The GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION of 1936 and 1937 provided Clevelanders with relief from the dreariness of the Depression and helped them celebrate the centennial of Cleveland's incorporation as a city. The exposition was the idea of Frank J. Ryan and Lincoln G. Dickey, the city's first public hall commissioner. DUDLEY S. BLOSSOM became chairman of a civic committee that contributed $1.5 million to transform the idea into reality. Built on land extending along the lakefront from W. 3rd St. to about E. 20th St., the 135-acre exposition also incorporated the Mall area, Public Hall, and Municipal Stadium. Work began in Apr. 1936, and in just 80 days the exposition opened to the public on 27 June 1936 for a 100-day run. The exposition was opened with a grand entrance, which (along with six other entrances) was designed by  Anthony Salvatore Ciresi, a professor at the Cleveland School of Architecture.  He was awarded a prize for his design of the of the grand entrance. ANTONIO DINARDO, another Italian-American architect designed other structures on the exposition grounds.

Among the attractions which drew 4 million visitors to the lakefront that year were a "Streets of the World" district that featured 200 cafes and bazaars reminiscent of the countries they represented, a midway with rides and sideshows, a Court of the Presidents, a Hall of Progress, an Automotive Bldg., an art gallery, a Marine Theater, and horticultural gardens. The 1937 season opened on 29 May with a new attraction which became its most popular feature: an Aquacade that featured water ballet shows and starred Eleanor Holm and Johnny Weismuller. By the time the second season came to an end on 15 Sept., nearly $70 million had been spent by approximately 7 million exposition visitors over the 2 years. 

The Sherwin-Williams Plaza at the Great Lakes Exposition dominates Mall A in this image taken in 1937. WRHS.
Mall A was the site of the Sherwin-Williams Plaza at the Great Lakes Exposition of 1937. WRHS.

Black, white and red text reading Western Reserve Historical Society

Finding aid for the Great Lakes Exposition Scrapbook, WRHS.

Finding aid for the A. H. Zychick Great Lakes Exposition Album, WRHS. 


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Vacha,  John.  Meet Me on Lake Erie Dearie!: Cleveland's Great Lakes Exposition.  Kent State University Press, 2011


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