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Arts & Culture

Cleveland's 'Golden Age' on Display in New Architecture Study

The book "Cleveland Architecture, 1890 to 1930: Building the City Beautiful"
University of Michigan Press
The new book about Cleveland architecture looks back at what the author terms the city's 'golden age.'

Some of the most beautiful historic buildings in Cleveland are featured in a new book — released during the pandemic.

Jeannine Love is an art historian and lifelong Northeast Ohioan. In the 1980s, as she studied architectural history at Oberlin, she began to delve into the stories behind downtown buildings from what she calls “The Golden Age of Cleveland.”

“It was a time when industrial manufacturing and all sorts of innovations were just going gangbusters in the city," Love said. "A lot of the city fathers, particularly those connected with the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce, thought they deserved an architecture to go along with this new prestige. They started erecting some of these buildings. Many of them were under the ‘Cleveland Group Plan for Public Buildings.’”

Love’s interest turned into research at the Cleveland library, and now a book, “Cleveland Architecture, 1890 to 1930: Building the City Beautiful.”

“I focused on these 22 buildings that were classically styled and also had a decorative arts program: added sculpture, paintings, murals, [and] other decorative embellishments," she said. "And I started right at the beginning [asking], ‘Who were the people that commissioned them? What was their intent? Who were the architects they commissioned?’”

Some of the buildings profiled include the Cleveland Trust Building, which is now a grocery store, and the Chamber of Commerce Building on Public Square.

Love’s book was released just as the coronavirus pandemic began. She says she has toyed with the idea of producing a guided audio tour based on the information she found, which looks at each building’s design and historical context. She adds that the city’s population decline, which began in the late 20th century, actually helped to preserve buildings which might otherwise have been demolished to make way for larger, more modern structures.