Against all evidence, Robin Yates believed in Prospect Avenue. This was the '70s, when "Cleveland was the murder capital of the world" and he could look down his street and see hookers standing nude in their windows.
"Prospect was the worst," he says now, in the refined elegance of his parlor. "There were 500 prostitutes from 55th straight down to Tower City. It was just like Mardi Gras every single night." Sin, sex, and danger ruled.
Still, the Cleveland native bought and restored an 1874 red brick townhouse and lived in it for 16 years. He moved out only when the Midtown Corridor community development corporation began turning Prospect around and he knew his house would be safe without him. For eight years, he rehabbed residences on the near West Side, while a home health-care business used his home for its offices. Three years ago, he moved back and turned it into a bed & breakfast.
Yates's Brownstone Inn is one of 80 featured in travel writer Doris Larson's new book, Bed & Breakfast Getaways From Cleveland. The Brownstone is one of the "City Stays" featured along with Akron's O'Neil House, Cleveland's Baricelli Inn, and B&B's in Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Michigan.
Being an innkeeper suits Yates just fine. "That's like my vacation," he says. "Interesting people come to me and give me a chance to brag about Cleveland."
He recalls one rainy weekend when all his guests happened to be actors. Everybody just hung out and swapped theater stories. "And I get paid for this," Yates says.
He gladly gives driving tours to show off the city to out-of-towners and has been known to take his guests for steak and cocktails at a friend's home in the Detroit-Shoreway area. Cleveland-area suburbanites who have stayed at the inn for a downtown getaway are welcome to drop in for breakfast. It's like a party every weekend, he says.
Not only is it fun, he's pleased when guests exclaim how safe and clean his neighborhood is. Now, that's progress.