Cleveland is a city of modern wonder, full of marvelous destinations and hidden treasures. However, it was a very different world before it became such a modern metropolis. As the city grew, its architecture began to reflect its most prosperous eras. As you explore many of the city’s most iconic structures, you will embark on a walking tour through the history of old Cleveland. Are you ready to travel back in time?
1. The Arcade (401 Euclid Ave., Cleveland)
The Arcade is one of the most awe-invoking places in Cleveland, but its history is even more spectacular. When it was constructed in 1890, it made history as one of the first shopping malls in the nation. It cost the equivalent of $23,600,000 in modern currency to construct, and the gorgeous structure quickly became an iconic addition to the cityscape. Though it became a National Historic Landmark in 1975, time took its toll on the structure and it was threatened with demolition. In response, the building that was once financed by John D. Rockefeller and other Cleveland industrialists underwent restoration to return it to its former glory.
2. Heinen's Downtown (900 Euclid Ave., Cleveland)
On the corner of East 9th and Euclid Ave. is a splendid building that has captivated locals for decades. The iconic Trust Rotunda was completed in 1908 and served as a baking lobby until the early 1990s. It sat vacant for decades until Heinen's opened a supermarket in the complex in 2015. Flawlessly restored, the gorgeous building continues to captivate visitors over a century after its construction.
3. The Cleveland Cultural Gardens (Rockefeller Park)
Tucked off of East 88th Street is a spectacular series of gardens that celebrates Cleveland's diversity. It was first meant to honor literary figures from around the world, but it evolved and changed after the first garden was completed in 1916. Though modern gardens are still being created, a trip to this district can allow you to tour the world and travel back in time without ever leaving Cleveland.
4. 5th Street Arcades (530 Euclid Ave., Cleveland)
Once upon a time, these charming structures were known as the Colonial and Euclid Arcades. They thrived in an era when going Downtown meant going shopping, each building hosting an impressive 40 stores. Since 2000, the two structures have been connected by a food court, but these structures from 1898 and 1911 both maintain a distinctive atmosphere.
5. Tower City (230 W Huron Rd., Cleveland)
If you haven't seen our exploration of this Jazz Age construction site, then you have to check out our
recent feature article
about this place! The Terminal Tower was originally intended to be a mere 14 stories, but it expanded and reached new heights and status. Once it was dedicated in 1930, this enchanting site was the tallest skyscraper outside of New York City with an impressive 52 stories. It opened to tenants in 1928, and though it is no longer a passenger station, locals continue to admire its vintage glamour.
6. Severance Hall (11001 Euclid Ave., Cleveland)
Yes, the place you are gazing upon is something of a palace. It is home to The Cleveland Orchestra, and its splendor has ties to one of Cleveland's more prominent Industrialists. John and Elizabeth Severance, the son and daughter-in-law of Standard Oil Trust founding member Louis Severance, were patrons of the project that still bears their family name today. Here, Classical architecture is enhanced with Art Deco and Egyptian Revival elements, leaving many to consider it the Taj Mahal of Cleveland.
7. Playhouse Square (Euclid Ave. and E. 14th St., Cleveland)
As the largest theater district outside of NYC and the home of the "World's Largest Outdoor Chandelier," Playhouse Square is certainly deserving of attention. The district began opening performance centers in 1921 and grew exponentially in a very short time. However, its success was short lived. By 1969, all of the theaters closed except for The Hanna. Fire and vandalism left the district with threats of demolition, though the city rallied to restore and save the gorgeous block. Today the district is bustling with success and high spirits, but its tales of incredible growth and sudden hardship are still hidden in the shadows of Playhouse Square.
8. The West Side Market (1979 W. 25th St., Cleveland)
History truly comes to life in Cleveland's oldest marketplace. This Ohio City gem began operating as an outdoor market in 1840, but it wasn't until 1912 that the building it now calls home was completed. Here, one doesn't have to look hard to find family-owned businesses that have served Clevelanders for generations. You will also delve into the diversity of Cleveland's immigrants as you explore ethnic options that you wouldn't be likely to discover anywhere else.
9. Crop Bistro (2537 Lorain Ave., Cleveland)
Just a stone's throw from the West Side Market is a charming New American eatery that is housed in a former bank. The site was once known as the United Bank Building, and it had a reputation for being the tallest and largest commercial edifice on Cleveland's West Side. It still maintains many of its original elements from 1925 and its banking days, including a giant vault that is the second largest between New York and Chicago.
Cleveland has a story to tell, but much of its history could only be told if walls could talk. However, at these delightful destinations, they kind of do. History comes to life as you’re experiencing the old glamour that once made Cleveland feel so modern. Which historic site is your favorite? Share your thoughts in the comments below!
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