Sat 9/16 @ 1-4PM
For anyone who grew up in Cleveland during the latter half of the 20th century, odds are grandparents and family members told stories of a different city. One that was not only an economic powerhouse home to industrialists such as John D. Rockefeller and his “Millionaire’s Row” neighbors along Euclid Avenue, but also the center of arts and culture.
While the wrecking ball destroyed many of the buildings leaving behind only memories, Plain Dealer Arts & Entertainment Reporter Laura DeMarco documented many of the landmarks in Lost Cleveland. The 144-page book, which includes 65 entries and more than 200 photos and colorful stories, chronicles Cleveland’s iconic architecture, legendary events and fascinating true tales.
CoolCleveland talked to DeMarco, who is holding a book release event Sat 9/16 at Prosperity Social Club, about her “Lost Cleveland” journey.
First of all, how long have you been thinking about writing Lost Cleveland?
I’ve been writing about Cleveland landmarks and the lack of preservation for the newspaper for about five years. Then last summer I read these books Lost Los Angeles and Lost Detroit. At the same time I was thinking about doing a book, but I didn’t know if I wanted to do it myself. So a whim I sent Pavilion a note saying, “I write about lost landmarks for the Cleveland Plain Dealer and would you be interested in doing a book on Cleveland?” To my great surprise, they got back a day later saying, “Yes, we would. Our next book is supposed to be about Australia, but if you could do this quickly, we could switch the topics” It was mid-summer and by October we had a contract. The research and writing of the book was completed between October and January.
Considering you had already covered many of the landmarks and locations for the Plain Dealer, did you approach the book from a different angle?
I only used what I had done at the Plain Dealer as background. I started with the Library of Congress and National Archives, and then The Cleveland Press archives, The Cleveland Public Library and The Plain Dealer. The first step was coming up with a list of landmarks. There were about 100, but the biggest process was looking for art. If there’s not a good visual representation, you can’t explain the loss. So I found more than 800 photos and just narrowed the list down to 65 landmarks based on the artwork.
Looking over Lost Cleveland, do you see a narrative or through line?
I think the message is Cleveland was once the fifth largest city. It was once an incredibly wealthy city and we had so much. We had the infrastructure of a big city, from the transportation streetcars to bridges to the hotels, the huge factories, the nightlife establishments. It was once one of the biggest cities in America and with John D. Rockefeller, and all of the industry here, it was one of the richest. So it’s kind of like the rise and fall and rise again of Cleveland. I think there’s a bit of glimmer and hope at the end. Like we’re finally recognizing that it’s important to preserve things. Going forward, I don’t think we’ll destroy as much.
Throughout your research, was there a white whale landmark?
The one thing I did want to include and didn’t have enough information was on La Cave, the folk club by Case Western where the Velvet Underground and Phil Ochs played. So many people talk about it being such a significant club in American music history, but it just wasn’t well documented. There are almost no photos. I think a lot of that is because it was underground music at the time.
The one venue that stands out was the 11-story, 3,500-seat Hippodrome Theater on Euclid Avenue.
That was amazing. The structure of it with the water tanks and all of the early entertainment that came there. And even when it evolved to a movie theater in later years, it just looked so cool. That was a huge loss. They say it was more beautiful than anything in Playhouse Square.
Have you thought about another book, Lost Cleveland, Vol. 2?
I hope it’ll be a different book. Maybe success stories that were preserved from the First Church of Christ, Scientist (in University Circle) to the Ameritrust building. I think maybe the flipside of the book will be good things in Cleveland.