Walter C. Leedy, Jr.

Cleveland's Terminal Tower -
The Van Sweringens' Afterthought


I wish to thank Mr. Richard Green, past president of Tower City Properties for permission to explore the archival material at Tower City and to Ms. Blanche Young, Librarian, and Mr. Peter Daniloff, archivist, who sorted and organized over 10,000 architectural drawings there. I would like to express special gratitude to Mr. Gerald Adams for sharing his knowledge about railroads with me, and who, in the fall of 1982, donated to the Library of Cleveland State University and extensive archival collection containing material relating to the Cleveland and Youngstown Railroad Company, the Terminals Company, and the Cleveland Union Terminals Company. I am also beholden to Mr. William J. Becker, University Archivist, for numerous acts of cooperation.

Archival material located at Tower City is prefaced TC and material at Cleveland State University is prefaced CSU. Photographs on pp. 19-22 of the Terminal Tower under construction are by R.E. Hawkins, Lakewood. This article is a preliminary study.

1 For a general history of railroad station design, see Carroll L. Meeks, The Railroad Station, an Architectural History (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1956).

2 An interesting booklet on this topic is Max E. Wilcox and Clayton Hallmark, Cleveland Southwestern and Columbus Trolley (Shelby, Ohio: Hallmarks Books, 1981).

3For a more detailed discussion of these buildings, see Eric Johannesen, Cleveland Architecture 1876-1976 (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1979).

4 The discussion in this paragraph is indebted to William J. Gleason, History of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument (Cleveland: The Monument Commissioners, 1894).

5 Samuel P. Orth, A History of Cleveland, Ohio, 2 vols. (Chicago-Cleveland: S.J. Clark, 1910), I, 764. For the general discussion of Public Square, I am indebted to Orth.

6 For more on the following discussion, see Thomas S. Hines, Burnham of Chicago, Architect and Planner (New York: Oxford University Press, 1974), pp. 158-173.

7 From "Regulating City Building," The Survey, 18 November, 1911, pp. 13-14, quoted in Gwendolyn Wright, Moralism and the Model House (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980, p. 263. For the definitive book on Jensen, see Leonard K. Eaton, Landscape Artist in America, the Life and Work of Jens Jensen (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1964).

8 City of Cleveland Ordinance No.37901-A; C.H. Cramer, Newton D. Baker (Cleveland and New York:World, 1961), pp. 53-54.

9 A series of drawings for the proposed station, done 1915-17 by Graham, Burnham and Co. and their successor firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst, and White, are at TC and CSU.

10 For the following discussion I am indebted to Ian S. Haberman, The Van Sweringens of Cleveland, the Biography of an Empire (Cleveland: Western Reserve Historical Society, 1979), and Mark S. Foster, From Streetcar to Superhighway: American City Planners and Urban Transportation 1900-1940 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981).

11 TC, file CT 67-K.

12 Plain Dealer, 9 February, 1926, and 5 May 1928.

13 Plain Dealer, 9 February, 1926.

14 The idea for such a facility may have come from Jay Latimer, a local real estate man, around 1912. Later in the 1920's, the Cleveland Union Terminals Company purchased land from Latimer and he served as one of their land agents (TC, file CT 105).

15 When the Van Sweringens began to acquire property for the terminus, they found that one small but strategically located parcel was owned by the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad. Such a sale had to be approved by the Land Department of the B & O, located in Baltimore. The brothers thought it worth their while to seek this approval in person. The land agent for the railroad, one McCubben, saw no objection to the sale unless the property served as a means of connection for the proposed terminal, of which he had only sketchy knowledge but which he knew was being developed on the high ground above their land. McCubben asked the brothers to present their plans to F.L. Stuart, Chief Engineer, who suggested the advisability of including some of the stream railroads in the terminal, specifically the B&O, the Erie, and the Wheeling and Lake Erie, among others. Thus the idea for a joint electric and steam facility was due to Stuart's suggestion, made in 1917. Although there had been earlier mentions of such a facility at this site, nothing had come of them, Now, however, serious engineering studies would follow: (TC, files CT and 67-K.)

16 CSU, Terminal Archives

17 Neither the idea of two track levels nor air rights development was original: it had already tried in New York's Grand Central Station.

18 For this discussion see TC, file CT 67-K. The facts given here come from a statement by O.P. Van Sweringen prepared for the Interstate Commerce Commission; file CT 37, C-2; file CT 67-1, typescript of a talk given by Mr. Boyd at Hotel Cleveland on 16 September, 1921.

19 CSU, Minutes of the Railroad Committee, 8 October, 1923.

20 CSU, File CT 9-G-1

21 They followed a system of compiling data for the design of passenger stations that had been used by Grand Central in New York and the Union Station in Cincinnati. This and subsequent engineering reports are at CSU.

22 TC, file CT-44.

23 The legislation of the City of Cleveland in connection with the construction of the Union Passenger Terminal of the Cleveland Union Terminals Company comprises 74 ordinances passed from 1919 to 1930.The initial ordinance is No.47814.

24 CSU, file CT 9-G-1

25 They held to the double-deck scheme suggested in their August report and suggest a mall-express layout, south of Orange Avenue, in the vicinity of East 14th Street. But, as it was proposed to develop the area over the passenger tracks for mercantile purposes, they indicated that this was not feasible without electrification of the stream railroads. At this time, the railroads were still not committed to the whole project.

26 The project also had to seek Federal approval. In a personal letter of 28 February, 1919, to O.P. Van Sweringen, Smith, of the U.S.R.A., requested a summary of all the salient features of the project which would be of "assistance to me in presenting the project to the director General as well as to the corporations, in case of necessity..."since the idea was Smith's, he was clearly a supporter of the project, but he was also and old business partner of O.P. Van Sweringen. Some years before, the latter had formed the Glenville Syndicate to acquire the necessary land and right of way for New York Central's high-level freight yard, which the two had planned together. One may wonder to what degree this project was mutually beneficial. (CSU, file CT 9-G-1 and "Brief before Hon. J.M. Killitts, Arbitrator, Cleveland and Youngstown Railroad, Complainant, vs. New York Central Railroad, defendant.")

27 CSU, file CT 9-G-1. Copies of letters to the City Council of Cleveland (29 November, 1919) and to the Mayor of Cleveland (1 December, 1919), from J.J. Turner, Vice-President, The Pennsylvania Railroad Company.

28 For a discussion of this point, see Haberman, pp. 41ff.

29 Contracts for all these agreements are at CSU.

30 Minutes of the Railroad Committee, 3 November, 1922, and subsequent meetings. The Railroad Committee approved the proposal, but there was a public outcry against it followed by a lawsuit against the County.

31 CSU, file CT 75-D.

32 The lower deck, reserved for electric rapid transit service, was to be 38 feet above river level; the upper deck, for steam, 74 feet above. The elevation of Public Square is approximately 83 feet above the river. The plan, therefore, implied, a station below grade. Access to the station from Public Square would be through upper or lower lobbies. The lower lobby could be approached directly from the corner of Superior and Ontario Streets via a ramp placed diagonally across the southwest quadrant of the Square. Once inside, the passenger would proceed via an arcade connecting this lower lobby to the main waiting room. The upper lobby was right at street level, which was to be ramped up to this entrance. Inside, grand staircase led down to the waiting room.

33 A similar design was later used for the banking halls of the Union Trust Building -- now Union Commerce -- by the same architectural firm. The waiting room, however, would impart a totally different spatial feeling. Since the main entry to it was on the short axis, the passenger's field of vision upon entering could not include the side, that is, the narrow walls of space. The location of these walls and therefore the design of the space, could only become understandable as the traveler moved through it. The space would unfold as he walked into it, thus providing an element of surprise. By contrast, in the Union Trust Building, the main entrance is on the long axis; therefore the visitor is immediately aware of one of the main spaces, because his field of vision would include the side, that is, long walls. (The same architects employed a waiting room o similar conception in the Union Station they designed for Chicago in 1916.)

34 If, for example, the lower deck was at elevation 38 or 36, a great deal of excavation would be necessary. If, however, the lower deck rested at elevation 52, the upper deck could be at 72, with the concourse above both at elevation 92. Either of these solutions had one great disadvantage: the situation of the approaches. The tracks would have had to start separating on the east near Broadway and on the west near the river crossing. Also, if the concourse were at elevation 92, it would be above Public Square rather than below, a clear disadvantage to the air rights developers. Furthermore, since the Pennsylvania Railroad had withdrawn, space for ten tracks for steam operation needed to be provided initially.

35 By accepting the job, Jouett more than doubled his salary (to $1000 per month). Born in Somerville, Massachusetts, in 1878, he started working for New York Central in 1900, as rodman and soon as inspector. In Utica, New York, at $60 per month. By 1909 he was a design engineer at 4200 per month and was made Terminal Engineer for Grand Central in 1917. While here he lived on Drexmore Road in Shaker Heights. Part of his responsibility was the most important task of coordinating the work between the Van Sweringens, the Railroad Committee and its subcommittees, and the architects. Being a New York Central man, he was also on hand to safeguard the interests of the railroads. (TC, construction file, PB-101.)

36 According to this plan, entry off the Square could be gained through either upper or lower lobbies. If one entered through the upper lobby, he would proceed down a central ramp surrounded by a monumental open colonnade eight on the main axis of the station to the ticket lobby below. He would not have had the time or inclination to enjoy the architecture because the incline of the ramp was fairly steep (10 percent), which was necessitated by the limit depth of the site. He would then have arrived in the ticket lobby. An information booth was considerately placed on axis, right in front of him. After purchasing the ticket, our visitor would proceed directly ahead to the steam concourse, to find the stairway down to his train-Alternatively, he could go down exterior ramps-can you imagine how icy these could be in winter time? -- to the lower lobby and then ahead to the ticket lobby. On either side of the ticket lobby were located the east and west interurban concourses. Off the upper lobby were the elevators to the supergrade buildings and two-story arcade passages of shops and offices, which led to the subsidiary lobbies off Prospect Avenue, and Superior and West 3rd Street. The public areas were well ordered and almost axial in their layout.

37 CSU, Minutes of the Railroad Committee, 14 June, 1922.

38 The ticket counter was to be "set back five or six feet west of the face of the columns to give greater effective width to the ticket lobby" -- and to create spaces for individual lines of patrons at each selling place. The main entrance ramp was to have a grade of 10 percent. But in order to achieve this, the floor had to be pitched nine inches across the 28-foot wide entrance lobby and adjustments made in the cross passages in the immediate vicinity of the foot of the ramp.

39 The Plain Dealer, 12 November, 1924.

40 TC, File CT-9-G-10-A. "Notes on a conference with Peter Witt, 15 August, 1918."

41 Letter from Jouett to the Railroad Committee, 3 February, 1925.

42 City of Cleveland Ordinance No. 66292-A.

43 For an introduction to the power of the visual effects of architecture, see Rudolf Arnheim, The Dynamics of Architectural Form (Berkley: University of California Press, 1977).

44 These drawings are at TC.

45 TC, file R-L-a.

46 Ibid.

47 Ibid.

48 TC, file E-9 and Memorandum of 10 April, 1931 to W.S. Hayden from H.D. Jouett. The railroads said the Van Sweringens were taking advantage of them.

49 TC, Minutes of the Board of Directors, 25 July 1927, CSU, Report to the Internal Revenue Service for 1930.

50 The Plain Dealer, 19 June, 1929.

51 The Plain Dealer, 27 February, 1930.

52 The Plain Dealer, 28 December, 1927.


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