Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Mall: Downtown Cleveland’s Public Park

When people first hear of Cleveland’s Mall, they think of a retail shopping mall. While Cleveland does have retail shopping downtown, The Mall I refer to is the downtown public park. It was created as part of the “City Beautiful” movement, which, in the late 1800s and early 1900s, arose in the United States in response to crowded inner-city districts. The goal was to use beautification and monumental grandeur in cities to improve the quality of life.

Original 1903 Plan (Western Reserve Historical Society)
According to the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

“The Mall and the 7 public buildings surrounding it were constructed following the Group Plan of 1903, which probably constitutes the earliest and most complete civic-center plan for a major city outside of Washington, DC. Since federal, county, and municipal governments were all planning to build large new structures, a Group Plan Commission was created in 1902 as a result of bills prepared by the American Institute of Architects and the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce and passed by the legislature. The members were Daniel Burnham, Arnold Brunner, and John Carrere. The Group Plan Report of 1903 recommended the 500' wide central mall and the placement of the major buildings. The need for uniformity of style and building height was stated as the lesson of the Chicago Columbian Exposition of 1893. The Roman style was recommended, meaning the Beaux-Arts version of ancient classicism….The previously planned Federal Bldg. was completed in 1910, followed by the Cuyahoga County Courthouse (1911), the Cleveland City Hall (1916), the Public Auditorium (1922), the main Public Library (1925), the Board of Education administration building (1930), and the Cuyahoga County Administration Bldg. (1957).

Aerial View

The Mall is divided into three sections, known as Malls A, B, and C. Mall A, on the south end, is officially named Veterans' Memorial Plaza; Mall C was dedicated as Strawbridge Plaza in 2003. Cleveland’s Convention Center is underneath Malls B and C.

Veteran’s Memorial Plaza is also the location of the Fountain of Eternal Life, also known as the “War Memorial Fountain” or “Peace Arising from the Flames of War”. It is a statue and fountain, designed by Cleveland Institute of Art graduate Marshall Fredericks, dedicated on May 30, 1964. The sculpture is the city's memorial to those citizens who served in World War II. The fountain was initiated and promoted by former newspaper The Cleveland Press, which raised $250,000 to fund the project. According to Wikipedia:

The centerpiece is a 35-foot (10.7 m) bronze figure representing man escaping from the flames of war and reaching skyward for eternal peace. The bronze sphere from which the figure rises represents the superstitions and legends of mankind. Four granite carvings, representing the geographic civilizations of the world, are placed around the sphere. On the surface of the polished granite rim surrounding the fountain are bronze plates bearing the names of 4,177 Greater Clevelanders who perished in WWII and in the Korean War.

Fountain of Eternal Life, photo by the the author

The Mall was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975. It makes for a great starting point for seeing some of downtown’s most interesting sights – and also a nice place to take a break.

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