As I was reading Sally’s blog about the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame candidates for induction, I got a twinge of regret. Not for myself, but for the people out there who wonder why the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame is located in a dirty, dingy, sooty, pollution-ridden, poverty-stricken town like Cleveland. The answer is simple: it isn’t. It’s located in a beautiful downtown venue on a truly gorgeous (and clean) lake, surrounded by historically significant, breathtaking architecture.
Not the Cleveland you remember? OK, I’ll give you the fact that Cleveland had some truly bad years before the cleanup began. When I was younger, the Cuyahoga River caught fire, the downtown buildings were stained with soot, and Lake Erie fish contained so much mercury that only the truly brave would dare eat them.
But that was then. When I moved to the Cleveland area, the Rock Hall, Jacobs Field, Gund Arena, the Great Lakes Science Center, and the Flats renovation had just been completed. Browns Stadium was under construction. Now Jacobs Field is Progressive Field, the Gund Arena is the “Q” (for Quicken Loans), and the Flats area is undergoing its second resurrection, this time with upscale apartments to bring a sense of community to the area. Those who bemoaned the failure of the downtown renaissance simply missed the point – it’s a work in progress that will take years to complete, but the city will be better for having made the effort.
The new construction in the downtown area should bring more attention to the beautiful and historic Burnham Mall, planned in 1903 to bring neoclassical (“Beaux-Arts”) architecture to Cleveland. Its brainchild, Daniel Burnham, was the architect responsible for Chicago’s “White City”, the buildings constructed for the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair, otherwise known as the Columbian Exposition. In any case, Cleveland’s Burnham Mall still stands as a landmark that you shouldn’t miss when you visit the city.
A sightseeing tour of downtown Cleveland can be done in two ways: by trolley or by boat. The trolley tour cruises the downtown and provides close views of the Mall, numerous public buildings including Burnham’s Federal Reserve, the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument on Public Square, and the War Memorial Fountain (also called the Fountain of Eternal Life). You can obtain information on trolley tours at http://www.lollytrolley.com/ . I’ve taken the tour and I highly recommend it.
But the trolley can only show the view from the street, and much of Cleveland’s beauty is best seen from the water. The Goodtime III, Cleveland’s largest excursion ship, operates from the North Coast Inner Harbor at the East 9th Street Pier. A trip on the Goodtime III includes a winding trip up the Cuyahoga River through the Flats to the industrial area of the old city. Practically every iron bridge design known to mankind is visible on the cruise: lift gates, knife gates, swing bridges, etc. The Cuyahoga twists and turns through the old neighborhoods, providing a historic look not otherwise possible.
If you get the chance to spend a few days sightseeing in Cleveland, give it a try – you’ll be amazed at what the city has to offer. Furthermore, if this has piqued your interest, check out Cleveland on Foot, an excerpt from the book by Patience Hoskins. The book is an excellent guide to hiking in the Greater Cleveland area. The excerpt describes the architectural marvels of the downtown area – check it out.