A structure in Cleveland that was originally a mansion belonging to the family who founded Glidden Paint Company now serves as a 60-room boutique hotel on Case Western Reserve University’s campus.
CLEVELAND—Though the original Glidden family mansion operates as a hotel today, the history of the original owners and their home are still reflected throughout the property.
The 60-room Glidden House, which features 52 guestrooms in the hotel’s addition and eight suites in what was the original mansion, sits on Case Western Reserve University’s campus. Though the structure has always been part of the university, it took a while before the mansion became a hotel.
Francis K. Glidden, son of the Glidden Paint Company founder, built the house for his family in 1910. After the last of the family members died, CWRU took over the home and turned it into a building in its psychology department and then into a law school annex. It was purchased by its current owners in 1987 and began operating as a hotel in 1989.
Tom Farinacci has been the GM at Glidden House since 2000. He said the hotel had a “country inn” feel when he started, with a lot of lace and floral patterns.
“It was just like your grandmother’s house,” he said. “It took a couple years to really transform it from that country inn feel to boutique hotel feel.”
The woodwork and ceilings, as well as the interior, throughout the hotel have been preserved to maintain the integrity of the mansion, he said. The next project will be the restoration of the exterior brickwork and stonework, which will take place in the spring and summer, he said.
Business at Glidden House
Today, the hotel sees a large share of group business come from corporate meetings and weddings, and Farinacci said CWRU is the hotel’s No.1 client.
“We do a lot of group blocks with Case, individual travelers that are visiting Case. We’re a good partner for them,” he said. “They have a special rate with us, and we support them any way we can. We (give) a lot of donations to Case, so it’s been a pretty good marriage.”
The hotel also sees a lot of group business from University Hospital, Cleveland Clinic and museums in the area as well as from weddings. Glidden House does about 35 weddings a year, Farinacci said, adding that the “building kind of sells itself when people walk in.”
“There’s a lot of charm,” he said. “If they are history buffs at all, if they appreciate historic buildings, it sells itself for the most part.”
April to May and September to October are the busiest months for the hotel, but “we stay busy,” Farinacci said, adding that Glidden House “ran 80% occupancy” throughout 2019.
Remembering the Glidden family
Each of the eight mansion suites is named after a member of the Glidden family, and features their favorite hobbies, Farinacci said.
For example, Francis K. Glidden was a cigar smoker, so his suite features artwork of cigars. Cocktails at the Palette Lounge are also named after family members, Farinacci said.
“The color scheme within each suite is taken from the original eight paint colors that Glidden (offered) in the early 1900s, late 1800s,” he added.
The Glidden House staff
If he had to pick his favorite thing about Glidden House, Farinacci said it would be working with the current staff and interacting with guests.
“Our staff is small, we have 34 people on our staff, and with only 60 rooms, it’s really easy for us to get to know our guests,” he said.
The hotel has a lot of repeat guests, and the staff focuses on getting to know those guests.
“The interaction between guests and staff is important to us,” he said. “I look forward to that every day.”
The history of the building, the look of the physical structure and the service provided by staff is what sets Glidden House apart from other hotels in the market, Farinacci said.
“Our (staff), they have a high level of service acumen,” he said. “Taking care of every guest who walks through the door is important to us; they’re not just another guest, not just another number. If I’m a 300-room property and I have 300 guests staying in my hotel, it’s really hard to get to know them.
“But here it’s not. …The staff does a very good job of interacting with our guests and getting to know all of them. That’s the difference between (Glidden House) and a large big-box (hotel).”
Since Glidden House is located in the cultural center of Cleveland, Farinacci said artwork is very important to the hotel.
The hotel features works from well-known artists such as Robert Motherwell, but also takes pride in its collection of works from local artists, Farinacci said.
“We made a conscious effort to support the Cleveland art scene,” he said. “Everything in the new (part of the hotel) is all Cleveland artists.”
He added that the hotel has a self-guided tour for guests to view its art collection.