Sunday, May 28, 2006

Viktor Schreckengost at home and in the galleries

Steve Litt had a terrific article this morning's PD about local artistic legend Viktor Schreckengost, as he approaches his 100th birthday next month. His family is working to reinforce his place in American cultural history, which is part of the motivation behind the spate of shows in his honor around the country this spring. My wife and I saw him at the Cleveland Museum of Art's show in his honor some years ago and thought he seemed like a nice person, as well as a great talent. This article reinforces that conclusion. (Steven Litt. "Where credit is due." Plain Dealer, Sunday, May 28, 2006. Page J-1.)

Dan Tranberg had also written about Mr. Schreckengost on Friday, reviewing his artistic output in particular, based on some of these showings. His conclusion was that Schreckengost was somewhat less innovative with his watercolors than with his ceramics and industrial designs. (Dan Tranberg. "Schreckengost's own innovations overshadow his basic watercolors." Plain Dealer, Friday, May 26, 2006. Page T28, Friday Magazine.)

I should add that I found one of Mr. Schreckengost's watercolor reproductions irresistible recently. While coming out of CSU's Urban College one rainy afternoon, I spotted a remarkable series of framed paintings in the window of Bonfoey's across Euclid Avenue, so I ran over to get a better look at what seemed to be a picture of one of the old MLK bridges. It was one of those beautiful stone bridges that were designed by Charles Schweinfurth and when I got up to the painting, I saw that it was by Viktor Schreckengost. It was one of a numbered series of signed reproductions and I bought it on the spot, not being able to resist the combination of two such brilliant local designers. It's titled "Liberty Boulevard" and I'll be moving it to my campus office once Bonfoey's show is over and it can come out of their window.

Lakeview Cemetery tours this summer

Lakeview Cemetery is a gorgeous historic place to visit during the summer and they have a nice list of tours and programs up on their web site. In addition to the traditional Memorial Day observances tomorrow, they will have two morning tours on Saturday, June 3rd, -- one about angelic statues and one about the geology of the monuments -- and then the events go on from that day. (Thanks to Stu Spivak, whose recent post to a flickr photo group about these tours reminded me).

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Bernadine Koman Rini obituary

I read the PD's obituaries for the interesting variety of backgrounds people profiled there had and occasionally am amazed that someone was, until now, still around. A case in point was this mornings obit for Bernadine Koman Rini, who was a model for Sterling-Lindner-Davis and Halles among others. What caught my eye was the headline announcing that she'd christened the Main Avenue Bridge, in 1939. I have a particular interest in the city's historic bridges and have seen photos of the group of ancient-looking engineers who officiated over the construction of the Main Avenue Bridge, but had trouble imagining that anyone involved with the birth of the bridge was still around. Mrs. Rini also appeared in Billy Rose's Aquacade for the Great Lakes Exposition, which is reaching its 70th anniversary this summer. Mrs. Rini was 90. (Richard M. Perry. "Bernadine Koman Rini, 90, model who christened Main Avenue Bridge." Plain Dealer. Saturday, May 27, 2006. Page B-7.)

Broadview Heights landmark to be razed

In an otherwise silly article about people who want to find ghosts in the old Broadview Developmental Center, mention is made of the pending demise of this building, originally a VA hospital, to become a recreational park. (V. David Sartin. "Ghost-hunters haunt Broadview Heights." Plain Dealer. Saturday, May 27, 2006. Page B-1)

Congressman Stokes' heirlooms disappear

A suitcase full of cherished Stokes family memorabilia, destined for an exhibit at the Western Reserve Historical Society, has been lost by the airlines, Congressman Louis Stokes reports. (Michael K. McIntyre. "Priceless pieces of past vanish." Plain Dealer. Saturday, May 27, 2006. Page B-1)

Friday, May 26, 2006

"Believe in Cleveland" advertising section of PD

Today's Plain Dealer contained three sections of advertisements focusing on their "Believe in Cleveland" campaign. I mention this here because some of the firms who placed ads have or had strong Cleveland ties and there's some information about their histories.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Historic preservation awards granted locally

Steven Litt reports that the Cleveland Chapter of the American Institute of Architects has awarded seven local projects with awards: 1) McGuffey School, 2) West Tech Lofts, 3) Hanna Perkins Center, 4) Josaphat Arts Hall, 5) Shiloh Baptist Church, 6) Nottingham-Spirk Innovation Center and 7) Howard Metzenbaum Federal Courthouse. (Steven Litt. "Local projects win preservation awards." Plain Dealer, Thursday, May 25, 2006. Page F-4.)

Bus garage to upscale bathhouse

The former Greyhound bus garage at East 26th and Hamilton, on the city's near east side, is being prepared to become a men-only bathhouse. (Michael O'Malley. "Downtown bus garage to get new life as bathhouse." Plain Dealer. Thursday, May 25, 2006. Front page.)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Veterans Memorial Bridge & Subway Tour this Saturday

Shot of lower deck of Veterans Memorial Bridge during an earlier tour, shot by Stu Spivak
The Cuyahoga County Engineer, Robert C. Klaiber Jr., has scheduled two more tours of the landmark Veterans Memorial Bridge (aka the Detroit-Superior Bridge for us die-hards), the first of which is coming up on Saturday, May 27th, from 9:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. The bridge formerly carried streetcars across the Cuyahoga on a lower deck that has been closed for many years, but the County Engineer has been good enough to recognize the appeal of this abandoned space -- especially the former streetcar station below the pavement under West 25th Street -- and afford us the opportunity to revisit the lower level periodically. Access is made from the northwest corner, one the road running parallel to Superior that runs out to Spaces Gallery and the old Superior Viaduct. If you cross the bridge, east to west, and make a U turn at West 25th and back-track to the County Engineers Building, you will find the tour starting in the parking lot. The tour is free and here are more details. If you missed today's Ohio City Home Tour (next blog entry, below), you could catch this bridge tour, go drive around and see the Ohio City neighborhood and then retire to one of many great cafes in the area for an early supper. The next scheduled bridge tour, by the way, is September 2nd.

Lovin' the Ohio City Home Tour

As much as we've enjoyed the home tours in Cleveland Heights, Shaker Heights and even the Forest Hill neighborhood, our favorite annual event is the Ohio City Home Tour, which Charlotte and I attended this afternoon. Ohio City is so enjoyable because the ambiance of the neighborhood -- which is actually a designated historic district running west from West 25th Street -- is so charming and not because the homes are ostentatious. With the exception of a few larger homes on Franklin Boulevard, the "Millionaire's Row" of west side society in the nineteenth century, most of the houses are relatively modest, closely spaced, and mixed with the occasional church, school, library, cafe, bakery, neighborhood mart or even small business. Mature trees arch over small yards, usually bordered with fences of all description and often filled with lush, colorful gardens. The homes, generally built over a hundred years ago are frame or brick and most bear the woodwork, fireplaces and large, irregular rooms that are so lacking in the typical suburban home of the past century. The residents seem somehow more creative that the norm and the interiors of many of these homes reflect the bold design choices and personal collections of their owners. Each year the Ohio City folks select around 8 houses and a few apartment or condo developments to feature and give us all a glimpse of what it could be like to live in a vibrant, edgy neighborhood, where one neighbor may have spent $100,000 on a wonderfully creative restoration of a workmen's home, while on the other side, a neighbor may be on food stamps. It is this lack of economic and design homogeneity that sets off places like Ohio City, yet makes them so fascinating to visit. Taking the tour can be done by walking, by queuing up for the Lolly the Trolley shuttles or by driving from point-to-point, as we do. There are also Realtor open houses for homes not on the tour and in each of the last couple of years they have included properties every bit as memorable as those which are on the tour. You could easily double the length of the tour by hitting these open houses and thereby add a valuable dimension to the tour. Watch the Ohio City web site for the details of next spring's tour, or if you cannot wait until then, watch the paper for open houses there in the coming months.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Cleveland's Disappearing Upper Class

I attended Jim Borchert's excellent talk this afternoon at the Western Reserve Historical Society Library, titled "From Euclid Avenue to the Suburbs: The Strange Case of Cleveland’s Disappearing Upper Class, 1885-2006." A strong turnout heard him discuss why Cleveland's elite moved out Euclid Avenue, up onto the heights and gradually out towards the Chagrin Valley in the first half of the twentieth century. As this was contrary to the pattern in some other cities he is researching for an upcoming book, the natural question is why? Was it commercial pressures and bad zoning protection, as Jan Cigliano suggested in her 1991 book, Showplace of America: Cleveland's Euclid Avenue, 1850-1910, or was it the growing presence of Southern blacks moving into the nearby Central neighborhood as part of the Great Migration, or was it increasing industrial pollution, or was it the allure of pure air and sweeping vistas becoming available in new suburbs on the heights? To find out, you'll have to wait for his book. His talk has me looking forward to it!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Another industrial archeology tour

In addition to the Stearns automobile tour, announced earlier (below), members of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology will be having a tour of the Ferro Corporation, on Friday, July 14th. For membership details, contact Nan Hachtel, (440) 951-6069.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

New Italian American Curator at WRHS

Pamela Dorazio Dean was hired as the Associate Curator for Italian American History at the Western Reserve Historical Society in February and is already finding interesting things. (Christopher Johnston. "Historical Society organizes Italian archives," Plain Dealer "Mozaic" section. Tuesday, May 16, 2006. Page S-2.) [Note: "Mozaic" is a monthly advertising section of the PD and doesn't appear to be carried on the PD's page, so I cannot link to the full article here. This month's Mozaic is all about Cleveland's ethnic sub-cultures and is well worth reading.]

Hessler Street Fair this weekend

Another major event in this busy weekend coming is the annual Hessler Street Fair, on University Circle, both Saturday and Sunday, from noon to dusk. Hessler Street is that charming, historic L-shaped street with the brick pavements, which runs between Ford Drive and Bellflower Road. It is one block and a hundred years removed from the Gehry Building, having a dense, shady urban residential feel to it that has attracted folks who shun the wide open spaces of distant suburbia.

This would be a great place to visit after hearing Jim Borchert's talk on suburban history at the nearby Western Reserve Historical Society or before heading out to the Ohio City Home Tour (both covered below).

Monday, May 15, 2006

Jim Borchert speaking Saturday on suburban history

Local history lovers have a great weekend shaping up in a few days. In addition to the ever-popular Ohio City Home Tour on Sunday (below), on Saturday the Western Reserve Historical Society's lecture series on Millionaires' Row features a talk on the history of the city's elite suburbs by CSU emeritus professor Jim Borchert. The lecture, "The Strange Case of Cleveland's Disappearing Upper Class, 1885-2006," is at 1:30 pm at the Society's East Boulevard location. Admission is required and reservations are suggested. I had the good fortune to have studied under Dr. Borchert and know him to be a delightful and knowledgeable person. (details)

Smoochie Gordon and the One O'Clock Club

Having successfully talked my wife into baking some toll house cookies yesterday, I went digging through my late aunt's papers, seeking her mother's recipe. There I stumbled upon grandmother's membership card to Bill "Smoochie" Gordon's famous One O'Clock Club and a typewritten note from him, welcoming her to the club. They got her name wrong, spelling it Barron instead of Barrow, but the card and note are in almost-pristine condition. It was especially nice to find them as I'd just met Bill Gordon during the taping of an oral history he did with Mike Olszewski as part of Mike's practicum at CSU's Special Collections. (The cookies were great!)

Oral histories to enhance Euclid Corridor

When completed, the Euclid Corridor Project currently underway will include 19 interactive oral history kiosks at 12 locations along the project, from Public Square to University Circle, giving RTA riders an opportunity to hear the stories of everyday Cleveland residents about the history of Cleveland and Euclid Avenue. Some 60 of a projected 300 interviews have been conducted by Cleveland State University History professors Mark Tebeau and Mark Souther and will eventually be made available at these innovative new kiosks, reports CSU's alumni magazine. ("Capturing Euclid Avenue's Past," Perspectives. Spring/Summer 2006 issue. Pages 2-3).

Ohio City home tour is this Sunday!

If the Ohio City Home Tour isn't the granddaddy of them all, it's certainly one of the biggest and best of the local historic neighborhood tours and it's coming up this Sunday (May 21st), from 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.. The $15 Sunday tour will be kicked off the evening before by a $100 a person progressive food and wine tasting event and special tour of six homes via Lolly the Trolley. Visit the Ohio City Near Westside Development Corporation web site for details on the 18th Annual Ohio City Home Tour on Sunday and/or the 13th Annual Evening in Ohio City pre-event on Saturday, at

Friday, May 12, 2006

Lakewood Public Library plans new make-over

Ground has recently been broken for a $16 million renovation of the ninety-year-old Lakewood Public Library building, to be designed by notable, if revivalist New York architect, Robert A.M. Stern. (Steven Litt. "Lakewood's new library plan speaks volumes." Plain Dealer. Friday, May 12, 2006. Page E-1).

Lorain's historic rose garden being replanted

Lakeview Park's rose garden was always a favorite spot for Lorain residents earlier in the twentieth century, until it slowly declined. Now the parks department and a big community fundraising effort are returning the garden to its historic splendor. (Molly Kavanaugh. "In this case, they are promising a rose garden." Plain Dealer. Friday, May 12, 2006. Page B-1).

25 years since Len Barker's perfect game

On Monday it will be a quarter century since the Cleveland Indians' Len Barker pitched a perfect game against the Toronto Blue Jays at Municipal Stadium, only the 8th such perfect game in major league baseball's modern era. [Extensive story with statistics] (Burt Graeff. "Epic Echoes." Plain Dealer. Friday, May 12, 2006. Page D-1.)

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Industrial archeology group to tour Stearns auto collection

Members of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology are being afforded a private tour of a fabulous collection of Stearns automobiles on Sunday, June 11th, at 2:30 p.m. in western Lake County. For membership details, contact Nan Hachtel, (440) 951-6069, and then to RSVP for the tour, Jim Wickert, at (216) 696-5729, or

Ohio House voting on historic preservation bill Tuesday

The Greater Ohio e-newsletter reports that the Ohio House of Representatives will be voting Tuesday, May 16th, on a bill that would provide tax credits for historic preservation.

FOLLOW-UP: Greater Ohio reports that the bill passed the State House on Tuesay and now goes to the Senate.

More on Marcel Breuer's Ameritrust tower

Steve Litt has followed up his Sunday column (below) with an article about one architectural firm's feeling that preserving the Breuer tower is an affordable option for the County. (Steve Litt. Plain Dealer. "Saving downtown high-rise draws support." Thursday, May 11, 2006. Page F-4).

Tour local water works on Saturday

The Baldwin Water Works, on Fairhill, and the Crown Water Works, on Clague Road, will hold guided public tours of their facilities this coming Saturday from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. in celebration of National Drinking Water Week. To register, call (216) 664-2444 x5676. (Plain Dealer. "Water Works Tours." Thursday, May 11, 2006. Page B-3).

Monday, May 08, 2006

Should Breuer building be saved?

In his Sunday column, Plain Dealer Architecture Critic Steven Litt posed the question of what the Cuyahoga County Commissioners should do with the former Ameritrust office tower they recently purchased at East Ninth Street and Euclid Avenue, which was designed by notable architect Marcel Breuer in 1971. The building was done in a style not particularly popular today and presents a number of problems for renovation, but Breuer is gaining recognition as a major national architect for his period and destroying one of his buildings might be considered ill-advised. Therefore the Commissioners have sent a survey out to eleven architectural firms, asking what they might do to preserve the building, or even if they recommend it should be saved. (Steven Litt. "Cuyahoga County asks architects if Breuer tower is worth saving." Plain Dealer. Sunday, May 7, 2006. Page J-7.) Note that this does not affect the 1908 Cleveland Trust building right on the corner, as that has a large popular following.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Walter Leedy's new local history endowment fund

Walter C. Leedy, Jr. recently established a “Cleveland Historical Materials Library Endowment” for the purchase of local history materials for the Cleveland State University Library’s Special Collections department, home of the Cleveland Memory Project. Dr. Leedy is a Professor of Art at CSU and has long been a supporter of the Library. He was instrumental in securing the Cleveland Union Terminal Collection and the Wilbur J. & Sara Ruth Watson Bridge Book Collection and endowment fund in past decades and is currently allowing us to digitize his amazing Cleveland postcard collection, which have graced the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Cleveland Public Library in recent years. The new fund he has established with a gift of $25,000 is not only generous all by itself, but his intention in setting it up is to allow others to contribute for such a purpose who lack the minimum contribution necessary to establish a fund. By seeding this fund, he has facilitated further donations of lesser amounts for the support of Special Collections, thus enhancing the fund’s potential benefits for collecting local history resources. (Anyone interested in making at contribution of any amount should contact the CSU Development Office at 216.687.5522)

National Air Races to be featured Saturday

Cleveland's old National Air Races will be discussed at an all-day symposium on Saturday, May 6th, as the Society of Air Racing Historians, Inc., meet at the Holiday Inn on West 150th. ("Historians to celebrate Cleveland's air races." Plain Dealer. Thursday, May 4, 2006. P. B-2)

Monday, May 01, 2006

Cleveland Archival Roundtable meeting in Hudson

(press release)

Start your Memorial weekend off with a trip to beautiful Hudson, Ohio for the May meeting of the Cleveland Archival Roundtable on Thursday May 25th. We will begin at 6:30 pm with a tour of the historical society's new facility. Following the tour we will enjoy sandwiches and refreshments provided by the historical society and CAR steering committee, and finish with the business meeting.

The Hudson Library and Historical Society is located at 96 Library Street, easily accessible from Routes 91 and 303. Please visit the library website at for a map and driving directions.

Please RSVP to our hostess, Gwen Mayer, at 330-653-6658 ext 1017, or

Victor Schreckengost show at Bonfoey

Bonfoey Gallery has announced a new show opening May 10th, "A Cleveland Legacy," which honors Cleveland's leading industrial designer, Victor Schreckengost. Mr. Schreckengost, who turns 100 this summer (June 26th), was honored with a major exhibit at the Cleveland Museum of Art in 2000-01 and this show at Bonfoey will offer some of his works for sale. It runs though July 1st. There will be a reception Wednesday, May 10th, 5 to 7 p.m. at the gallery, which Mr. Schreckengost "hopes to attend."

NOBS Show and Tell for book collectors

In her informative and attractive e-newsletter, Harriet Logan, of Loganberry Books, announced that the Northern Ohio Bibliophilic Society will be holding a Show & Tell session on Saturday, May 20th, at 4:00 p.m., at her store on Larchmere, off Shaker Square. It will be sort of an Antiques Roadshow type of event, with people encouraged to bring in their treasures, questions and curiosities. It's free for NOBS members and $3 for everyone else. (Loganberry Books, 13015 Larchmere Boulevard; Shaker Heights, Ohio 44120; (216) 795-9800. Open Monday-Saturday, 10am-6pm)

Ohio Historic Preservation Office Awards

(press release)

Do you know of a great rehabilitation project? A special person or group that should be recognized for a significant preservation effort? An effective program, event, or campaign that increased awareness of historic preservation?

Each year, the Ohio Historic Preservation Office recognizes achievements in historic preservation by presenting awards in two categories: Public Education and Awareness, and Preservation Merit. People, organizations, businesses, and public agencies are eligible for the awards.

Anyone may submit a nomination for the awards. Nominations must be postmarked by June 1. A selection committee comprising members of the governor-appointed Ohio Historic Site Preservation Advisory Board and the Ohio Historic Preservation Office staff will choose winners in each category. Awards will be presented October 7 at the Ohio Historical Society and Ohio Association of Historical Societies & Museums 2006 Annual Meeting and Conference.

For a nomination form, click here, call (614) 298-2000 or write: Ohio Historic Preservation Office Awards, Ohio Historic Preservation Office, 567 East Hudson Street, Columbus, OH 43211-1030.