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Buildings of the Group Plan

Renderings of Group Plan Commission

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Proposed Train Station

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Fountain at the South End of the Mall

The fountain at the south end of the mall was "intended to be a monumental structure into which a play of water is introduced. This, with the two subordinate monuments on the axis of the two main avenues or driveways, form special features of a secondary court at this end of the Mall, and furnish an attractive foreground to the Library and Post Office. The Court itself is defined by the termination of the trees at this point, giving the effect of a big open space where flower parterres are introduced. This court, taken by itself, is a very important feature of the scheme, as it forms the immediate approach to two of the principal buildings of the group the Federal Post Office and the proposed Library." as stated in the original report of the Group Plan Commission of 1903. As one can see in the renderings, it was originally planned with a triumphal arch as a passage both into the city and onto the mall with a long rectangular pool, cascades, and statuary. In the plan view of the overall Group Plan, one will notice the two subordinate monuments planned as a foreground to the Library and Post Office buildings. The original design of this feature illustrates clearly how much emphasis was placed on entering the city through the new Mall from the railway station on the lakefront.

Once the ceremonial entrance purpose of the Mall was denied by the relocation of the train station to Public Square, the design of a centralized monument that did not act as a passage or gateway in the form of the current fountain was justified.

The "Cleveland War Memorial: Fountain of Eternal Life" sculpted by Marshall Fredericks from 1945 to 1964, depicts "Peace" rising from the flames of war. The sphere is intended to represent mankind's legends and superstitions. The four granite sculptures signify the four corners of the earth. Bronze plaques embedded in the granite wall of the surrounding pool carry the names of Cuyahoga County's war casualties since the Spanish American War. It is expected that the names of recent and future soldiers who are killed on duty will be inscribed here.

Murals in the Cleveland Convention Center
The Convention Center and Public Auditorium

Frederick Betz and J.H. MacDowell, Architects, 1922,
Herman Kregelius, Architect, 1927,
Outcalt, Guenther, Rode and Bonebrake, Architects, 1964

What's Up with the Cleveland Convention Center?

The Cleveland Public Auditorium was built in 1922 as a part of the Cleveland Group Plan of 1903. The Music Hall and Little Theater were added in 1928. The convention and exhibition facility was expanded underneath the adjacent mall for the Great Lakes Exposition of 1936 and its underground spaces were greatly enlarged in 1964, then renovated again in 1988.

Written in stone across its frieze:


The main auditorium of the Cleveland Convention Center seats more than 10,000 people in a column-free, arena-style arrangement with a large proscenium arch and stage at one end. The Music Hall backs up to and shares the stage with theater-style seating for 3,000. Meeting and exhibition spaces are located below the public auditorium and the mall and include a large ballroom overlooking Lake Erie, Cleveland Browns Stadium, The Great Lakes Science Center and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

The historic venue has been the site of national political conventions, circuses, rock and roll concerts and performances of the Metropolitan Opera. It was the site of the founding of both the United Steel Workers Union and the United Church of Christ.

Download the PDF of the 1922 Souvenir Guide (13.5mb)

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Federal Building

Arnold Brunner, Architect, built 1905-1911

The Howard Metzenbaum Federal Building was originally built as the Post Office, Courthouse and Customs House at a time when all federal revenue was derived from customs taxes on foreign trade. It was the only one of the Group Plan buildings to be designed by an architectural firm from outside of Cleveland, as such, it is distinguished in its details. The Postmasters office (now demolished) was originally decorated with a series of murals by Francis Millet which are on display in the building, (though not in their original context). Two large courtrooms on the third floor overlook the Mall.

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"The United States Post Office, Custom House and Court House, Cleveland, Ohio."
by Herbert Croly,
The Architectural Record, March 1911

Download the PDF of The Architectural Record (25mb)

Cuyahoga County Courthouse

Lehman and Schmitt, Architects, with Charles Schwienfurth, built 1905-1912

The Cuyahoga County Courthouse is one of the more elegant buildings of the Group Plan. Charles Morris, a graduate of the Ecole des Beaux Arts in Paris was recruited from the architectural office of Carrere and Hastings to work as chief designer on the project. Morris' marble staircase is of exceptional workmanship and design and the stained glass window at its landing designed by Frederick Wilson and Charles Schweinfurth is quite beautiful. Modern interior decoration choices have not served to dignify the interior. The central hall has had its vaulting striped in contrasting colors and an elaborately plastered and leaded glass domed courtroom has been completely overpainted in dark teal. An overall mauve, maroon and teal scheme detract from the buildings original decorative program.

The interior of the Cuyahoga County Courthouse is distinguished by its extensive use of Colorado Yule Marble. The $500,000 contract allowed the quarry and mill operations to expand in 1909, preparing it for the huge contracts to build the buildings of the Denver Civic Center, the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

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Cleveland City Hall

Milton Dyer, Architect, 1916

The Cleveland City Hall was challenged to balance the County Courthouse in scale and budget. The result is a rather grim fortress. None of its exterior sculptural decoration has been accomplished, and the interior decoration has remained relatively plain and austere. The two ground floor spaces to either side of the central hall have had their skylights blacked-out and depression-era murals cover the massive lunettes below the central vault. The use of the fluted Doric order in this mis-named, "Rotunda", is static and acoustically painful though academically sufficient. The Council Chamber and Mayors office are welcome exceptions to the otherwise frugal spaces within the building and contain beautifully carved wood paneling and a monumentally scaled mural depicting the wealth of Cleveland. This building is not Milton Dyer's best work. His habit of drinking, womanizing and disappearing for months at a time led the members of his firm to leave and form the firm of Walker and Weeks during the construction of this building.

"The City Hall, Cleveland, Ohio"
by J. Milton Dyer,
American Architect, July 1917

Download the PDF of The City Hall, Cleveland, Ohio (2.5mb)

Cleveland Public Library

Walker and Weeks, Architects, 1925

Designed to balance and in some sense to match the Federal Building next door, the Cleveland Public Library is covered in white Georgia marble, distinguishing it from all of the other buildings of the Group Plan. The space between the Library and Federal Building was intended to form a monumental entrance into the city, focusing the axis of the Mall and balancing the train station to be built on the lakefront. Renovations in 1996 have cluttered the building with odd lighting fixtures but it remains the most public building of the Group Plan.

Download the PDF of Some Features of the Library Building of Cleveland (16mb)

by Linda A. Eastman,
Librarian, Cleveland Public Library, July 1926

Download the PDF of Architectural plans for the Cleveland Public Library (14mb)

Cleveland Board of Education Building

Walker and Weeks, Architects, 1930

The Intermodal Transportation Hub designed for the Cleveland Competition

This design for an Intermodal Transportation Hub was submitted to the Cleveland Design Competition in January of 2010. Michael Osysko and David Ellison proposed a gate, modeled loosely on Berlin's Brandenburg Gate to serve as the northern terminus of the downtown mall in place of the originally proposed train station. It would be surmounted by two quadrigae, chariots drawn by 4 horses each, symbolizing the race between good and evil with good just inches ahead and modeled on the chariot race in the movie, Ben Hur. The gate would provide sheltered bicycle parking and services and access points into the train and bus station below. An at-grade open air esplanade built on the roof of the railroad concourse below would bridge the railroad tracks and Route 2 and spill onto the parkspace at Northcoast Harbor. Especially important in the scheme is the relationship in section to the various functions and traffic.

Other Buildings

The Cleveland Chamber of Commerce Building

Peabody and Stearns, Architects, 1898

After the Cleveland Architectural Club proposed the idea of grouping new public buildings in 1895, the Chamber of Commerce, located in this building and headed by Myron Herrick, helped develop a plan for a larger lakefront park and a group of public buildings to be built along the top of the bluff in the citys beloved Lake View Park. Out of these efforts grew the appointment of the Group Plan Commission in 1903 and the development of the plan for the Cleveland Mall. The Chamber of Commerce moved into the new Terminal complex in the 1930's - abandoning this building and the idea of the train station on the Mall. This elaborate building with its eagles and caryatids was demolished by the Society for Savings for a parking lot in the 1950's. The Key Bank Tower now stands in its place.

The Leader News Building

Charles Platt, Architect, 1912

Like the Federal Reserve Bank diagonally across the street, The Leader News Building was not technically a part of the Group Plan but was developed along coordinated lines and in order to take advantage of views over the smaller public buildings along the Mall. Like the old East Ohio Gas Building nearby (more recently known as the Channel 3/NBC Building), the Leader News Building was privately developed as a result of the Group Plan project. Had the original plan for a small park been implemented, the building would have formed the parks southern wall. At one time the offices on the upper floors of the Leader News Building commanded wide-angle views of the Group Plan and the lake. The recent library addition blocked these views in order to create additional closed stacks for the library.

"The Leader News Building"
Charles A. Platt,

Download the PDF of The Leader News Building (21mb)

The Architectural Review

Download the PDF of The Architectural Review (13mb)

Federal Reserve Bank

Walker and Weeks, Architects, 1923

The Federal Reserve Bank Building is not part of the Group Plan, but would have faced onto the small park that was proposed for the site now occupied by the modern library addition. Its banking room is now occupied by a Museum of Money and contains ornate wrought iron screens and large murals depicting the territories of the United States and the Federal Reserve and the casting of molten steel. The vault in the basement was regarded as impregnable and its paneled executive lounge on an upper floor is remarkable.

The Municipal Casino at Cleveland
Monte Carlo of Lake Erie; Vegas of the Great Lakes

The idea for a publicly owned casino on the mall in Cleveland arose from the proposal in 2005 by city leaders for a private casino. They claimed that the public's approval of their plan would solve all of Cleveland's ills.

The Cleveland Ingenuity Festival of 2005 included an open Architectural Exhibit, "Divining the Detail", that called for the design of a detail or details to be presented on a 27" x 27" board and an image of their context on a 6" x 9" card.

In response to the proposal for a casino and the call for entries to the exhibition, David Ellison and Mark Jackson created the idea for a municipally-owned casino and hotel with associated schools of casino and hotel management and Beaux-Arts architecture and decorative arts and trades, a gambling addiction counseling center, and an expanded Public Auditorium and Convention Center for Cleveland.

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Weddell House

Built in 1847 and lavishly furnished by Peter M. Weddell, the Weddell House Hotel and its bar were at the center of Cleveland's society and business life. President-elect Lincoln addressed a crowd of thousands gathered below its balcony at Superior and W. 6th St. (then named Bank St.). Teetotaler and Baptist, John D. Rockefeller, bought and razed the Weddell House in 1904 to build the Rockefeller Building. One can still see the outline of the 1853 addition to the Weddell House on the west wall of the Rockefeller Building.

excerpted from an essay in The American Hotel, by Bernard L. Jim:

The demolition of the Weddell House and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel occurred amid the ongoing cultural debate about the ideology of creative destruction. Developers like John D. Rockefeller and Empire State Inc. profited from the public's perception of demolition as a servant of modernization and progress. If the old had to give way to the new, beloved landmarks like the Weddell House and the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel would necessarily have to fall. While developers worked to transfer the public's sentiment from the building to be demolished to the one to be constructed, the public had just begun to realize the fetishlike power that a building acquired over time.

Igor Kopytoff identified this process as singularization. Buildings, like personal possessions, can become unique things that their admirers think should be shielded from the world of commodity exchange. In the years before preservation legislation, the public had few means at its disposal to protect such structures. In fact, people often did not recognize the depth of their feelings for a building until it was threatened with destruction. In the case of the Weddell House, the full recognition of its singularity may not have come until nearly thirty years after its demolition, when the uproar over the Waldorf-Astoria reminded Clevelanders of their own loss decades before. The advantage lay with builders, who argued, in essence, that singularity resided not in the structure itself but in the history of the property. In their evolutionary schema, singularity passed from the demolished structure to the newly built one. The unfortunate corollary to this argument was that developers and builders who wanted to create an iconic structure felt compelled to look to a site that already contained an iconic structure, virtually dooming the most important buildings in the city's past.

The Hollenden Hotel

George Hammond, Architect, 1885

The Hotel Hollenden was opened in June of 1885 by Liberty E. Holden at the corner of Superior and E. 6th St.

As the scene of much socializing and coming and going, the Hollenden would undoubtedly have been the site of discussions about the plans for new public buildings in Cleveland. The hotel's prominent corner tower would have overlooked the small park in the original Group Plan of 1903.

According to publicity, "In Cleveland, it's The Hollenden". The hotel was a favorite spot of politicos and the scene of countless meetings and gatherings during its 77 year history, among which were the dinner given for Prince Nicholas of Roumania in 1929 and a speech given by John F. Kennedy in 1960. The barber shop at the Hollenden Hotel was distinguished as a black-owned business. It's proprietor, George Myers, was the son of Isaac Myers, an important figure in the free black community who worked to organize black laborers. Despite his fathers wish that he attend Cornell to study medicine, George Myers apprenticed as a barber and eventually became the foreman of the barber shop at the Weddell House. It was here he met Mark Hanna in 1888. Liberty Holden and other prominent Clevelanders provided financing for him to purchase the barber shop at the Hollenden which brought him into close contact with the politically and socially prominent people of the day. Myer's barber shop rivaled the hotel's bar as a center of gossip and activity. Elbert Hubbard dubbed it "the best barber shop in America". Myers claimed to have shaved eight presidents, dozens of congressmen and Mark Twain. The Koken Barber Supply Company is said to have developed the modern barber chair at his suggestion and he pioneered the use of manicurists in barber shops. Myers was influential in the Republican Party of the 1890's and worked closely with Mark Hanna and William McKinley to secure southern black votes. He sold the shop to the hotel in 1930. George Myers' papers are archived in the Ohio Historical Society Library. The hotel was closed in 1962 after a long decline. The building put up a surprisingly robust fight with the wrecking ball before ultimately being razed.

Statler Hotel

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