Thursday, September 9, 2010

Take a Hike Cleveland: Historic Gateway District

The Extra Ticket for CPT's Pandemonium is still Extra... if you know anyone, drop me a line. Please.

"When you're in a new place and looking for good food," I heard somewhere, "ask a police officer." I'm not quite sure where I first heard that advice -- I think it was actually from a police officer -- but it has served me well. At the conclusion of tonight's tour, on East 4th St, surrounded by food I asked an officer "Who has the best food?" After a few questions, he pointed me to Flannerty's Pub, where most of this post was written. The service wasn't particularly speedy, but the drink was strong and the food was reasonably good. But I'm ahead of myself.

A few weeks ago I happened upon the fantastic waking tour of PlayhouseSquare, and during that great tour I learned of a whole series of tours covering much if downtown Cleveland. Having been out of town on business for most of the past two weeks and with the end of the season upon us, I wanted to seize the opportunity.

While the temperature was a bit cooler, tonight's tour, covering Cleveland's historic Gateway District was no less fascinating than the previous tour. The district, covering Public Square to East 9th on Euclid and Huron. Early in the tour, a visit by an actor providing a historic interpretation of Progressivist Mayor Tom Johnson (proponent of a single tax and inventor of the transparent fare box among others notables) prompted some unplanned drama as a passerby mistook the interpretation as a besmirchment of current Cleveland mayor Frank Jackson. After tensions were cut, the tour progressed.

While the history of each building and boulevard covered along the way was of course interesting -- you're reading from a guy who loves architectural history and would drop almost anything for a tour of a construction site (it's one of the unexpected highlights of my job as it turns out) -- in that vein, of course there's the Arcade, precursor to the modern shopping mall, where every one of the 40-something griffins at ceiling level carries a different facial expression, the May Company clock which stopped at 4:10 and was never repaired [for some reason this immediately summoned my brain to make a connection connection to Back to the Future]

But as interesting were the tales of the people involved; the proprietor of a women's wear shop (who's name I can't make out from my electronic scribble) who, thanks to a gambling problem, progressively lost portions of his store to the owner of a neighboring building -- or that Jerry Seigel and Joe Shuster based the 'Daily Planet' building in the Superman comics that they created on the American Perpendicular Gothic Ohio Bell Telephone Company building (which, incidentally, has some amazing memorabilia on display in their street level windows) -- and that The Daily Planet was the name of their high school newspaper.

Other bits that surprised me is that the Protestant United Church of Christ maintains their national headquarters in Cleveland, and or a brief period of time Time magazine also made the gateway district their home. Oh, and the alley down which a restaurant lead to the creation of the Chef Boyardee brand.

While there was some overlap with the Playhouse Square tour, it was well worth the chilly evening.

It's impossible to leave one of these tours without realizing that not only is Cleveland is a city rich in history, but Cleveland has a bright future. If only the city's self esteem could take a boost. There are 2 more opportunities this season -- this Saturday and Sunday, both at 10am but at various locations.

And I'm somewhat shocked and a little depressed that I still can't find anyone (ok, anyone my age and single) interested in a free ticket to join me for Pandemonium on Saturday.


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