Over the time span of some years now, I have watched this mansion go from completely trashed and seemingly unsalvageable, to a wonderfully amazing and beautiful structure once again. This may be one of the greatest historical restorations I have seen, and I am so glad and feel so lucky that I have been given the chance to see such a place come back from the dead like this. Thank you so much to Arthur and Carol Shamakian for being so amazing, welcoming and such great people for restoring this amazing structure. Below, I will provide a detailed history of the Steele Mansion, along with a gallery of how I have photographed it over the years and how it has finally come to be. Without Arthur and Carol, this mansion would for sure be no more.
THE FOLLOWING SECTION WAS WRITTEN ALMOST ENTIRELY BEFORE THERE WERE PLANS TO RESTORE IT AT ALL, AND THE CITY WANTED TO TEAR IT DOWN.
This and more can be found in my book “Empty Spaces” which you can get from this LINK.
As we take a journey through time, back to 1863; or almost 150 years ago we can mentally restore these decayed ruins, blanketed in piles of dust, overgrown with moss and mold, exfoliating images of what once were beautifully painted walls.
The Steele Mansion; built in 1863 for a very opulent man, by the name of George W. Steele. Steele was a wealthy businessman who had called for the building of the mansion in 1863; purchasing it upon completion in 1866, and finally welcoming the Steele family in through its large, wooden doors; to live among the exquisitely painted corridors, brilliant wood workings, and admirable marble fire places in 1867. Steele would go on to use the front portion of the house, while the rear bit was used by servants.
April 4, 1881; the date George Steele spent his last moments on Earth. Succeeding his death; at the age of 57, his family was now left with the mansion which they continued to maintain.
According to information gathered through others, the mansion was then after passed between different members of the Steele family either close or extended over the course of several decades.
In the year 1917, a man by the name of E.D. Heartwell purchased the property and ordered as well for a house to be constructed beside it. Shortly after; in July during an unknown year, Heartwell then sold the mansion to a lawyer by the name of H.E. Hammar. Shortly after purchasing the property, Hammar passed away in 1920; only owning the mansion for a very short period of time.
In the year 1921, The Hammar Estate sold the dwelling to Lake Erie College; which sits crosswise to the mansion itself. Now the new home to four college presidents, the mansion was about to see even more life within its walls. Of course, the mansion had at this point already seen a great deal of peoples lives within its elegant corridors, but would only come to compile its stories over time. In 1958, a college president by the name of Paul Weaver said his goodbyes to the mansion, and migrated to the Morley Farm in Concord Township. The mansion was then after converted to a college dormitory, for students.
As we continue through 22 years, we end up in 1980 when the mansion was sought after by a company called Kertes Enterprises, a Cleveland company that had longed to purchase it and use its halls for a multifamily dwelling. Eventually, within the 80s’ someone had done just that; the mansion was purchased and used as a block of apartments.
In the year 1998 the Steele Mansion was purchased by Christina and Clyde Dubeansky of Painesville, Ohio; the town where the mansion itself stands.
Christina and her husband spent much of their time fixing up, and restoring the mansion to its former grandeur. Christina was quoted saying “my husband and I had sold our home and put everything we had into it. Not only did I think it was a beautiful historical home, but for the city as well, to have a home that was that grand restored to its original beauty was amazing. We loved living in it and restoring it. It was a dream come true for us. We had driven by it for years before we owned it and thought, ‘Some day, we’re going to know somebody who owns it and get invited in.’ We finished the restoration that the Karen and Doug Group started.”
A few years of restoration had passed, when in January of 2001 the mansion had caught fire while contractors were melting ice that had formed on the roof. This transpired during the Dubeansky’s ownership, and unfortunately they were left without proper funds to restore it once again.
Some years of bombardment by natural weather occurrence; with an open roof due to the temporary one falling in, and no caretaker turned the mansion into a canvas for nature itself. Floors were slowly beginning to grow moss of a bright green, windows became clouded, pieces of the architecture itself continued to break, and fall. The walls started to scream as paint began to lift from its grasp creating abstract patterns of decay throughout the houses corridors.
Christina is also quoted saying “I literally drove on the streets around it so that I didn’t have to pass by it. It made us heartsick every time we had to drive past it and see the damage. I felt bad for the neighbors around it for being an eye sore for them.” What Christina wasn’t aware of is how much of a beautiful, and floridly colorful scene this would in time, create for explorers.
The home was sold to Marous Brothers Construction in 2004, and shortly after was purchased by Painesville Resident Timothy Herron in 2006.
In early 2009, bombardment by a severe windstorm resulted in the collapsing of one of the mansions chimneys, partially destroying some of the floors inside and reaching to the boiler system damaging that as well. A little while after this, the city came in and knocked in two more, altogether caving in the floors all the way through to the basement level.
It was estimated by Doug Lewis that it would take anywhere from one to two million dollars to restore correctly and at this point it would have to be “somebody who would do it for the love of renovating the home or for historical reasons.”
Because of the buildings condition at the time, it was issued an order for demolition until it was sold at an auction by Timothy Herron to Arthur Shamakian; a person who would come to restore it for either the love of renovating it or historical reasons…or both.
The mansion is currently under way to be fully restored, inside and out. Garbage has been cleaned up, and pieces of the mansion have been collected to be pieced back together; a puzzle created by the once perishing structure. A structure that went from a beautiful creation, to a beautiful disaster, and is now becoming again a stunning architectural reconstruction. All it needed was someone willing to give it a face-lift.
“I hope it’s restored to what it was previous to the fire. I’d love to see somebody build her back up to what she was.” – Christina Dubeansky
The owner at the time of the mansions enigmatic decay would let us explore through, and was nice enough to give us bits of information here and there, not bothering to call the police as long as we would not vandalize or cause any other destruction or trouble. Never vandalize and destroy; that is not what urban exploration is about.
Surprisingly enough; through the years it was left to rot, vandals, looters, and the like had never reaped the marble which once belonged to the fireplaces that lined the many rooms of this architectural masterpiece.