Ernadale: The Country Estate of Ernst W. Mueller
by Gary Swilik
In 1922, Cleveland beer baron Ernst W. Mueller built his family a new two-story Spanish-style home on the edge of Rocky River Valley out in the country in the independent City of West Park. By contemporary standards, it wasn’t quite a mansion but it was an impressive house with fine furnishings and a library filled with leather-bound books. The surrounding grounds were developed into a private park with beautiful lawns, gardens, tennis courts, and winding paths through the forest.
At the entrance to the estate on Rocky River Drive, Mr. Mueller placed a large boulder, painted white, and emblazoned with the name of his new home– “Ernadale” – in remembrance of his daughter Erna Marie Mueller who passed away at age 8 in 1890.
“Erna was Ernst’s Mueller’s special pet,” wrote Ernst’s grandson,Werner Diebolt Mueller. “Ernst never fully recovered from that terrible loss. He named his estate Ernadale in her memory.”
In the family genealogy, To Cleveland and Away: Of Muellers, Reids, and Others, published in 1992, family members provided a glimpse of life at Ernadale. “It was like the Kennedy Compound out at Ernadale,” Ernst’s granddaughter, Herol Harrington, remembered. “We’d have 25 to 30 people for Christmas and Thanksgiving . . . .”
“My three siblings and I dressed up in our Sunday best one summer day in 1930 to visit our grandparents (at (Ernadale),” reminisced Ernst’s grandson Werner Mueller. “We turned off from Rocky River Drive . . . motored down a yellow-pebbled driveway that . . . ended with a circle in front of a Spanish style residence overlooking Rocky River . . . Its roof was red Spanish tile, its sides of stucco. There at the front door . . . was Ernst Mueller, my grandfather, white haired, white mustached and white-goateed.”
For a decade Ernst Mueller, and his wife Agathe, lived at Ernadale enjoying the companionship of friends and family amid the beautiful surroundings. On January 15th, 1931, Ernst passed away at home at age 79. Agathe continued to reside at Ernadale for a few years before moving. She passed away at 93 in 1949. She and Ernst are buried beside their daughter Erna at Lake View Cemetery on Cleveland’s East Side.
Ernadale was sold to Our Lady of Angels Church in the late 1940s. For the next sixty years the former Mueller Home, at 3570 Rocky River Drive, served the church as a convent, a school and, in the 1990s, as headquarters for Beacon Street Performing Ministry, a group of theatrical clowns, musicians, puppeteers and storytellers. During this time, the Mueller home picked up the unfortunate appellation “Clown House,” the name by which many know it today.
By the early 2000s the house was vacant. The cost of maintenance became a significant drain on limited parish funds. As a result, the house at Ernadale was demolished in July 2007. During most of the 85 years it stood, many, including the author, never knew it was there. Set far back among the trees, the house was hidden behind Our Lady of Angels Church and Linus Hall. By the time its historical significance was realized, there was no time to mount an effective effort to save it. A sad loss for West Park.
The shady spot where the Mueller home once stood remained empty or ten years. In 2017, Our Lady of Angels Church constructed a new rectory and parish office on the site.
1 March 2018