On the Road to Bland

Submitted by Martha Eakin on Wed, 03/28/2007 - 18:26.

Read a summary of Martha Schwartz’s lecture-Landscapes of Awareness- at the Harvard School of Design http://archinect.com/features/article.php?id=54068_0_23_0_M.

Our city is not expanding, but if we let ODOT have its way, well-preserved old structures that tell our history and provide character will be swept aside for more rivers of concrete. What are we doing? Check out Carol A Poh’s letter (with author’s permission) to ODOT’s Section 106 committee. (NRHP = National Registry of Historic Places) Both the Broadway Mills building and the Marathon Station next to it have been recommended eligible, which is why they are not discussed in Carol’s letter, but that does not mean they will be saved.  Instead, as was suggested in the PD, Clevelanders may be reminded of their former presence by a plaque or some other fitting???? marker.

We are heading for bland at highway speed!

Following is Carol’s letter:

Ohio Department of Transportation, District 12                               

Attn:  Mark Carpenter, Environmental Engineer

5500 Transportation Boulevard
    Garfield Heights, OH 44125

Re: ODOT’s NRHP Eligibility Recommendations/Cleveland Innerbelt

Dear Mr. Carpenter:

            This letter addresses Attachment 2 of ODOT’s February 12, 2007, communication with Mark Epstein of the Ohio Historic Preservation Office.  In that document, ODOT states that it does not agree with six of the thirteen resources recommended by consultants Gray & Pape for NRHP eligibility: the King-Otis Cleveland Mounted Police Stables, the Ohio Boxboard Company, the Tactical Rescue Station, the Distribution Terminal Warehouse, the Sterling & Welch Company Warehouse, and the Norfolk & Western Railroad Trestle over Scranton Road.

            I concur with your findings with respect to two resources:

Sterling & Welch Company Warehouse—This building has been extensively altered with the addition of incompatible replacement windows and no longer retains its architectural integrity.

Norfolk & Western Railroad Trestle—I agree with your comment that more information is needed to determine eligibility.  

            I dissent from your findings with respect to the four other resources:


King-Otis Cleveland Mounted Police Stables—This property is eligible under Criterion A in the areas of Law and Social History for its association with the Cleveland Mounted Police, one of the oldest mounted police units in the United States.  The building has housed the Cleveland Mounted Police for fifty-nine years—longer than any other existing structure I am aware of.  Simple and functional, the stables retain a high degree of integrity.  The interior, with its original horse stalls, tack room, and blacksmith shop—all virtually unaltered—is especially notable.  The adjacent equine sculpture by the renowned Viktor Schreckengost further enhances the property’s significance and meaning to Cleveland.


Ohio Boxboard Company—This property is eligible under Criterion C in the area of Architecture as a handsome example of a late nineteenth-/early twentieth-century industrial building.  (No date was supplied by either historical consultant that I could find.)  Designed by the noted Cleveland firm of Christian, Schwartzenburg & Gaede, the substantial brick-and-stone building is remarkably intact, with a corbelled brick cornice and its original fifteen-over-fifteen windows; even the basement-level windows are original.  I also wish to note the four-story building’s striking presence, looming above the road, as one drives east on the Innerbelt.  The qualities of location, design, setting, materials, workmanship, feeling, and association are abundantly evident.  (I do not understand your comment faulting the building because “it does not show the skeletal structure on the exterior.”  Further, examination of the building’s footprint on maps plans reveals that the loss of what you call “the west wing” is, in fact, of minor importance.)


Tactical Rescue Station—This property, together with the adjacent Western Reserve Fire Museum to which it is connected by a pedestrian bridge, is eligible under Criterion A in the areas of Social History and Communications for their association with the historical development of Cleveland’s fire-fighting methods.  The fact that the Tactical Rescue Station is a product of the early 1950s does not preclude it from inclusion as part of the National Register-eligible property, nor does the fact that the building is, as you describe it, “a plain vernacular modernist style.”  The building retains a high degree of architectural integrity; it is plain because it is a product of its time.  In fact, because of their physical and historical connection, were this later building to be removed, it would, in my opinion, constitute a loss of integrity for the earlier building, which you acknowledge is eligible.


Distribution Terminal Warehouse—This property is eligible under Criterion A in the areas of Industry and Transportation for its association with food storage and distribution before the advent of small-scale refrigeration for homes and businesses.  Designed by the eminent civil engineer Wilbur Watson (1871-1939), the building is also possibly eligible under Criterion C in the area of Architecture.  Watson, according to the Dictionary of Cleveland Biography (page 471), “developed a carefully stated philosophy of the relationship between engineering and aesthetics and used structural and reinforced concrete to produce some of the most beautiful bridges in northern Ohio.”  This example of his work deserves further investigation.  The fact that several other cold-storage buildings are extant in Cleveland does not preclude the eligibility of this one, as you seem to suggest.

            Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your findings.

            I wish to close by stating, for the public record, my objection to the proposed project, not only because of the negative impact it will have on the dozens of historic properties identified by your consultants, but also on the urban fabric of the city as a whole.  The “trench,” with its existing entrance and exit ramps, knits Cleveland’s major avenues and nodes of commerce together in ways that your reconfiguration will seriously disrupt.  Moreover, I do not think ODOT has proven the need to replace, rather than rehabilitate, the existing Innerbelt Bridge.  In its Phase I Cultural Resources Survey, your consultant, Hardlines Design Company, described the bridge as “more distinctive than standardized highway bridges and interchanges” and quoted the Third Ohio Bridge Inventory (2004), which judged it “the most impressive of Ohio’s pre-1961 Interstate highway bridges” (pages 40-41).   Surely this massive bridge was not planned to have a life span of a scant half century.  I believe that the Innerbelt Bridge itself warrants consideration for NRHP eligibility.

Sincerely yours,

Carol A. Poh


Warning: "know" we will save Broadway Mills Building

Thanks for keeping us posted on this. I've been talking with the Gillotas and we have a plan to save the Broadway Mills building - the Gillota Building - and the land below. So, for those who plan to write this off... think again. All bets are off - keep the pressure huge... have they fired ALL the local ODOT folks and their engineers and planners yet? That is the priority!

Disrupt IT