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.

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.

“The Hipp”

We consider ourselves to be very lucky today with the reemergence of Playhouse Square (and the theaters – Hanna, State, Ohio, Allen and Palace) as the second largest theater district in the United States. Truth is these theaters were under threat of being torn down in the early 1980′s – and that would have been a great tragedy. However, what is rarely thought about is how many other theaters Cleveland once had in its history. Few people ever talk about the Alhambra Theater (Euclid Avenue and E. 105th), Alpha Theater (Central and E. 33rd), The Colonial Theater, Garden Theatre, Embassy Theater (was located on the site where the National City Tower is today), The Grand Vaudeville, The Castle Theater (Wade Avenue), The Stillman (next to the Statler Hotel and now a parking garage) and, of course the grand-daddy of them all the Hippodrome Theater.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The Hippodrome (or the “Hipp” as everyone called it) was built in 1907 and was located at 720 Euclid Avenue next to the Taylor & Sons department store (we know this building now as 668 Euclid – one of the most embarrassing buildings in Downtown, although there are some discussions about its renewal).  The theater was part of an 11-story office building and had entrances on both Euclid Avenue and Prospect Avenue. Today the area is a parking lot.

But in the day, the opening of the Hipp achieved national prominence by none other than The New York Times – article seen below.

CLEVELAND, Ohio, Dec. 30. — The Hippodrome, said to be the most beautiful and largest theatre in America, west of New York, was opened to-night in this city. The fifty-one boxes were occupied by municipal, county, State and Government officials, while the remaining 4,500 seats were taken by society, representative of Northern Ohio.

It was the largest theater west of New York and was able to accomodate 3,458 theater-goers. Some of the most famous performers of the day – including Sarah Bernhardt, Al Jolson, W.C. Fields, and Will Rogers – held court on the Hippodrome stage. The auditorium had private boxes, two balconies (with elevators) and the second largest stage in the U.S. able to hold large-scale productions and operas. The theater also offered an 80-ft water tank for “water spectacles!” Insane. Before you got to the theater you could dine in the appropriately named – Hippodrome Inn.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

After a tasty meal – you could enter the theater through an impressive lobby.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Can you imagine walking through this today? I can!

If you had mezzanine seats, then you would walk up these steps.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Of course as they say in the theater, “the stage is the thing.” (Do they really say that in the theater?)

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

This place was massive! And so beautiful. It is a shame that it does not exist anymore. The theater was purchased by Alvin Krenzler in 1972 and by that time was the last movie house in Downtown Cleveland. Unfortunately, the building was torn down in 1981 and replaced by a damn parking lot. It just isn’t fair for such a beautiful theater not to exist anymore. This last photo, to me, just captures the “big city” experience that Cleveland used to offer in its Downtown. Truth is this picture is just flat out cool.

"The Hipp in all its beauty."

The Central Armory

A few days past I was walking around Downtown Cleveland and happened to notice the banal Federal Building on corner of Lakeside Avenue and East Ninth. I started to wonder what had been on that spot prior. Certainly, something horrible had to be positioned on that corner for the City and the Federal Government decided to build perhaps the most boring building on the planet. Well, I was dumfounded after doing some research and realizing that the structure on that spot was none other than the Central Armory. And she was a “gothic beauty.”

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Photo Archives.

The Central Armory was built in 1893 by Cuyahoga County to house the local units of the National Guard. It played a central role in the Industrial Exposition of 1909 when it has connected by a temporary walking bridge to a exhibition hall on the north side of Lakeside. The Exposition was a massive industrial show that highlighted the growing importance of Cleveland as the center of the manufacturing universe.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Coupled with City Hall the Central Armory was an iconic symbol of Cleveland might and power.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The Armory was essentially a large constructed hall with a balcony suspended from the roof. It was the venue for many meetings, concerts, gymnastic exhibitions and a popular floral exposition. The Central Armory offered the rapidly expanding City a sense of safety and progress. It certainly didn’t hurt when the cavalry was around either!

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The building was, unfortunately, demolished in 1965 for the Urban Development project now known as the Anthony J. Celebrezze Federal Office Building. A real shame, the Central Armory was that rare gem of architecture that made Downtown Cleveland alive. I cannot say the same of its replacement.

Grays Armory

One of the more spectacular buildings in Downtown Cleveland is tucked away off Prospect Avenue and East Fourteenth offers an interesting view of Cleveland’s great past. I am, of course, talking about Grays Armory home of the Cleveland Grays. The building is a massive five story sandstone castle that stands tall and protects the southern flank of Downtown. And it holds a wonderful history. During the 19th century – most major cities sponsored their own militias. Complete with their own uniforms, flags, weapons and if you can believe it – their own marching bands.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Yes, that is the actual Cleveland Grays marching band. The Cleveland Grays were formed in 1837 but did not build their own armory until 1893.The Armory actually stands on Bolivar Avenue and offers a 10,000 square foot ballroom, a basement shooting range, a wood-paneled library and an extension collection of military memorabilia. The Gray’s, themselves, were a successful military unit. The unit served proudly in the Civil War (with battles at Manassas and First Bull Run), the Spanish American War, the Mexican Punitive Expedition (with General Pershing) and World War I. In fact, the Meuse-Argonne Offensive on the Western Front in 1918 was the last active service of the Unit. The building has been transformed from an actual fort to a museum. Yet, the building remains a dynamic venue.

The Armory as seen from Prospect Avenue.

The building was the site of the first Cleveland Orchestra concert and is legendary of having a few ghosts. But if ever in Downtown and can spare a few moments, don’t be afraid to visit this wonderful old structure.

Grays Armory as seen from Erie Street Cemetery.

The building was the site of the first Cleveland Orchestra concert and is legendary of having a few ghosts. But if ever in Downtown and can spare a few moments, don’t be afraid to visit this wonderful old structure.