Continued from the introduction
Although the buildings on Public Square were a source of pride
to many of the city's residents, there were some critics. Writing
in 1910, Samuel Orth, a historian of the city, said, "The
stately Williamson Building ... overlooks[the Square] with majestic
Public Square lacked a cohesive visual image. To many, the glory
of the Square had evidently departed. By 1890, the stately elms
were all gone, and the sycamores that were planted every year
only sickened and died as a result of the sulphurous air pollution.
The character of Public Square and especially of the southeast
quadrant did not reflect the emerging greatness of the growing
Public Square had been and was the traditional center of civic
life. It was the site of the first execution in the county. It
was where dignitaries, like Abraham Lincoln, were greeted and
where public debates were held. And it was where, during the Municipal
Centennial of 1896, the Pageant of Peace marched under a great
triumphal arch of victory especially built over Superior Avenue
for the occasion. But since the early 1890's, plans had been in
the making that would change all that. Prompted by the fact that
federal, county, and municipal governments were all in need of
larger new buildings, a group of citizens and Cleveland's Architectural
Club promoted the idea of creating a unified grouping of public
buildings in a central location. 6
Populist Mayor Tom Johnson, after his election in 1901, endorsed
the idea of Group Plan proposal and made it part of his program,
in the hope that public architecture and landscaping would symbolize
the city's riches and would stimulate civic pride. Johnson appointed
a commission headed by architect Daniel Burnham which made its
report on the proposed Group Plan in 1903. The public at large
was not consulted: Burnham was not a believer in town meetings.
|The Burnham Commission's plan for the Cleveland Mall, including buildings projected for the near and distant future. From 1903 until 1919, the anticipated site for the new Union Station (1) was to be at the end of the Mall near the lake. Recognizable in this rendering are Public Square (2) and Euclid Avenue (3) Drawing from the Commission Report, reproduced in Charles Moore, Daniel H. Burnham (1921).|
The Commission's Report called for placing a "civic center" now known as the Mall, just northeast of Public Square, running from Superior Avenue all the way to the Lake. The conception -- a grouping of monumental civic buildings around a grand open space -- was derived from the City Beautiful movement: a show city of dazzling public buildings illuminated by street lighting inspired by the Columbian Exposition of 1893.
By the early twentieth century some planners, such as Jens Jensen,
were critical of City Beautiful schemes as grandiose, inhumane,
imperialistic and undemocratic. "The more formality in its
feeling and tendency." 7
And by the early teens taxpayers across the country, including
those in Cleveland, were reluctant to pay for architectural magnificence
when urgent practical problems confronted them.
The building of the Mall constituted a large-scale redevelopment
near the core of the city, which was then primarily a clutter
of waterfront dives, bordellos and slums. Progressive citizens
had for years demanded the improvement of this area, especially
since it was "downtown". By the end of World War I,
over 25 million dollars had been spent on it. And at least 5-10
million more would be needed to finish the job. This task was
perceived both as an improvement of the quality of life in the
city and a visible symbol of the city's collective image. There
was little apparent concern for the people to be displaced by
this project, and no effort was made to help relocate them. On
the whole Clevelanders supported the project. The average citizen
was fond of palatial grandeur, and dedicated architects were willing
to provide it. Mayor Johnson was in touch with popular taste.
Along with the plan for the Mall arose a sense that a new lake
front railroad station was needed. The old station, built in 1864,
was inadequate and hardly represented the first impression that
the city's leaders wished to give to the visitor. By 1903, after
some debate, it was decided that the station would be relocated
at the north end of the Mall, since the railroad tracks were already
along the lake front. Almost twelve years of continual litigation
about the price the railroads would be charged for the site were
to follow this decision.
|The Union Station that never was; one of several proposed schemes done between 1915 and 1917 for the new terminal to be located on the lakeside end of the Mall. Drawing by the architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst and White. Gerald Adams collection.
Finally, in 1915, the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads entered into an agreement with the city, approved by a public referendum, that appeared to settle the long dispute. 8 The railroads were to pay the city about one million dollars for the new site next to City Hall, and the city in turn was to use that sum to acquire more land for the Mall, thus relieving the need to burden the taxpayer with the costs of the project. America's entry into the War caused further delays, and as late as November, 1917, alternative architectural plans were still being prepared for the proposed station. 9 It began to look as if construction would never start and Cleveland would never have its new station. To make matters more complicated, the railroads had begun to realize that a new passenger station on this site really did not address their important needs for improved freight service.
Continues in: "Enter the Van Sweringens"
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