Continued from: "Architects and engineers refine the plans"
It was probably some time in 1923 that Van Sweringen, perhaps
prompted by his architects and a market study, decided to build
a monumental 52-story tower on Public Square. But with characteristics
acumen he kept the plan to himself until a propitious time. On
11 November, 1924, W .R. Pease and H.D. Jouett in an address to
the Cleveland Engineering Society suggested publicly that Cleveland
could expect a "towering structure." 39
No details were given. Just two weeks before this address, the
building code had been amended to permit the design of the new
Ohio Bell Telephone Company building. The code, as amended permitted
buildings of almost unlimited height, and incorporated the latest
principle of skyscraper design, the set-back: the mass of a building
is progressively set back as it rises, to permit air and light
to enter the street level, thus avoiding " the Wall Street
effect." The approval of this new code meant that the Van
Sweringens did not have another battle to fight. And what a battle
it would have been! Critics of the terminal project had long contended
that the station was just an excuse for a private gain, and that
"history would show that the City had been screwed."
Good timing was a major factor in the success of the project.
Announcement of the new plans for the 52-story did not come until
14 February, 1925. The next day The Plain Dealer records
that according to Van Sweringen it was designed to be the landmark
of Cleveland like the Woolworth Building in New York City.
Van Sweringen's comparison to the Woolworth Building gives us
insight into his intentions. Designed by Cass Gilbert and built
in 1911-13, the Woolworth overlooks New York's City Hall Park,
just as the Terminal Tower by its diagonal placement helps to
link and unite Public Square with the projected Mall, the seat
of municipal power. But, more important, because of its isolation
in the New York skyline, the Woolworth Building became an object
of mediation, a cathedral of commerce. It captured everyone's
imagination. John Marin painted a famous watercolor of it in 1913.
And in 1925 John Dos Passos, in his novel Manhattan Transfer,
described it as "glistening shaft" which " pulled
out like a telescope".
A giant plaster model of the area north of Prospect Avenue, costing
$8000, was placed on exhibition to be "great assistance to
us in moulding public opinion in favor of the Terminals Company."
Photographs of the model were used to encourage the passage of
the ordinance on the use of the southwest corner of Public Square
for the entrance portico, and were used later in obtaining approval
of the City Planning Commission and the building permit.
The decision to heighten the tower was of enormous importance
for the entire project, for it markedly increased the amount of
rental office space in the area. There is no doubt that this decision
was made to counter the eastward commercial development along
Euclid Avenue. The retailing center had already moved East of
East Ninth Street. With the new Union Trust Building at East Ninth
and Euclid Avenue, decentralization was progressing s rapidly
as to threaten the economic viability of the Terminal's supergrade
developments. There was even an active "West of East Ninth
Street Merchants' Association," whose objective was to increase
development and improve the area. The Van Sweringens encouraged
and financially supported this association.
The increase in amount of office space in the tower itself was
projected to take care of Cleveland's increased needs for two
years. The entire tract, it built up, was expected to fulfill
the City's increasing need for office space for ten years. The
decision to heighten the tower based, therefore, on a economic
survey. It made good business sense.
Continues in: "The aesthetics of the Terminal Tower"
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