The Allerton Hotel

As many of you know I am simply enamoured by the history of the various hotels that once graced Cleveland – The Hollenden, The Statler, The Winton. Another hotel that gets very little attention is the Allerton Hotel (or I should say the Allerton Apartments, now) located on the corner of E. 13th and Chester. The Allerton Hotel is a stunning building built in 1926 by the Allerton Company of New York. The architects were the Morgantroyd and Ogden Company. The Allerton Company owned at one time eight hotels including hotels in Detroit and Chicago (the Chicago Allerton still operates as hotel along the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue). No doubt the building today is a bit rough – it offers low-income housing. Recently the building went through some modest redevelopment. But back in the day it was a stunning structure. Check this photo out!

This photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives.

This photo makes the Allerton look like one hell of a time. The hotel offered 550 rooms, an air-conditioned dining room, a coffee shop, a famous cocktail lounge and a swimming pool. I know I could had have a few good evenings at the Allerton.

This photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives.

Cool stuff. And dig this postcard!

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

Wow! What a beautiful place. I can only dream of spending a night in this very cool and hip hotel. Those days are past, my friends. It is a shame the condition the building is today, but once upon a time it really was a place for royalty.

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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.

The Statler Hotel

I want to thank everyone for being patient with me – as you might have noticed, I haven’t being posting as much as I would like. The book tour for Lost Cleveland has been outstanding. With less than 111 first run copies left, I suspect this is an unqualified success. But the truth is I need to get back to blogging about the great and cool history of Cleveland. One of the things I find so fascinating that Cleveland is that it had so many world-famous hotels. I mean this town rocked back in the day (still does, but fifty years ago the City was twice the size in terms of population). The Statler Hotel holds a special place in my heart only because I get to see it nearly everyday as it is close to where I work and play in Downtown Cleveland. . But it also holds a very neat history.

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The Statler Hotel opened in Cleveland in October of 1912. Originally, the Hotel had 700 rooms which were later expanded to 1,000 rooms. The Statler Hotel was actually part of one of America’s first hotel chains owned by E.M. Statler. The original Statler Hotel was built in Buffalo, NY in 1907. The Buffalo version of the Statler had a number of innovations that the Cleveland Hotel later improved upon including – a bathroom in every room, a light in the closet, and offering free stationary and pens (with the Statler logo of course) to every visitor. Tame innovations by today’s standards, but revolutionary at the time. The real innovation was the cost per room – $1.50 a night – E.M. Statler was expert in bringing refinement and prestige to the middle-class of America. The Cleveland Hotel was followed by others built under the Statler name in Washington D.C., Detroit, St. Louis, New York, Hartford, Dallas and Los Angeles. Truly the first national hotel chain.

This photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives

I mean seriously, who would not want to have a good time here? And conveniently located on East 12th Street and Euclid, the Statler Hotel was perfectly located for being Cleveland’s good time. During the 1930′s the Hotel was in its Golden Age and went through a number of expansions that included a new ballroom (as seen below):

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Look at that ceiling! The expansion also provided a new Gentlemen’s Lounge and Library and a pretty interesting dining facility. There was a famous dining room in the building called the Terrace Room, unfortunately I have not found a photo of it yet. I did however find this photo of the Pompeian Room, another wild dining area. I love the open area under a glass dome and tall fountain right in the middle of the dining area. Classic. (I still cannot believe this room once existed in Cleveland. Marvelous.)

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The lobby of the hotel was a real gem. If you were to walk through the Statler today you would not be able to see the mezzanine area that was so eloquently open to the lobby.

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Here is another angle of the grand lobby area.

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Where did our elegance go, Cleveland?

In 1954, the Hilton Chain acquired the Statler Hotels – and many considered the Cleveland hotel to be the crown jewel. Who woundn’t – it was a gorgeous hotel. In early 1971 new owners decided to make part of the facility office space and the building was renamed the Cleveland Plaza. Cleveland developer Carl Milstein purchased the building in 1980 and completed the conversion of the hotel property to all office. A famous Swingos restaurant was built on the first floor (parts of it are still there). In 2001, the storied property again went through a conversion this time from office to apartments and it remains so to this day.