One thing I love about visiting new cities is discovering architectural treasures–often just around the corner. This past weekend, I was staying in a hotel in downtown Cleveland and needed to acquire some fruit and yogurt for my breakfast. There was one of those hipster artisan-style groceries a couple of blocks away, so I decided to walk. Just south of the hotel where I was staying, I came across a gorgeous Art Deco-style building, one with the same type of terra cotta glazed tiling that the LeVeque building in Columbus has. I took a photo, hoping I could get back later for more. That was not to be, but that’s what the intertoobs are for.
This building is just a block or two from Cleveland’s Warehouse District, an area where old warehouses are being repurposed as apartments and condos, along with restaurants and such. Signs on the windows proclaimed that the Standard Building was part of this trend, with storefronts and apartments for lease.
The building was designed by architects Knox and Elliot and completed in 1924/1925 at a cost of $7 million. The original owner (and builder) was the union Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers (BLE) Cooperative; the building was constructed to house the union’s bank, the first such bank in the US. That bank eventually merged with others to create Standard Trust. That bank failed in the early years of the Great Depression and was closed, but the BLE continued to own the building. Over the years it served as an induction centre for WWII draftees and eventually as part of a branch campus of Case Western Reserve University. Elliot Ness once had an office in the building. (For more on the building’s history and historical photos, see this article.) In 2014, the Brotherhood of Locomotive Engineers and Trainmen (as the BLE is now known) sold the building to the current owners, Weston, who decided to renovate it and convert it to housing. The conversion was completed in early 2018, and there are now 280 apartments in the building.
One of the features I immediately noticed was the starburst motifs on the exterior. I’ve never seen a Deco motif based on stars (eight-pointed ones) and so I was already in love.
I was, of course, eager to see inside. Luckily, Cleveland interest website FreshWater had a terrific article on the restoration, including a number of fabulous photos by photographer Bob Perkoski :
This building is another example of a trend I saw in Columbus as well two weeks ago: people are starting to return to live downtown in cities like Columbus, Cleveland, and Detroit (which I’ll be writing about later this week, as I prepare to attend a concert there on Sunday.) With that, there are more people on the streets and more businesses opening in storefronts, and these cities are starting to lose the hollowed-out, deserted feel they have had for years in the evenings and weekends. There seems to be a real desire to preserve historic buildings such as this one and to convert them for residential use. And unlike in Toronto, whose insane housing market means that almost all new housing is in the form of condos, these are rental properties.
I am so pleased to see Art Deco buildings such as this one gaining a new lease on life as they begin to move into their second century.