Kevin’s Bicycle Tour of Cleveland’s Globally or Glacially Significant Sites (or KBTCGGSS for short)
Date: May 01, 2020 - May 31, 2020
National and international friends, welcome to Kevin’s Bicycle Tour of Cleveland’s Globally or Glacially Significant Sites (or KBTCGGSS for short), a bike ride to visit significant sites of international or world significance in Cleveland. These are places that make Cleveland a unique blend of industry, places, craft and most of all, warm and caring people.
The photo icons in the map above include a photo of the areas you will visit!
Here are the amazing details and history of many of the sights you will see:
Public Square/Terminal Tower: Public Square was part of the original founding and layout of Cleveland, dating back to 1793 and Moses Cleaveland and his Connecticut survey team, although originally the Square was little more than a sheep meadow. Later, it housed the jail and Court House, hosting sensationalist trials at the north end of the Square for of 30 individuals charged with violating the federal Fugitive Slave law in the famed Oberlin Wellington Rescue. While the trial proceeded at the Court House on the north side of the Square, the south end hosted large scale protests, calling for the release of the rescuers. Speakers included Congressman Edward Wade, who owned with a family tavern (with his brother, former Senator Ben Wade) and Samuel Chase, the Governor of Ohio who would later serve President Lincoln as Treasury Secretary and later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Today, the Square has playful water gardens, terraced green space and space for concerts and other live performances. Public Square’s southeast corner also hosts the Soldiers and Sailors Monument, dedicated in 1894 to the Ohioans who served in the Civil War (of interest, note the African American soldier manning the cannon, with fellow soldiers on the southside of the monument). Don’t forget Tom L. Johnson, the probably the nation’s leading Progressive Era Mayor (1901-1909) pushing urban political and social reform that helped moved the nation. This grassy mall was part of the original Burnham Plan for the design of Cleveland, with major public building like the library, courts, City Hall and Education Building, flanking the sides. Planner Daniel Burnham said make no small plans, and this didn’t disappoint. The lawn was upgraded when the Convention Center was built to create this gentle upslope, and houses major performances like Cleveland Orchestra 4th of July Celebration. It also offers a great view of the lake at sunset, such as this view of the lake, Science Center and Rock Hall. We shouldn’t leave Public Square without talking about Garrett Morgan, a great African American Cleveland inventor, born in 1877, he patented a respiratory device that would later provide the blueprint for WWI gas masks, earning national honors. In 1916, it got a real test in a fresh water tunnel explosion. Morgan and his brother put on breathing devices, entered the tunnel rescuing two workers and recovering four bodies before the rescue effort was shut down. In 1923, he created a new kind of traffic signal, one with a warning light to alert drivers that they would need to stop, patenting the three-way stop light of today.
As we leave Public Square, we will pass the Rockefeller Building, a 17-story office building erected by John D. Rockefeller in 1903-05, and one of the many sites that bear the name and generosity of Rockefeller. Yeah, he was a ruthless capitalist and extraordinarily wealthy man, but he gave Cleveland Rockefeller Park. John D started amassing wealth as a chemist and oilman along the Cuyahoga and like other industrialists, he dumped waste in the river. He amassed a fortune, controlled oil and gas at every stage, controlled trains and railyards and even consumer delivery. He became so wealthy he outgrew the City, relocating everything to New York. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places and was included in the Historic American Buildings.
Lake Erie: Carved up in the Pleistocene era about 2.5 million years ago, this is part of the largest fresh water system in the world, called the Great Lakes for a reason. Yes, Lake Erie is among the smallest, but it’s still an amazing concept, reaching the Canadian shore in about 55 miles. You are looking at the Lakefront Nature Preserve, built on dredge from the Cuyahoga River, but now home to fox, hawks, eagles, rabbits, squirrels, a variety of trees and vegetation and probably wolves, but they are hard to photograph. The lake was named by the Erie people, a Native American people who lived along its southern shore. The tribal name “erie” is a shortened form of the Iroquoian word erielhonan, meaning long tail. The area was home to the Erie tribe, part of the Iroquois tribe, which was subjugated and driven out by the broad coalition of Iroquois tribes in the mid 1600s during the battle for supremacy in the beaver trade with 17th century French and Dutch settlers. While Lake Erie was carved out by glaciers beginning in the Pleistocene era 2.5 million years ago, it emerged in its current form just 4,000 years ago, a bat of an eye in geologic time.
Superman House: Next is an unremarkable house which produced remarkable creative genius. The home at 10622 Kimberly Drive is the childhood home of Jerry Siegel, who at age 18 with his partner Joe Shuster, invented the comic book hero and cinematic juggernaut, Superman, the “Man of Steel.” “Able to leap tall building in a single bound!” Currently, there is only a plaque on the front to commemorate the residence, but the residents in the lovely home will give it to the local Superman society when it is available. Superman rose from a modest comic hero in the 1930s to multi-million global film enterprise. “Look, up in the sky…”
Cory Methodist Church: Next up is a bit more current, a visit to Cory Methodist Church, the site of many Cleveland appearances of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and the struggle for African American equality. Malcolm X delivered his famous “The Ballot or the Bullet” speech at Cory in 1964 and Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his last speech in Cleveland at the church. The Church sanctuary could hold 5,000 people, but the 1968 speech shortly before his death drew thousands more. King also delivered speeches at other Cleveland destination’s like Antioch Baptist Church, but other sites have since been torn down, a common historical problem in Cleveland. Cory was organized in 1875, with his building dedicated in 1958. Reflecting the growth and population shifts in Cleveland. this building was initially a temple (notice the Hebrew writing atop the columns).
University Circle: University Circle, with amazing institutions of Severance Hall, home to the Cleveland Orchestra, the Cleveland Rockefeller Park and the Cultural Gardens: this meandering road connects Lake Erie and University Circle, home to Cleveland Orchestra, Cleveland Museum of Art, Cleveland Natural History Museum, Case Western Reserve University, the Cleveland Art Institute, Cleveland Music Institute and the next museum, the Cozad Bates House Abolition Education Center. In between the Lake and University Circle, lay 22 individual parks on a bit over two miles, representing various nations and cultures that have settled in Cleveland. Gardens are often historical (Muhatma Ghandi or Mother Theresa) or symbolic (solid blocks or mysterious math equations), they hold statues of great writers, philosophers, historic figures or wonderful landscapes. Gardens range from Ruseans to Russians, from Syrians, Slovenes, China and the most recent, the Ethiopian Garden. The gardens have grown steadily since 1903, with nation states that couldn’t stand each other in Europe, now thriving as garden neighbors. Interestingly, there is not a single athlete among those considered to be the most heralded – writers, scientists, philosophers, statesmen, but no athletes.I take it to be a sense of priorities, that sports, in the end, isn’t as meaningful. Will that change? Are Muhammad Ali, Arthur Ashe or LeBron James to be added? Of course, they were much more than just athletes.
The Art Museum’s collection represents the span of humanity, from pre-history, ancient Crete, Greece and Rome, several galleries for the African Continent, South and Central America and every significant period for Europe and the United States. I could stare at Picasso, Monet, Rodin, Winslow Homer and the Hudson River School artists all day. I don’t think I can adequately describe the wonder of Severance Hall and the Orchestra, which is probably the world’s best (not just boasting). The Orchestra started in 1918, but Severance Hall was built in 1931. They also have a great summer home at Blossom Music Center in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, about 20 miles south. We’ll pack a picnic and bring wine. The Natural History Museum is small, but holds Lucy, a 3.2 million year-old Australopithecus afarensis, as well as the story of it’s discovery by one of the Museum curator, Donald Johanson in 1974.
Jesse Owens House: Next is a quick stop at a modest home in the Clinic neighborhood, which wouldn’t merit attention if it weren’t the childhood home Olympic sprinter star Jesse Owens. The African American sprinter set US records while in high school at nearby Glenville High School. As a house, it does not stand out, but how many other African Americans grew up to ruin the Olympic Games/Arian pre-eminence celebration German Chancellor/Nazi Leader Adolph Hitler tried to make of the 1948 Berlin Olympics? Owens set four world records and won five gold medals at the games, earning admiration worldwide, including the German people and German athletes, if not the Chancellor. Be courteous, there is a family living there.
Karamu Theater: Karamu Theater is up next, the nation’s first African American theater. Today, they continue to provide great theater and serve as a training ground for many African American theater and film artists. Started in 1903, they went through a substantial interior repair, so I don’t have a photo of the interior to do it justice, though we may not be able to visit, depending on schedules and performances.
League Park: The early home to the Cleveland Major League Baseball and Negro League baseball. Today the park is an active ball field for high school teams and other athletics and a baseball heritage museum The Park hosted many significant events, like Babe Ruth’s 500th home run (over the fences that were higher than Boston’s Fenway Park wall, the Green Monster), Bob Feller’s debut, the last hit in Joe Dimaggio’s 1941 streak of hitting safely in 56 consecutive games, as well as the 1945 Negro World Series Champs, the Cleveland Buckeyes. This where Early Wynn got his, well, early wins. The Indians played here for their 1920 World Series championship, a series which featured the first World Series grand slam and the only unassisted triple play.
Rose Iron Works: This location is unique in offering an industrial history, reset for the modern economy. Rose Iron Works is a unique example of quality, sustainability and commitment to products of enduring quality and value. Since 1903, the Rose family, along with designer Bob Feher who joined late, and its metal forgers have worked their fire to make unique iron products, serving the leading families of Cleveland’s grand era. Their products found in fine hotels, museums and industrial sites. They have evolved to meet demand for more commercial and industrial products. They are a model of enduring value, not often found in modern America or the world economy dedicated, to speed, not quality or durability. The photo on the map is part of the “Jazz Age” artists, this is “Muse with Violin, Screen,” at the Cleveland Museum of Art, created in 1930 by Paul Fehér, a Hungarian artist (1898–1990) who worked as a designer with Rose Iron Works. This work of wrought iron, brass; silver and gold plating, roughly 4 1/2 feet square, is on loan from the Rose Iron Works Collections.
Playhouse Square: Moving on, we ride into Playhouse Square, the second largest arts performance space in the nation (trailing only NYC Lincoln Center). The chandelier above the intersection mimics those inside several of the theaters. Reclaimed from abandoned 1920s era vaudeville homes, the theaters were saved from demolition by some daring dreamers in the 1970s. Today, the complex houses the Cleveland Play House, Great Lakes Theater Company, travelling Broadway shows and the Case Western Reserve University graduate theater program, as well as the Cleveland State University Theater and Dance Department, any one of those will offer you a great night out. Playhouse Square hosts more than one million guests per year to its 1,000+ annual performances. There is one very notable legal site of national importance (taught in every law school), as Playhouse Square was the site of an arrest by CLE police of two men standing on a street corner in October 1963. The arrest made it all the way to the Supreme Court (with attorney Louis Stokes), challenging the basis for stopping the men in public space. The resulting 1968 decision (US v Terry), set requirements for stopping someone (a “Terry stop”), upholding the constitutionality of the “stop-and-frisk” as long as there is a “reasonable suspicion” that the person is about to/has committed/is committing a crime, and may be “armed and presently dangerous.”
Hope Memorial Bridge: Lorain-Carnegie Bridge connects Cleveland’s east and west side, with a great vistas from the Bicycle/Mixed Use Path won by cyclists in the 2010 “disagreement” with the Ohio Department of Transportation. The meandering river was carved up by retreating ice sheets of the last ice age, approximately 10-12,000 years ago, before man was ever on the scene and home to plentiful hunting grounds to the Erie and Iroquois and Huron Indians before being forced out by the United States military. The Bridge spans the Cuyahoga River, a relatively recent geological formation, formed by the advance and retreat of ice sheets during the last glacial retreat of the last ice age, which occurred 10,000–12,000 years ago. The river winds for about 100 miles, through Akron and the Cuyahoga Valley National Park to Cleveland. The name Cuyahoga is believed to mean “crooked river” from the Mohawk Indian name Cayagaga, although the Senecas called it Cuyohaga, or “place of the jawbone.” The river as the site of major manufacturing, including the early work of John D Rockefeller and Standard Oil monopoly and other industrialists that drive Cleveland’s economic growth. The River, through out it’s had fires of oil and industrial debris, with a notorious fire in July 1969 that it helped build an environmental movement and the creation of the US Environmental Protection Agency. Much cleaner today, it is home to sculling, crew clubs and racing that share the river with the great oar freighters. In 2019, the American Rivers Conservation Association named the Cuyahoga “River of the Year” in honor of “50 years of environmental resurgence,” documenting the environmental comeback.
St. John’s Church: St. John’s Church in the Ohio City neighborhood, is among the oldest in Cleveland, with a strong history of involvement with the underground railroad and fugitives escaping slavery in the south. In the code of the underground railroad, Cleveland was referred to as a place called Hope, with one of the next stops, Port Stanley, Canada, called Praise the Lord. While the distance from Hope to Praise the Lord may have been short, it was fraught with danger on land and sea.
Edgewater Park: You are at the 147 acre Edgewater Park, the westernmost park in Cleveland Metroparks Lakefront Reservation, which features 9000 feet of shoreline, with easy bike and pedestrian access. The land was purchased in 1894 by the city’s Second Park Board from Jacob B. Perkins, Cleveland industrialist. The brains behind the Cleveland Metropolitan Park System was William Albert Stinchcomb. A self-taught engineer working as a surveyor for the City of Cleveland. In 1895, Stinchcomb was appointed chief engineer of the City Parks Department by Mayor Tom Johnson in 1902 and began work to develop the ”Emerald Necklace” looping the city. Despite setbacks by the legislature and the Supreme Court, Stinchcomb lobbied the Ohio legislature to amend the state constitution to allow natural resource conservation at the local level and allow for the establishment of what was to become the Metropolitan Park District, the oldest metropolitan park district in Ohio. In 1915, Council asked Stinchcomb to establish the Cleveland Metropolitan Park District board and create the park system, hiring the renowned landscape architectural firm, the Olmsted Brothers. The plans for a system of connecting parks and land encircling the Cleveland area, following various creeks and rivers in the area, was the framework of the modern Metroparks system. Of significance, Stinchcomb succeeded in establishing tax revenue authority in 1917, allowing further strategic growth today.
Kevin Cronin is a Cleveland attorney in private practice, largely working with kids and at-risk families in Cuyahoga Juvenile Court He was a founding member of Bike Cleveland, as well as the predecessor organization Cleveland Bikes and served as a board member of the Ohio City Bicycle Co-Op. Prior to returning home to Cleveland, he worked for a decade for the United States Congress for House and Senate members, as a Counsel for an auditing/budget reform committee and as Associate Staff of the House Budget Committee. Twice honored for volunteerism by non-profit Green Energy Ohio, he is currently the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, Vice Chair of the Environment/Energy Subcommittee. In 2010, he filed the first federal lawsuit on behalf of cyclists against the Ohio Department of Transportation and the US Federal Highway Administration, a lawsuit that contributed to $6 million in cycling infrastructure, including the creation of the Multi-use Path on the north end of the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge and bike lanes on Abbey Avenue.