The Colonial Marketplace is actually the name for the complex that consists of The Colonial Arcade and Euclid Arcade, now connected in the middle with a food court. Both of these arcades run between Prospect on the South and Euclid Avenue on the North end. At one time there were five arcades downtown. The Williamson Arcade was parallel to and situated just west of The Old Arcade, where the BP Building now stands, and the Taylor Arcade reached between Prospect and Euclid Avenues, just east of the Colonial Arcade.
The Colonial Arcade was built in 1898 as a street-level shopping promenade in conjunction with The Colonial Hotel, which is now the Marriott Hotel. The second-floor lobby of the Marriott features some of the original stained glass windows and skylights, as well as a unique, close-up view of the second level of The Colonial Arcade which is no longer accessible from the ground level of the arcade because it is part of the hotel. If you stand at the Prospect entrance of The Colonial Arcade and look north, toward Euclid Avenue, you can see that the whole building slopes slightly downward. This is because it had to be designed to accommodate the natural slope of the land toward Lake Erie. The Colonial Arcade underwent a $30 million renovation in 2000, and this is evident in the bright clean paint and some newer marble panels patched into the old ones. The style of this arcade is very much of the 19th century with it’s ceiling ornamentation and ornate decorations on the walls, store fronts and entrances.
In contrast, The Euclid Arcade, because of being built in 1911, displays a much more early-20th century style. The walls and ceilings are all covered with geometrically shaped tiles that fit together like a huge sprawling puzzle. The limited and neutral colors in this one-story arcade gives the visitor a much more spare and cold feeling. Surprisingly the streets on either side of The Euclid Arcade are not exactly parallel and you can actually see a slight bend in its tubular shape.
As you approach what we Clevelanders know as The Old Arcade from the Euclid Avenue entrance, you are welcomed by a symmetrical faced entrance. This entrance is framed by gold medallions bearing the reliefs of two famous historic Clevelanders, Charles Brush and Stephen Harkness, who were both at one time presidents of The Arcade Company. The Old Arcade was built in 1890 and is therefor the oldest of the three remaining arcades. It underwent a $60 million renovation in 2001, which is when the Hyatt took the upper floors as guest rooms, having its lobby on the second floor at the North end of the arcade. .
Because Euclid Avenue and Superior Avenue are not exactly parallel, there is a 23° bend between the South entrance area and the main arcade. While taking in the initial over-all view of this magnificent space is striking, focus on some details. Notice the medical symbols in the iron work on the tops of the first-floor columns. This was designed to attract doctors and medical practices to the office spaces on the upper levels. The extensive metalwork on the railings is riveted instead of welded, as it would be if it were fabricated today. You’ll notice that to exit the arcade at the opposite northern end, you need to go down one level. This is because of the twelve-foot difference in the street levels as the ground continues to slope toward the lake. As you descend the stairs toward the Superior Avenue entrance hold on to the handrail. The marble steps are so worn down from the decades of foot traffic that stepping on them can make you feel like you will lose your balance.
All three arcades offer a truly unique experience, authentically reflective of the times when each was built. The only troubling aspect of the tour was seeing all the empty retail spaces. They sit poised for occupation. You can just picture them in their prime, full of people and activity, providing a worthy backdrop for life and business in Cleveland, and hope to see it in reality that way once again.
Cleveland MetroParks‘ cultural history interpreter Doug Kusack, who is also a professional actor, does a great job coordinating these Urban Explorations Tours which are regular features of the Cleveland MetroParks. You can find out more about this and similar tours that take place throughout the year in their monthly publication The Emerald Necklace.
Carol Drummond has been a professional designer for 25 years. Prior to starting her award-winning graphic design studio 15 years ago, Drummond Design, she graduated from the Art Institute of Pittsburgh, worked at a graphic design studio, a video production company, and a consumer products company. She has been an art docent for Mayfield City Schools and currently serves on the COSE Arts Network Advisory Committee. http://www.DrummonDesign.com