Only in CLE: Iconic Sights

March 15, 2016
Only in CLE: Iconic Sights

Downtown would fit nicely in the pages of an action comic

By Keith Gribbins

You can build failures into fortunes. We’ve had practice. Cleveland’s Cuyahoga River can catch fire. Our Browns can fumble away wins. Cities across America can put tongues firmly in cheeks when mentioning Cleveland, and we’ll just take those lemons and turn them into lemon chiffon pie. Then, we’ll pass out slices at the 2016 Republican National Convention (July 18-21 in Cleveland). We’ll use CLE Iron Chef Michael Symon’s secret recipe, and we’ll save that big piece for the globe’s greatest baller, our very own LeBron James. We invite you to grab a slice too. Put away past perceptions, snag a fork, and let us show you the people and places redefining Cleveland as a success today through our Only in Cleveland article series. Just be warned: This pie will not be humble.

Cleveland is a sight to behold when crossing the Hope Memorial Bridge. It looks like Superman’s Metropolis, a classic 1930s city on the move, clouds breaking across famous skyscrapers like the Terminal Tower (which has an awesome observation deck, BTW) and the AT&T Huron Road Building (rumored to be the influence for Superman’s Daily Planet building). Our city is full of influential architecture that makes downtown feel like an action comic. Sorry, we should probably mention that Superman was actually created in Cleveland too.

That same Hope Memorial Bridge has the four Guardians of Transportation, giant sandstone statues carved into the structure, each holding different modes of transport in their massive hands since 1932. Overall, bridges are a city staple. In fact, it’s impossible to drive from one side of Cleveland to the other without crossing a bridge over the crooked Cuyahoga River. There are more than 330 bridges in the immediate Cleveland area, and we dare you to try and cross them all. Just be sure to inspect the iconic bridge work, like the 3,112-foot Veterans Memorial Bridge, which once held streetcars on its lower level.

Older than a lot of those bridges, The Arcade between Superior and Euclid avenues was erected in 1890, engineered with two nine-story office towers connected by a five-story glass-roofed atrium. This sophisticated, old-world, Victorian-era shopping space follows the early nineteenth century tradition of covered malls (like the Royal Opera Arcade in London). Today, the Arcade is still a beautifully preserved shopping center, now filled with modern gift shops, clothing boutiques, and eats and drinks from the likes of The Chocolate Bar.

Of course, it’s not just century-old buildings bringing architectural fans to Cleveland. The Peter B. Lewis Building at Case Western Reserve University was dedicated in 2002, designed by world famous architect Frank Gehry. Named for the local Progressive Insurance mogul, the Peter B. Lewis Building houses the business school of Case Western Reserve (the famed Weatherhead School of Management). The structure’s wavy titanium exterior reflects the school’s innovative approach to management education (where no two classrooms are exactly alike).

The Peter B. Lewis Building sits in University Circle, Cleveland’s museum, art, and education district. Right down the street is Severance Hall, home of the Cleveland Orchestra (one of the “Big Five” orchestras in America). The building itself is a temple to music, opened in 1931. The hall’s architectural significance (recognized on the National Register of Historic Places) exudes from its elegant Georgian exterior. The interior reflects a combination of art deco, Egyptian revival, classicism, and the modernist kitchen sink. Seeing the actual Cleveland Orchestra play at Severance Hall is a bucket-list event.

It’s pretty easy to see: Art has been engineered into every corner of Cleveland. From the yellow bricked clock tower of the West Side Market to the glass pyramid of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, Northeast Ohio is full of architectural artwork you can find by just walking down the street. Pro Tip: Instagram’ers, get great views of Cleveland from Voinovich Bicentennial Park and atop the James A. Garfield Memorial in Lakeview Cemetery, and don’t be afraid to use that selfie stick at the world’s largest outdoor GE Chandelier in Playhouse Square.

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