Friday, February 27, 2009

Playhouse Square – Cleveland’s Theatre District

The Palace Theatre Lobby

Clevelanders – along with most other people in the country – may not be aware that Cleveland’s Playhouse Square is the second largest theatre complex in the United States (only New York City’s Lincoln Center is larger in size) and it is second largest in the country in the number of productions (only Broadway in New York City has more).

The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History gives some information about the beginnings of Playhouse Square:

Playhouse Square is a district at Euclid Avenue and East 14th Street comprising five theaters as well as office buildings, stores, and restaurants. The possibility of making the portion of Euclid east to 17th Street into a stretch of fine shops and vaudeville, movie, and legitimate theaters was envisioned by Joseph Laronge after World War I. Together with Marcus Loew of the New York theater syndicate, Laronge and others formed Loew's Ohio Theatres, and as the concept developed, the planned entertainment district took shape between 1920 and 1922. The first two theaters to open were the State Theatre and Ohio Theatre theaters, both in February 1921. The Allen theatre opened two months later in the Bulkley Building next door. The 8-story commercial and office building contained an innovative enclosed parking garage behind the theater. Compared to other exotic movie palaces of the 1920s, the relatively early Playhouse Square theaters were in a restrained classical style, with lavish use of marble, expensive woods, murals, tapestries, and gilded plaster relief. The Palace Theatre, built to house the performances of the Keith vaudeville circuit, opened in November 1922 in front of Loew's State on East 17th Street. Above the lobby and foyer rose the 21-story B. F. Keith Building. Connections between the four theaters made it possible to go from the Palace stage into Loew's State, from there into the Ohio, and finally into the Bulkley Building and the Allen Theater. In March 1921 the Hanna Theatre opened in the annex of the Hanna Building across Euclid Avenue. Although the legitimate theater actually fronted on East 14th Street, it was regarded as part of the Playhouse Square district.

Sadly, these theatres fell into decay in the late 1950s and early 1960s, and after a fire in one theatre and vandalism in the others, they were almost left for dead. But, in the 1970s, some visionaries had some ideas for the rebirth of the area. The Playhouse Square Association, a nonprofit organization, led by Raymond K. Shepardson, worked to help the rebirth happen and the theatres were saved. The resurgence of the area was helped by the musical review titled “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris” which was supposed to only have a short few week’s run at the State Theatre. It was highly successful and remained there and captivated audiences for two years. The Playhouse Square Group was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978.

Hanna Theatre Interior
Over the years, as more of the theatres have been restored and more and varied performances and artists were scheduled, the area is again vibrant. There are several hotels and restaurants in the immediate vicinity, making it very easy for visitors (and locals too) to have a real "dinner and a theatre" experience while they are staying in town.

Most recently, the Hanna Theatre was re-imagined and renovated, creating a state of the art theatre experience. The Hanna reopened in September of 2008, and is the jewel in the crown of Playhouse Square. The Hanna is also the new home of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival.

WKYC Channel 3 did a nice news feature on the revitalization of Playhouse Square, which you can view here:

References and further reading:

Playhouse Square web site

Wikipedia - Playhouse Square

Encyclopedia of Cleveland History – Playhouse Square

The Examiner - Playhouse Square: a second run for first-run movie palaces

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

Friday, February 20, 2009

Cleveland – An Aerial Perspective

A short video is below, which provides views of Cleveland and the surrounding area (to the Lake Erie Islands) that are usually reserved for birds and passengers of aircraft. It is provided by Positively Cleveland, and was created by Glazen Creative Studios.

No seatbelt is required. Enjoy your flight!

Full Screen Version

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Friday, February 13, 2009

A Cleveland Treat - Malley’s Chocolates

Many of my favorite things associated with Cleveland have to do with food. And what better time than the day before Valentine’s Day than to feature one of Cleveland’s best guilty pleasures – Malley’s Chocolates.

Many people who grew up in Cleveland may have first become familiar with Malley's as children, by selling their chocolate bars for fundraising. I have many memories of bringing home the small cases of chocolate bars to sell, which lucky for me, my grandparents took to work and sold easily to their co-workers. If we were lucky, my parents bought a bar or two for us – and with 6 children, those two bars didn’t last long.

The “Cleveland Lights Up” Assortment
The Malley’s web site indicates they are a third generation business, established in 1935 by Albert Martin Malley, better known as Mike Malley. He learned the chocolate trade from working in a chocolate store in Pennsylvania when he was a boy. With a dream to bring chocolate to people, he borrowed money and opened a small store in Lakewood, and moved his family into the living quarters in the back. The candy kitchen was in the basement. As business flourished and more room was needed, he continued to add on to the building to accommodate the ‘hand dippers.” In addition to chocolate, ice cream was sold at the store.

Over the years, more locations were added, to the point that in 1990, they moved to the 60,000 square foot location in Brook Park, which is the current location of their factory. It is easily spotted from I-480.

But enough about the history. Malley’s is all about the chocolate. Besides the fundraising chocolate, Malley’s has quite a following for its milk chocolate covered strawberries, which they introduced in 1985. As they are made and sold fresh, they are only available on Valentine's Day (February 14th) and Sweetest Day (third Saturday of October). Also a local favorite are the Billybobs, which their web site describes as “chewy, gooey, nutty, milk chocolaty treats hiding in a buttery-smooth caramel center. Pecans are roasted and lightly salted.” Don’t tell my husband, but for Valentine’s Day, I got him a box of a new Malley’s candy called ”Heaven” which combines the pecan Billybob and the marshmallow egg. Hopefully, he will share them with me!

Nothing is like Easter at Malley’s in Brook Park, where “BunnyLand” is created, featuring just about any type of Easter candy, with varying sizes and types of chocolate rabbits, marshmallow and cream eggs, jelly beans, the list goes on. My personal favorite is the large, dark chocolate cream egg, which I buy by the small bagful, and usually eat them before Easter even arrives. (I spend the rest of spring working off the calories.)

Malley’s offers tours of their Brook Park factory (13400 Brook Park Road) for large groups.

Now, after writing about Malley’s while on an empty stomach, I think I am having a chocolate attack. That box of “Heaven” I bought for my husband seems to be calling out to me now. Hopefully I will be able to tune them out until he opens the box tomorrow. Lucky for me, there is a Malley’s store about a mile from my home. I think I’ll make an emergency chocolate run there this morning!

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

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Touring Cleveland With Lolly The Trolley

San Francisco has steep hills and their famous cable cars. Cleveland’s terrain is much flatter, and we have our own unique sightseeing transportation. If you’re visiting Cleveland, or even if you live in the area, you may see the bright red trolleys driving through the downtown area. That’s Lolly The Trolley, a City Sightseeing Tour. Each Lolly The Trolley vehicle holds less than 40 passengers, and offers one and two hour narrated tours, covering some of Cleveland’s most prominent places of interest, such as the Flats with the Cuyahoga River and port; the North Coast Harbor, which is home to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and the Great Lake Science Center, the Downtown area, which includes the Terminal Tower and other landmark buildings and architecture, the West Side Market; Playhouse Square; University Circle and the Cultural Gardens, and many other sights along the way. The open trolleys allow passengers the ability to hear all the sounds of the city, and get some fresh air at the same time. (Yes, there IS fresh air in Cleveland.)

They also offer specialty tours of specific sights of interest, such as a Bridges Tour (there are lots of bridges in Cleveland) and Lakeview Cemetery, where famous people such as President James A Garfield,John D. Rockefeller, and Elliot Ness, among others, are buried. The trolleys can also be chartered for special trips for conventions, meetings, or just about any event.

Lolly The Trolley can be a lot of fun, and a very enjoyable way to learn about the city, either from a visitor’s, or an area resident’s, viewpoint. More information can be found on their web site,

Here is a short video of someone’s trip on Lolly The Trolley.

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