Monday, April 6, 2009

The Hidden Cleveland Tour

Staircase in the Tyler Building, which was an escalator factory.

On Sunday, S. and I went on one of the Hidden Cleveland tours hosted by the Downtown Cleveland Alliance. I will never turn down an opportunity to crawl around old buildings, and though this tour was less crawling and a little more marketing than I was hoping for, it was still a blast. The guides were smooth, and very well informed, so it was a balanced combination of "Look at Cleveland development!" and "Look how cool this building is!".

We met up at the first spot, Tyler Village, where we got a little promo for the development down there on Superior. Lots of new business, some residential, lots of good views

View from the 7th floor, which I did not take the stairs to, even though some did. Cause I'm a wuss.

Then they loaded our group onto Lolly the Trolley, and took us down to the Hermit Club. Which is that Shakespeare looking building across from the Greyhound station, the one that looks like secret and expensive things happen there. Very jovial, piano player, fire, the whole 9 yards.

S.'s favorite little flyer below: he pointed out the fine print which asked members to carpool. In 1912.

Do you remember that feed?

The building I really signed up for was the Cleveland Trust Rotunda. It was absolutely beautiful inside, I couldn't take enough pictures. They let us wander happily through the old bank vaults, but unfortunately we couldn't go up to the top of the rotunda. It's such a shame that no one is using this space. It should be a museum or something. Or they should let me live there. I'll take of it, promise. I would turn it into a mental spa, where you can just lie down on the rotunda floor and stare at the stain glass until you enter a state of empty mental voidness. It's right downtown, I bet lots of business people would go for that.

The murals around the top depicted Norse explorers discovering the New World, which I consider a minor cultural miracle.

The very prettiest stain glass rotunda, which I could have stared up into for hours.

One of three open bank vaults.

Old and very empty safety deposit boxes

As we loaded up the Trolley, we picked up a very enthusiastic freeloader, who maybe thought she was on a free trolley, or just wandered into the group for fun. It was uncomfortable for S., who she sat right next to, but it definitely broke the ice for the group after she was discovered and "disposed of". No, I don't know what happened to her, but props to the tour guide. It was taken care of extremely discreetly. I mean, this guy's middle name should be "discreet".

Next was the future site of the Western Reserve Fire Museum - an old firehouse that was still under construction for the actual museum. Our community guide here was a no show, but it turned out better for it, since we really had the run of the place. Dark secret corners and all that.

I love triangle buildings.

The old alarm switchboard. Fireboxes were located on street corners, and when you pulled it, a wire set off the alarm here, with a code to tell the men which section it was.

The probably asbestos covered crawl space S. discovered and then climbed all around in.

And finally, the Gospel Press Building in Tremont. This is currently being turned into apartments and corporate housing, which I know bums out those of us who have grown up around it. But it's gotta be used for something, right? And at least they're not knocking it down for more pastel colored townhouses. Also, I would give my left leg to live here. But the price range was a little beyond me, though not as bad as I thought it would. Really, not as bad as you think.

S. noted that obviously my two perfect living conditions would be either church or elementary school. He's right, give me either lots of old wood or institution glazed brick. And lots of corners.

The main courtyard

The Stalls.

S. and I ended our day with the Family Supper at Crop Bistro. Have I mentioned how much I love this place? I think it's my favorite restaurant in Cleveland. The staff is unbelievably nice and friendly, the food is always great, the desserts are amazing. Oh, and always the habanero ice cream. Always. Plus no one looks down on you when you show up covered in asbestos dirt. And they tell you about awesome cheese shops to visit, then google the addresses for you.

The next Hidden Cleveland Tour is May 3rd. It will be hitting up Monroe Cemetery and the Tower Press Building, among other places. Tickets can be purchased here, and definitely get them ahead of time, because our tour sold out the week before.

You can see more of my photos of the tour here.


  1. It was one of those things that turned out to be a great idea.

    I can see myself becoming a tour whore.

  2. i wish i could've gone in the trust co building. i've always wanted to see inside there. also the circley building on 117 and lake has always intrigued me. so sad that it's all boarded up. also- crop is one of the BEST places in cleveland. i love the caprese martinis. ok- i also love fat cats. in a major way.

  3. You know, of all places, I've never been to Fat Cats. I've been meaning to go for YEARS.

    I love that old church on 117 and Lake. If I figure out how to get in, I'll let you know.

  4. Wholly crap why have I never been on one of these tours? I may have to try for May 3rd although that is going to be a busy weekend.

    Amazing pictures I might add. I love me some Cleveland history...

  5. Oohhh I like that church, too.

    I used to give tours at Stan Hywet in Akron and so I am a bit of a tour whore as well. Especially if I get to see behind the scenes or things that aren't normally open to the public.

    My hair is full of secrets!

  6. you must go to fat cats. the atmosphere is great (hip without being yuppy) and the food is phenomenal. it's a tad pricey- so if someone else is picking up the tab, all the better. the duck is phenomenal. as are the sweetbreads, but i'm not sure if you're into that sort of thing. most people are repulsed. i like it.

  7. Elizabeth - I think my deal with sweetbreads is that I like them, sliced very very thin. I don't like the big nuggets of them. I remember taking a big bite of one at Lola's and almost spitting it out because I couldn't swallow it. But the shame of spitting out anything at Lola's overcame :)

    Brian - Thanks, I love my camera more than...a lot of things.

    MWG - Now I'm jealous. I need a job as a tour guide at some historical site.


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