Nina Gibans [00:24:32] Interesting. What have we left out? I think we've covered a lot.
Charles Schulman [00:24:38] Yeah. The building, though, was very cosmopolitan in the way it was built in that there are freight elevators in the back as well as high-speed passenger elevators up front. It really does look like a Manhattan high rise as compared to many of the other buildings in Greater Cleveland.
Nina Gibans [00:25:02] That's an interesting, you know, we've just written the... We're about to finish the website.
Charles Schulman [00:25:09] Mm hmm.
Nina Gibans [00:25:10] And we've just written the brochure. What do you think of it?
Charles Schulman [00:25:17] I've not seen the brochure since...
Nina Gibans [00:25:19] Really?
Charles Schulman [00:25:19] Yeah, I have not seen it yet. So.
Nina Gibans [00:25:24] You'll have to see it. I'll have to give you mine, I guess.
Charles Schulman [00:25:25] OK, well I can get it from Jim, too, I'm sure that Jim Cordish has it.
Nina Gibans [00:25:31] Stuart Wallace stopped me and said, You didn't put square footage. You... let's see. Square footage and... Two other things...
Charles Schulman [00:25:47] Mm hmm.
Nina Gibans [00:25:48] That I'm not remembering. But he felt that that was a wonderful thing.
Charles Schulman [00:25:54] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:25:57] People making decisions. So we'll do that on the website.
Charles Schulman [00:25:57] Right. Well, you know, the original brochure is that Jim Adair did had all of the breakout [cross talk] of the square footage and everything. They were actually well-written. They... They helped sell the building well and the square footages of the floors, I mean, each each unit is so large compared to most other suites in the area. It was always amazing when I would bring friends to visit my grandfather, they were amazed when they would see his unit to see a thirteen hundred square-foot or a fourteen hundred square-foot apartment was so unusual when everything else was nine hundred square feet. So... And also there were the what were called the maid's rooms on the back of many of them with... It really lent itself to a different clientele. And as a result, that's what it drew. It really.
Nina Gibans [00:26:48] And [inaudible] to renovation.
Charles Schulman [00:26:51] Absolutely. It's allowed for individualization that, even today, I mean, people are constantly changing the floor plans and really creating unusual units. I remember years ago, Howard Glickman took down a wall in his dining room and he was one of the first to do that.
Nina Gibans [00:27:10] Right.
Charles Schulman [00:27:10] And it just opened up the whole apartment, created a huge expansive apartment.
Nina Gibans [00:27:15] And when we came in, the wall had already been...
Charles Schulman [00:27:18] Mm hmm.
Nina Gibans [00:27:19] Taken down between the two bedrooms. [long pause] So I do this and pause it'll be all right.
Charles Schulman [00:27:57] Yes.
Nina Gibans [00:28:00] How has Shaker Towers changed?
Charles Schulman [00:28:02] Shaker Towers has changed primarily in that you still have a very diverse tenant profile or ownership profile, but it's changed in that at times many of the residents were much older. Now it seems to be getting to be a younger base of residents. There are a number of new people who've moved in. There are different requests and demands for services than there were in the past. But still, it's just a building that... Service is the amenity. And it really has been consistent in that while the age of the demographics of the building have changed and gone back and forth, it's still always been one where basically the same interests have always, have been continued through. And over all the years, that's really what the ownership originally and then the condominium has tried to continue is just to...
Nina Gibans [00:29:06] Right. Don Friedheim. [clears throat] I'm sorry. Don Friedheim, whose family knew a lot of people here...
Charles Schulman [00:29:18] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:29:19] As did mine... Told us a lot about those people. He interviewed them. So I thought I'd discuss some of those with you.
Charles Schulman [00:29:30] Sure.
Nina Gibans [00:29:31] They include doctors, lawyers. He found Irving Kane's photograph...
Charles Schulman [00:29:37] Right.
Nina Gibans [00:29:38] In his library with his father.
Charles Schulman [00:29:44] Right. Mr. Kane was on the board. He was one of the original or maybe not the original but in the early boards of the condomium association. And there was always... And later on, his wife Lillian Kane was on the board. There were a number of people who were very influential in Cleveland society who lived in this building, very well-known people.
Nina Gibans [00:30:11] I love the quote that I got from the garage staff, not Toyce, but the next one, Chris Pollard.
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