Emil Gaydos, 93, decorated his power wheelchair with flags for the occasion. He’s lived in Shore Acres since 1965 and, like most of his neighbors, he’s always up for a party. “I don’t miss anything,” he says, holding a piece of the pound cake that’s served at every celebration in this Cleveland neighborhood. Behind him, three picnic tables are packed with food. The lake is calm today; the cupcake-fueled children climbing on the swing set are not.
Megan and Daniel Doerr live a few houses down from the community park where the party is being held. They had been perfectly happy, blissful even, living in a Cleveland neighborhood filled with restaurants and restored Victorian homes. “I never thought I’d leave,” Megan says. What drew her to Shore Acres seven years ago was the chance to live on the water.
But she and her husband ended up getting so much more than a good view. They became a part of a small but tight neighborhood with a penchant for parties and an everyone-is-welcome mentality. All ages, races and income levels live here. Sure, there are yuppies in renovated lakefront homes worth more than a half million, but many homes without lake views can be had for less than $100,000.
The commonality is a love of the lake — and of celebrations big and small. There are Friday-night movies in the park, horseshoe games, progressive dinners, parades, weekly bonfires and tons of impromptu meet-ups. “Whoever is cooking is where we end up,” Megan says. What’s more, at least five weddings have taken place overlooking the water in the past 10 years.
But the biggest bash is always July Fourth. It starts early with a decorated bike parade, moves to the park for a shared feast and culminates down by the water in an old boathouse carved into the side of a hill that, according to legend, used to be the domain of bootleggers. Meredith Pangrace and her husband, Scott Stettin, own the property now and use the secret space for neighborhood jam sessions and parties.
Shore Acres encompasses 168 houses on the near east side of Cleveland. It was developed in the 1920s by the Shore Acres Land Co. to be a showcase of architectural styles. Thus, every house has a theme. One house looks like it belongs in the Mediterranean. Another was built to resemble a pagoda. There’s a chalet, a Tudor and an Arts and Crafts-style home.
Jessica Wolf is the granddaughter of Alexander Wolf, the architect who designed the pagoda house. She moved to Shore Acres this spring to a house built in 1924 on a street that ends at the lake. She and her husband are restoring the home to its original condition.
She liked the house initially, but she loved the people. The first time she looked at the property, she felt welcome. “The neighbor from across the street came running up,” Wolf says. “She was smiling and waving. I knew then this was where I wanted to be.”
At the party, Theresa Mitchell’s famous pound cake is running low. She says she makes it probably a dozen times a year for various events. She’s been making it — “everybody close your ears” — for 25 years. “And I can’t just make one,” she adds. It goes too fast.
Chris and Anne Brown moved to Shore Acres from Chicago. “We saw a listing and it said beach access and so we just went for it,” she says. The couple has a 5-year-old daughter and a 3-year-old son. Living in the city with small children has proven to be far more rewarding than they imagined.
“We don’t need summer camp,” Anne says. “Because we’re all here on the lake.”
Their kids are playing today with more than a dozen other children. While some little ones try to sneak more cupcakes, two older girls sit on swings and chat. The adults sip sangria and beer at tables overlooking the water.
Everybody’s having fun — together. Just like they always do at Shore Acres.
By Danielle Rini-Uva
By Meredith Pangrace
Whatever’s Growing Summer Salad
By Megan Doerr
Every-Party Pound Cake
By Theresa Mitchell
Classic Deviled Eggs
By Theresa Mitchell