Tag Archives: Cleveland OH

Historic Cleveland

19 Nov

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It’s a beautiful day in Cleveland Ohio. We take advantage of the mild November temperatures and head downtown to do our own architectural walking tour. With the Jeep tucked away in a nearby parking structure we can take our time checking out the city without having to worry about feeding a meter. Our first stop is Marshall Frederick’s Fountain Of Eternal Life, also called the Cleveland War Memorial Fountain, Peace Arising From The Flames Of War, at Veterans Memorial Plaza. The inscription reads: IN HONORED MEMORY OF THOSE WHO GAVE THEIR LIVES FOR THEIR COUNTRY. This is one of my favorite Marshall Frederick’s fountains; four groups in Norwegian emerald pearl granite 4′ x 12′ represent the four corners of the Earth, in the center a 35′ bronze human figure stands on a ball reaching toward the sky. The water is shut off for the season but when it’s on it makes this an even more incredible sight.  It’s placement on the southernmost end of the Mall affords incredible views of prominent buildings such as Public Square, Key Tower and Terminal Tower.

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Over on Superior we admire the exterior of the Cleveland Public Library main library building. After decades of moving around in and out of temporary and rented spaces, this building was built solely for the Main Library in 1925. It’s one of those magnificent buildings you just stop and stare at; detailed carvings, sconces, leaded glass windows all hint to the beauty found within. Before we go inside here are a few interesting things I’ve learned about the library. This was the first large public library to allow individuals to select their own books directly from the bookshelves, at other libraries only a librarian was allowed to do so. This library was a big deal to the community, by the 1930’s more than 12,000 individuals walked through its doors daily. Today the CPL circulates one of the largest and most extensive collections in the country with nearly 10 million items. After years of decline the building was completely renovated in 1999 to the tune of $24 million. Ok, now we can go inside.

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The entrance hall is flat-out gorgeous! There’s so much eye candy, my eyes don’t know where to focus. Straight up, a terrestrial globe made of pearl art glass glows softly, it’s based on one of the first maps depicting the early Americas done by Leonardo da Vinci. In the lobby, a barrel-vaulted ceiling is decorated with fine stencils representing the arts, writing and learning; looking back toward the door a brass clock is flanked by mythological griffins. Fantastic bare-bulb torchieres illuminate the lobby, it seems everything is marble including the main stairway and balustrade. Brett Memorial Hall is your basic reading room–you know, marble walls, coffered ceiling painted in rose, blue and gold; even the wool rugs match the colors and patterns of the ceiling. Travertine marble makes up the perimeter of the floor, this helps absorb sound echoes. Murals fill the upper walls, The City in 1822 by William Sommer was done in 1934 under the Public Works Art Project (PWAP), others were done in the late 1970’s, the bronze bust of Brett is original to the room.

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On the 2nd Floor the main attraction is a PWAP mural which depicts Cleveland’s waterfront in the 1830’s. Donald Bayard’s Early Transportation is as pretty today as it was in 1934, I enjoy the vibrant colors. The 3rd Floor is home to Fine Arts and Special collections, it’s our favorite floor. Here there are more paintings commissioned for the PWAP, exhibit cases in the corridor are made of wrought iron created by the Sterling Bronze Co. in 1925, we find materials related to the visual arts, musical scores and books and collectibles. The reading room is stunning; blue and gold floral designs decorate the ceilings, bare-bulb chandeliers light the space, doorways are surrounded by marble, doors are leather-covered. Large windows look out over the city, from here we have a birds-eye view of the Fountain of Eternal Life, the Mall, First Energy Stadium, and Lake Erie.

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There’s a lot to look at like the John G White Chess and Checkers Collection; Chess sets are made of delicately carved wood, stone, figures, even Salt and Pepper shakers. To celebrate the 150th anniversary of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland a special exhibit is on display until December 31. The Cleveland Digital Public Library on this floor opened last February; a touch wall, digital lab and Preservation department connect the past to the future; the first commissioned PWAP mural by Ora Coltman, Dominance of the City (1934) hangs here. A giant mosaic tile Globe rests in the 4th Floor lobby, pretty cool. Suddenly music fills the air, as we descend the staircase we find a group of musicians has gathered at the top of the 3rd Floor, it seems they are warming up for a wedding that will take place here shortly. The sound follows us down to the main floor, it’s magical.

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Outside we realize we are just across the street from The Arcade, we pop in whenever we’re in the area. Built in 1890 and financed by the likes of John D Rockefeller, Marcus Hanna and Charles F Brush, this Victorian-era structure is magnificent! Workers are setting up for a wedding so we just do a quick walk-through–this place is an architectural treasure. Built by the Detroit Bridge Co, this is two 9-story buildings joined by a 5-story arcade with a glass skylight that spans over 300 ft, impressive. The detail is mind-blowing, every surface is decorative, it’s elegant, opulent, stunning–this is what an early shopping mall looked like in the US back in those days, and it is one of very few left.

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Our architecture and history tour continues with the Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Monument in Public Square. Opened on July 4, 1894 this monument commemorates the American Civil War. The grand structure is imposing, awe-inspiring; four bronze groupings on the esplande depict battle scenes of the Navy, Artillery, Infantry and Cavalry. American flags rise up from each corner of the structure, today they flutter in the breeze. A 125′ column is topped with a statue of the Goddess of Freedom, defended by the Shield of Liberty, breathtaking.

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Inside the Memorial Room the names of 9,000 soldiers and sailors from Cuyahoga County OH who perished in the war cover tablet walls. Elegant stained glass windows, exquisite brass chandeliers, intricate marble floors have all been recently rehabilitated. Bronze relief sculptures honor significant moments and people, medals and personal items fill glass cases. A large column wears 6 bronze bands listing the names of 30 battles in which soldiers from this county fought, it’s all very humbling. 

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The day has passed quickly, over in Hingetown we stop for a bite to eat before driving home. Juke Box is one of those comfortable neighborhood joints where you can hang out with friends, grab a bite to eat, enjoy a craft beer and enjoy music from a rotating jukebox selection. It’s late afternoon so the place is quiet, the menu selection offers pierogi, sausage and kraut, the varieties of each are endless. We’re starving, so we decide quickly; you get 3 pierogi for $7 with two dipping sauces. We choose the potato, cheddar and farmers cheese pierogi with sour cream and creamy dill sauces, stellar choice. The special of the day is a sausage sandwich, ours is a beer brat topped with sauerkraut, grilled peppers and onions with spicy mustard on a crusty roll, yum! 

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It’s been a great weekend in Cleveland, we’re always discovering something new. Only three hours from Detroit, it’s one of our favorite places to go for a quick getaway. Now get out there and have some fun!


12 Nov

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Today we are just east of Cleveland in the city of Mentor, Ohio to visit the James A. Garfield National Historic Site. James A. Garfield was our 20th President, one of four assassinated US Presidents, he served only 200 days before his death. Garfield came from humble beginnings in rural Ohio; a good student he graduated from Western Reserve Eclectic Institute, then two years later from Williams College in MA. He married Lucretia in 1858, was elected to the Ohio Senate in 1859, entered the Civil War in 1861 as a lieutenant colonel, and was elected to Congress in 1862. It was in 1876 that the Garfield’s purchased this home and farm, at that time it was a modest nine-room home, by 1880 it had grown into a 20-room, 2 1/2 story structure nicknamed Lawnfield.

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The former carriage house is now the visitors center complete with exhibits chronicling Garfield’s life. We purchase tickets for the next tour then spend time browsing through displays. We follow the timeline from his days of poverty as a young boy to his adulthood as a teacher, principal, legislator, lawyer, Civil War general, congressman and senator-elect. Glass cases contain personal items such as shoes and clothing, documents and photos. We read about his unexpected presidential nomination, his election, view items from the inauguration in March of 1881. On July 2, 1881 James A. Garfield was shot twice by Charles Guiteau while boarding a train in Washington D.C. The first shot grazed his arm, the other pierced his back and was embedded in his abdomen; the bullet could not be located, infection set in. The President died on September 19, 1881 at the age of 49.

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Our tour guide leads us up to the house, Victorian in style it’s quite large, the front porch extends the length of the house. It’s this front porch where Garfield would meet with the public. People came from near and far to hear him speak about his political intentions and important issues of the day; he basically ran his campaign right from his home. Inside we are welcomed by the foyer, a fireplace rests at the back of the room, the furniture is original to the Garfield family and sits in the same place as it did when they lived here. The family kept the home until 1936, then donated it, complete with furnishings, to the Western Reserve Historical Society. In 1980 Congress authorized it as a Historical Site, it is now owned and maintained by the National Park Service. It has undergone a complete restoration. 

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We move through the main floor, portraits hang on the walls, the parlor is cozy. Stained glass decorates the dining room bay window and door, it’s glowing in today’s sunlight. The fireplace is surrounded by tiles hand-painted by the Garfield family, the china used in the White House rests on shelves– in those days you brought your own and took it home when you left. There are pretty decorative pieces throughout the room. James was his mother’s favorite child, she was quite devoted to him and he to her; she had her own suite of rooms on the main floor, photographs of her son adorn her room, a gorgeous stained glass window of the President sits in front of a window catching the natural light.

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Upstairs we enter the presidential library, Lucretia added this wing to the main house after the assassination to honor her husbands memory and store all of his presidential items and papers. The room is magnificent; white oak covers the walls and ceiling, a large fireplace anchors one wall, elegant brass fixtures and a chandelier provide soft lighting, book shelves are packed with volumes; Garfield was an avid reader, we are told there are 1,000 books in this area alone. The room is filled with photographs and memorabilia, the desk Garfield used while in Congress is in the room along with other attractive pieces of furniture. In the back section is the vault built special to hold the presidential papers, a wreath from the funeral has been dipped wax, framed and hangs on the wall; I find being among his personal things both amazing and eerie.

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Continuing through the second floor we peek into the room Garfield used as a home office before being elected President; the room sits exactly as it did the day the family left for Washington, that was the last time he was in this room. The rest of the floor is family bedrooms and servants quarters. The Garfield’s were not wealthy people, in fact when the President died friends and family were worried Lucretia would lose the house and farm. A fund was set up for donations so the house could be paid off; Garfield left a wife and five young children along with his mother whom he also supported. Over $300,000 was raised–we’re talking 1881 here–this allowed the family to keep the house, add the Memorial Library and make other improvements to the property. The family was able to live comfortably thanks to the contributions.

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Outside we walk the grounds and check out the other buildings on the property. It’s pretty amazing to be able to come here and really experience history. Lucky for all of us the family was generous enough to leave the house, the contents and so many of Garfield’s belongings for future generations to see.

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Back in Cleveland we stop in at the Barking Spider Tavern for a beverage and some live music. The tavern is an old carriage house located behind the Case Western Reserve University Alumni House over in University Circle. It’s a little tricky to find, be sure and look at the map before you head over. The building is quaint, the main listening room has wood-lined walls, a fireplace, several tables and a long bar; today strings of orange lights are draped behind the stage. The Spider is known for its live music; 7 days a week you can stop in and listen to musicians playing Jazz, Blues, Folk, Bluegrass and Rock, free of charge. George Foley and Friends are playing Jazz when we arrive; we sit back and chill to the sound of old school tunes.

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Stone Gables Bed & Breakfast is our home away from home whenever we’re in Cleveland, we stop in to freshen up before heading out for a late dinner at Heck’s Cafe. Located in Ohio City the restaurant opened in 1974, the building is an 18th Century red-brick townhouse, it’s just a few blocks from Stone Gables. The front section is a dark paneled pub, the back opens up into a spacious, airy atrium, this is where we sit. The menu has something for everyone; we’re having the Hipster Burger: a house made veggie patty, arugula, tomato aioli and mozzarella on a wheat bun with a side of Heck’s fries, yum! We’re also sharing a house salad: greens, tomatoes, red onions, walnuts, dried cranberries and crumbled blue cheese; a nice combination of flavors and textures. As we finish our meal we finally relax, it has been a day full of fun and adventure.



Ohio Outdoors……

24 Oct


We are staying at Stone Gables Bed and Breakfast in Cleveland OH, having filled up on a wonderful breakfast prepared by Richard, we are ready for a day of adventure. Traveling east of Cleveland we arrive at The Holden Arboretum in Kirtland, it is our first visit, I can hardly wait to check it out. Holden Arboretum was started in 1931, a bequest from Albert Fairchild Holden created as a memorial for his oldest daughter Elizabeth who died of scarlet fever at the age of 12. The arboretum is a collection of woody plants that are labeled, cataloged and mapped; here you will find cultivated gardens, forest trails, woodlands and 20 miles of hiking trails covering the 3,500 acres. Directly behind the visitor’s center lies the Butterfly Garden, carefully trimmed grass pathways lead past beds bursting with Purple Coneflowers, Black Eyed Susans, Sedum and more. Crossing a footbridge we stop halfway and watch as water passes over stacked  rock creating a shallow waterfall. Foster Pond, thick with lilypads, is surrounded by plantings of late blooming perennials, daylilies and Trumpet Vine; bees and butterflies are everywhere. I overhear talk of a Tram Tour and discover there are still two seats available for the next tour.  Making our way over to the tram we pass one beautiful bed after another; Hibiscus wear blooms the size of dinner plates,  yellow Coreopsis, purple Bee Balm and Cardinal Flowers add bright splashes of color.


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We board the tiny white tram with three other visitors, the total capacity of the golf-cart-like vehicle is six, making for a very personal tour; the trail is hard-packed, used by pedestrians and trams alike. Traveling past mature trees our friendly, knowledgeable guide stops off and on telling us interesting facts, we glide past Ponderosa Pines, a wildflower garden and Blueberry Pond, its glass-like surface reflecting the nearby scenery. The grounds are breathtaking; lush green grass, ponds, pines, carefully placed benches invite guests to linger and relax. Off to the side a patch of Jewelweed is in full bloom, our guide invites a member of our group to carefully pinch off a seed pod for the rest of us to see. She instructs him to place the pod in the palm of his hand, then tap the pod, all of us jump when the pod explodes sending seeds into the air, appropriately, the plant’s nickname is Touch-Me-Not!  Approaching the Rhododendron Discovery Garden, we are greeted by the Noreb Tree Allee, lined with Paperbark Hazels, Swamp White Oaks, American Elms and Flowering Dogwoods, this place must be incredible in the Spring. Two huge granite acorns welcome us, we cross through a gate, past a pretty pergola into the collection of Rhododendrons and Azaleas, here again a springtime visit would be ideal. Corning Lake is home to tall reeds, cattails and Heron, a large turtle is resting in the grass. In one hour the tram leads us through all of Holden’s highlights, it is really the best way to become acquainted with the grounds.


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Driving south, we stop in the tiny town of Burton for lunch at a cafe. Fed and refreshed we arrive at Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park to do some hiking. The day-use park is made up of 167 acres of rugged cliffs, four scenic hiking trails and diverse plant life. The park lies near one of the highest points of the state; a popular vacation spot, the state of Ohio created the Nelson-Kennedy Ledges State Park in 1949, preserving it for future generations. Rock formations found here are among the few outcrops in northern Ohio still exposed to view. The incredible sandstone cliff formations are a result of erosion; wind, water freezing-thawing, wore away at the softer rock layers. Large blocks of rock called slump blocks fell away, leaving the more resistant layers to form ledges. Rocks lay jumbled about, moss in a variety of shades and patterns covers the surface. At the trail head we choose the Red trail, it is the most difficult of the four, also the most interesting.

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Red dots are spray-painted on trunks of trees, sides of rocks, leading us over dirt trails, rock stairs and fresh puddles. We descend the narrow space between two rock formations, the temperature drops noticeably, tiny white pebbles have worn smooth and are embedded into the rock. Trees are perched along the top edges, their roots exposed, clinging to each crevice. In shady areas ferns such as Christmas and Maidenhair grow wild, I read that in Spring Trillium are found in abundance, even the rare Red Trillium can be found here. We follow red dots catching a glimpse of a squirrel here and there, many songbirds can be found in the park. We are very low in elevation when we arrive at Fat Man’s Peril, here we have to duck down and squeeze between the rock surfaces, it’s dark too. The trail is loaded with places with names like Devil’s Icebox, Indian Pass, Old Maid’s Kitchen, posted signs urge us to stay on our path saying “Dangerous cliffs, stay on marked trails only”, good advice. Slowly we make our way back up, the leafy canopy above providing refuge from the heat. Back at the trail head we follow a trail leading us in the opposite direction, the ground is covered in fallen leaves year round making for slippery stepping at times. Reaching the boardwalk, we follow it around to a waterfall, today it is merely a fine spray of water passing over the rock face, the volume varies with the season. Speaking of waterfalls, we have one more place to visit.

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Chagrin Falls is one of those darling little towns that look like a set for a Hallmark movie. The Chagrin River runs right through the center of town, baskets of flowers cascade over the railing along the river, a fountain trickles in a tiny park riverside, the buildings themselves are quaint brick structures. The historic little village, an affluent suburb of Cleveland, is only 2.14 sq. miles, in it we find Greek Revival homes from the very early days, Italianate houses from the 1870’s, Queen Anne’s from the 1890’s and bungalows from the 20th century, they all look equally comfortable in their setting. The sky has become dark, we head directly for the falls before the clouds open up. An elevated wooden deck leads us down to the Chagrin Falls where the powerful river flows steadily over rocks, white water landing in the river below. Visitors pose for pictures, the scenery is lovely. On the opposite side of the water from us a large restaurant takes advantage of the spectacular view with lots of windows and a covered deck. It begins to rain, we quickly make our way to The Popcorn Shop on Main Street.

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Businesses in town consist of specialty shops, art and antique stores, home goods, clothing stores and restaurants. The Popcorn Shop is one of those places you have to visit when you are in town, decked out in red, white and blue, the building is charming, built in 1875 it originally was the retail end for the adjoining flour mill. Sometime in the 1940’s it became a popcorn shop which also served homemade ice cream and candy, and so it is today. I love their caramel corn, it is simply the best, Kris is more of an ice cream type guy, he orders a waffle cone with a peanut butter ice cream that is truly to die for! The harder it rains the more crowded the shop becomes, until at last it lets up. We take the opportunity to stroll Main Street, every shop displays  gorgeous urns stuffed with annuals, the scent of Petunias carried on the breeze. The town is quaint, walkable, picturesque, a great side trip when you are visiting Cleveland.

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