CLEVELAND: Art, History And A Grilled Cheese Sandwich…….

10 Jun

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We’re in Cleveland where new and exciting things are going on all over the city. Today we’re on the East side, University Circle, re-visiting a couple of museums that have undergone recent renovations. The Crawford Auto Aviation Collection of the Western Reserve Historical Society was founded by industrialist Frederick C Crawford of TRW and opened in 1965. Exhibits trace the automobile through its development in Ohio and across the nation. John D Rockefeller, who attended Cleveland Central High School and is buried in Lakeview Cemetery, founded Standard Oil in Cleveland, the city comes by its automotive history naturally. We begin our visit on the lower level, with the newest exhibit, REVolution. With about 50 automobiles on display we see the evolution of design and technology from the 1890’s to the 21st century. 

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Paint jobs gleam under halogen lights, vehicles are gathered into groups, a replica Standard Oil Company gas station complete with vintage gas pump is off to one side, historic photos of Cleveland have been enlarged big enough to cover walls. We meander through the maze of cars, chrome bumpers are huge, hood ornaments elaborate, all the cars in one section are made of stainless steel. Vehicles wear name badges of Studebaker, Pierce Arrow, Auburn, Hupmobile and more familiar ones such as GTO, Impala, Cadillac and Belvedere. The wood on the Chrysler Town & Country is beautiful, the concept AMX is really cool.

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The ‘Road Trip’ display includes the Jordan House car, an early version of a camper, there’s an old trailer too; the Need for Speed section highlights race cars. The World Touring Hupmobile has survived its travels, we see a Stanley Steamer, a turbine car engine, vehicles that ran on alternative fuels; we learn about tires and check out accessories that at one time had to be purchased separately but are now standard equipment, I’m talking bumpers, headlights, even windshields!

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Upstairs, Setting the World in Motion is all about northeast Ohio’s impact on the automobile and aviation industries in the first half of the 20th century. By the 1930’s over 100 automobile manufacturers called this area home. There are about 50 vehicles on display, each manufactured in Cleveland. Roscoe Turner’s only surviving Wendell Williams model 44 looks as though it’s flying through the room, Turner broke the world speed record in 1933. The gondola from the “Spirit of Goodyear” blimp was active for 31 years and flew over such events as the Kentucky Derby, the US Open tennis matches, NFL and MLB games, you wouldn’t get me up in that thing!

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In the old days, entertainment was often based on transportation; air shows, car races and the like. Cleveland was home to National Air Races and the Great Lakes Exposition in the late 20’s and 30’s with Lake Erie serving as a stunning backdrop. Free tickets for the air shows were dropped from planes with little parachutes attachedI love the collection of souvenirs on display; programs, posters advertising Billy Rose’s Aquacade, drinking glasses, spoons and numerous trinkets. We have reached the newest addition to the museum, a glass pavilion built to house the newly restored Euclid Beach Grand Carousel.

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To me nothing defines the mood or character of the early 1900’s better than an old-fashioned carousel; this one is gorgeous! We received tokens to ride when we paid our admission, now we choose from 58 hand-carved, hand-painted wooden horses. The ride begins, we rise and fall to carnival-type music while passing scenes depicting Euclid Beach Park and other Cleveland icons, a smile crosses the face of every rider…..Come to think of it even the spectators are smiling. This is one of only a few carousels to return to the city where it was originally located, how cool is that?

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Next we make our way to the Cleveland Museum of Art, this will be our first visit since the renovation and expansion project has been completed. The original Neo Classic building opened in 1916, there have been several expansions through the years but nothing like this. Gallery space has been increased by 33%, a 39,000 sq ft glass enclosed atrium has been added to connect the new to the old, there’s a cafe and a 76-seat fine dining restaurant called Provenance; welcome to today’s art museum.We head directly to the atrium and are in awe of what we see, it resembles a plaza or a town square. The glass ceiling allows the light in and affords us a view of the outdoors. Rectangular beds are filled with ground cover in varying shades of green, wood benches give a park-like feel to the space. In the distance dwarf trees bask in sunlight of the day, cafe tables are filled with hungry visitors, a mezzanine level overlooks the activity, the existing 1916 building makes up the south side. 

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Our main focus of the day are the new galleries, we visit the East Wing first. Home to Contemporary and Modern art along with Impressionism, Abstract and Photography, all of our favorites are in the same section. Hardwood floors lead us down long hallways, in and out of spacious galleries, past Picasso, Monet, Warhol, Ellsworth Kelly, Agnes Martin and Anselm Kiefer. We check out Rebecca Norris Web’s photography exhibit, My Dakota, before moving on.

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Though we have visited the museum a number of times, no visit would be complete without walking through the Armor Court, we have great affection for the original building and the rotunda, it’s wonderful. While we’re here who can resist Tiffany or Faberge? The West Wing is also new, the ‘glass box’ is a gallery in which all four walls are entirely glass; it’s like being in the middle of an amazing garden that just happens to have spectacular Indian and Southeast Asian sculptures set about on pedestals, wow! Kris and I are extremely impressed with the transformation, if you’re in Cleveland you have to check it out. 

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Time for lunch, we are headed to another Cleveland original: Melt Bar and Grilled on Detroit Ave in Lakewood. The restaurant space is decked out in quirky, eclectic items like vintage outdoor lighted decorations such as snowmen, pumpkins, penguins and the Easter Bunny; it works great with the antique tin ceiling. Owner Matt Fish takes ordinary grilled cheese sandwiches and elevates  them to gourmet with combinations like the Parmageddon with potato and onion perogi, kraut, sauteed onion and sharp cheddar or the Lake Erie Monster with crispy battered jumbo cod, sweet slaw, jalapeno tartar sauce and american cheese. There are dozens of combinations to choose from or create your own.

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We are seated at a table near the bar, we’re hungry so we concentrate on the menu and make a quick decision. First out is the Attack of the Green Tomato: battered, fried green tomatoes covered with an outstanding southern herb remoulade, topped off with fire-roasted corn salsa, delicious. Our Hot Italian Grilled Cheese arrives, it’s huge! Honey ham, pepperoni, salami, basil marinara, roasted garlic, banana peppers, provolone and romano on fresh-baked grilled bread sprinkled with herbs and grated cheese, excellent. If you’re a beer drinker, you may be interested to know they also offer 150 beer selections—-seriously. It’s been another great weekend in Cleveland, the city has a lot to offer without all the hassle and expense of those bigger cities people flock to. Only about 3 hours from Detroit it makes for a fun, easy get-away.

 

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