Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Cleveland: City of Bridges

It is almost impossible to get from one side of Cleveland to the other without having to cross a bridge. And there are several beautiful bridges in town. While people spend a lot of time crossing OVER them, they don’t always get a good look at the bridge itself.

Here are a few ground level views of some of Cleveland’s most notable bridges.

The Veterans Memorial Bridge (AKA The Detroit-Superior Bridge)

The Veterans Memorial Bridge, completed in 1918, is 3,112 feet (949 meters) long, and stretches over the Cuyahoga River. The bridge got its initial name (Detroit-Superior Bridge) because it connects Detroit Avenue on Cleveland's west side, and Superior Avenue on Cleveland's east side. It is a compression arch suspended-deck bridge, and at the time it was completed, it was the largest steel and concrete reinforced bridge in the world.

The bridge has an upper level for road traffic and a lower level for streetcars, which closed after streetcar operations ceased in 1954. It has been on the National Register of Historic Places since January 18, 1974.

The Main Avenue Bridge

The Main Avenue Bridge, opened in October 1939, and connects the east and west Shoreway. “The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History” says “During the primary 1938-39 construction, workers utilized over 24,000 tons of steel and 55,000 cubic yards of concrete to build the cantilever truss crossing. The 271' girders over the railway tracks on the lakefront ramp represented the longest span girders ever built in the nation at the time. 5 workers died over the course of the project, which cost $7.5 million. The structure was rededicated in honor of former Cleveland Mayor Harold H. Burton in 1986. On 13 April 1991 the bridge was closed for major renovation by Cuyahoga County and the Ohio Dept. of Transportation. The $65 million project included the widening of the bridge's traffic lanes from 10 to 12', installation of a new 400-watt sodium vapor lighting system, construction of a new 42" traffic median, drainage reconstruction, and repair or replacement of deteriorated steel. One worker died during the project. The bridge reopened 16 Oct. 1992, and in 1995 carried an average daily traffic volume of 45,647 automobiles.”

The Hope Memorial Bridge (AKA The Lorain-Carnegie Bridge)
The Hope Memorial Bridge is 5,865 foot (1,787 meter) long, also stretching over the Cuyahoga River. Like the Veteran’s Memorial Bridge, Hope Memorial got its original name because it links Lorain Avenue on Cleveland's west side and Carnegie Avenue on the east side. It is an art deco truss bridge, and was completed in 1932 after construction delays due to disagreements about how funding would be used. Huge statues, called the “Guardians of Traffic” (designed by sculptor Henry Hering and architect Frank Walker) stand on pylons, a pair at each end of the viaduct, symbolizing progress in transportation.

The bridge received a much needed renovation in the 1980s, and renamed in honor of William Henry Hope, a local stonemason and father of Bob Hope. The renaming has been a sore subject with some long time Clevelanders, who objected to a bridge of such stature to be named after someone so insignificant to the city’s history and to the history of the bridge itself. An interesting piece from the Wikipedia, (with quote credit back to the Cleveland Plain Dealer from “Bridge of hopes", Dec. 1, 2002) said, “It was listed in the National Register of Historic Places on October 8, 1976, after a controversy where County Engineer Albert Porter threatened to remove the historic pylons to widen the span, claiming "Those columns are monstrosities and should be torn down and forgotten. There is nothing particularly historic about any one of them. We're not running a May Show here." Clearly Mr. Porter was wrong.

The Innerbelt Bridge
The I-90 Innerbelt Bridge also spans the Cuyahoga River, and swings to the east of the Cleveland city skyline. It has recently sparked much controversy, partly due to plans to shift the bridge’s location, and also about its safety due to ongoing deterioration. As it was built in the same style (steel truss arch) as the Minneapolis bridge that collapsed in August of 2007, the Innerbelt Bridge received closer inspection and it was discovered that two steel gusset plates had buckled about an inch, with other gussets showing significant deterioration. Hopefully, the city will quickly find a solution to building a new span while maintaining the current span, with its huge volume of traffic.

All of these bridges make great additions to the Cleveland skyline, when viewed at ground level. If you have the chance, take the time to appreciate these beautiful structures that carry thousand and thousands of Clevelanders – and others – each day.

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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Is it time to crown a new King – or Queen – of Cleveland weather forecasting?

I’ve lived in the Cleveland area all my life, and I’ve seen a lot of weather – and weather forecasters – come and go. I’m of the opinion that many people are loyal to a particular channel for only a few reasons, and one of those reasons is the credibility and likeability of the on-air weather talent.

I came to a conclusion last night watching the weather on Fox 8 during the 5:00 hour: It’s time for Dick Goddard to go.

Now that I’ve said it, let me qualify the statement. I have watched Dick on local TV since I was a kid in the mid-1960s, when he was with KYW (now WKYC, channel 3). He has been with channel 8 probably since the ice sheets started to melt. OK, that’s exaggerating but he’s been here forever. I own two of his books and find his weather forecasting on target and probably the most reliable in town. But watching him yesterday, I realized that I just don’t like him any more. He sometimes seems all over the place while delivering the forecast. It may sound like a minor thing, but I find it distracting.

I think it’s time to recognize some of the other Cleveland weather forecasters in town and identify those that I think are the best. Some of this is not based solely on my own opinion. Having friends and family in town, and since weather is always such a hot issue here, the subject of who is delivering the forecast comes up frequently.

Here’s my forecast on who is tops in Cleveland Weather:

1. Betsy Kling – WKYC Channel 3: Betsy has been with this channel since 2003, working mostly weekend evening weather, and recently moving to the weekday PM slot. Besides having great screen presence, she probably has the most informative weather segment in town. It’s not just informing of the forecast, but she has a way of explaining the weather that makes it very interesting. I also believe she is the best dressed of the lot, and possible maybe of any person in local news. Of course, it has nothing to do with the fact that I wish I had one-tenth of her wardrobe. Seriously, I’ve had others comment that Betsy dresses classy and professionally, and also that they just plain LIKE her. You just can't buy that kind of compliment.

FORECAST: 7 Sunny days in a row

2. Scott Sabol – WJW Fox 8: Scott recently moved from the PM slot to the lengthy AM slot. I’ve seen Scott in both time slots and while I think he was great later in the day, he made the move very well to the morning. Scott’s weather delivery is relaxed, and he relays confidence in his forecasts. I think when he first made the move to the AM time he seemed a little out of sorts, as if he was shocked with the "looseness" of the show, but he seems to have fit into the spot very well.

FORECAST: 5 Sunny Days in one week

3. André Bernier – WJW Fox 8: While his weather forecasting is always solid, I am not quite sure that André fits into the PM slot as well as he did in the AM. Sometimes he has a little bit of an unusual fixation on poking fun of Bill Martin. I think Bill Martin and Stacy Bell have the best anchor pairing in town because they seem to have great chemistry and have fun together, but sometimes what André interjects into the mix seems a little – off. He also seems too fixated on cheesy special effects that distract more than add to his weather segment.

FORECAST: 3 Sunny days, with clouds forecast for the rest of the week.

And now – other notable mentions, both for good reasons and bad:

1. Jeff Tanchak – WOIO Channel 19: I may take some heat for this but I actually like Jeff Tanchak. But, I like him in smaller doses. His forecasts seem reliable, and he’s got good energy, but he sometimes moves around so much on screen that it makes me a little hyper. Oh yeah, and he works for Channel 19, not a very respected channel, in my opinion. He would work better at any other channel in the area.

FORECAST: Party Sunny, but with foggy mornings

2. Hollie Strano – WKYC Channel 3: I used to watch Channel 3 in the morning much more often than I do now, and my reason for defecting to another channel was because of Hollie. It wasn’t her forecast, it’s that she has become a little to sugary sweet for my tastes. While other channels have worked hard to feature local weather pics, Hollie would rather see dog pictures for the dog-gone weather segment. And frequently there is goofy music playing over her forecasts. It seems like her audience is geared for kids.

FORECAST: Party Cloudy

3. Mark Johnson – WEWS Newschannel 5: Best known for his never-ending interruptions to programs for severe weather alerts. I used to have more respect for him, but his “the end is near” style of forecasting has driven me away from Channel 5 news altogether.


That's my long term forecast for Cleveland weather on-air talent. Here's hoping that the "butterfly effect" will bring some needed changes in some cases.

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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Cleveland's Beautiful Lakeview Cemetery

I’m not one to visit cemeteries – I’d rather be with the living – but Lakeview Cemetery, located in the east side of Cleveland on Euclid Avenue, is a place not to be missed. Some of its most notable – albeit dead - residents are:

James A. Garfield – 20th President of the United States. President Garfield was born in Orange Township (now Moreland Hills) , and lived in Mentor, Ohio (his home was named “Lawnfield” and is now a National Historic Site).

John D. Rockefeller – Founded the Standard Oil Company, and was the world’s richest man at the time and the first US billionaire. While he was born in New York, his family moved to the Cleveland area when he was young. After the civil war, he founded Standard Oil of Ohio, and that company became the foundation for the Standard Oil Company, a huge national monopoly for oil.

Eliot Ness - Immortalized by the “The Untouchables” (TV series and movie), Elliot Ness came to Cleveland after his much dramatized work fighting organized crime in Chicago. He served as Cleveland’s Safety Director until 1942.

The Van Sweringen Brothers (Mantis J. and Otis P.) – Developers of the Terminal Tower in downtown Cleveland.

This cemetery is much more than just gravesites. Some are impressive monuments, such as the large and towering Garfield Monument (above), and the obelisk of the Rockefeller Monument (at right). Another location not to be missed is the Wade Chapel, built in honor of Jeptha Wade, founder of The Western Union Telegraph Company. The interior was designed by Louis Comfort Tiffany, and contains a Tiffany stained glass window named “The Flight of Souls”. Some of these locations are closed during the winter months, but will re-open in April.

The cemetery is located in the “heights” area of Cleveland, so it offers some great views of the surrounding areas.

In the spring, consider taking the time to see Lakeview Cemetery if you haven’t done so already. But remember, Lakeview may be a very nice place to visit, but you wouldn’t want to stay there.

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Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum is located in Cleveland, right on the edge of the Lake Erie shoreline.

Cleveland was the popular choice for the location for the Rock Hall, winning out over Memphis Tennessee, New York City, and Cincinnati, Ohio. At the time, some couldn’t understand why Cleveland was the right place for the museum. Wikipedia says, “Cleveland lobbied hard to be chosen, citing the facts that one-time Cleveland disc jockey Alan Freed is widely credited with promoting the new genre (and the term) of "rock and roll", and that Cleveland was the location of the first rock and roll concert.” But, others imply that it was primarily due to the money that the city was able to offer. My recollection at the time was that the city was desperate for something to revive the downtown lakefront area, and the Rock Hall fit in very well to the image, and the potential tourist drawing power, that the city needed. So the city found the money needed.

The building doesn’t seem to evoke the rock and roll feeling though. It was designed by I.M. Pei, also known for the pyramid design in the Louvre, in Paris, France. I visited the building when it first opened, and found the outside to be cold and severe looking, with the interior too museum-like. Over the years they have changed some of the presentation of the rock memorabilia and I think the displays are a little better, but there isn’t much that can be done about the building itself. One notable thing about the setting is that, seen from the air, the courtyard in the front looks like a giant turntable from a record player. Unfortunately, it gets lost on most people who really can’t see it from the air.

The inductees for 2008 were announced on Thursday, December 13, with the induction ceremonies in New York City on March 10, 2008. Wait, was that NEW YORK CITY? Why not Cleveland? Here is another problem with the Rock Hall. It’s that Cleveland gets no respect. The city’s residents contain probably some of the most hard-core rock and roll fans in the nation, and they certainly support the rock artists when they schedule performances in Cleveland. Sadly, it could be the Rock Hall people themselves who don’t take the chance to have an induction ceremony here in Cleveland, giving some much needed credibility to the Hall.

Another annual controversy is always over who gets inducted. I always seem to question at least one inductee every year. This year I question the induction of Leonard Cohen. I actually have one of his albums (Songs of Leonard Cohen) and there is no way I would have ever considered his style as rock. The questionable qualifications may be another component to why the Rock Hall may not have the credibility that it desires - and needs - to be a serious draw for the city.

Still, the Rock Hall is a good place to visit for fans of the genre, with plenty of memorabilia. If you do visit, while you’re in the area, check out the Great Lakes Science Center, right next door. It’s interesting AND great fun for all ages.
UPDATE: 12/19/2007 - The Rock Hall people have just announced that THEY WILL hold the induction ceremonies in Cleveland for 2009. Great news for the city - even though we have to wait over a year.

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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Interesting Cleveland Architecture: The Peter B. Lewis Building at CWRU

A few years ago I had to attend a business class at the Weatherhead School of Management at Case Western Reserve University. The class was being held in the George S. Dively Building, a very nice, sedate looking structure with a somewhat sterile, yet calming interior. While driving around, trying to find a place to park, I spotted another structure across the street that looked like someone had problems putting the steel girders together. They looked crooked, and were leaning in directions that weren’t normal for a building. I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was looking at the shell of the Peter B. Lewis Building, designed by famed architect Frank Gehry.

While I have never had the chance to see the interior, the real interest, in my opinion, is the undulating metal ribbon-like exterior and the lopsided, tilted brick walls. It reminds me of a roll of shiny duct tape, draped in waves over the structure. In my opinion, the drawback to this quirky exterior is that there isn’t enough distance between it and other surrounding buildings to be able to fully appreciate its form. There are some who call the building ugly, because it doesn’t fit traditional building styles. I think the building’s design can inspire one to think more creatively.

Frank Gehry has designed numerous buildings worldwide with this outside-the-box style. I think we’re very fortunate to have one of his designs here in Cleveland.

Aerial View - Google Earth

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Friday, December 7, 2007

The Tower at Erieview (aka Erieview Tower)

I remember in 1964, as a kid, the big deal that was made over a new skyscraper in Cleveland, called, at the time, Erieview Tower. It was supposed to be part of an urban renewal project. It was also a big deal when I was a kid that our parents would take us for a drive through downtown to see the Christmas lights on all the buildings. When I first laid eyes on Erieview Tower, I thought, “What an ugly building.”

And many years later, I still feel somewhat the same way, especially after having worked in the building for a few years.

The building reminds me of the black monolith that was in the movie “2001 A Space Odyssey” - like a slab of darkness. When it was first constructed, there really wasn’t much around it so it just stood there like a shiny, gray brick. Over the years, other buildings did fill in to soften its stark look. In the mid-1980s, the Richard E. Jacobs Group turned the plaza on the East 9th street side into The Galleria, an enclosed shopping area. It was a big improvement at the time, although the Galleria now seems devoid of the retail life it had when it first opened. The restaurant “The Top of the Town” was on the 38th floor of The Tower, and at one time was THE place for a great meal and fabulous downtown view. The restaurant has been closed for many years now.

As I mentioned earlier, I worked in the building for a few years. My office had a dull view of the east, although I was able to watch the construction of the WKYC Channel 3 building, and, in a distance, the Peter B. Lewis building at Case Western Reserve. It was great watching storms roll in off the lake, and the frequent ships sailing (especially when the tall ships were in town). The sounds of the car races from Burke Lakefront Airport could sometimes be heard, as would the noise from jets, practicing for the air show. It was always interesting to see one of the fighter jets zooming right towards the building, only to pull upward at what seemed like the last minute. That excitement wore off on 9/11, where many who worked in The Tower had their eyes looking eastward, watching plane after plane coming in for a landing - we hoped at Hopkins airport, and not into the building.

One annoyance with The Tower: it sways. A lot. I always dreaded the really windy days, where you could hear the building creak and groan to the rhythm of the wind, and the water in the toilets would sometimes slosh in tandem with the building’s movement. I never thought I could get motion sickness in a building but I did at the Tower, and I worked below the 15th floor.

Still, it has a great view of the city, and hopefully the new Avenue District development that is being constructed just east of The Tower will help bring life back to The Tower and to The Galleria.

The view looking east (notice the blimp), and west (March 2000)

In the center and forefront, The Tower at Erieview, from the I-90 East Shoreway

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Tuesday, December 4, 2007

The Old Cleveland Browns Fight Song

A prerequisite of being a true Clevelander is that you have to be a die-hard Browns fan. In my book, being a die-hard Browns fan means it's OK if you get upset with the team when they don't play well. In fact, that's probably the only way you can survive as a Browns fan because let's face it, if you don't vent about the team, it will make you crazy.

So to help everyone stay charged up about this season, here's a short YouTube video that the older Browns fans may enjoy. It's a clip of the old Browns "fight song" from about 40-50 years ago. I think it was drilled into my head as a kid since my dad was a big sports fan. Now that I've heard it again, it makes me feel somewhat hopeful that we could still have a chance - not to mention feeling a little younger again.

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Monday, December 3, 2007

The Terminal Tower and Tower City

Nothing says Cleveland like the Terminal Tower. Located on Public Square, it opened in 1928 with a height 0f 708 feet – 52 stories. It was the tallest building in North America outside New York, until surpassed in 1964 by Boston's Prudential Tower. The architects were Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, and was built by brothers Mantis J. and Oris P. Van Sweringen. The building was constructed above Cleveland Union Terminal.

The building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1976. Sadly, the city was in somewhat of a decline at the time, and the downtown area was showing its age. Extensive renovations and new construction surrounding the Terminal Tower, along with renovations in the Cleveland Union Terminal, created Tower City Center in 1991.

Here are some recent and some older photos. The Terminal Tower is currently undergoing a face lift. In addition, the Euclid Corridor project will help improve transportation from Public Square to the University Circle area, and eastward to East Cleveland.

The Terminal Tower - Public Square
(Soldiers and Sailors Monument in the foreground)
Photo by Christine Zimmer -used with permission

The Terminal and Cleveland Union Terminal, prior to "Tower City" (1987)
Photo by Christine Zimmer -used with permission

The Terminal with Tower City - photo courtesy WikiCommons

Tower City Interior Photo by Christine Zimmer -used with permission

View of Terminal Tower from Tower City Skylight Photo by Christine Zimmer -used with permission

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