The Hough neighborhood on Cleveland’s east side faced tough times over several decades, especially after the Hough Riots in 1966. Many homes had boarded or broken windows, empty lots abounded, and debris cluttered the streets. The condition of Hough left the neighborhood vulnerable to violence, crime, and foreclosures. With the future of Hough in question, one man hoped to make a difference.
After serving prison time in the late 1990s, Cleveland native Mansfield Frazier re-evaluated his life choices, and wanted to give back to his hometown. Frazier created a non-profit, Neighborhood Solutions, Inc., and used his own money to form Chateau Hough in 2010. Located at the corner of East 66th and Hough Avenue, Chateau Hough occupies three former empty lots, now housing grape vineyards. One contributor to Chateau Hough was ReImagining Cleveland, a grant program that has provided funding for over 50 environmental projects located on vacant lots across the city. The community program, initiated by the predecessor to Cleveland Neighborhood Progress, was dedicated to reusing vacant lots for the community’s benefit. The program worked with the city to award Chateau Hough $15,000.
In order to be a part of the urban pioneer movement, Frazier took up residence across the street from the nascent vineyards. Frazier believed that Chateau Hough would help re-establish the black middle class. Chateau Hough’s main objective is to prevent at-risk youth from entering the criminal system, in what is called “pre-entry,” by giving them something to do after school. Former inmates and war veterans also serve as volunteers, working and pruning over 200 vines.
Along with its role in trying to address the conditions that often lead to incarceration, Chateau Hough’s main selling point is the abundance of grapes produced to make wine. Working with volunteers from the community, the vacant lots were first cleared of debris. Then, the grapevines were planted, along with stakes and wires for their support.
The vineyards grow two distinct kinds of grapes, which can survive the cold winters in Cleveland. These grapes are called the Traminette and Frontenac. Chateau Hough’s website offers descriptions of these grapes, including what type of flavor both produce. These grapes have so far made seven varied, contemporary wines. The success of the wines is evident; Chateau Hough won second place in the Great Geauga County Fair in 2014, and made news in both the New York Times Sunday magazine and Oprah Winfrey’s O magazine. The vineyard also grows shiitake mushrooms and strawberries. Chateau Hough is able to grow all this produce year-round despite Cleveland’s harsh winters by using what is called a biocellar.
According to biologist Jean Loria, biocellars are repurposed basements of old, abandoned homes that are remodeled into greenhouses. Chateau Hough began using biocellars in 2014, allowing produce to be grown during the colder seasons. Frazier and Loria worked together by using this technological advancement. The idea was to bring the neighborhood back into a positive light and generate more revenue.
In 2018, Neighborhood Solutions Inc. obtained a permit to sell the wines made at Chateau Hough. Frazier’s initial plan was for the wine to be sold in Edwins Restaurant, an enterprise located in Shaker Square whose mission is to reduce recidivism by providing training to formerly incarcerated people in the culinary field. Frazier also plans on working with other restaurants to sell his wine. In addition to running Chateau Hough, Frazier has been involved in journalism and radio. His radio show “The Forum” airs on WTAM 1100 every Sunday evening, and contributes to publications on social and criminal justice.