Developer Sam Petros saves Farnam Manor

By Sheldon Ocker

When Sam Petros first saw Farnam Manor last December, his reaction was, “No way,’’ as in no way am I going to commit to this money pit, even if it is one of Richfield’s most historic homes.

Part of the mansion dates to the 1830s and, unfortunately, it looked it. Through the decades, there had been many owners, including a former Akron police chief and the operators of the Danish Smorgasbord restaurant, from 1948-1972.

After that, the property began to deteriorate, and none of the subsequent owners had the resources to keep up with even basic renovations. Finally, the property was taken over by the Farnam Foundation, a nonprofit that hoped to begin restoring the property. Instead, mortgage payments were difficult to raise, and in 2019 the foundation decided it had to sell.

Petros retained the character and style of the Farnam Manor, along with a beautiful tree in the front of the property.

Petros, who operates Petros Homes and has built residential communities in Richfield, took a look at Farnam Manor. His first reaction was negative.

“How many others have tried to do this and failed?’’ he said.

But he was captivated by the old house. “It may not be a good idea,’’ Petros said at the time, “but I got a little connected to the property.’’

He started thinking about a concrete plaque embedded in the Farnam Manor chimney, placed there by a former owner, Susan Yvonne Zaruba, in 1990. “Love and cherish this classic domain,’’ read the plaque. “For I shall go but it will remain. Please take care of it for me, for it is part of history.’’

Petros is a pragmatic businessman. Still, he wondered if he was the person who could (should?) bring Farnam Manor back to life.

That was almost a year ago. Five weeks ago, Petros moved his company headquarters into modern, gleaming, attractive Farnam Manor. “The hardest thing was jumping in to begin with,’’ he said. “But I’m a builder, so who else could do it.’’

Petros renovated the home into administrative offices. “We rebuilt the whole house, keeping it in the old style,’’ he said. “We also added a design center and construction headquarters in a 6,000-square-foot addition. The house isn’t really efficient for offices, but it’s really nice office space. If it were efficient, it would be a big open space where we could jam all kinds of people into.’’

Clients can visit the design center and with the help of in-house designers can select cabinetry, flooring, plumbing fixtures and other interior necessities. Those whose expertise is in the building arts are housed in the construction building.

Petros did not try to recreate the house of the 1800s. “I would have had to take off the front porch, and I wasn’t going to do that,’’ he said.

About 30 people work at the property, and they have certain amenities.

“We have a really nice kitchen,’’ Petros said.

When Petros committed to saving Farnam Manor, he estimated the job would cost about $500,000. He said he paid about $300,000 for the house plus another $115,000 for eight acres across the street.

Recently, he declined to put a number on cost of the project. “I don’t want to talk about it’’ he said. “I actually don’t know yet. I’m still spending.’’  ∞

Featured Photo: A coal-burning fireplace retained its prominent spot in a meeting room. Photos submitted.