Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Tomorrow's GCHDLC Meeting

The next meeting of the Greater Cleveland History Digital Library Consortium will be held tomorrow, Thursday the 30th, at Heights Library. The GCHDLC is made up of librarians, historians, and others interested in presenting local history on the Web.

The theme of this meeting is the collaborations going on up on the Heights, involving a cast of people from the various historical societies, public libraries and governmental units. Roy Larick will be giving a presentation on what he and Steve Titchenal have been doing around the topic of Bluestone Heights, tracking historic terrain and watersheds using Google Earth and historic map overlays. We will also hear about a project to add 3-D models of the North Union of Shakers community buildings to Google Earth, involving the Shaker Historical Society and the Shaker Heights Public Library in partnership with an architectural class at the University of Cincinnati. Our host is Debbie Rossman, late of the Westlake Porter Public Library and now with the Heights Library, who will tell us of their plans to work with Cleveland Hts. organizations, such as the City of Cleveland Heights, in building a wider presence in Cleveland Memory.

If you wish to join us at this great meeting, which incidentally is the 5th anniversary of the founding of the GCHDLC, please send me an email at

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Tours of Historic Cleveland

Having just returned from a week of "doing Chicago," walking, busing and boating all over the Windy City and it's fabulous architecture, I come home energized to remind myself what Cleveland has to offer. Here are several sets of tours I intend to sample with the remainder of the summer and suggest you might want to, as well.


Three free tours are offered on a weekly basic through September 6th.
  • The Historic Gateway Neighborhood tour starts at 6:00 p.m. every Thursday, from the Arcade.
  • The Historic Warehouse District tour starts at 10:00 a.m. every Saturday from Constantino's Market on West 9th.
  • And the Canal to Harbor tour also starts at 10:00 a.m. every Saturday, from the Settler's Landing RTA station.


Local architect Jennifer Coleman has put together a great series of walking tours that may be downloaded as free MP3 audio files and maps from her site. They include tours of Lower Prospect, the Warehouse District, Public Square, Cleveland's Bank Lobbies, Cleveland's Arcades, the Buckeye Neighborhood and some Mini-Tours.


Then, of course, there's always Lolly the Trolley, cruising around the city with a bus load of visitors to Cleveland, folks on group outings and individuals taking advantage of Lolly's programs. Their "City Sightseeing" narrated tours are ideal for individuals and come in 1 hour or 2 hour varieties daily. The shorter tour stays in the downtown area, while the longer tour goes out to University Circle as well. Prices for individuals range over $8-$17, depending upon age and tour length, and leave from the Powerhouse.


The Goodtime offers public and private tours of the lake and river throughout the summer. The narrated lake/river public tours run through Labor Day, Tuesdays through Saturdays, at Noon and 3:00 p.m., and Sundays, at 1:00 and 3:00 p.m.. All tours are approximately 2 hours long, leave from the East Ninth Street Pier and cost $9-$15, depending upon age.

These tour options are a great way to reconnect with Cleveland, especially its historic neighborhoods and architecture, so put them in your plans for the month of August.

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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Ohio Historical Society Reinvents Itself For Future Growth

Press release received:

Ohio Historical Center To Change Focus

(Columbus, Ohio) - The Ohio Historical Society is accelerating a plan to reinvent itself as a state history organization, according to executive director and CEO Bill Laidlaw. State support was slashed from $13.5 million two years ago to $7.9 million for the 2010 fiscal year-a 42-percent cut -following years of underinvestment by the state.

As a result, the Society will make significant changes to the state history museum, the Ohio Historical Center in Columbus , as well as continue its efforts to find local groups to manage 10 of its historic sites and museums around the state. In addition, the organization will implement a number of operational changes as it continues to focus efforts on preservation of and access to collections and sites, and expanding its services statewide.

Earlier this year, a number of cost-saving measures were taken, such as a weeklong furlough, a reduction in force and seeking local groups to manage larger OHS sites in response to a 10-percent reduction for fiscal year 2009. However, further actions are needed, including eliminating more jobs across the organization, reorganizing or eliminating programs and additional furloughs.

"While we foresaw tough times ahead, we were stunned to receive this magnitude of a cut in state funding," Laidlaw said. "Once again, we were forced to make difficult decisions, but with challenges come opportunities. Our Board of Trustees has approved a bold plan that will position the organization for future growth by providing the strongest return on investment for limited state dollars as well as the greatest public value for Ohioans."

Ohio Historical Center to Emphasize Collections Learning
In direct response to what the public has said they want the Ohio Historical Society to offer, the Society will be transforming the state history museum at the Ohio Historical Center to focus on collections learning. In studies that have taken place over the past three years, the public has said they want more direct access to the collections, more opportunities for hands-on experiences and ways to explore stories of interest to them using current technology and the resources of both the museum and library.

Plans call for public labs and workspaces in which activities that are usually carried out behind the scenes will be front and center. In addition, collections that are normally stored off-site will be brought to the facility for easy viewing. A distance learning studio, spaces for new exhibitions and technology enhancements are also among the innovations under development. Staff also will be cross-trained allowing fewer employees needed for support, therefore saving on operational costs.

The collections learning center will be created in phases, beginning with the removal of current exhibits, many of which are more than 20 years old. Development and implementation of the $2-million first phase will use existing capital funds and is scheduled to begin starting January 2010.

"With almost 2 million objects in our museum and library collections, the collections-learning-center concept will help make Ohio 's story personally relevant and engaging to today's audiences," said Laidlaw. "We will be creating more exhibitions and programs for traveling to OHS sites, libraries, historical societies, community centers and other museums across the state. In this way, we are redefining the concept of 'state museum.' We will be a museum with a presence all over the state—not just in Columbus ."

Historic Sites and Museums Remain Open
According to Laidlaw, with the 2010 budget decided, there will be sufficient funds for current and future management groups to operate sites. Additionally, the 10 historic sites and museums operated by OHS employees will remain open through their established 2009 seasons while management agreements are finalized. (See below list of management status of OHS sites.)

In the Ohio Historical Society network of 58 historic sites and museums-the largest of any state historical organization in the nation-37 sites are currently operated by local management groups and the remainder are directly administered by the Ohio Historical Society. Managed sites continue to be a vital part of the OHS network of historic sites and museums. "We are more and more dependant on communities to volunteer and raise funds to help us maintain and grow access to our sites," said Laidlaw.

Society To Restructure, Reduce Staffing
As a result of the changing priorities and to make the best use of reduced state funding, the Society will take these measures:

Accommodate the development of the Collection Learning Center , by limiting hours for both the Ohio Historical Center ’s museum and the OHS Archives/Library starting Jan. 1, 2010 through March 1, 2011. The museum only will be open to the public on Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. However, school and other groups will continue to be accommodated on weekdays during this time.

The OHS Archives-Library only will be open Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. *
Enhance its Web presence with an Ohio history online portal to increase access to information and OHS services as well as to generate revenue.
Cease publication of TIMELINE, the quarterly history magazine published by the Ohio Historical Society, at the end of it 25th-anniversary year unless private funding can be secured for future publication. Special events will not be scheduled at the Ohio Historical Center and Ohio Village from Jan. 1 through June 30, 2010.

Mandate 10 furlough days for all employees before the end of the fiscal year.
As a part of the restructuring, 31 full and part-time positions have been eliminated. Of this total, 19 vacant positions will not be filled. In addition, 16 employees were notified of a decrease in their hours. Separately, 53 positions will be eliminated by the end of the year as OHS sites transition to the management of local groups.

Over the last decade, the Ohio Historical Society has had to retrench its operations as state funding declined from a staffing level of more than 400 full-time-equivalent staff members in the 2001 fiscal year to 184 after reductions.

Employees notified today of job losses will receive a severance package and full pay of eligible leave balances. They also are welcome to apply for the Society’s position vacancies. All employment categories were affected among the total number of positions eliminated.

Established in 1885, the Ohio Historical Society, a nonprofit organization, serves as the state’s partner in preserving and interpreting Ohio ’s history, archaeology, natural history and architecture. It provides services in nearly every community in the state. Individuals wanting to help the Society can:

Visit an OHS historic site and museum. To learn more, visit Become a member of OHS. Go online at to join. Make a contribution. Go online at to donate. Business hours for the Ohio Historical Society and the Ohio Preservation Office, both located at the Ohio Historical Center , will remain the same: Monday–Friday, 9 a.m. –5 p.m.

Note: See below listing of OHS site network.

Ohio Historical Society Sites (58)

Ohio Historical Society-Operated Sites (21) * Denotes sites under negotiation to be managed by local managers

Society-Staffed Sites (13)
*Campus Martius
*Fort Meigs
*Harding Home and Tomb
National Afro American Museum
Ohio Historical Center
Ohio River Museum
Ohio Village
*Piqua Historical Area
*Youngstown Historical Ctr. of History & Labor
*Zoar Village

Self-Guided, Society-Operated Sites (8)
Buffington Island
Leo Petroglyph
Lockington Locks
Logan Elm
Seip Mound
Shrum Mound (Campbell Park)
Story Mound

Local-Management Sites (37)
Big Bottom
Buckeye Furnace
Cedar Bog
Cooke House
Custer Monument
Davis Memorial
Fallen Timbers
Flint Ridge
Fort Amanda
Fort Ancient
Fort Hill
Fort Jefferson
Fort Laurens
Fort Recovery
Glacial Grooves
Grant Birthplace
Grant Boyhood Home
Grant Schoolhouse
Hanby House
Harrison Tomb
Hayes Presidential Center
Indian Mill
Inscription Rock
McCook House
Miamisburg Mound
Museum of Ceramics
National Road/Zane Grey Museum
Newark Earthworks
Our House
Quaker Meeting House
Rankin House
Schoenbrunn Village
Serpent Mound
Shaker Historical Museum
Stowe House
Tallmadge Church


Monday, July 20, 2009

Virtual Tour of East Cleveland Township Cemetery

Press release received

Virtual Tour of East Cleveland Township Cemetery
Come for an intimate, virtual tour of one of Cleveland's most-interesting and best-kept secrets: The East Cleveland Township Cemetery:

THIS Wednesday, July 22, 2009
7:00 pm
Superior Schoolhouse, Euclid Heights Boulevard & Superior Road

The East Cleveland Township Cemetery consists of 12 acres of land in University Circle off East 118th Street. Largely forgotten by some Clevelanders, it has been surrounded by urban legend for decades and embroiled in litigation since its founding in 1859. The story has now been uncovered and fact has been separated from fiction.

Please join Nancy Fogel West, vice president and secretary of the East Cleveland Township Cemtery Foundation, and author of To Dwell with Fellow Clay: The Story of the East Cleveland Township Cemetery – for a look at the perpetual home of some of Cleveland's – and the Heights area's – most fascinating settlers, politicians and heroes.

Reservations are required. Call 216-291- 4878.
This event is sponsored by The Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission, the Cleveland Heights Historical Society and the East Cleveland Township Cemetery Foundation. Parking on-site for handicapped and elderly--all others park at Cumberland Park parking lot near pool.

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Wednesday, July 15, 2009

New Book on Veterans Bridge Coming in Fall

In September the Cleveland State University Library will be publishing a major book on the Veterans Memorial Bridge (aka the Detroit-Superior Bridge), by bridge engineer William E. Beyer. Over 600 pages in length and packed with hundreds of historic photos of the bridge, including dramatic construction shots, this handsome hard-cover book will commemorate the bridge's recent 90th anniversary. Only 250 copies of the book will be printed, but thanks to support from the Sloane Family Fund and CSU's Watson Endowment Fund, the book will retail in the $20-25 range. This will be a great gift for someone who loves the bridge (who doesn't?), or Cleveland landmarks history in general. Direct inquiries to me at

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The Innerbelt Bridge is Having Twins

ODOT announced that they'll be replacing the I-90/Innerbelt Bridge with two 5-lane bridges, built one after another. They won't be the "signature bridge" that many have hoped for, but an ODOT spokesperson said "What this committee will do is look at things like lighting and paint color and railings and figure out what works with the landscape of Cleveland...."

Great! We get to pick the shade of lipstick to put on our pig.

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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Celebrating Paper: The 25th Anniversary Ohio Preservation Council Symposium

Press release received:

"Celebrating Paper: The 25th Anniversary Ohio Preservation Council Symposium." The Msgr. Joseph Jessing Conference Center , Columbus , OH. September 17, 2009, 9:00AM-4:00PM.

The Ohio Preservation Council is celebrating a quarter-century of protecting our shared heritage and you are invited to attend! Please join us for a day of informative presentations, demonstrations, and panel discussions on the history, art and preservation of books and paper. Keynote speaker Nicholas Basbanes is an internationally known author whose first book, A Gentle Madness: Bibliophiles, Bibliomanes and the Eternal Passion for Books, was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year that has sold more than 120,000 copies.

Online registration is available via the OPC website:

The complete symposium program can be found here:

A block of rooms has been reserved at the Days Inn & Suites in Worthington , OH . Additional information can be found here:

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Monday, July 13, 2009

CSU Finances Sale of Downtown YMCA Bldg.

The Cleveland State University Foundation has facilitated the purchase of the historic YMCA Building, on the southeast corner of Prospect Avenue and East 22nd Street. A Ironically, this is the location where CSU got its start, as the YMCA's education program, although the exact Fenn Building to the south was demolished recently. Y-Tech was renamed Fenn College for a major benefactor before being sold to the state in 1964 to form the core of CSU (more).

The Foundation will lend funds to the Euclid Avenue Housing Corporation to purchase the building, which will be managed by American Campus Housing the entity who runs CSU's dorms. [This is a correction to my earlier blog saying that CSU itself had purchased the building]

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The Grand Plan for Freeways Across Cleveland

Cleveland Memory Project has just mounted a digitized series of 17 "Route Location Studies" from the 1960s, detailing the plans for a network of freeways across the city. Included are the infamous Heights, Lee and Clark freeways through the Heights. Each of these studies were produced by the engineering firm Howard, Needles, Tammen, & Bergendoff, for either the Cuyahoga County Engineer, Albert S. Porter, or the Ohio Department of Highways and are large-format, spiral-bound booklets containing maps, aerial photos, diagrams, tables and explanatory text about each proposed freeway.

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Roldo: Walking is Depressing in Downtown Cleveland

Roldo Bartimole wrote a blog in May that contrasts nicely with my last entry about downtown traffic counts 90 years ago. Titled "Walking is Depressing in Downtown Cleveland," it reflects the feeling many of us who remember Cleveland's glory days when viewing Euclid Avenue, between CSU and Public Square. Let's hope the benefits of the Health Line kick in one of these days.

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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Historic Sidewalk Counts Downtown

In discussing the value of foot traffic (especially women) to ground floor retail outlets, County Auditor John A. Zangerle furnished some sample counts in his book Principles of Real Estate Appraising, in 1924. Along the south side of Public Square, for example, he reported these counts: 25659 (1916), 24402 (1917), 20552 (1918), 24263 (1919), 28026 (1921), 30077 (1922), which were apparently from studies performed by the Cleveland Association of Building Owners. It would be interesting to look up the full set of data, determine just what these numbers mean exactly, and find out how many years were surveyed.

In 1924, when he was writing, the Cleveland Union Terminal project hadn't begun to focus more traffic on this side of Public Square, so these numbers should have greatly increased in the 1930s and '40s, depending upon the effects of the Depression and WWII.

But what I'd really be curious to know is what the same tallies for today would look like.

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Terminal Tower Gets a Make-Over

This morning's Plain Dealer carries a two-page spread about the recent renovations going on to the venerable Terminal Tower. The article gives us the good news that the scaffolding, which has marred the Tower for a couple of years, is gradually going away, and there's the hopeful comment that owners Forest City Enterprises would like to find a way to re-open the observation deck. With the Sears Tower opening a splashy new cantilevered glass-floored deck and the Empire State Building having a long history of their observation deck being open, I'd sure like to see ours be accessible once again.

The article mentions that the Tower was the "second tallest building in the world" for many years, to the Empire State Building. This is a confusing subject that is repeated in a number of forms and depends upon what's measured and when the clock starts running, but it's pretty clear that the Terminal Tower was the second tallest building when it was topped out in 1927, may've slipped when the complex was dedicated in June of 1930 (well before the Empire State Bldg.), but was still the tallest outside of New York until 1967. The claims often run to the whole world, not just Cleveland, but I haven't taken the time to sort out all the possibilities, which include the considerably-higher 1889 Eiffel Tower.

Thanks to William Neff for the graphics and the PD in general for the article about Cleveland's most important and revered landmark.

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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Mash-ups of historic and contemporary maps

The Greater Cleveland History Digital Library Consortium (GCHDLC), an informal network of historians, librarians and others interested in presenting Northeast Ohio's historic resources in digital format, will be meeting July 30th to learn more about collaborative projects in the Heights which center around historic maps. The group's map committee has previously conducted workshops on how to overlay digitized historic maps onto contemporary maps and aerial photos in Google Earth and now some actual projects have come forth in Shaker Heights and Cleveland Heights that will be demonstrated. Dr. Roy Larick and Steven Titchenal will present their work on a "Bluestone Hts." use of this technology and we will also see what's been done in Shaker Heights, particularly a further development using the Sketch-up program to create 3D models of North Union Shaker settlement buildings.

For more information, contact Bill Barrow, at

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NOCSIA Tour of W.S. Tyler Building

Most east-siders have seen the huge brick complex of historic industrial buildings at Superior and the railroad overpass just west of East 40th Street and maybe a few know it as the W.S. Tyler Building.

This afternoon a small group of members of the Northern Ohio Chapter of the Society for Industrial Archeology (NOCSIA) got a tour of these buildings and learned how they are being developed into Tyler Village, a 1.2 million square foot, 10 acre space for new businesses. I have driven past this complex and particularly admired the arching brick bridges, several stories up in the air, connecting different buildings and the elaborate details of the buildings' trim, so it was good to learn more about them. In the 1870s, W.S. Tyler Co. started manufacturing wire cloth on St. Clair, at the northern end of the property and gradually enlarged to the south until the main entrance was set up along Superior and the old St. Clair headquarters building demolished. In 1962 W.S. Tyler moved to Mentor, where it remains today.

NOCSIA has tours and lectures throughout the years, so visit their website and join.

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