How Hamlet Came to Be
Early in 1960 articles appeared in the local newspapers detailing plans of civic leaders to build a facility for the housing and care of those who were retired. Two of the men, Earle Gregg and James Bauman, lived in Chagrin Falls. Paul Swetland was a resident of Hunting Valley. Dr. John Storasli, a resident of Shaker Heights, became the head of the Medical Advisory Committee. Mr. Bauman and Mr. Swetland visited retirement communities in the west and returned filled with enthusiasm for the development.
First a site had to be secured and in late 1960 it was announced that the location would be the wooded tract located on the Mill Pond and bounded by Cleveland Street on the west. The Chagrin Falls Village Council passes a special zoning ordinance for retirement living and construction began in June 1961. Building 1 was ready for occupancy in March 1962. On the first weekend of Open House about 1,000 visitors came to see for themselves what this new retirement center had to offer.
Building 2 was occupied in the spring of 1963 and Building 3 was already occupied just as ground was broken for Homestead Manor (The Manor). Buildings 4 and 5 were built at the same time, followed by the building of a new road to provide access to the area where three more apartment buildings and several houses now stand. The road was completed in time to begin the construction of Buildings 6 and 7 in November 1964.
The building of the first three houses began a new chapter in the development of Hamlet. The first one was occupied in May 1969, the second in September of the same year. “No children under 50 are permitted,” said a news release announcing the completion of two more apartment buildings at Hamlet in September 1970.
Hamlet’s design was revolutionary in many aspects and established standards that are still being emulated today. When it was built Hamlet was the nation’s largest non-denominational retirement community, welcoming residents of all faiths.
Hamlet was also the first large residential community that utilized all underground electrical cables. While this approach was expensive the developers felt strongly that they did not want telephone poles and electrical wires to detract from the beauty of Hamlet’s natural setting
A quote from a newsletter in September of 1970 said “(Hamlet) has become Chagrin Falls’ most notable acquisition and its residents…are young enough in heart and spirit to make fine citizens. Many have become well liked and as widely known in the community at large as others who have lived in the village all their lives. They have taken part in the social and religious life of the community, established lasting friendships outside their own domain, and contributed valuable knowledge and talents to community enterprises”.
Hamlet continued to grow and thrive as active retirees throughout the area found what they had been looking for – a diverse community of friendly, interesting and active seniors with enthusiasm for living life to its fullest. Many Hamlet residents noted that it was important to them to be close to their adult children and grandchildren, many of whom had moved to the suburbs surrounding Chagrin Falls.
By the early 1980’s Hamlet had grown to include 128 garden style apartments in the twelve Hillside buildings, nine single family homes and the 82 bed health care center known as the Manor. In 1985 Hamlet was purchased by Encore Retirement Partners, LP, a group of investors interested in sponsoring high quality senior living communities. Encore hired the Retirement Living Group, a division of a national company, to manage Hamlet. The management company hired a former Cleveland native, Marc Benson, to oversee the operations of Hamlet and its sister communities located throughout the United States.
In 1985 the next step in Hamlet’s continuing evolution was announced. Hamlet began construction of a new 80,000 square foot state of the art building known as The Atrium. The Atrium was conceived as the next logical step in Hamlet’s mission to enable seniors to live in what is known as a Continuing Care Retirement Community. In a Continuing Care Retirement Community most residents usually move in as very active, independent residents and choose to reside in independent apartments and homes such as those found in the Hillside Apartments and Homes. Should residents ever need or desire more assistance they can choose to move to a building like the Atrium to get more assistance and yet still remain in the same community where they have established new friendships.
The Atrium was designed to offer 80 one bedroom and studio apartments. In addition the Atrium was designed to serve as a community center by offering a restaurant style dining room, large open community spaces, a beauty shop, sundry shop, chapel and bank branch.
With the addition of the Atrium building Hamlet also brought a fresh new hospitality approach to senior living. Most retirement communities at that time were run by executives with a hospital administration background. The new management company’s chief operating executive, Marc Benson, had grown up in a hospitality environment and had studied at Cornell University’s School of Hotel Administration. Benson hired a team of experienced hotel and resort executives to supervise the company’s senior housing communities.
From 1985 to 1995 Hamlet enjoyed a reputation as one of the best run, most resident focused retirement communities in the senior housing profession, earning several awards including the “E for Excellence” award. In 1986 controlling interest in Hamlet was purchased by an out of state company, RCA later known as Sun HealthCare. While the new owners had good intentions, senior housing was not their core business and many residents felt that this was not beneficial for Hamlet. In 2000 the former owners repurchased controlling interest in Hamlet and hired a management company owned and run by former Cleveland native Marc Benson to manage Hamlet.
The new millennium marked a fresh and exciting rebirth for Hamlet. With the former owners back in place plans were made for an extensive renovation of Hamlet’s beautiful grounds and buildings. In 2001 the first three Hillside Apartment Buildings were extensively renovated with fresh, new exteriors with an architectural feel more consistent with homes of the Western Reserve. Following the renovations and with the former management team back in place, occupancy in these buildings soared from 72% to 95%.
In 2001 the second floor of the Atrium building was converted to Assisted Living, providing a new level of housing and care for those who want to remain as independent as possible by receiving some personal assistance.
Within six months of this conversion the Atrium Assisted Living achieved 100% occupancy. While Assisted Living apartments are available to non-Hamlet residents, existing Hamlet residents have priority admission status.
In the same busy year Hamlet’s nursing center, The Manor was substantially renovated. The Manor was designed and built as a premier private pay facility emphasizing a more home like ambience versus the more typical hospital like feel of most nursing homes. As an example, most nursing homes, including those being built today, have linoleum floors in both the hallways as well as the residents’ rooms. In contrast, The Manor has always emphasized carpeted hallways and resident rooms and large windows to maximize natural light.
In the 2001 renovation the Manor received all new carpeting in common areas, new ceilings, lighting and artwork. Two years later, in 2003, the Manor became certified for both Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement. In the process the Manor established the Manor Rehabilitation Center which provides short term physical, speech and occupational rehabilitation.
Hamlet, which is now owned by Hamlet Retirement Holdings, LLC, is committed to an ongoing enhancement of all of its housing and programs.
In 2005 Hamlet completed a major infrastructure project. As part of this project all of Hamlet’s extensive roads and parking areas were either replaced or upgraded. Additionally, the majority of its underground electrical utility system was replaced with current state of the art cabling and transformers. At the same time the exterior of three more Hillside Apartment buildings were extensively renovated.
The last several years has also seen a new, even more active generation of seniors choosing Hamlet as their lifestyle. While most residents have chosen to retire to pursue their hobbies and other interests, many still work part time as professors and business people. Several have taken an active interest in local politics, helping to support candidates and causes they believe in. Others have formed task forces with Chagrin Falls’s new mayor to promote the interests of seniors in our community. Another resident spearheaded a contest in collaboration with Chagrin Fall’s Village Council to create a new, official flag for Chagrin Falls.
In 2002 a group of Hamlet Residents formed the “Hamlet Ambassador Club”. One of the goals of the “Ambassadors” is to destroy the myth that the retirement years are ones of stagnation and to replace it with the reality that in today’s society retirement is the time to embrace life and all that it has to offer, and to embrace life in a community of like minded seniors who truly care about each other, something we call the Hamlet way of life.
While many visitors point to Hamlet’s extraordinarily beautiful setting overlooking the Chagrin River and its location with walking distance of the Village of Chagrin Falls, what has always distinguished Hamlet is the fascinating character and quality of its residents. Hamlet residents have continually redefined active retirement living and what it means to be part of a truly caring community for forty five years. We proudly welcome you to Hamlet and encourage you to join your new neighbors and friends to help create our future.