MONUMENTS. What a city may think of itself is expressed, in large part, by the monuments it chooses to build. The emphasis, the mix of subject matter, the recurrence of themes establish a mood and convey a message to those who reside there and those who visit, and give a city its character. There are 4 themes evident in the principal monuments of Cleveland: tribute to individuals who served their nation and state, e.g., monuments to Commodore Perry and JAS. A. GARFIELD; the honoring, collectively, of groups either for their public service, as in the case of the SOLDIERS & SAILORS MONUMENT, or for contributions to the community's heritage, as in the case of the Cultural Gardens; the conscious attempt to create the essence of a monument through rational order, as seen in the Group Plan of 1903; and, lastly, an unselfconscious celebration of the city's spirit, as revealed in the Terminal Tower, which, under careful analysis, seems to summarize the essential meaning of this industrial community in monumental terms.
From its inception as a village in the wilderness, Cleveland set aside a place in its plan for memorials. PUBLIC SQUARE appears in the 1796 plan, quite explicitly designed as a civic center around which the city would grow in a roughly symmetrical fashion to the east and west. That ideal could not be realized with geometric purity because of the CUYAHOGA RIVER, which initially retarded settlement to the west, and the then-unforeseen industrial concentration in the upper Cuyahoga River Valley and on the near west side. These forced an ever-widening wedge into the implied unity of the plan that could not be knit together even by the extraordinary array of BRIDGES that spanned the river. An attempt was made, with the Group Plan of 1903, to reinforce the monumental character and focus on the center city, which was planned tangential to and east of Public Square. It could have made Public Square irrelevant, had it not been for the construction in the 1920s of the Terminal Tower at the southwest corner of the square, which, with its ancillary structures embracing the south and west sides, restored the Square's prominence and established a diagonal axial link with the southwest corner of the Group Plan.
In Sept. 1860 Clevelanders dedicated their first major monument, a 25' tall Italian-marble statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry, the hero of the Battle of Lake Erie, Sept. 1813. Their gratitude for his leadership had endured, but it was to be forgotten in the next 40 years. When it was dedicated, the statue occupied the geometrical center of Public Square, reinforcing its significance to the community. By 1867, however, commercial pressure caused the Square itself to be bisected on north/south and east/west axes, creating 4 park quadrants in place of the previous single park, and the Perry statue was moved to the southeast quadrant, only to be displaced entirely with the construction in the early 1890s of the Cuyahoga County Soldiers & Sailors Monument. From Public Square, the PERRY MONUMENT traveled first to WADE PARK, then to GORDON PARK and eventually left town altogether, to settle in Perrysburg, OH. Thus Clevelanders, from one generation to another, shifted from veneration to ambivalence to disinterest with regard to the achievements of America's Great Lakes naval hero of the War of 1812.
The GARFIELD MONUMENT honoring Pres. Jas. A. Garfield, Cleveland's second great monument, stands on the crest of a hill east of the city in LAKE VIEW CEMETERY. It was constructed in 1890 and designed by Geo. W. Keller of Hartford, CT. The composition consists of a main cylinder 50' in diameter and 165' tall, capped by a conical roof and flanked on the west by a stolid rectangular portico, to which are attached 2 small transitional cone-capped turrets that join it to the main tower. The local sandstone has soaked up considerable industrial smoke over the years and has weathered to a deep, almost acrid brown. Its overall feeling is medieval, morose, and vaguely unpleasant, as though its purpose were more to mourn the tragic death of the martyred president than to celebrate the achievements of his life.
The Cuyahoga County Soldiers & Sailors Monument of 1894 by LEVI T. SCOFIELD stands in the southeast quadrant of Public Square. Until the Terminal Tower was built, this memorial to the county's 6,000 veterans dominated the Square, its 125' granite column supporting a 15' statue of liberty, rising from a 100' square mausoleum-like base and platform, all overlain with elaborate carvings in tribute to the principal branches of military and naval service. In iconographic comprehensiveness, encyclopedic reference, and sheer exuberance, this monument is typical of its time. Its very ornateness may be its greatest strength, as the buildings around it have, with the exception of the Terminal Tower's upper portion, become increasingly large and spare of detail. Despite its great column, the Soldiers & Sailors Monument is designed to be experienced at close range. It is a pedestrian's monument, and one is meant to walk up to it and study the bas-reliefs and free-standing figural groups.
There are numerous sculptures scattered about Cleveland, from Public Square's TOM JOHNSON to Univ. Circle's HARVEY RICE and the art museum's Noguchi stones. But these are, in most instances, either too small in scale, or sited so discreetly or indifferently that they can hardly be considered as monuments. Rather, they are nuances in the cityscape. Cleveland does have some very fine monumental architecture. The CLEVELAND MUSEUM OF ART's Beaux-Arts Neoclassic original building (1916) by HUBBELL & BENES may be the best example, in part because of its handsome site north of the Fine Arts Garden Lagoon. Its neighbor to the southeast, SEVERANCE HALL (1931) by WALKER & WEEKS, commands a difficult triangular-shaped lot at the East Blvd. intersection with Euclid Ave. that offers a dignified entrance to the UNIV. CIRCLE area. Certainly the buildings of the Group Plan: CLEVELAND CITY HALL, the CUYAHOGA COUNTY COURTHOUSE, the Federal Bldg., and the CLEVELAND PUBLIC LIBRARY, are superb examples of Beaux Arts urban architectural monuments, exuding a sense of self-confidence and civic pride.
Also among Cleveland's monuments are its dedicated landscapes, particularly the Cultural Gardens (see CLEVELAND CULTURAL GARDEN FEDERATION) and the Fine Arts Garden mentioned above. The former, located along Martin Luther King, Jr., Blvd. (originally Liberty Blvd., a memorial to Clevelanders who died for their country in World War I), pay tribute to the ethnic origins of the area's residents. At the time these were created, Cleveland was a city of immigrants. The overall impact of the Cultural Gardens does not come from any individual garden; rather, it is the product of all of them together. The monumental effect of the Fine Arts Garden is created by its relationship to the Museum of Art, the Epworth-Euclid Church, and Severance Hall, and the tight bounding of its periphery by streets along its border. However, in the end it is the Terminal Tower that is the undisputed, premier monument of Cleveland. Its tiered, richly detailed, classical fairy-tale turrets standing upon an understated, plain base of offices and hotel rooms, which in turn once capped a subterranean concourse filled with the sounds of trains and trolleys and hordes of commuters and transient visitors, sums up all that the city was in its thriving industrial age of the 1850-1930 period. The Terminal Tower retains its symbolic presence as the primary monument in Cleveland's historical central business district, even as newer, taller, but less architecturally persuasive buildings rise around it on Public Square (see TOWER CITY COMPLEX).
A controversial addition to Cleveland's civic monuments is Claes Oldenburg's "Free Stamp." It was designed to stand upright on a "pad" at the Public Square entrance to the Sohio (see BP AMERICA) Bldg. (1985). BP rejected it, presumably because it seemed to be an ironic statement about the corporate world. Several years later, in 1991, the sculptor found an acceptable patron and site when the City of Cleveland accepted it for the lawn east of City Hall on Lakeside Ave. at E. 9th St. There "Free Stamp" resides today, on its side, partially imbedded in the lawn, evoking its once rejected status. As with the Perry Monument 130 years earlier, it has had to travel to find a place away from Public Square. "Free Stamp," with its persistent will to survive, its bright humor, and its essential civic pride, offers us all renewed hope as Cleveland moves to revitalize itself on the threshold of the 21st century.
Theodore Anton Sande
Exec. Director Emeritus
Western Reserve Historical Society
Outdoor Sculpture and Monuments in Greater Cleveland (Cuyahoga County)