|by Denise A. Hunyadi and John D. Hays|
|[ Note: This article originally appeared in Issue 53 of Voyage,
the quarterly journal of the Titanic International Society. ]
“Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds.”
|“Nothing like it was ever seen before or is likely to be seen again. The creation was a fairy tale in fact, which the imagination of a body of architects, with Beaux Arts training behind them, told in iron and plaster for the delight and edification of the world. Before even the foundations were laid, these men by common agreement made their plans in such a relation to one another, and to the environment, that effective grouping should be a certainty. And who that saw the result will ever forget the harmony of the vast yet ethereal edifices that stood about the great lagoon, as though conjured there from a dream of classic beauty?”|
The creation of Chicago’s “White City” had a profound effect on American architecture for decades and led directly to the “City Beautiful” movement that swept the nation at the turn of the 20th Century. In Washington, D.C., it inspired the Senate Park Commission plan published in 1902, and cities from Philadelphia to San Francisco created plans for similarly grand public spaces and structures. In Cleveland, a Group Plan Commission was formed with Daniel H. Burnham, chief architect of the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition, as chairman. The Commission included New York architects John Carrère, planning director for Buffalo’s 1901 Pan-American Exposition, and Arnold W. Brunner, whose design had been chosen for the new U.S. Post Office, Custom House, and Court House (Federal Building) near the center of downtown Cleveland on Superior Avenue.
In addition to the Federal Building, Cleveland was preparing to build, but had not yet established sites for, a number of new municipal buildings. The Group Plan Commission was charged with creating a monumental “Civic Center,” incorporating each of these structures. In August, 1903, they submitted their design to the city, having arranged the buildings, in best Beaux Arts tradition, around a great plaza. The mall served as the centerpiece of the plan, and stretched from the bluff overlooking Lake Erie to Public Square at the city’s center. The Commission’s report strongly urged that granite be employed for all buildings, and stressed the importance of maintaining the cornice line of the principal buildings, as well as a general uniformity in design. As the location and general design of the Federal Building had already been determined, it would set the tone and scale for all buildings that followed and, together with the Public Library, would anchor the group’s inland terminus.
Over time the city endeavored to complete the plan, building a County Court House (1912), a new City Hall (1916), Public Auditorium (1922), and Public Library (1925). Ten years after the adoption of the Group Plan, The International Studio, a journal of art and architecture, reflected on the “City Beautiful” movement, pointing out that “Cleveland has successfully carried out a splendid ‘Civic Center’ development which is not only of vital interest to the nation from the point of view of its intrinsic excellence, but from the fact that it is not entirely on paper, or buried in masses of municipal reports, but is actually being done.”
|Next: Architecture of the Cleveland Federal Building|