By Janet Carleton and Jennie Thomas, Host Committee co-chairs
The #SAA15 Host Committee is so very happy to welcome you to Cleveland!
We’ve shared with you almost everything we know about Cleveland and the local Northeast Ohio area, and we hope you’re able to use that information to have an amazing time while you’re in town! Our fabulous Host Committee, alongside a great group of volunteers, will be staffing the registration desk as well as the Convention Center’s St. Clair Avenue entrance for the week, and we look forward to answering your questions and helping you navigate your week. SAA has also arranged for the Cleveland visitors bureau, Destination Cleveland, to have a table at the Convention Center to provide you with even more information on what to see and do!
And now for something every visitor to Cleveland needs to see…
As you begin thinking about packing your suitcase, you might be wondering: What’s the weather likely to be in Cleveland, Ohio, this time of year?
Before I answer that question, I’ll share just a brief anecdote about Ohio weather. Occasionally, I will make a social media posting including some observation on current Ohio weather, and someone from another state will ask, “Is that normal for Ohio?” And I, a lifelong Ohio resident, reply: “It is ‘normal’ for Ohio weather to be fairly unpredictable, yes.” I’ve seen thunderstorms in December, snow as late as May (though never in August – knock on wood), and even the “remnants” of hurricanes that result in terrible windstorms.
But let’s talk about what is likely to happen next week, shall we?
As luck would have it, the current weather forecast from Cleveland.com (or the Weather Channel if you prefer) is calling for a pretty typical week of Cleveland summer weather: highs in the 80s, lows around 70; some sun, some clouds, and some possible “scattered” thunderstorms; and occasional use of the dreaded word “humid.” As locals will know, it’s not the heat that can be the real “killer” in an Ohio summer; it’s the humidity.
So with all of that being said and operating under the assumption that the only thing you can predict about Ohio weather is that it’s a bit unpredictable, how does this translate to packing advice? Here are a few suggestions for your suitcase:
Plan to dress in layers. Every day, you will be at your hotel, then traveling to the convention center (whether by foot, bicycle, car, RTA, etc.), spending some time in the convention center, probably heading out for food at some point, maybe venturing out to some area attractions (we hope), and back to your hotel again. That’s a lot of potentially varied micro-climates, so give yourself plenty of clothing options.
Bring an umbrella. Whether you are walking a few blocks from your hotel to the convention center or just hopping off a bus near the entrance, it’s still a good idea to have an umbrella on hand just in case, preferably one small enough to stow in a tote bag while you’re not using it.
Wear the right shoes. No matter where you’re staying or how you plan to get to the convention center, you will be doing at least a little walking outdoors on pavement—potentially wet pavement. So bring comfortable and reasonably water-resistant footwear.
If you are familiar with professional football (and one assumes many SAA members are) you know (should know!) that one of the most famous rivalries in the sport is that between the Cleveland Browns and the Pittsburgh Steelers. It’s a bit like Ohio State and the other university up north (family connections prevent me from using its name!). But the comparison ends there, because unlike college football with its origins in the Ivy League, that of pro football is connected to the steel mills and factories of the industrial Midwest. The Cleveland-Pittsburgh rivalry has at its roots, a blue collar aura and a link to a longer economic rivalry between two great American steel cities. And, that brings us to the story of steel and iron in Cleveland.
Even in this second decade of the twenty-first century, Clevelanders cannot divorce themselves from steel despite the city’s move into a post-industrial economy. Look closely at the city while you are here. The iron ore carrier, William G. Mather is anchored in the lake just beyond the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Take a tour of the Flats, and you’ll see ore freighters winding their way up the Cuyahoga to the ArcelorMittal mill. Now largely automated, it is one of the most efficient steel mills in the nation. If you take the time to go to the observation deck of the Terminal Tower, you’ll see its buildings and smokestacks to the south.
This modernized plant is the descendant of an industry that formed the economic backbone of the city from the period just after the Civil War to the 1960s. While early Cleveland blacksmiths worked iron, it was not until 1857 that the industry really got rolling, so to speak. Two Welsh brothers, David and John Jones, started the Cleveland Rolling Mills southeast of the city in the area now known as Slavic Village. By the 1880s, the making of iron and steel (the rolling mills had the first Bessemer converter west of the Appalachians) had displaced oil and refining as the chief industrial activity in Cleveland. As the mills grew, the process also became de-skilled and thus opened up jobs to thousands of immigrant and migrant workers. It’s not serendipity that placed some of the city’s ethnic neighborhoods near the mills; it was the need of workers to walk to their jobs. And chain migration brought sons, families, and relatives from what are now Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Ukraine, and other central and eastern European nations to mill neighborhoods like Tremont, Warszawa (now part of Slavic Village), and Praha. By the early twentieth century, the Europeans were joined at the mills by African Americans who saw Cleveland and jobs at the mills as a passage out of Jim Crow and into some degree of prosperity. That expectation was, unfortunately, not truly fulfilled, despite the fact that some migrants already had their roots in the industry in Alabama.
The making of steel then provided the basis for factories that turned it into a number of products — nuts, bolts, automobiles, sewing machines, roller skates, and even jail cells! The transport of iron ore itself provided the city with a host of sub-industries. Shipbuilding was one, with American Ship Building as a prime example. (It’s hard for some Clevelanders to admit this given that George Steinbrenner’s fortune came from the company and helped him bankroll the hated New York Yankees.) Originally ships were unloaded by hand. Up a plank with a wheelbarrow, down into the hold, shovel it full, take it out, dump it, and do it again. That ended with the invention of the Brown Hoist system (invented and built in Cleveland) and then the Hulett, invented by a Clevelander. Both systems eventually found use all around the Great Lakes and their manufacture brought wealth and fame to the city, along with labor strife. A strike at the Brown Hoist factory was, along with strikes at the Rolling Mills, a signifier that laboring conditions and pay in the city during its Gilded Age heyday (and afterwards) were matters of serious concern and contention. All this reminds me of a Depression-era “poem” my father taught me:
“Yesterday I met a man I never met before. He asked me if I wanted a job shoveling iron ore. I asked him what the wages were, ‘A dollar and a half a ton.’ I told him he could shoot himself, I’d rather be a bum.”
I suspect that this little snippet is a reminder that I, like many Clevelanders, have some steel in my family history. And, indeed, as noted earlier, it’s hard to let that history be forgotten. While the mills may not be what they used to be (thank goodness perhaps, because the pollution they created was extensive), it is still possible to see the history of steel in the city. The Brown Hoist Factory still stands on Hamilton Avenue; the site of the Cleveland Rolling Mills (which later became part of United States Steels American Steel and Wire Plant) still bears traces of the factory; and some of the factories that built automobiles such as the Winton still stand. And, if you want to see the real thing at work, get someone to drive you down Independence Road in the Flats — you’ll be going through a major section of the ArcelorMittal mill. Or you can visit the neighborhoods built alongside the mills. Try Tremont – look at the architecture, count the churches, enjoy a meal at some of the best restaurants in Cleveland (and remember when you pay your bill, you’ve probably spent the equivalent of several weeks wages for someone who lived in that “hood” one hundred years ago). Of course, if you come back to the city after the convention you can buy a seat at a Browns-Steelers game. Try to remember that the roots of this contest are blue collar when you look at the tab!
But, if you are less adventurous, simply consult the online edition of the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History. Start with the article on iron and steel, and use the internal links to really get the full story of all the connections the industry has to the history of Cleveland.
It might be obvious to note that Cleveland has a rich history, but for students of the Great Depression era, its resources are especially inspiring. Both art and history were greatly enhanced during that time.
Did you know that Cleveland was a birthplace (of sorts) of the Historical Records Survey of the WPA? Although this Depression-era work-relief program (which gave jobs to unemployed archivists and historians) was a Federal project, much of its inspiration and philosophical support derived from the ideas of a local professor, Robert Binkley of Western Reserve University (now Case Western Reserve University). The Annals of Cleveland – an annotated index of early Cleveland newspapers that was a joint project of the Historical Records Survey, the Cleveland Public Library, and the Cuyahoga County Recorder’s office – continues to be an invaluable resource for the history of Cleveland and its people. Hard copies of the Annals are available at the Cleveland Public Library and many local academic libraries. Digital copies are also available, with direct links from many genealogy and history sites, including Ancestry.com, Access Genealogy (which links to the Digital Case repository at CWRU), and the HathiTrust
Five free walking tours guided by actors portraying Cleveland’s historic figures. Each lasts approximately 1.5 hours. Reservations, especially for groups, should be made by calling 216-771-1994. Each area’s tour is offered on specific days and times: Playhouse Square (Tuesday at 6 pm); Gateway District (Wednesday at 6 pm); Civic Center (Thursday at 6 pm); Warehouse District (Saturday at 10 am); Canal Basin Park in the Flats (Sunday at 10 am). Free.
If you prefer the Do-It-Yourself approach, City Prowl offers downloadable audio walking tours for Prospect/E.4th St; The Arcades; Warehouse District; Bank Lobbies; Public Square (now under construction, however). Free.
If you prefer your tours sitting down, consider Lolly the Trolley. One- and two-hour City Sightseeing tours include the Flats, Downtown, Warehouse District, Ohio City, West Side Market, Playhouse Square, University Circle, the Cultural Gardens and Rockefeller Greenhouse. Make reservations by calling 1-800-848-0173. Charge.
“In very recent years, Cleveland’s public persona has shifted from that of luckless underdog to media darling. Though the natives have been restlessly touting its charms for eons, only now is word finally spreading about the city’s vibrant, varied food-and-drinks scene. A fertile Cuyahoga Valley coupled with a robust network of farmers’ markets provide enthusiastic chefs with all the inspiration they need to create brilliant dishes. Call it a Rust Belt Revival if you’d like, but to locals, it’s just a time-tested truth.…”
Travel and Leisure called Cleveland one of the best places to travel in 2015. Fodor’s 2015 Go List features Cleveland as well; its rust belt chic comparable to the natural wonders of Patagonia, Chile, the otherworldliness of Iceland, and the beaches of Uruguay. With culinary kings like Michael Symon, one of the top orchestras in the world, and stunning museums like the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and the Museum of Contemporary Art, Cleveland is the place to be in 2015. And with a mandate from Council and the membership-at-large to experiment with new ideas, SAA is shaking things up for its 79th Annual Meeting in Cleveland! The most obvious change is the venue itself: SAA will meet in a convention center rather than a conference hotel. The Cleveland Convention Center was just completed in 2014 and is a sleek, beautiful space, located just steps away from the three conference hotels and a vibrant downtown district.
And getting here is easy! Cleveland sits within a 500-mile radius of nearly half of the U.S. population! Upon arrival, the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority (RTA) links busy travelers through four RTA rail lines that snake all over the city and to the airport, connecting with 69 different bus routes. For just $5, visitors can snag a one-day Cleveland Pass that allows for unlimited rides. The slick, modern HealthLine Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) secured an Excellence in Engineering award, connecting downtown hotspots to hospitals and restaurants. Once downtown, take advantage of the city’s free RTA trolley network, bring your bike, or use your feet. The website Walk Score names Cleveland the 16th most walkable largest city in the U.S. Everything you need during your stay in Cleveland will be only moments away!
No trip to Cleveland is complete without a visit to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum—lucky for all of you this year’s All-Attendee Reception will be held there! The Rock Hall experience includes four theaters, multiple interactive stations, and seven floors of exhibits that tell the story of the world’s most powerful art form through handwritten lyrics, colorful costumes, history-making photographs and videos, and iconic albums that make rock and roll a religion for some, and a force for social change throughout the world. And don’t forget to plan a visit to the Museum’s Library and Archives, located in the Tommy LiPuma Center for Creative Arts on the Cuyahoga Community College Metro campus.
In the Cleveland Metroparks, more than 21,000 acres and 18 reservations surround Cleveland like an “Emerald Necklace.” The reservations follow the rivers and creeks that flow throughout the region, while the Metroparks include hundreds of miles of walking, biking, and horse riding trails as well as numerous picnic areas, nature education centers, golf courses, and countless fishing spots, as well as the Cleveland Metroparks Zoo.
The Cuyahoga Valley National Park includes 33,000 acres along the Cuyahoga River between Cleveland and Akron that are administered by the National Park Service. The park has many hiking and biking trails, such as the Ohio and Erie Canal Towpath Trail, which follows a former stretch of the 308-mile Ohio and Erie Canal, and offers a number of examples of nineteenth and early twentieth-century sustainable farming and pastoral or rural living, as well as art exhibits, outdoor concerts, and scenic excursions and special event tours on the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad.
Cultural Heritage Institutions
Cleveland and the surrounding areas are home to a number of museums, universities, and other cultural institutions just awaiting your discovery!
Keep an eye out for information on repository tours, coming soon!
Want to know more about Cleveland history? One of the top 10 largest U.S. cities between 1890-1960, Cleveland has a storied past and much is still on display for visitors with an eye for history. Two comprehensive websites full of interesting essays and images are the Encyclopedia of Cleveland History and Cleveland Memory. Cleveland Memory features collections such as the Cleveland Press morgue, and many exhibits including “Notable Blacks of Cleveland,” “Ethnic Women of Cleveland,” and “Elliot Ness.” Want to see a timeline of everything Cleveland? How about historic sites by neighborhood on a Google map? The Encyclopedia offers these and more. And if presidential history is your thing, Ohio isn’t called “The Mother of Presidents” for nothing. With eight presidents, you’ll find presidential sites around the state, including in northern Ohio.