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Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION

GREAT LAKES EXPOSITION

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. Great Lakes ExpositionDUDLEY 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. 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 only vestiges of the festival remaining in 1995 were the Donald Gray Gardens directly north of the stadium.

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