The Grand Canyon of Cleveland

A few years ago, when I was still the “Tech Czar” for the City of Cleveland, I was invited by the U.S. Secret Service to an open house of their new Electronic Crimes Facility in Independence, OH. Captivating place, especially considering that most electonic crimes pursued by the Secret Service are managed and tracked in this facility. I will not go into detail about what was presented during my tour…I really do not want the Feds knokcing on my door any time soon. However, I did notice that the offices in this facility were decorated with historical pictures Cleveland and one in particular caught my attention.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

I stood there for a few minutes trying to figure out what I was looking at in this gorgeous picture (the border detail in this photo – i.e. “showing Hollenden Hotel, Cleveland, Ohio” was not detailed in the Secret Service version). The only identifier of the photo was the label “Grand Canyon of Cleveland.” I finally figured out that the building at the very end of the photograph was, indeed, the building I was working in at the time – City Hall. And the building that stood out the most was the Hollenden Hotel. (Please note – the picture’s orientation is south looking north as if you were standing on the corner of Euclid Avenue and East Sixth.) The Hollenden was the crown jewel of the Grand Canyon of Cleveland.

The Hollenden Hotel was opened on June 7th, 1885 and quickly became one of Cleveland’s most glamorous if not most colorful hotels (I will share a bit more of the color in a few moments) in the bustling City. For its time many considered the Hotel a technological marvel seeing how every room had electric lights, 100 private baths (though it had 1,000 rooms and by the by can you imagine a Hotel in Cleveland with 1,000 rooms) and fireproof construction.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

The main building went through a massive $5 million expanison in 1926. While the above picture is not the best of quality it does offer a sense of how massive this hotel really was and its great presence on Superior Avenue. What many people remember of the hotel was its rather lavish interior. It’s lobby was world famous.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

One can only imagine the color that the above photograph fails to provide. The hotel hosted five U.S. Presidents, volumes of dignitaries, many industrial giants of the day, all the local politicians made deals at the mahogany bar and several celebrities – many of whom played in the various bars and stages that the Hollenden offered to its clientele. The one stage that just blew my mind when researching the Hollenden was called the Show Boat Room.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

The Big Band came out from behind the stage which was designed as the front of a large steam boat. Just fascinating!

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

The absolute glamour of this small concert stage stuns me. And this was but one of a few clubs and bars inside the Hollenden. It should be noted that the most popular component of the Hollenden Hotel was its world famous barbershop. Many of the world’s rich and famous, not to mention all the local politicians, all found their way to the Hollenden barbershop.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

Now if it were me I would hit the Hollenden around 7pm, get a hot shave and then head to two of the more famous clubs inside the Hollenden – the Parisian and the The Vogue Room. I found a beautiful picture of the Vogue Room as seen below.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

Certainly, had a Art Deco feel. Looks as if the stage was in the back of the photo. I love the entire look of the Room and can only wish that the photo would have been in color. I also found a very unique token that was given to patrons of the Vogue Room – with the phrase “Never a dull moment.” Never, indeed. What I find most intriguing about the token (outside of “air conditioned” notation), is that you could use the token in other luxury hotels in Ohio – notably the Neil House in Columbus, the Biltmore in Dayton (I am originally from Dayton and know this building well) and the Mayflower in Akron (a stunning facility now owned by University of Akron, I believe).

Earlier in this post I mentioned that the Hotel did in fact have some colorful history. While during research on the Hollenden, I found two stories that just blew me away. The first was a story in the New York Times in the March 29th, 1905 edition that mentioned two unrelated suicides on the same day in the Hotel. Part of the text (and a link) can be seen below.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, March 28. — Henry L. Woodward, a lawyer of New York, and Charles A. Brouse, a traveling salesman of Toledo, committed suicide at the Hollenden Hotel some time during last night by shooting themselves. Woodward’s body was found at noon to-day in Room 561.

(http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9A03E3DA113BE631A2575AC2A9659C946497D6CF)

The second story had a bit more of an emotional tug on the heart about a young boy who was kidnapped in Pennsylvania but his father paid the ransome and received the boy back at the Hollenden Hotel. This happened on March 23rd, 1909 and was again reported by the New York Times.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, March 22. — After an absence of four days, Willie Whitla, the eight-year-old son of J.P. Whitla, a lawyer of Sharon, Penn., who was kidnapped on Thursday last, was returned to his father at the Hollenden Hotel here shortly after 8 o’clock to-night.

 

(http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=9907E3D8173EE033A25750C2A9659C946897D6CF)

This, of course, is just the tip of the iceberg for the Hollenden Hotel. It had a rich and long history but unfortunately was closed in 1962 and soon thereafter torn-down. Another hotel was erected on the site – the Hollenden House (which we may do a post on as well), but the Hollenden House never could capture the essence of its lineage and found itself a victim of the wrecking ball in 1989. The site is now home to the Fifth/Third Tower located on Superior and E. Sixth.

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About Tech Czar
Former "Tech Czar" for the City of Cleveland, fascinated by the civic space, history (Cleveland & Military), entrepreneurship, social media, food and travel. My first book on Cleveland history will be published by History Press (www.historypress.net) this fall.

3 Responses to The Grand Canyon of Cleveland

  1. Bridget says:

    It’s funny to think about the difference between what the word vogue meant then, versus what it means now.

  2. Ken says:

    Yes, the Hollenden was a huge hotel. I think it was actually three different buildings that were connected. It had gotten somewhat seedy in its final days before demolition and the new Hollenden constructed, the latter having a somewhat short life.

  3. EF says:

    Buildings of this grandeur and history are sorely lacking in CLE. Very interesting looking place – the original Hollenden.I would imagine you are just scratching the surface of the history this place had. Thanks for the info on a long forgotten CLE land mark.

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