Walter C. Leedy, Jr.

Cleveland's Terminal Tower -
The Van Sweringens' Afterthought

Continued from: "Further delays"

Fitting the station into the city

In the early 1920's, the Van Sweringens tried unsuccessfully to re-route the proposed Huron-Lorain bridge right into the Terminal district. 30 Their intention was to share the cost of the bridge with the County -- trains could cross the valley on a lower deck, automobiles on the upper -- thus saving the project considerable construction costs. Furthermore they believed, correctly that Cleveland's greatest growth of moderate-priced residential districts for the future would be in a south-westerly direction, given adequate bridge connections. They also made economic feasibility studies to determine whether to extend Woodland Boulevard right downtown to Ontario Street. 31 They did everything possible to increase real estate values in the area. The railroads went along with their ideas, hoping to share in the profits, though they disagreed about the possibility of increased land values as a result of re-routing the Huron-Lorain Bridge.

Congestion was apparently going to be a problem in front of the new Union Station. Little parking was provided for people meeting trains. The City had appointed a Subway Commission in 1918, and it proposed to eliminate all surface streetcar lines in the area, thereby opening up the streets exclusively to automobile traffic. The plan was never adopted, but, right from the beginning, plans for the Union Station made provision to connect the concourse area directly to a proposed subway station which was to be located under Public Square.

The early scheme of August, 1918 called for a double-deck station below street level with a passenger concourse located in between. 32 The waiting room was to be a huge rectangular room, 100 by 275 feet, a rectangular room with a skylighted and coffered barrel vaulted ceiling carried on gigantic Corinthian columns. 33 From the waiting room, anther ramp would lead down to the passenger concourse level from which the visitor would walk down stairways to the interurban tracks and upstairs to the stream tracks. This solution left something to be desired.

The waiting room and passenger concourse could also be approached through shop-line passageways from the corners of West 3rd and Superior, as well as from the Square and Ontario and Prospect Avenues. There was no direct access from the central Prospect Avenue entrance to the passenger concourse. The railroads were critical of this blatant attempt to increase traffic flow past the shops, thus benefiting the supergrade (above-ground) development, to the inconvenience of the traveling public.

The interior arrangement of the station was not reflected on the Public Square facade. Visual emphasis was placed on the supergrade construction, which was to consist of eleven-story buildings accented by a central, twenty-story tower. The idea of harmonizing the new station with the Hotel Cleveland, thereby combing the south and west sides of the Square into large composition, and of placing the tower above a diagonal entrance in the middle, impaired a grandeur to the scheme that would not have been possible if the main entrance and facade had been placed on the south side alone. This nearly symmetrical composition with accented inner corner was to have even more important visual consequences later on, with the decision to build a 52-story office tower. The building functions urbanistically because it wraps around the Square instead of merely defining one side of it.


Continues in: "Architects and engineers refine the plans"

Table of Contents