Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Cleveland Crib

What is the Cleveland Crib? No, it’s not a big bed for all the babies in town. It’s the main intake for the Cleveland water supply, and it sits a little over three miles away from the downtown Cleveland shoreline, and 5 miles from the pumping station. The "Crib" term is from the metal cage structure, which was built on shore, then taken out to the lake location, filled with rock, and sunk to the lake bottom.

As the Crib sits away from the shore and is not usually obvious, its existence and history may be unknown by many Cleveland area residents.

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History (a web site I visit often and a place where I learn something almost every day) says that:

“With the advent of piped water, traditional privies, storage cisterns, and other means for disposing of sewage rapidly became inadequate. The first sewer in Cleveland is reported to have been built for surface drainage of Euclid St. in 1856. Two years later a rudimentary sewage system consisting of open drains conveying the wastewater downhill toward the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie was begun. To gain access to fresh water beyond Lake Erie's polluted shoreline, a new water-intake crib and tunnel were built some 6,600' offshore in 1874. However, in 1881 city health officials protested that some 25 sewers, factories, oil refineries, and other industries were polluting the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie, source of the city's drinking water. By that time, 125 mi. of water mains had been completed in Cleveland, and the system's capacity was about 10 million gallons per day, serving about a third of Cleveland citizens. In the 1880s the original Kentucky St. Reservoir had already become inadequate, requiring the building of the Fairmount and Kinsman reservoirs to service the growing population moving toward the heights east of downtown Cleveland.

To mitigate the growing pollution, the water system extended intakes farther and farther out into Lake Erie, and early in the 20th century finally provided treatment of the raw water. In 1890 a new 7' diameter, 9,117' long water inlet tunnel was completed. Yet another 9' diameter intake tunnel was begun in 1896, extending 26,000' into the lake, one of the longest in the world at that time; it was completed in 1904 after a considerable loss of life during its construction...The intake structure for this tunnel, which at a distance resembled a freighter, was known as the "5 Mile Crib," the distance from the actual lake intake to the Kirtland pumping station, built in 1904 at Kirtland St. (E. 49th St.).”

There is also a wind monitoring tower installed at the Crib by Green Energy Ohio, rising 125 from the Crib deck, and 165 feet from the lake surface. It studies winds over Lake Erie for the potential for wind turbine power generation. There is also a weather station with anemometer, weather vane, and temperature sensor. The Crib has a live web cam – I call it Crib Cam – pointed toward the Cleveland shore. Below is a compilation of various views from Crib Cam during a 24 hour period in January. (Usually the lake is frozen by this time, but you’ll see what looks like a lake clear of ice on the earlier part of the video, but the lake began to get a crust of ice during the overnight hours.) Crib Cam and Crib weather data can be found at the Green Energy Ohio web site, here. (Crib Cam can be interesting viewing when storms come over the lake in the summer.)

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Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Happy Birthday, Moses Cleaveland

Moses Cleaveland, the name sake and founder of the City of Cleveland, was born on January 29, 1754, in Canturbury, Connecticut. He graduated from Yale in 1777 after studying law, and was commissioned shortly thereafter to fight in the Revolutionary War in the Continental Army. He resigned in 1781 and began to practice law.

After the Revolution, people began a westward migration, and disputes ensued over the ownership of the land. According to the “Ohio History Central” website, “The federal government encouraged the states to give up their claims within the Northwest Territory. Connecticut was one of the states with land claims in Ohio. While giving up its rights to most of the land, the state maintained its ownership of the northeastern corner of the territory. This area became known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. The Connecticut Land Company was a group of private speculators who purchased approximately three million acres of the Western Reserve. In 1796, the company sent one of its major investors, General Moses Cleaveland, to Ohio. He led the survey of company lands within the Western Reserve. “

The “Encyclopedia of Cleveland History” elaborates: “When the party arrived at Buffalo Creek, N.Y., Cleaveland met in treaty with Red Jacket, Joseph Brant, Farmer's Brother, and other Iroquois chiefs, and with gifts and persuasion convinced them their land had already been ceded through Gen. Anthony Wayne's Treaty of Greenville. Although they had not signed the treaty, the Indians relinquished their claim to the land to the Cuyahoga River. At the mouth of Conneaut Creek, the party on 27 June 1796 negotiated with the Massasagoes tribe, who challenged their claim to their country. Cleaveland described his agreement with the Six Nations, promised not to disturb their people, and gave them trinkets, wampum, and whiskey in exchange for safety to explore to the Cuyahoga River. Cleaveland arrived at the mouth of the Cuyahoga on 22 July 1796, and believing that the location, where river, lake, low banks, dense forests, and high bluffs provided both protection and shipping access, was the ideal location for the "capital city" of the Connecticut Western Reserve, paced out a 10-acre New England-like Public Square. His surveyors plotted a town, naming it Cleaveland. In Oct. 1796, Cleaveland and most of his party returned to Connecticut, where he continued his law practice until his death, never returning to the Western Reserve. A memorial near his grave in Canterbury, Conn., erected 16 Nov. 1906 by the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, reads that Cleaveland was "a lawyer, a soldier, a legislator and a leader of men."

According to Wikipedia, the city of Cleveland got its name from Moses Cleaveland when a newspaper printer dropped the “a” to fit the name in the masthead. Ohio History Central indicates the name change was due to a spelling error on a map.

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Statue on Public Square

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Lake Erie – Look at What’s “Beyond The Surface”

Usually local Cleveland programming can be bland an uninspiring. But one local series, called “Lake Erie Beyond the Surface” is the exception to that rule.

This half hour show features one of the most amazing and diverse resources to which the Cleveland area has access: Lake Erie. This series digs deep into life in and around the lake, not just in Cleveland proper, but also in other areas along its shores. The series has already aired two episodes; the third installment is scheduled to air Saturday February 2 at 7:00 PM on WKYC, Channel 3, and is broadcast in HD.

The lake has made an amazing recovery since the 1960s (I can still remember the awful smell from way back), but outside influences from things such as invasive aquatic species and runoff from pesticides and fertilizers can again endanger this lake.

Years ago, a friend of mine was entertaining a visitor from Georgia, who asked to see Lake Erie as she had never seen any of the Great Lakes. My friend took her to Mentor Headlands to see the beach and the lake. The Georgia visitor was stunned at the lake's size, and said, “That’s not a lake, that’s an OCEAN!” To people that are unaccustomed to the Great Lakes, they can seem like they are vast and almost limitless. But, as Wikipedia says, Lake Erie “is the tenth largest lake on Earth and, of the five Great Lakes of North America, is the fourth largest by surface area, the southernmost, shallowest, and smallest by volume.” So while Lake Erie seems like it is an endless resource of fresh water, its diminutive nature relative to the other Great Lakes may make it the most fragile.

Those living near Lake Erie benefit from it in the form of boating, fishing, the beaches, not to mention the commercial opportunities in shipping, agriculture, and other trade. Of course, let’s not forget the annual winter annoyance of lake effect snow (sometimes you have to take some bad with the good).

Everyone that lives on the shores of Lake Erie should view “Lake Erie Beyond the Surface.” It will give you a new appreciation for this amazing natural resource.

Preview Clip of the Next Installment of Lake Erie Beyond the Surface
From WKYC’s YouTube Channel

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Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The Cuyahoga County Courthouse in Downtown Cleveland

Last summer I made a trip to the Cuyahoga County (Probate) Courthouse on Lakeside Avenue for a family member to get a copy of a marriage certificate. Since I had never been in the building – at least that I can recall – I decided to take the camera and snap a few pictures.
Central Court Entry

The Courthouse was completed in 1906. The web site contained some interesting information about the planning for the Courthouse and surrounding area:

“The Group Plan of 1903 was designed by Daniel H. Burnham, John M. Carrère, and Arnold R. Brunner, all nationally known architects. Theirs was an early example of urban planning and harmonious architecture; they envisioned buildings designed to form a coordinated group with similar design features, classical architectural motifs, even uniform heights--all arranged with tree-lined avenues and controlled vistas. As part of the City Beautiful movement, this plan intended to eliminate messy, unplanned industrial growth. This plan called specifically for public buildings of a similar scale, identical masonry, and similar cornice height--all monumental, designed in a classical style. The group plan also included a wide Mall. Many of the impressive buildings in downtown Cleveland today resulted from this City Beautiful plan including the Federal Reserve Bank, the Cleveland City Hall (1916), the Cleveland Public Library (1925) and this Courthouse, the first building designed according to the plan, though the second completed.”

The architects of the Courthouse building itself were Lehman and Schmitt, with Charles Morris, chief designer. The interior decorative scheme was under the direction of Charles Schweinfurth. The Courthouse’s Beaux-Arts architectural style is evident in the large columns and decorative sculptures. The lobby is a 3-story central area with vaulted ceilings and marble columns. Off to the side of this central lobby is a staircase leading to a large stained glass window depicting “Law and Justice.” The marble staircase then curves away both to the right and left to the upper floor. This staircase seems somewhat dark, but that only emphasizes the beauty and color of the stained glass window.

I hope you enjoy the photos!

Columns Near Rear Entrance

Hallway off Central Court Entry
Marble Staircase with Stained Glass Window
Close Up of Stained Glass Window "Law & Justice"
Marble Stairs

View of the Courthouse from the North Side

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Sunday, January 20, 2008

Imagine a Re-Imagined Hanna Theatre

The Hanna in the 1940s
The Hanna Theatre is undergoing an extensive renovation, or “re-imagining," to create a new theatre experience in Cleveland, and is being touted as a theatre unlike any other in the country.

Some background on the theatre:

It was designed by Charles Platt, built by John Gill & Sons, and decorated by Faustino Sampietro.

It first opened on March 29, 1921, and was dedicated it to the memory of Senator Marcus Alonzo Hanna, who was also the former owner of the Euclid Avenue Opera House.

According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:
“The first production at the 1,535-seat Hanna Theater was a presentation of The Prince and the Pauper. In ensuing years, it hosted a number of major touring Broadway shows and an occasional pre-Broadway tryout, notably the world premiere of Maxwell Anderson's High Tor on 30 Dec. 1936. Weathering the Depression, it became the only "road theater" in the country that had been in operation for 50 or more consecutive years. Milton Krantz became general manager of the Hanna in 1941, known as "Mr. First-Nighter" for his tradition of walking up the aisles and shaking hands with people he knew. After 42 years and 1,000 first nights, Krantz retired in 1983. Owned by the T. W. Grogan Co. since 1958, the Hanna was eclipsed in the 1980s by the revitalization of PLAYHOUSE SQUARE. It went dark in 1989. A renovation effort spearheaded by T. W. Grogan Co. and Majestic Urban Revivals, Inc., was initiated in late 1993. Led by Ray K. Shepardson, a founder and former executive director of the Playhouse Square Assn., a $2 million restoration of the facility converted the theater into a multi-tiered, cabaret-style showplace. The reopening of the Hanna was planned for March 1996, the theater's 75th anniversary."

The Cleveland Plain Dealer reports that this latest renovation may cost around $20 million and could be completed as early as this fall.

The Plain Dealer also reports:
“The Hanna will keep its distinctive limestone facade on East 14th Street, around the corner from Playhouse Square's other historic venues on Euclid Avenue, and its neoclassical auditorium.

But within those walls, the Cleveland architectural firm of Westlake Reed Leskosky will create an "extraordinary" venue, architect Paul Westlake said.

The current plans would integrate the lobby, the bar and the performance space into one.

The architects are "breaking down the boundaries . . . between the stage, the audience and the social experience of the lobby," said Westlake. "It's a continuum. It's all one zone."

His firm's work on four other theaters in Playhouse Square helped make it one of the leading theater-architecture firms in the country.

"But we've never done anything like this," said Westlake, who called the project "an architectural experiment, but also a social experiment" that could make the Hanna unique among American theaters.

The new Hanna will have around 500 seats (down from the original 1,400) on steep inclines arranged on three sides of a "thrust" stage, with no seat farther than 11 rows from the actors.

The theater also could operate as a "traditional" proscenium theater, Fee said -- and, depending on how much money Great Lakes and Playhouse Square can raise, it could be outfitted with technological advances far beyond anything else in the region. "

It sounds like the Hanna renovation will be bringing an exciting theatre experience to Cleveland. It's great to see this landmark restored and improved to keep the theatre alive - and relevant - in Cleveland for many years to come.

If you’d like to see additional information, a link to WKYC’s website, which has current pictures of the project, plus a video of a news story on the subject can be found here.

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Friday, January 18, 2008

Rating Cleveland’s Morning News Shows

The one thing of which Cleveland has no shortage is morning news shows. Between 5:00 AM and 7:00 AM, you’ll find news on channels 3, 5, 8, and 19. And each show has a personality all its own. Since I’m a frequent watcher of “Fox 8 News in the Morning” and a former frequent watcher of “Channel 3 News Today”, I spent the last few weeks watching all four channels to get an idea of who really has the best morning news show in town.

On the days I watched the shows, here are the names of those appearing for each channel. I did not list the names of individual reporters involved in the newscast:

WKYC Channel 3: Mark Nolan and Abby Ham, Hollie Strano (Weather), Pat Butler (Traffic)

WEWS Channel 5: Paul Kiska and Kimberly Gill, Jeff Mackel (Weather), Traffic - anchor coverage plus phone in

WJW Channel 8: Wayne Dawson and Tracy McCool, Scott Savol (Weather), Pat Brady (Traffic)

WOIO Channel 19: Brian Duffy and Tiffani Tucker, Jenn Harcher (Weather), Rick Abell and Nicole (Traffic)

Just like the Academy Awards, I’ve created a few categories, and the award is the Golden Alarm Clock. Here we go!

Morning Anchor Desk
This was a category that was tough to measure, since sometimes one half of an anchor pair was either strong – or weak.

I could not warm up to channel 5’s Paul Kiska and Kimberly Gill. Kimberly seemed to stumble on her words a few times, and Paul just seemed flat and unexciting in his delivery. Channel 19’s Brian Duffy and Tiffani Tucker were only marginally better, but they seemed a little livelier and snappier than 5’s coverage. I think there are other problems with both these channels that make these anchors less than interesting, which will be covered in later categories. For both anchor pairs, there seems to be little chemistry.

Channels 3 and 8 are in a virtual dead heat in this category, but both anchor pairs have a weak partner. Tracy McCool has returned to 8, which brings the energy back into the show. Wayne Dawson, however, is the weak link. Because I watch Fox 8 so often, I’ve seen Dawson’s frequent stumbles, one of which that resulted in a brief appearance on YouTube and Dawson’s seeming disappearance from the show for a few days. But, the biggest drawback is his attire. In the never-ending quest for Wayne and Tracy to match clothing schemes, he sometimes wears some ludicrous colored and patterned attire. It can be distracting and actually detract from the news.

Channel 3 has revitalized the show by moving Mark Nolan to the anchor seat, Mind you, I watched 3 for many years when John Anderson and Carole Sullivan were paired, and they made a great team. But, that seemed to break down when Carole left. Nolan is very well suited for his new role; he’s confident and comfortable, and he’s able to ad lib and be spontaneous probably better than anybody on local news right now. I have been watching more of channel 3’s news in the morning since Nolan’s anchoring, but there are other reasons why I haven’t completely switched back. One of those reasons is Abby Ham. She seems inexperienced and sometimes clueless about the news she’s reading. Sometimes it may be better for her not to ad lib or ask questions, because in doing so, she often shows that while she can read the news, she may not have a good grip of the content.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning News Anchors goes to:
Tie for channels 3 and 8

Morning News Coverage
All the stations covered the local and national news well. Fox 8 seemed the most consistent in having reporters out of the studio covering stories. They all had outside local coverage at some point, but 8 had someone out every day that I watched, which was not the case with other channels. Channel 8 also seemed to deliver more news stories in the time allotted. I tried to count the number of separate news stories for each channels, but the number varied by day, and by the type of news being reported. Unscientifically measured, channel 8 seemed more consistent in delivering the most news in the first 10 minutes than the others.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Morning News Coverage goes to:
Channel 8

Morning Weather and Traffic
This category doesn’t cover weather forecasting accuracy, because that would take more time than I’m willing to invest. Instead, it rates the delivery of the weather, graphics, and the frequency of weather updates.

Since all of them basically have access to the same weather data, the delivery and graphics are critical. Channels 5 and 19 seem to be very basic in this category, with fairly standard graphics and rather dull and uninteresting weather forecasters. It seemed as if both weather forecasters were going through the motions. Channel 3’s Hollie Strano puts a little more personality and lots of energy with her presentation, but she loses points with me when she begins banter with the anchors. Channel 8’s Scott Savol seems to have the right mix of an interesting presentation, great graphics, and a very pleasing personality.

Traffic coverage may not sound like a big deal, unless you’re going to be driving in it. Channel 5’s was clearly THE WORST every time I watched. Maybe I got them on bad days, but when I watched, it was the anchor that went through traffic conditions, with sometimes a call in from another news (radio?) office with traffic information. They also didn’t seem to cover traffic frequently. Channel 19 was marginally better, with two people covering traffic at times, but not always with a traffic helicopter. Rick Abell, however, should stop the editorial comments; while they may fit 19’s tabloid style, sometimes they border on unprofessional. Channel 3’s Pat Butler does a great job, sometimes inside, sometimes outside in the helicopter. Tops is Pat Brady on 8, who delivers traffic in an informative, professional manner, with just the right amount of energy, and she gets in the helicopter - I think - more than any others.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning Weather and Traffic goes to:
Channel 8

It seems that Channel 19 is undergoing a set change, which hopefully will bring them up to the newer HD look that other channels already have. Channel 5’s looks unimaginative and cold. Channel 8 unveiled their new HD several months ago, and it is a great improvement from their previous set. The lighting is fantastic and really brings out the best in the on-screen people. The fake Cleveland skyline behind them, however, still leave me cold. Channel 3, who I believe has had their current set longer than the other stations, has the best look and open feel. The weather desk and special reports areas are very visible when cutting away to these special segments. It gives the news much more cohesive energy than other stations.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Morning News Set goes to:
Channel 3

Commercial Breaks
I know all the stations have to pay their bills, but some channels show more commercials or break earlier for commercials. Channels 5 and 19 broke for commercials at 5:06 AM, with 8 breaking at 5:08 and 3 breaking at 5:09. Channels 3 and 8 got in more critical news and weather in the first minutes of the show, with 8 getting a quick weather and traffic blurb out virtually at the start of the show. Unscientifically measured, it seemed that channels 5 and 19 had less time for news, with more commercial breaks.

The Golden Alarm Clock for Morning News Commercial Breaks goes to:
Tie channels 3 and 8

Best Overall Morning News Show
The Golden Alarm Clock for Best Overall Morning News Show goes to…Channel 8.
They seem to pack the most news, weather, and traffic in each hour, and consistently deliver interesting field reports. The anchors, reporters, weather and traffic people have fantastic chemistry. A close second, though, is Channel 3, who is poised to overtake 8 if they get the right mix of morning personalities on the show.

The “Snooze Alarm” award goes to channels 5 and 19. These shows need a personality infusion with their on air people, and some set changes to make watching the news a more visually interesting experience. They also need stronger - and consistent - weather and traffic reporting. So these channels can take their extra snooze for now, but they’d better wake up soon.

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Wednesday, January 16, 2008

UPDATE: Breuer Tower Has a New Owner

This is an update to an issue I covered in my blog on January 7, link here. The Breuer Tower, AKA The Ameritrust Tower, has been saved from both the mismanagement of Cuyahoga County politicians, and the wrecking ball (hard to tell those two things apart).

The Cleveland Plain Dealer has reported that Willoughby-based K&D Group has purchased the Ameritust complex and has some great plans for the Breuer Tower and surrounding buildings, including the Ameritrust Rotunda. Below is the text from the article from the Plain Dealer.

Rendering of Tower, Rotunda, and New Office Building

“Office tower, hotel planned at Ameritrust site

A developer plans to turn the vacant Ameritrust property into a $200 million complex of hotel rooms, residences, a new office tower and a smattering of stores.

The K&D Group would preserve the 29-story tower at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue, along with an historic rotunda next door, and incorporate them into what could be a 10-block transformation along the Euclid corridor.

"We're really trying to bring life back to the center of town, instead of spreading it out," chief executive Doug Price said Tuesday.

K&D was the only bidder Tuesday for the property, which Cuyahoga County bought in 2005 in what many considered a waste of taxpayer money.

County commissioners paid $22 million for the property, where they planned to build government offices. They invested about $15 million more before abandoning the plan and setting a minimum price of $35 million to sell.

K&D offered the county $35,005,000, and commissioners are expected to snap it up. In the end, the county will have lost about $3 million on the transaction.

Debate continued Tuesday about the prudence of the county's Ameritrust purchase. Some said commissioners acted shrewdly and economically to spur downtown development. Others said supporters were slapping a positive spin on an irresponsible decision.

The Ameritrust purchase would add a prominent and unusual property to K&D's collection of downtown projects. The company owns the Reserve Square complex on East 12th Street, developed the Stonebridge apartments and condos on the West bank of the Flats and is revamping a former department store at 668 Euclid Ave. into residences.

The company has a hand in so many downtown projects that, within two weeks, K&D plans to open a downtown office in Stonebridge Plaza.

"There's other properties we're looking at," Price said during an interview Tuesday after telling county officials about his plans for the Ameritrust site.

Those sites could include other buildings on or near Euclid Avenue. Downtown parking lot owner Lou Frangos, a partner with K&D in the bid, owns more than a dozen chunks of downtown property.

Frangos, head of the Frangos Group and founder of Cleveland's USA Parking Systems, already brought a piece of land to the deal. His property at Prospect Avenue and Bolivar, the former home of the New York Spaghetti House, could become a tower of 153 condos.

Price would not comment on future deals Tuesday, but he had plenty to say about the corner of Euclid and East Ninth. Under his plans, the tower, designed by Bauhaus architect Marcel Breuer, would house a boutique hotel of about 170 rooms, topped by about 200 residences.

Hotel visitors would enter the building through the connected historic rotunda, while tower residents would come in through the Breuer building's lobby. The adjacent building at 1010 Euclid Ave. likely would become office space or residences, said architect Robert Corna, who is designing this project and who worked with K&D on Stonebridge.

Nearby buildings at East Ninth and Prospect would come down, to be replaced by a contemporary office tower with as many as 20 floors. This building, comprising 250,000 to 400,000 square feet of top-shelf office space, could feature a rooftop restaurant, ground-floor retail, "green" features and a pedestrian bridge leading to the parking garage across Prospect.

K&D plans to pitch that tower to some of the major downtown office tenants whose leases end soon. That could pit Price against other major developers in a battle for tenants such as manufacturer Eaton Corp., Huntington National Bank, accounting giant Ernst & Young and law firms Baker & Hostetler and Square Sanders & Dempsey.

"We have had several conversations with K&D related to that, and we believe that there would be an interest in a mixed-use project which includes office space at that location," said David Browning, managing director at the Cleveland office of brokerage firm CB Richard Ellis, which represents many key office tenants.

K&D's potential investment can only help the market and boost downtown's image, said Adam Fishman, a principal with Fairmount Properties and a partner in developer Scott Wolstein's mixed-use project on the east bank of the Flats. That said, any new, top-shelf office building will add to the competition.

"There's a finite number of large office tenants that roam the streets these days," Fishman said, adding: "We're extraordinarily pleased with our position in the market as it relates to those handful of tenants."

Being the county's sole bidder doesn't necessarily lock things up for K&D. The county first has to accept the bid, and K&D has to finagle financing for the $35 million purchase, followed by the costly redevelopment and construction.

The company plans to explore a variety of tax credits, tax abatement options, city-sponsored tax increment financing and private sources of funding for the project, Price said.

"It's nothing we haven't done before," he said. "It's just a matter of getting it done."

A link to the Plain Dealer web page, which contains other information about the plans for the complex, is here.

My thanks to the K&D Group, who seems to have the right vision for the tower, and the city of Cleveland.

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Monday, January 14, 2008

Haunted Cleveland: Franklin Castle

In the fall of 2006, while driving downtown, I hit a detour in the freeway and accidentally took the wrong freeway exit. In trying to get back to my original destination, I got really lost on the West Side of town off I-90. My ability to get my bearings was being hampered because the entire Cleveland area had been hit by pea-soup fog. I could barely see the front of my car, much less street signs or any other landmarks.

Feverishly trying to navigate to Fulton road to try to get on I-71, I found myself taking many side streets, hoping to see something familiar. I finally hit an intersection of a street where I could not go straight and was forced to make a turn. Looking straight ahead, there it was, draped in heavy gray fog – Franklin Castle – looking particularly spooky and scary. The first thing I thought was “Now I know where I am!” and the second thing I thought was “Get away from that house now!”

For those of you not familiar with Cleveland, Franklin Castle is probably it’s most famous allegedly haunted building. In fact, it is considered by some to be the most haunted house in the state of Ohio. Its history is filled with lots or rumor, speculation, and reports of weird happenings.

Franklin Castle is on Franklin Boulevard at the intersection of West 44th Street in the Cleveland neighborhood called Ohio City. The house (Gothic style, what else would you expect?) was built in 1865 for grocer and banking executive, Hannes Tiedemann and his wife Luise.

In 1881, Tiedemann’s daughter died, reportedly of diabetes. Shortly afterwards, Luise Tiedemann's mother died. In the following few years, three more of the Tiedemann’s children died, one of which was only eleven days old. These tragedies fueled speculation that there were more to these deaths than what was originally reported.

Tiedemann began remodeling the home afterwards, in an attempt to distract his wife from these deaths. Many secret passages and rooms were created during that process. A huge ballroom was also constructed, encompassing the entire third floor.

Luise Tiedemann was dead by March 24, 1895, Hannes sold the house, and by 1908 he, and the entire Tiedemann family, were dead. It was also rumored that Hannes Tiedemann had murdered a woman at the house, who could have either been a servant, mistress, niece, or illegitimate daughter. This alleged murder has never been proven, yet there are claims that her ghost still inhabits the house.

The house changed hands many times, some with questionable motives for the use of the house, and more rumored murders. It is alleged that the German Socialist Party, who purchase the house in 1913, machine-gunned to death twenty of their members in a secret room.

The house remained unoccupied for many years, but in the 1960s and 1970s, various owners were reporting stories of strange happenings, noises, and apparitions. One owner, while searching for a secret passageway, found a very old human skeleton.

The Cleveland State University Newspaper, The Cauldron, reported in October of 2007:

The house switched owners a few more times before Michelle Heimburger, who remains the current owner, purchased it in 1999.

Later that year, a homeless man set fire to the house, eliminating much of the interior restoration that had been done by her and the previous owner. The house, nearly gutted by the fire, sat vacant with no signs of renovation for years before yet more controversy arose.

Heimburger had enlisted real-estate developer Charles Milsaps to oversee the post-arson restoration of the building with intentions of selling it to him.

In 2003 Milsaps announced plans for the building to become the home of the Franklin Castle Club, an upscale social club with membership fees of $5,000. Things were definitely looking up for the building.

Later that year, local ghost buster Mary Ann, best known as the inspiration for the popular television show The Ghost Whisperer, told Cleveland's Scene that the ghosts probably would be detrimental to any possible businesses hoping to take residence at the castle.

"If there are ghosts there, he's going to have terrible problems renovating the place," she said of Milsaps plans.

Mary Ann appears to have been right.

It was revealed last year by The Plain Dealer that although the Web site for the Franklin Castle Club trumps the building as being beautifully restored and club membership to be selling fast, all was not as it seemed.

Milsaps was actually only "reserving" memberships and not selling them. Besides, the club still didn't have a home since renovations were happening at a much slower pace than anticipated.
Several local companies claimed that work done at the castle was not paid for and a lien against the house was awarded to one company.

Earlier this year, the inside of the castle still showed very little progress.

The ghosts still seem to be there, though.

More than a few people claim to have seen the figure of a woman … in a mirror above a first-floor fireplace, during stops at the building on local ghost tours.

Whether it's cursed by negligence or the supernatural, Ohio's most haunted house maintains it's turbulent and unusual history.”

There is plenty of reading on this subject. If you do a Google search on the topic, you’ll find plenty of sources and stories from which to choose. And I guarantee they will all scare you just a little.

So for me, on that foggy, dreary day, the Franklin Castle did help me in finding my way, and gave me the creepy shivers at the same time. I couldn’t get away fast enough.

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Saturday, January 12, 2008

It’s Now Progressive Field – Get Over It!

The Cleveland media announced yesterday that Jacobs Field, the home of The Cleveland Indians, would now be called Progressive Field. Progressive Insurance purchased the naming rights for the playing field, in a 16 year, $3.6 million a year deal. The length of this agreement coincides with the Indians’ lease with Gateway.

If you listen to the media reports, one would think that Progressive was planning on having the venue demolished. For example, USA Today’s website headline says “The Jake is gone: Indians name it Progressive Field.” Local outrage also ensued, more from television news outlets, whining about the name change, and reporting that fans wanted to still call it “The Jake.”

If I were Progressive Insurance, who employs thousands in the Cleveland metro area, I would be a little annoyed that the local media is dismissing the name change and being less than supportive. Full disclosure here: I don't own Progressive stock, I don’t have Progressive Insurance ,nor do I work there, so I have no motivation for defending them. But I think the media has gone a little too far in simply reporting the story, and in this case seems to be unnecessarily starting a fire, or at least fueling one.

Personally, I don’t care who’s name goes on the field where the Indians play. The can call it Progressive Field, or The Prog or The Pro or whatever. OK, don’t call it The P just because it sits next to the Q. I don’t want jokes about minding my Ps and Qs, thank you. But anything else is fine with me.

Those people who still feel that they want to call the place “The Jake” need to get over it and move on. . Naming rights are common in professional sports. Clevelanders should be grateful that Cleveland is still able to support a major league baseball team. Many cities would love to have a team like ours, and probably could care less what the name of the stadium in which the team played was called.

I would just like them to have winning seasons and maybe bring home a World Series title. At least in my lifetime!

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Thursday, January 10, 2008

The Hulett Ore Unloaders: Cleveland's Late Workhorses

Once you’ve seen the Hulett Ore Unloaders, it’s hard to forget them. They looked like giant, prehistoric steel grasshoppers sitting on Whiskey Island. I use the past tense, because they’re not there anymore.

The Huletts were invented in 1898 by George H. Hulett, who was born in Conneaut, Ohio, but grew up in Cleveland. The Huletts were revolutionary at the time, greatly speeding up the process used to unload lake ore carriers. According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History: “They could completely unload a ship in 13 hours. Earlier, the same task had taken nearly a week. In their years of service, it is estimated that they unloaded some 100 million tons of material.”

The use of the Huletts spread to other areas around the Great Lakes, with many of them around Lake Erie in the Ports of Cleveland, Conneaut, Ashtabula, Huron, Toledo, and Lorain. The Huletts also played a big part in the development of the iron ore industry – and other related industries – in Ohio. Huletts were not suited for use near ocean waters, due to the rising and falling tides.

The Huletts became increasingly obsolete in the 1980s as the Great Lakes fleets converted to self-unloading ships. Cleveland last used a Hulett in 1992.

The Huletts were on the National Register of Historic Places, and also designated as a Historical Mechanical Engineering Landmark. But, as things usually go, this doesn’t seem to mean much to some. Conrail, who owned the Huletts, wanted them demolished to improve dock efficiency. Despite outrage by locals and preservationists, all the Huletts were dismantled, but two were retained for reconstruction at a later date, with the location to be named later.

To date, no location has been named, nor are any reconstruction plans in place.

(false color image)

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Monday, January 7, 2008

Breuer Tower (AKA The Cleveland Trust/Ameritrust Tower): A Reprieve?

The Breuer Tower has been the subject of some controversy. You may not know that the building is even there, because it sits so nonchalantly behind its smaller, yet architecturally more obvious neighbor, the old Cleveland Trust rotunda.

What’s the big deal about this building? Well, it’s a prime example of the ignorance, the shortsightedness, and the blind spending of local politicians. More importantly, it has architectural significance. It was designed by modernist Marcel Breuer, in the “brutalist” style, which involves the generous use of raw-looking formed/molded concrete. (One other local design by Breuer was the 1971 addition to the Cleveland Museum of Art.) Breuer is considered a great 20th century architect, and one of the fathers of modernism.

A few years ago, Cuyahoga County paid $22 million dollars for the building, plus 4 other buildings in the complex. The County Commissioners wanted the area for their new headquarters; a project that they promised would revitalize downtown, bring new jobs, and improve government efficiency. None of this is even close to happening.

In June of 2007, the County Commissioners decided to demolish the building to make way for a new administrative center. Uproar ensued. They continued to pour money into asbestos removal, and by December of 2007, spend almost $6 million dollars into removal, and for architectural design. During the asbestos removal process, the lobby window, one of the key architectural pieces of the building, was destroyed. The architectural world was somewhat outraged that this building would be so easily discarded by the city and county, and the county was openly chided by many.

Now the County Commissioners realize it doesn’t have the money to complete the project and wants to sell the building, and focus county money towards the proposed Medical Mart and other projects. The Commissioners also seem no farther along in their plans for a new headquarters.

The building is not a beauty, I’ll admit. And it’s not even 50 years old (it was completed in 1971). From an architectural standpoint, though, it is a significant structure and can have great value for the city over time. It is also listed on the National register of Historic Places, and while part of the Euclid Avenue Historic District, it is considered technically outside the period that the district covers (early 20th-century structures). Being on the register, however, doesn’t prevent the owner of the property from razing the building.

So while the County Commissions do what they do best – spending taxpayer money without foresight and vision - the Breuer Tower waits patiently for someone to adopt it and care for it. Lets hope someone with deep pockets and a real, long-term vision for the city will step forward.

Update January 15, 2008
From The Cleveland Plain Dealer

“K&D only bidder for former Ameritrust property
January 15, 2008

The K&D Group was the only bidder this morning on the former Ameritrust complex at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue. The Willoughby company bid $35,005,000 for the property, $5,000 more than the minimum bid set by Cuyahoga County.

The county bought the property for $22 million in 2005, intending to turn it into government offices. K&D proposes turning it into a mixed-use facility.

K&D said it would keep the Ameritrust Tower and the historic rotunda intact. The lower floors of that building would become a boutique hotel with 160 to 170 rooms. The upper floors would hold about 200 residential units. K&D said it hopes to line up a tenant for office space in the building during the next year.

The company also plans to build a new Class A office building on the site. The entire complex will become the centerpiece of the Euclid corridor, K&D said.”

Links to Cleveland Plain Dealer articles from January 14th and 15th,

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Wednesday, January 2, 2008

Tallest in Cleveland: The Key Tower

The granite-faced Key Tower sits impressively on Cleveland's Public Square. At 57 stories and 947 feet tall, it is the tallest building in Cleveland, the tallest in Ohio, and the 16th tallest in the United States. It was originally called the Society Center (for Society Bank, the original owners), and was renamed after Key Bank acquired the company. It was designed by Cesar Pelli & Associates. On a clear day - yes, we do have those in Cleveland - the building is viewable for many miles.

At the time of its completion in 1991, it was the tallest building between New York City and Chicago. It has since been eclipsed by the Comcast Center in Philadelphia, PA (57 stories, 974 feet tall).

The complex also includes a separate building for the Marriott Hotel. The old terra-cotta Engineer's Building, which was the first major office building in the United States built and owned by a labor union, was razed to make way for the hotel.

In December it was reported that the top floor of the Key Tower was finally getting its first tenant. A law firm signed a 10 year lease for the 57th floor, which had been sitting unfinished since the building's completion in 1991.

The Key Tower is the only skyscraper in Cleveland that I haven't had the pleasure to visit above ground floor. I've been told the view is fantastic; I hope one day to be able to see it for myself.

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