ROCKY RIVER, Ohio – For six years we’ve lived here, tickled by the history of the Kaiser family, who for decades owned our century farmhouse and a family flower business.
Neighbors told us stories about the indomitable Dorothy Kaiser, who lived in the house as a teenager and then raised her family within our walls. Her granddaughter sent us photos of the green carpet and the greenhouses.
But we never knew who built the house in 1913. Until one July afternoon, the answer knocked on my door.
Lots of readers have asked me how my house is going or sent me emails since this column began. But this visit floored me. The descendant of the first owner arrived bearing information, a wedding photo and postcards from 1923.
Paula Ljubic Kucinc, who has lived in Rocky River her whole life, told me about Lars and Mary Anderson, who bought the Northview Road property from the city of Rocky River in the early 1900s.
The village was founded in 1903, part of Rockport Township. It was mostly rural then, with a resort atmosphere along the shores of Lake Erie. Greenhouses were a big business.
The Andersons were immigrants, Mary from what is now the Czech Republic and Lars from Scandinavia. They started a floral shop and greenhouse business. And though they didn’t have children, they brought Mary’s niece, Anna Kozeny, over from the Czech Republic, to live with them.
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Anna married John Lubick, who had immigrated from what is now Croatia and had to change his name from Ljubic when he came to America.
John is Paula’s uncle, who sponsored her father’s immigration to America.
The Andersons lost the house in the Great Depression, when the Hortons – Dorothy Kaiser’s parents – bought it. The Hortons had already owned a flower business where Westwood Town Center is now on Center Ridge. Eventually, Dorothy and her husband, Eugene, started Kaiser Greenhouse and Flower Shop on Northview.
Over the years, they closed in doors and added bathrooms, painted and carpeted and made the house their own. But the house retained the same stately shape.
The Ljubics remained in River. Paula grew up here with her brother and sister, and their dad owned Leo’s Carpet, next to Heinen’s, she said.
“As we grew up, we were always intrigued by the house and the history behind it,” Paula wrote me in a letter. “As you start the next chapter of this home’s history with your family, I hope it will be filled with love, laughter and lots of beautiful new memories that your family can continue to share for decades to come.”
Paula gave me a copy of Anna and John’s wedding picture, with the Andersons standing behind them. She also gave me two postcards sent to Anna at the house in 1923. They fit perfectly in my vintage-décor office.
Now we’re adding on to the house by finishing the attic, a construction project I’ve dreamed about for years and planned for the last 10 months. The work is taking longer than I envisioned. But what’s a few more months in the saga of a century-old home?