Cleveland’s Architecture Wows

By Rita Knight-Gray, Host Committee member

Playhouse Square District

Second only to the New York Theatre District, Cleveland’s Playhouse Square contains five theaters that have been refurbished to their original beauty. In the early 1920s, Joseph Laronge envisioned vaudeville, movies, and legitimate theaters around the Euclid Avenue, East 14th to East 17th area.

Together with Marcus Loew of the New York theater syndicate, the Loews Ohio Theatres developed an entertainment district. The State Theater and Ohio Theater were first, followed by the Allen, which opened in the Bulkley Building next door. This 8-story retail and office building contained an innovative enclosed parking garage behind the theater.

State Theatre.
State Theater. (Image from Playhouse Square.)
Ohio Theater.
Ohio Theater. (Image from Playhouse Square.)
Allen Theater.
Allen Theater. (Image from Playhouse Square.)

Playhouse Square theaters were designed in a restrained classical style, with lavish use of marble, expensive woods, murals, tapestries, and gilded plaster relief. The Palace Theater was built to house the performances of the Keith vaudeville circuit and opened in front of Loews State on East 17th Street. Above the lobby and foyer rose the 21-story B.F. Keith Building. Connections between the four theaters made it possible to go from the Palace stage into Loews State, then into the Ohio, and finally into the Bulkley Building and the Allen.

Palace Theater.
Palace Theater. (Image from Playhouse Square.)

The Hanna Theater opened in the annex of the Hanna Building across Euclid Avenue on 14th Street, completing Joseph Laronge’s vision of theaters, stores, office buildings, and restaurants.

Hanna Theater.
Hanna Theater. (Image from Playhouse Square.)

Playhouse Square theatres have gone from vaudeville, movie and stage theaters, and Cinerama to their closing in 1969 until 1999, when all five of the theaters were restored and reopened for business. Come take a look at the beautiful architecture! Tours are available for $5 per person for groups of 10 people or less. Call Megan Anderson at 216-640-8531.

Cleveland Trust Building

In 1908, the Cleveland Trust Bank opened in a new granite neoclassical building in the city’s financial district. Inside is a round lobby surrounded by marble columns and a stained-glass dome looming 85 feet above the main floor.

The building was designed by George Post (1834-1913) five years after he designed the New York Stock Exchange. The murals were painted by Francis Davis Millet (1848-1912), depicting scenes of the development of civilization and wealth in the Midwest, and the sculpture work was by Karl Theodore Francis Bitter (1867-1915). The stained-glass dome above is purported to have been designed by the Lewis Tiffany Studio, though there is no documented proof.

Cleveland Trust Building
Cleveland Trust Building. (Image courtesy of Ohio Redevelopment Projects via Flickr, creative commons license.)
Cleveland Trust Building dome. (Photo by Rita Knight-Gray.)
Cleveland Trust Building entrance. (Photo by Rita Knight-Gray.)

Architect John Williams was more recently given the assignment of his career: turning the space into a Heinen’s grocery store, which opened in February of this year. The adjoining 29-story office tower, originally designed by Marcel Breuer (1902-1981), has since been renovated to create the 9 complex, which contains a luxury hotel, apartments, Mediterranean restaurants, and a rooftop bar and sun deck that provides a 360-degree view of the city.