A city’s architecture is like tree rings that tell its life story. Cleveland’s industrial decline in the last part of the twentieth century left much of the city’s architectural legacy intact, and its buildings now stand as a living timeline.
One of the most notable examples is Cleveland’s Arcade, which opened its doors in 1890 to become one of the nation’s first indoor shopping centers.
Once known as Cleveland’s Crystal Palace, The Arcade connects five stories of galleries to two ten story towers.
Along its indoor balconies were boutique shops and restaurants. It was, in 1973, among the first buildings to be placed on the National Register of Historic Places.
A partnership with Hyatt Hotels rescued the Arcade from the wrecking ball with a restoration completed in 2001, and today Cleveland’s Hyatt Regency occupies the twin towers and top three levels of the atrium.
The Arcade’s two entrances connect Euclid and Superior Avenues at 14th Street. The lower two levels remain open to the public.
By 1924, the Cleveland Trust Company, was the nation’s sixth largest bank.
Like many Cleveland buildings constructed early in the century, its home office reflects the neo-classical influence of Chicago’s 1893 Columbian Exposition…. the “White City.”
It’s not surprising that the muralist who did much of the work on the Columbian Exposition was chosen to paint its interior murals. The building was completed in 1908.
John D. Rockefeller lived in Cleveland for thirty-five years, and founded his Standard Oil Company there. His seventeen-story Rockefeller Building, completed in 1905, was designed in Chicago’s “Sullivanesque” style.
Cleveland’s zenith as an industrial powerhouse in the years between the World Wars fueled a building boom which defined a clear break from the city’s past and made Deco a major architectural feature of its central business district.
Art Deco architecture first appeared in France after World War I and became internationally popular from the 1920s until shortly after World War II.
It’s a style that integrates craft motifs with Machine Age imagery and materials, employing rich colors, bold geometric shapes and lavish ornamentation.
Art Deco was a reflection of luxury and glamour, and the nation’s exuberance and faith in social and technological progress.
Playhouse Square is a row of five Euclid Avenue theaters built in the early 1920s.
These temples to the golden age of Hollywood are done in decorative themes that would do any Las Vegas casino proud. Playhouse Square was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.
The Ohio and State Theaters – both in the Italianate style – the Allen with its Pompeiian motif Allen, the Classical Hanna, and the French Renaissance Palace theaters have a combined total of over 10,000 seats, making Playhouse Square the largest performing arts center in the U.S. outside of New York City.
These theaters presented serious theater, vaudeville shows, and movies for nearly half a century,.
The growth of the suburbs and the rise of TV led to their decline in the years after World War II, and by July 1969, all but one of the theaters had closed.
Plans to raze the vacant theaters in the ’70’s caused a public outcry, and public-private partnerships raised $40 million for the Square’s renovation.
Most of the work was completed between 1979-1988.
In 1978, Playhouse Square became one of nearly 400 Cleveland area sites named to the National Register of Historic Places.
The Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, which connects Public Square to the Cleveland Clinic, opened its Playhouse Square station in 2008.
So far I’ve not ventured more than ten blocks from Cleveland’s Public Square, so there’s still plenty more to see here.
Still to come: An exploration of Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River roots and the stunning monuments of its Lakeview Cemetery.
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