Walter C. Leedy, Jr.

Cleveland's Terminal Tower -
The Van Sweringens' Afterthought

Continued from: "Fitting the station into the city"

Architects and engineers refine the plans

The more the plan for a double-deck station was studied and its technical implications understood, the less feasible it seemed. 34 In 1920, for both technical and economic reasons, plans were adopted for a single-deck station with tracks at elevation 52. This important decision was to influence all others.

It is in this period that the detailed needs for the station were finally determined and recommendations made. These were based on the original requirements for the station on the Mall, compared to those of Grand Central Station in New York City, as modified by H.D. Jouett, Terminal Engineer for Grand Central Station at the time. During this formative period, W.E. Pease was Chief Engineer of the Cleveland Union Terminals Company. Jouett officially began to oversee the Terminal project on 1 January, 1922. 35 He made detailed critical comments on a series of proposed plans developed by the architects, especially with regard to how the various functions should relate to each other, to the spaces needed for them, and to the working conditions within each space. In other words, he worked out the architectural program.

By the end of 1920 a general plan and conception based on programmatic needs for the station had been developed. 36 Now came the job of the Railroad Committee: to refine and implement this plan. In June, 1922 it suggested a new track plan calling for 12 station tracks with growth to 24. This decision called for the rearrangement of certain proposed streets -- the streets in the terminal complex were carried on bridges so the trains and station could be subgrade -- and the purchase of and additional 15-foot frontage along lower Superior Avenue. Van Sweringen summarized the land question and the political situations as to the required street changes: additional frontage on Superior...estimated cost of $2,533,500...80 feet depth will salvage...Suitable development of this...[should] realize substantially the cost of all property involved. On the street his usual political craftiness, "It is not improbable that the city will approve...but the request should be not made...until construction work has progressed to a point where the public are thoroughly convinced of the work going ahead and at a time when the complete exhibit of accurate plans can be submitted to them without revealing information that does not now want to be discussed." 37 Besides increasing track capacity, the advantage of this extension to the railroads was longer platforms and easier curves for the tracks. Van Sweringen hoped to enlarge the commercial district, perhaps with a theater or other intensive development. He put pressure on the Railroad Committee to agree to this extension by saying that the Building Company had options on some of the needed property that were shortly to expire. Thus, the cost could be considerably higher in the future. Ultimately, the Railroad Committee agreed.

By December, 1923 the Railroad Committee reached decisions to govern the architects and engineers in preparing new plans, which were approved on 15 January, 1924. These specifications included the width of the ticket lobby (93 feet), the type and location of ticket counter, 38 the location of the cab stand, station master's office barber shop etc. The guiding principle behind these new arrangements was nicely to balance the respective importance of the facilities considering both service and revenue. By the end of January, 1924 twenty different schemes, prepared by the architects, had already been considered. In April, 1924, because of the death of architect Pierce Anderson, C.F. Kruse was assigned to represent the architects on the various design subcommittees.

In May, 1924 it was decided -- "for obvious reasons" -- not to fight the city in the courts against the requested price, almost $900,000 higher than the estimated value, for the Police and Fire Department facilities to be demolished to make way for the Terminal. Negotiations were carried out by O.P. Van Sweringen himself. They knew whom not to offend, especially since the heightening of the tower had already been decided but had yet to be announced. The Terminals Company overpaid for other properties, too. For example, as L.C. James, General Land and Tax Agent for the New York Central, reported to the Railroad Committee:" It seems inconceivable that the foreign-speaking people residing in the vicinity of the west approach pay the rentals prevalent in this territory or purchase homes at the current market prices recorded in this district, but investigation indicates that their first consideration is to obtain a home near their local parochial school and church in the vicinity where their fellow countrymen live. The wretched hovels...are not worth the capitalized rent value of many of these buildings." In dealing with land and lease holders who the Terminal Company believed demanded excessive prices, even after independent appraisal, for their property, they would normally go to court. There were over one hundred such cases. O.P. Van Sweringen determined part of this strategy the Company was to follow at the appropriation proceedings: have as few lawyers present as possible, as a mob of lawyers would "only result in putting in the minds of the jurors the we have money to burn."


Continues in: "A monumental secret"

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