Monday, March 29, 2010

Cleveland Disaster Expert John Stark Bellamy Returns

Press release received:

Cleveland crime and disaster expert John Stark Bellamy II returns to town April 19-24 for a series of talks based on his new anthology, "Cleveland's Greatest Disasters!” (Gray & Co., Publishers).

Bellamy will share stories about the most shocking and gruesome events in Cleveland history, including the tragic Collinwood School Fire of 1908, in which 172 schoolchildren perished; the apocalyptic East Ohio Gas Co. explosion of 1944, which destroyed an entire east side neighborhood; and the grisly 1928 drama in which two workmen were buried alive in cement beneath Terminal Tower.

The author of five books about Cleveland crime and disaster and the former history specialist for the Cuyahoga County Library system, Bellamy retired to Vermont in 2004. This is the first time he has been back to Cleveland to give public talks since 2008.

Click here for a complete list of dates, times, and locations for Bellamy's talks in April:

All events are free and open to the public. For more information, call the venues listed or contact Gray & Co., Publishers; 1-800-708-2819.

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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Boxer Johnny Kilbane

Cleveland Area History just mentioned boxer Johnny Kilbane in their Facebook post and this is merely to provide a link to Kilbane resources in Cleveland Memory. There's also mention of him in the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History.

Dave Davis also posted about Johnny Kilbane, to the Shh, It's the Plain Dealer Library blog.

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Saturday, March 13, 2010

The Problem with Preservation is Poor Planning

The news that the Cleveland Clinic had demolished an old Hathaway Brown building on its property, which came as an unhappy surprise to Cleveland preservationists, underscores the problem with saving historic structures: our approach is too unplanned, piecemeal and last-minute to be effective. Witness that the long-time head of the Cleveland Restoration Society didn't know that the demolition was in the works until she saw a fence go up around the building.

This isn't an indictment of CRS, as its mission is not a grassroots activist organization designed to rally troops against impending demolitions. Nor are our other local history and preservation groups equipped for the task, like the Cleveland Landmarks Commission, or the Western Reserve Historical Society. Most attempts to block demolitions come from individuals and ad hoc groups formed around particular crises, such as the Committee to Save the Huletts, and events moved too fast for the Hathaway Brown house.

What would be a big help would be if someone like an Ed Hauser took it upon his- or herself to monitor all the demolition filings, Landmarks Commission meetings and other venues where earlier notice of threats could be identified. But even this is really approaching the problem too late. Rather we need to systematically examine our preservation ordinances for weaknesses, such as the gap in coverage that applied in this case, to work for stronger ordinances before a particular problem arises, and to identify which are the buildings and districts so valuable to understanding Cleveland's history that they cannot be allowed to get to the point that an owner or developer has invested too much money and ego in a project to back down. Working these structures into an economic development plan, partially centering around tourism or adaptive reuse, and actively promoting them with markers, local and national landmark designations, and literature about their contribution to the city would go a long way towards announcing that these structures are not to be threatened.

As it happens, I don't think the Hathaway Brown house was one worth fighting for, given the nature of the situation. But which ones are? The big old churches on Euclid near the Clinic? The Play House complex? Look at the tremendously built-up nature of East 105th and Euclid a fifty years ago (vs. today) and imagine how that district could possibly have been preserved in anything like its historic use. But it once replaced the village ambiance of nineteenth century Doan's Corners, so many of today's landmarks were yesterday's new developments that leveled cherished buildings then.

I'm not arguing that all Progress stop, or that historic preservation is a losing proposition, but rather to point out that we're drifting from crisis to crisis because no one is doing the hard work of crafting a vision of how history should be preserved in Cleveland and taking the steps to ensure its success.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

My favorite painter of Cleveland scenes dies at 94

Tonight I received notice that Martin Linsey had died in New Mexico. He was 94, so it wasn't entirely a surprise, but I'm nevertheless sadden by the passing of a very nice man with whom I'd had enjoyable connections.

Sometime in the 1990s I became aware of his watercolors and black & white drawings of Cleveland scenes and collected a number of his prints personally. They now hang where I can gaze upon them regularly. Sometime a few years ago I decided to include artistic scenes of Cleveland in our Cleveland Memory Project, so tracked Mr. Linsey down in New Mexico and asked for permission. He said he had slides he could send me and we consequently mounted the first installment of them to Cleveland Memory. But when I tried to send them back to him, my package was returned by the post office, who had no forwarding address. I was very uneasy for many months until I finally got back in touch with him.

More recently, the donor of our magnificent collection of photographs of the building of the Terminal Tower was in town and came to visit. While chatting he mentioned his father and I politely said "Oh, is he still alive?" Bob replied that he was, living in New Mexico. Suddenly I put two and two together, realized Bob's last name is Linsey and confirmed that Martin Linsey was his father. So all the time I'd been frantically trying to find Martin, I had his son's number on my speed dial. I may have felt dumber in my life, but this was right up there.

Meanwhile, we continue to build a Cleveland Memory presence about Martin Linsey and, coincidentally, just this week arranged for the purchase of a set of his black & white prints, not knowing of his impending death. This is all very sad, but we hope to help keep his memory alive.

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Obituary for Martin Linsey, Cleveland Artist

Received tonight from his family:

Obituary for Martin Louis Linsey of Los Lunas, New Mexico
Deceased on March 3, 2010

Martin Louis Linsey of Los Lunas, New Mexico, was born on November 20, 1915, in Cleveland, Ohio, to Dr. and Mrs. Philip Robert Linsey. He is preceded in death by his parents, a brother, Dr. Eugene Victor Linsey, and his first wife, Arline Frances (Schwartz) Linsey. He is survived by his wife, Maria Major Linsey, two sons, Robert Henry Linsey of St. Louis, Missouri, and David Martin Linsey of London, England, and a daughter, Elizabeth Arline Linsey of Aberdeen, North Carolina. Additional surviving family includes a nephew, Peter Linsey of Park City, Utah, two nieces, Barbara (Linsey) Monahan of Bozeman, Montana, and Susan (Linsey) Binsfeld of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, four step-children, eight step-grandchildren and four step-great grandchildren.

Martin’s childhood included an unending exposure to musicians, painters, sculptors and architects who visited the family homes in Cleveland Heights and Mentor-on-the-Lake, Ohio, and instilled in him the love of art and music at an early age. After graduating from Cleveland Heights High School he attended Western Reserve University and the Cleveland School of Art.

Impatient with school, however, he took the first of many odysseys working on boats in the Caribbean, painting watercolors and oils of street scenes in Miami, shrimp boats in St. Augustine, and beach scenes in Key West, Florida. His body of work from that period also reflects trips to The Bahamas; the yacht basin in Nassau as well as native villages. He traveled to Mexico in a Model A Ford, served as First Mate on a small freighter bound for Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, as a Deckhand on a shark-fishing boat to Central America and as an Illustrator aboard a banana boat.

While in the Bahamas on a native fishing boat he was to learn of the attack on Pearl Harbor. He tried to enlist in the Marine Corps but was rejected, of all things, for being color-blind. The 661st Army Combat Engineers, however, were willing to accept a color-blind artist and Martin subsequently found himself producing maps in the combat zones of Italy, France and Germany.

Even in a war zone he was able to paint watercolors which were sent to Cleveland. An art critic was prompted to write that Martin Linsey tried to block out the horrors of war by painting lovely villages that had escaped war damage, with his works attesting to the beauty he always found and sought to express.

After the war he returned to the Bahamas to paint and sail while living, for a time, on a fourteen-foot dinghy. Upon return to Cleveland he resumed his schooling, earning a Bachelors of Education in Secondary Art and a Masters in Art History at Western Reserve University. He then worked at a variety of jobs in the fields of photography and industrial design. He worked for the architectural firm of Dalton and Dalton as a delineator and model-maker and, in 1960, joined the staff of the Education Department of the prestigious Cleveland Museum of Art where he was to remain for the next twenty years.

He traveled to Europe some thirteen times and photographed some of the most historical and world-renowned buildings and sites for lecture use. Many of his watercolor paintings emanate from that period. His body of work includes photographs housed at many universities throughout the United States and have been represented in many publications throughout the world. He has won numerous awards for his watercolors, many of which are in private and corporate collections including the American Red Cross, the U.S. Department of the Interior, the Cleveland Museum of Art and the Standard Fruit and Steamship Company.

After retirement he and Arline settled in Scottsdale, Arizona. After Arline’s death, he met Maria Major with the couple marrying in 1987. They resettled in New Mexico with the sailboats being replaced with four-wheel ATV’s and the seas being supplanted by the expansive skies of New Mexico. Much of their spare time was spent on the ranches of Martin’s brother-in-law, Buddy Major, and he found himself photographing the branding corrals and cowboys. He lent his expertise at painting to Maria who is an artist as well. He introduced her to Europe and taught her to sail. Maria, in turn, showed him the ranch roads of New Mexico.

Martin Linsey was a soft-spoken, quiet, gentle, kind and refined man. He loved his art and was happiest when he was painting or relating his many adventures and travels to friends and family. He could find beauty in a street scene or landscape that many would miss. In recent years you would often find him sketching in the little villages of New Mexico or close to home.


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