Thursday, December 18, 2008

The Cleveland Police Historical Society Inc. and Museum

There are many big museums in Cleveland but one that is not as well known is the Cleveland Police Historical Society Inc. and Museum, which is located on 1300 Ontario St, on the first floor of the Justice Center.

Founded in 1983, it came to be as a result of the efforts of a group of Cleveland policemen and area citizens. The idea was hatched as a result of a visit to Scotland Yard’s Black Museum in London, England by Cleveland Police Detective Robert Bolton, who then convinced Chief William Hanton that Cleveland should have its own police museum. Over a period of 7 months, members of the department and private citizens worked together to create a nonprofit historical society. At first, the museum was only was allotted 1200 sq. ft. of space on the first floor of the Justice Center, and 4 years after its founding, the museum was one of only 12 of its kind in the United States. It received visitors not only from local areas but also from around the world. It features exhibits documenting the history of the Cleveland Division of Police from its inception in 1866, and differentiates itself from other museums of its kind as it is funded completely by private citizens and is not controlled or funded by the Cleveland Police Department or state or federal tax dollars.

The museum now has a larger area than when it began, currently with over 4,000 square feet of space. It continues to work to preserve the history of the police department, in addition to fostering a better understanding of the role of law enforcement within the community. My husband’s grandfather was a police officer in Cleveland from the late 1920s to the early 1940s, so the family has a great appreciation for the police officers that are on the front lines of keeping Clevelanders and the city's visitors safe. It’s nice to know that their efforts are being recorded and maintained for future generations to appreciate.

If you would like more information on the Cleveland Police Historical Society Inc. and Museum, you can visit their web site, here.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cleveland's Nela Park

Mention Nela Park to anyone in the Cleveland area, and the thought of Christmas lights immediately leaps to mind. That’s because for years, Nela Park has put up some beautiful lighting displays for Christmas. It is also nationally known for its contribution to the creation of lighting for National Christmas Tree in Washington DC. It is, after all, the General Electric Lighting and Electrical Institute. NELA stands for one of the facility’s original names - National Electric Lamp Association - before GE acquired it in 1911.

The institute was first organized by entrepreneurs Franklin Terry and Burton Tremaine, originally called the National Electric Lamp Company. General Electric invested in Nela, despite the fact that it was a competitor, to further the goal of standardizing the screw base that was invented by GE.

It is frequently referred to as the first industrial park in the world. Its campus resembles a university setting, with the buildings modeled in the Georgian Revival architectural style. All but four of the 20 buildings were built before 1921, and these were all designed by the New York architectural firm of Wallis and Goodwillie. Nela Park was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History provides some details on its origin:

Nela Park, at Noble and Terrace roads in East Cleveland, is one of the earliest (if not the first) planned industrial research parks in the nation. It was conceived in 1910 by Franklin Terry and Burton Tremaine, officers of the Natl. Electric Lamp Co., which soon became the lamp division of General Electric Co... .The site was selected in 1910, a small plateau 234' above Lake Erie, with some dense woods and a picturesque ravine. The building program began in 1911 and was entrusted to one architect in order to achieve a consistent scheme…The complex was very advanced in its handling of mechanical systems, with underground tunnels for all utilities. The main conception of the campuslike park is a perfect representation of the early 20th-century academic ideal. The office and laboratory complex includes 20 major buildings and several smaller structures located in a landscaped park of approximately 90 acres.

Nela Park was also the first facility of its type in the world that devoted itself solely to the teaching of lighting, a purpose it still serves today. The Lighting & Electrical Institute continues to receives thousands of customers and lighting professionals each year for conferences and training programs.

There is quite a bit of information available on Nela Park, and here are some of the more interesting links for further reading:

GE’s History of Nela Park

GE’s Nela Park: Modern Product Showroom in 18th-Century Garb

A Brief Early History - Terry Management Style and Incandescent Lamp Advances

Photo tour

Nela Park fun facts

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.

Friday, December 5, 2008

The Cleveland East Ohio Gas Explosion of 1944

All photos from The Cleveland Press Collection
The Cleveland Memory Project

With all the focus on fuel prices these days, we probably spend more time thinking about the price of gas for our cars than we do about the natural gas costs to heat our homes. Maybe, once a month when the gas bill comes, we moan about it but we also want to be warm in the winter. Sometimes we are reminded of the explosive power of natural gas when we hear a report of a house that has exploded from a gas leak.

Clevelanders were made very aware of the power of a natural gas when, on a Friday afternoon on October 20, 1944, a massive natural gas explosion virtually leveled an entire neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland, killing 131 people and obliterating one square mile of the surrounding area. This event is on record as being the worst disaster in the city’s history. (Let’s hope it stays that way.) Time Magazine listed the event as one of the “major catastrophes of the modern industrial era”. It is also regarded as the largest liquid natural gas explosion in the 20th century, and to date. The death toll could have been much worse, as the explosion occurred while children were still in school, and many adults were at work.

The disaster took place at an East Ohio Gas (now known as Dominion East Ohio) tank farm in eastern Cleveland. The huge tanks of gas didn’t just contain “normal” natural gas. They contained liquefied natural gas (LNG), which is natural gas converted to liquid form by removing certain components, such as dust, helium, water, and heavy hydrocarbons. This greatly reduces its volume for easier storage and transport. LNG was still relatively new during the time of the blast, and little was known about the dangers of LNG at the time. When East Ohio Gas first set up this location in 1941, it was only the second installation of its kind in the country.

In 1944, a much larger LNG tank was added as demand for natural gas increased in the Cleveland area. As World War II was still going on, steel was not available to build the tank, so another alloy was used. Unfortunately, this alloy was unable to withstand the cold temperature required to contain the LNG, and a leak in the tank developed. The gas began to escape, appearing as a fog in the area, which even seeped into the sewer system. As not much was known about the dangers of LNG, city officials and those living in the area were oblivious to the extreme danger that this fog posed. All that was needed was one spark to set off an explosion. It's been speculated that the spark came from someone trying to repair the tank, but no one knows for sure, since the area and the people directly in the area were obliterated with the blast. But, as the gas fog had spread through the surrounding area, it’s anyone’s guess where that spark really came from.

Here is what happened that day, according to Encyclopedia of Cleveland History:

The East Ohio Gas Co. explosion and fire took place on Friday, 20 Oct. 1944, when a tank containing liquid natural gas equivalent to 90 million cubic feet exploded, setting off the most disastrous fire in Cleveland's history. Homes and businesses were engulfed by a tidal wave of fire in more than 1 sq. mi. of Cleveland's east side, bounded by St. Clair Ave. NE, E. 55th St., E. 67th St., and the Memorial Shoreway. At approx. 2:30 P.M., white vapor began leaking out of Storage Tank No. 4, which had been built by the East Ohio Gas Co. in 1942 to provide additional reserve gas for local war industries. The gas in the tank, located at the northern end of E. 61st St., became combustible when mixed with air and exploded at 2:40 P.M., followed by the explosion of a second tank about 20 minutes later. The fire spread through 20 blocks, engulfing rows of houses while missing others. The vaporizing gas also flowed along the curbs and gutters and into catch basins, through which it entered the underground sewers, exploding from time to time, ripping up pavement, damaging underground utility installations, and blowing out manhole covers.

The entry in Wikipedia adds to this account:

At first it was thought that the disaster was contained, and spectators returned home thinking that the matter was being taken care of by the fire department. At 3:00 p.m., a second above-ground tank exploded, leveling the tank farm.

However, the explosions and fires continued to occur, trapping many who had returned to what they thought was the safety of their own homes. Housewives who were at home suddenly found their homes engulfed in flame as the explosion traveled through the sewers and up through drains. The following day, Associated Press wire stories contained quotes from survivors, many of whom were at home cleaning in preparation for the coming Sabbath. Survivors said that within a split second after the explosion, their homes and clothes were on fire…The toll could have been significantly higher had the event occurred after local schools had let out and working parents returned to their homes for the evening. In all over 600 people were left homeless, and seventy homes, two factories, numerous cars and miles of underground infrastructure destroyed.

Ohio History Central said, about the survivors:

For the people who survived, most lost everything. The flames destroyed several blocks of homes. Many of these people also had withdrawn their savings from banks during the Great Depression, as numerous banks had failed. The flames destroyed these people's life savings. As a result of the explosions, the East Ohio Gas Co. began to store its natural gas underground. The company also helped rebuild the community by paying more than three million dollars to neighborhood residents and an additional one-half million dollars to the families of the fifty-five company workers who lost their lives.

A historical marker is located at the site near Grdina Park at East 61st and Grdina, and it says:

At 2:30 p.m. on Friday, October 20, 1944, an above ground storage tank that held liquefied natural gas in the East Ohio Gas Company's tank farm began to emit vapor from a seam on the side of the tank that dropped into nearby sewer lines. It mixed with air and sewer gas and ignited, resulting in explosions and fires that brought damage to nearly one square mile of Cleveland neighborhoods. With 79 homes and two factories destroyed, nearly 700 people were left homeless, 131 killed, and 225 injured. The East Ohio Gas Company took responsibility for this tragedy to aid those in need through direct financial assistance and by rebuilding the community. The disaster also led to a movement by public utilities and communities across America to store natural gas below ground without tanks.

The use of Liquid Natural Gas is much more prevalent these days, and handled with extreme care. According to the Center for Liquid Natural Gas:

LNG is shipped on secure and specially designed ships from countries that export natural gas to countries that import natural gas. Carriers have traveled more than 100 million miles without a major incident in LNG’s 45-plus year shipping history. LNG carriers are double-hulled, with more than six feet of space between the outer hull and inner hulls. This design makes LNG ships extremely strong, minimizing the likelihood of leaks or ruptures in the unlikely event of an accident.

Upon reaching U.S. waters, the Coast Guard oversees the movement of LNG ships through ports. It also has the authority to review background checks of crews, order internal ship searches and require the use of Sea Marshals (specially trained and armed Coast Guard personnel.)

Upon arrival at its destination, LNG is generally transferred to specially designed and secured storage tanks and then warmed to its gaseous state – a process called regasification. It is transported via pipelines to consumers, industries and power generators who rely on natural gas.

It’s somewhat comforting to know that great improvements have been made in the transport, storage, and handling of LNG since that tragic explosion. And now you also know that learning those lessons cost many Clevelanders’ lives.

Check out my blog home page for the latest Cleveland information, here.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Cleveland Meteorologists’ Holiday Snow Dance

Admit it, you’ve noticed that the Cleveland television meteorologists seem to be ecstatic at the prospect of a nice big lake effect snowstorm, or even a “synoptic” snow storm that could dump tons of snow on whole the area. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you’d think that they are actually doing a snow dance behind those big green screens on their weather set. (By the way, a synoptic snow is just “weather speak” for a big snowstorm that covers such a large area that even Cleveland west siders will be shaking in their boots just hearing about it.)

Well, your suspicions are now proven true. Caught on camera (below), for the first time ever, are some of the Cleveland TV weather personalities doing their famous holiday “snow” dances (see below). And yes, they are really elves…even Jeff Tanchak. So if you see a big snow coming your way, you can be sure the Cleveland Meteorologists are dancing…again.

All kidding aside, Cleveland has some of the best on-air weather people in the country.

The Cleveland Meteorologists Holiday Snow Dance

By the way, if you view the video directly on YouTube, be sure to set it for "high quality", otherwise it will be blurry.

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