Macedonia's Longwood Manor opens to public

Jeff Saunders (jsaunders@gannett.com)

MACEDONIA — As Terri Hudak sat in a chair in the library of Col. William Frew Long’s home, she remembered years ago when she and the city’s first mayor would sit by the nearby fireplace during her visits.

“We would just talk,” she said.

She also remembered his beehives outside the dining room and him letting her ride his lift chair up the staircase.

“He was a great individual, a great man,” she said of her friend.

Though the lift chair and the bee hives are long gone, the public can once again see part of the 96-year-old home’s interior after it was shut down for several months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

John Cassmer, president of the Longwood Manor Historical Society, said the group reopened the Manor House in June for free tours of the first floor on the last Sunday of the month from 1 to 4 p.m. The next open house is set for this Sunday.

Longwood Manor Historical Society president John Cassmer stands and visits with other members of the historical society in the home’s library.

Visitors should use the drive off the south side of Route 82, east of Longwood Park’s main entrance. The public is also invited to attend historical society meetings at the Manor House on the fourth Tuesday of the month, except November and December, at 6:30 p.m.

Only 30 people are allowed inside at a time and masks and social distancing are required.

Another event that the society is also hoping will go forward is a craft show on Dec. 5. Deb Mikulski, the group’s first vice president, said the cost for crafters wanting to take part is $35. Checks, payable to Longwood Manor Historical Society, can be mailed to Mikulski at 142 May Avenue, Northfield Village, 44067. Checks will be returned uncashed if the event has to be canceled.

Cassmer said the society is looking at reviving fundraising “ghost hunts” that took place at the Manor House in the 2000s and the Manor House is available for rent for events, such as small weddings and receptions.

“We’d like to see the community use the house more,” he said.

How the manor was saved

Members of the Longwood Manor Historical Society recently gathered in the Manor House's library.  From left, First Vice President Deb Mikulski, Carole Pleskovic, Vice President of Operations John Leben, President John Cassmer , Marc Zeleznik, Secretary Dorothy Berman, and Terri Hudak, Not pictured is Treasurer Rose Cassmer. Hudak was a friend of Col. William Frew Long, the city's first mayor who bequeathed the Manor House to the city.

Longwood Manor has certainly had its share of troubles in the 21st century. Long bequeathed his now nearly century-old home to the city when he died in 1983, along with the bulk of his estate of several hundred acres. It is now Longwood Park on the north and south sides of Route 82. About 30 acres at the northeast corner of Route 82 and Shepard Road was dedicated to the Longwood Branch YMCA and Long gave land for St. Timothy’s Episcopal Church off Shepard Road and Momentum Christian Church on the north side of Route 82.

But in 2007, citing multiple issues, the city condemned the home following years of neglect. Some city officials, pointing to an estimate of more than $500,000 to make repairs, pushed to demolish the house. But City Council granted time to give the historical society, which had been designated as the manor’s official caretaker in the early 2000s, more time for coming up with a way to make those repairs.

Thanks to donations, including labor by professional contractors, the most serious issues have been remedied and in 2014 the Manor House was placed on the National Park Service’s National Register of Historic Places after years of effort.

“The house is sound; it’s structurally sound,” said Cassmer.

The Nordonia Hills Garden Club just this year worked to beautify the grounds outside, building on work the historical society had done during the last few years. Cassmer’s wife, Rose, who serves as LMHS’ treasurer, is a garden club member. She said the garden club purchased about 20 plants while individual members and others donated about 50 more.

“My favorite are the butterfly bushes because they attract all these big butterflies,” she said.

Nordonia Hills Garden Club members Elaine Beno and Donna Patz tend to one of the many garden beds that encompass Macedonia's Longwood Manor.

Much work still needs to be done.

“There’s always something to do and the volunteers do most of that,” said Cassmer.

He said the society hopes to paint the home’s exterior this year, using rented lift equipment, and is seeking volunteers. Those interested can call Cassmer at 330-467-1704 or LMHS Vice President of Operations John Leben at 216-780-5399.

Cassmer said the volunteers are hoping to work on the largely unfurnished second floor this winter so that it can also be open to the public. This includes some ceiling and plastering work and painting and wallpapering. Then, at some point, would come the third-floor servants quarters, though Cassmer said he is uncertain what exactly needs to be done there.

‘A very, very nice man’

One of the historical society members, Hudak recalled Mayor Long as “a very, very nice man.”

“He was a good mayor for Macedonia, and if he heard of anybody at all that needed help with anything, he would go and help them out.”

A photograph of Col. William Frew Long, the first mayor of Macedonia, sits on a side table in Longwood Manor's library.

Hudak, who has lived in Macedonia for 53 years, does not remember what year she met Long, but it was on a Sunday morning at Macedonia Church of the Nazarene off Valley View Road near City Hall. Hudak was sitting in a pew waiting for the services to start when Long, who knew the pastor, came in.

“I guess he didn’t want to sit by himself, so he saw me with my family and there was a space open, so he came and sat down alongside of me and introduced himself,” she said. “Afterwards, after church, he wanted to know my name, and I told him because he was the mayor of Macedonia and from then on, we became real good friends.”

Hudak said she advised Long, then in his 90s, to run for his final term after he expressed doubts to her, particularly since he was running against two much younger men. The day after the election, she said, Long rewarded her with a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

Long left office in 1976 at the age of 96. During his final few years, he lived in an assistant living facility in Twinsburg, dying there at age 103.

“I went up there four, five times to see him, and he was happy to see me,” said Hudak.

Hudak said that when she learned of the potential demolition, she went to a City Council meeting and spoke out against it.

“I said over my dead body is anyone going to tear down Mayor Long’s house,” she said. “I continued to go to the meetings and this is how I met John [Cassmer] and became a member of [LMHS].”

When asked what he would say if someone asked him why local residents should care about the Manor House, Cassmer said, “This is the history of Macedonia.”

“That was the home of the first mayor of Macedonia, so it’s part of our history,” he said. “We should keep our history and learn about it. We should teach our children about our history.”

Besides, he said, Long was an interesting man; long lived and also a veteran of both world wars.

“He’s quite a story,” he said.

Go to http://www.longwoodmanor.org for more information about William Frew Long and the Longwood Manor Historical Society, including how to donate or become a member.

Reporter Jeff Saunders can be reached at jsaunders@recordpub.com or @JeffSaunders_RP.