To tell you the truth, I could post this entry three years ago. But I've been posting everything else. Why?
With so many Americans in our community (including at least half a dozen Cleveland citizens), who am I to tell about this Diesel Era marvel? Alas, those who see the tower every day do not feel like telling about it. And yours truly, hoping to see it one day, is here with a bit of info and some photographs.
Formally dedicated in 1930 following over four years of extensive demolition, excavation, and construction, the Cleveland Union Terminal centralized the city’s passenger rail service and gave Cleveland a signature landmark, the 52-story, 708-foot tall Terminal Tower.
The Union Terminal project was conceived by brothers Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen in conjunction with the development of their other major project, the suburban community of Shaker Heights. They had initially planned to build only a small train station near Public Square in order to facilitate a quicker commute between Shaker and downtown.
Eventually, however, the project grew more ambitious when the brothers proposed Public Square as an ideal site for a new, centralized rail station — originally planned to be built on the north end of the Mall as part of Daniel Burnham's Group Plan.
In addition, the Van Sweringens scrapped the initial plans for a more modest 14-story office building (above) to sit atop the new train station in favor of the massive 52-story Terminal Tower.
Beginning of construction at Terminal Tower 1926
Terminal Tower construction - north side. 1928
Drug Shop Construction
The architectural firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White designed the structure in a style known as Beaux-Arts.
The tower, especially its top, bears more than a passing resemplance to the Municipal Building in New York (completed in 1914).
O.P. & M.J. Van Sveringen
The shy, reclusive Van Sweringen brothers always shunned the spotlight, even opting not to attend the Union Terminal's grand opening ceremonies in 1930. Their effect on Cleveland and its development in the twentieth-century, however, remains on display today.
At fifty-two stories and 708 feet tall (771 feet including the flag pole), the Terminal Tower was the tallest building in the world outside of New York City until the completion of the main building of Moscow State University in Moscow in 1953 and would continue as the tallest building in North America, outside of New York City, until the Prudential Center in Boston, Massachusetts was completed in 1964.
Terminal Tower schedule, 1930
Terminal Tower interior by Margaret Bourke-White
Pullman Passengers' Gate, 1930
Terminal Tower interior, June 30, 1939
Like Union Terminal in Cincinnati, the Terminal Tower served as a major hub for passenger rail service in the Midwest. Beginning in the 1950s, the railroads faced stiff competition from automobiles and passenger airline service. Eventually, the terminal no longer operated as a passenger station. In more recent years, the city of Cleveland has renovated the building, turning the original terminal into a shopping center and has developed other commercial uses for the site.
Above and below: pictures taken during the Great Lakes Exposition, 1937
View of Terminal Tower, August 30, 1976
Union Terminal Tower, October 9, 1973, photo by Bill Nehez, Cleveland Press
P.S. Cleveland Memory Project (CSU Library) displays nearly 500 photographs online, reflecting every stage of construction. You're welcome!