Terminal Tower

The Terminal Tower in Downtown Cleveland is certainly a major junction within our city’s transportation system.  The developers of the Union Terminal project, brothers O.P. and M.J. Van Sweringen, planned the project as a way to solve traffic difficulties with the lakefront railroad depot in World War I.  As the city changed over time new connections were added.  The shops, businesses, restaurants and hotels that became part of the Tower City Complex we know today have helped to make Terminal Tower a destination in itself as well as a convenient way to get around the city.

Articles for professional engineering journals Earth Mover and Engineering News Record,  described the construction and design used for the Termianl project.“When completed the Union station resembled in many aspects the Grand Central station in New York City, with ramps and concourses and all other facilities of a modern passenger station, but also possessing accommodation for interurban and rapid transit lines and provision for a modern office building constructed over the station.” “Plans for the station itself were made with a view to the greatest convenience for the public.”

The Chief Engineer on the project released a statistic filled description of the tower.“The Tower of Cleveland forms the central feature of a great monumental grouping of classic buildings facing on the Public Square.  This great grouping is formed by the Hotel Cleveland on the right and a building of similar size, character and height on the left.  Out of these flanks, so to speak, rises this great tower, 708 feet above the Public Square.  This forms the natural setting for the tower.” This description continues with added detail.  “The tower itself will be 98 feet square, contain 52 floors and house 20 elevators.  The tower is square in shape to a height of 470 feet above the sidewalk, where it changes into an octagon shape, then round and finally terminates in a conical shape at a height of 708 feet.  Provision has been made for observation platforms from which visitors as well as occupants of the building may obtain a view of the city.  In order to unify this grouping, the tower will be built of the same brick and terra cotta used on the Hotel Cleveland, thereby forming an harmonious whole.”

999094-Timothy Misny-Grandfather

Lighting the Tower

When the lights were installed it was reported that the beams of light would be visible for 60 miles in clear weather and could be seen in Sandusky and Ashtabula.  The effect of the lit tower was said to be startling.  “The lighting scheme, designed by William D’Arey Ryan of Schenectady, N.Y. , one of the leading illuminating engineers in the country and director of illumination for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, is said to give the Terminal Tower Building the most effective exterior lighting in the world.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland Memory

Sketch of Early Terminal Tower Complex Design

Originally, the terminal building was supposed to end at the 14th floor, topped by a cupola.  A more optimistic business sense prevailed, and the tower rose another 38 floors.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland Memory

 

Working on the Tower

139,411 tons of materials were used to create this landmark structure. The order calling for 57,800 tons of structural steel is said by local builders to be more than three times as large as any steel order ever placed by a Cleveland concern in 1928.  There were structures to remove, tunnels to dig and secure, roads to reroute deliveries of materials to be made and a population using the area to work around.

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

Topping The Tower

The tower was the tallest that many steelworkers ever worked on.  The 708 foot skeleton consisting of 17,800 tons of steel flew an American flag in 1927 to signify completion of the structural work.  At the foot of the flag staff are five copper spikes, aluminum tipped which are riveted to the steel frames of the building.  The frames are grounded making the Terminal Tower in Public Square the safest place in Cleveland during an electrical storm.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections

 

Cleveland Union Terminal Entrance 1928

“The entrance is distinguished by its ornamental series of arches and columns.  The entrance  resembles a porte cochere or canopy.  Moreover, it will has the practical effect of an arcade which  shelter pedestrians in inclement weather and which  permits of pedestrian traffic at the southwest corner of the Square and around the quadrangle, as well as movement to the from the station.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University, Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

Cross-sectional view of Cleveland Union Station

“Cleveland is growing and is preparing for a growth which is inevitable in a city located on the Main Street of the World, over night from half the population of the United States.  There is graphic evidence of the fact that you have a right to be proud of Cleveland today and Cleveland tomorrow, and that Cleveland is worthy not only of your pride but of your praise.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.

 

Cleveland Union Terminal Main Concourse

The Terminal Tower project was immense. Over 1,000  buildings were razed to create space for the tower, station and surrounding buildings.  Many residents saw it as progress while others lamented the loss of the older buildings.  That struggle between progress and history continued as the years passed.

Image courtesy of Cleveland Memory

 

Cleveland Union Terminal Cornice

Exterior details like this cornice added to the grandeur of the Terminal Tower project.  The effect is repeated in metal work inside the portico and terminal.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lighting the Tower

When the lights were installed it was reported that the beams of light would be visible for 60 miles in clear weather and could be seen in Sandusky and Ashtabula.  The effect of the lit tower was said to be startling.  “The lighting scheme, designed by William D’Arey Ryan of Schenectady, N.Y. , one of the leading illuminating engineers in the country and director of illumination for the Panama-Pacific Exposition, is said to give the Terminal Tower Building the most effective exterior lighting in the world.”

Image courtesy of Cleveland Memory

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3 Responses to Terminal Tower

  1. Avatar of Mark Souther Mark Souther says:

    I like the main description, but I would rather see you paraphrase much or all of it. Having large sections in quotes without any indication of the source in the text is problematic. It’s true we can’t footnote these given the format of the app, but we should curate them in such a way that they don’t overuse quoted material unless we’re calling attention to who said what.

    The quotes in your first two captions can be kept, but let me suggest the use of a dash followed by the author plus source, or incorporate it by saying: As Plain Dealer reporter [John Smith] effused in [year], “Cleveland is growing …

    Finally, is there any plan to the order of images? It seems to me they should proceed from a general photo (which will ultimately be repeated as the “splash” photo that shows in the app by the main description too) to the early 14-story plan to construction to finished product.

  2. Avatar of cciullafaup cciullafaup says:

    really enjoyed reading some additional info on the tower. Great images. I would like to see some historical photos of the interior.

  3. Avatar of rjprice88 rjprice88 says:

    Being from Cleveland my whole life, I am surprised at how little I actually know about the terminal tower. Your descriptions were great and informative. I enjoyed learning about the height and dimensions of the tower because I always wondered how big it actually was in comparison to some of the other buildings in our city and other cities. I enjoy the first image of the lighting of the tower, It seems pretty incredible to think that the lights were meant to be able to be seen 60 miles in clear weather and stretched all the way to Sandusky and Ashtabula.

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