Tag Archives: Cleveland Public Library

Exploring Hidden Cleveland

Lolly The Trolley got us where we needed to go on the Hidden CLE Tour

UPDATE: This post is from the 2010 Hidden Cleveland Tours.  For more information about the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s current series, check their site out here.

Although living in Cleveland the last couple of years has helped me get a decent grasp on what the city has to offer, my awareness of just how much can be found here has increased significantly in the short time since starting this blog. From organizations such as Positively Cleveland and Downtown Cleveland Alliance to blogs like 52 Weeks of Cleveland, I’ve been clueing into the city in ways I hadn’t thought of before.    

In particular this month, the Downtown Cleveland Alliance is making it easier to explore some places in my backyard that I would have typically been unaware of.  With the Hidden Cleveland Tours last Sunday and this Sunday, they’re highlighting a selection of buildings around downtown Cleveland that feature interesting architecture, city history and local culture.   

The Special Collections' Chess Library features a variety of unique chess sets

Lolly The Trolley took us to our first stop – the Main Branch of the Cleveland Public Library. We were met at the steps of the library by ‘Mayor Tom Johnson‘ – the Progressive mayor of Cleveland elected in the early 1900s who supported the Group Plan and creation of the Mall which the library borders.  After a brief history lesson, we entered the library for the main purpose of the stop – the Special Collections department.  Open to the public, the department houses a myriad of antique books and donated treasures for perusing. Among many other things featured in the department are a Sheet Music File, Miniature Books Collection and Tobacco Collection.  However, the highlight of the visit for me was The John G. White Collection of Chess, Checkers, Folklore and Orientalia.  The largest chess library in the world, its pieces document the history, development and technical aspects of chess, and feature many exquisite chess sets as well as a number of books related to the game (including a Birthday Book from the woman that Alice in Wonderland is named after). Located on the 3rd Floor, it’s definitely worth a return visit to explore everything that’s located there.    

A view from the Hanna Theatre's bar seating shows the load-in for the set of A Midsummer Night's Dream

From the library, the trolley took us to nearby Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square – home of the Great Lakes Theatre Festival.  The night before the tour, Scott and I had been at the Hanna to see GLTF’s production of Bat Boy. To go on a tour of the theatre the next day was a real pleasure. Originally built in the 1920s, the venue was reopened in 2008 after a major renovation transformed the space into a 550-seat thrust stage theatre. Although we had seen the theatre’s innovative setup in action the night before, we had a chance to really explore it on the tour. The theatre is set up to ensure that no audience member is further than 12 rows from the stage.  And non-traditional seating options – in addition to conventional fixed seats – allow for a more social theatre-going experience. There are lounges and boxes with movable seats, banquettes, and a bar area where you can grab a barstool and bottle of wine and enjoy the show.  When we attended Opening Night of Bat Boy on Saturday, we sat in one of the center banquettes.  A wraparound couch that fits four, it was the most comfortable and one of the more enjoyable experiences I’ve had while seeing a show. After seeing A Midsummer Night’s Dream (the other half of the GLTF’s Spring  Repertory), I’ll be posting a more comprehensive entry on the theatre and both productions.     

Mural from the Slovenian National Home's stage

I’d have to admit, as a theatre geek at heart, I was sad to leave the Hanna.  However, the next stop – the Slovenian National Home  – was definitely a hidden gem that the tour uncovered for me. The Home was built in 1924 by people of Slovenian descent for meetings and celebrations — including community opera productions on the beautiful stage in the main Hall.  Although originally built in the 20s, the Home is still used today and in pristine condition. Located next door is the Slovenian Museum and Archives, dedicated to preserving Slovenian artistic and ethnic works, as well as the history of Slovenian families who migrated to Cleveland — the largest Slovenian community outside of Slovenia.  Currently featured at the museum is an exhibit by Slovenian-American artist Gary Bukovnik titled ‘The Rebirth of Flora,’ as well as the Slovenian Genealogy Society Research Library’s Oral History Preservation Project. With everything it features, the Slovenian National Home and Museum & Archives are fantastic examples of well-maintained cultural history.     

The Ukrainian Labor Temple - now home to CR Studio, Inc.

We completed the tour at the Ukrainian Labor Temple. This stop did an excellent job in demonstrating how some older buildings in Cleveland have been repurposed.   The Ukrainian Labor Temple originially served as both a cultural center similiar to the Slovenian National Home, as well as the focal point for radical labor movements in the city.  However, after it fell out of use, the building was purchased in 1989 and then converted into a photography studio and living space for CR Studio, Inc. During the tour, we explored the studio which was housed in the main auditorium of the temple, as well as a showroom for Ideal Surface which produces concrete designs for commercial and residential projects. The most interesting point of this stop was the opportunity to see an individual’s current story overlay the original building’s function.    

Prosperity Social Club - a laidback, retro drinking establishment

Last Sunday’s Hidden Cleveland Tour was well-worth the $25 ticket price. In addition to the tour, the ticket included appetizers and drink specials at Prosperity Social Club down the street from the Ukrainian Labor Temple. Scott and I had been there before and our visit on Sunday did not fail to please. The bar resides in the building’s original 1938 barroom, and its art deco influence with wormy chestnut walls provides a nostalgic atmosphere that’s unpretentious and truly Cleveland. 
Although there is another tour this Sunday visiting four different Downtown spots, it’s already sold out.  This is the second year the annual tour has been held, so hopefully due to its popularity more opportunities will be offered to experience those parts of the city it may be easy to miss out on.    

       

Hidden Cleveland 411:

Hidden Cleveland Tour
Tour Details
Sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
@DowntownCLE         


Stop 1: Cleveland Public Library – Special Collections Department
Department Location and Contact Information     


Stop 2: Hanna Theatre at Playhouse Square
Great Lakes Theatre Festival     


Stop 3: Slovenian National Home
National Home Location
Museum and Archives     

 
Stop 4: Ukrainian Labor Temple
Labor Temple History
Prosperity Social Club
Location and Hours

Cleveland Sketch Crawl: Discovering and Drawing the Carnegie West Library

Carnegie West Library Branch

The Carnegie West Library Branch in Ohio City was the location for the April CLE Sketch Crawl

 

 When I was in high school, I spent a sizable chunk of my time buried in a sketch book. I fashioned a makeshift studio out of a corner of my bedroom with an easel and supply cabinet. And instead of posters of musicians or actors, I decorated most of my spaces with prints by my favorite artists.       

Side view of Carnegie West Library Branch

The library is triangular in shape to conform to the outline of the park it's located on

 

In college, though, I fell out of practice because I didn’t make the time to pursue it. I still have the easel, and on occasion I’ve sat down, started something, then eventually given up because I was having problems coming up with subject matter. And while I’ve enjoyed my time spent with other pursuits, there have been moments where I missed the quiet of just working on a sketch for a couple of hours.      

Subsequently, it was a very happy accident when I purchased tickets for the Downtown Cleveland Alliance’s Hidden Cleveland Tour and a link for the Cleveland Sketch Crawl caught my eye. As I quickly learned, the CLE Sketch Crawl is an ongoing series sponsored by the DCA that falls on the first Saturday of the month. A different spot is highlighted each month where the group gathers to learn a little history, then sketch it. And my favorite part … free access to some of the most interesting places in the city.      

Main Room of Carnegie West Branch

The first stop on the tour - the Main Room of the Carnegie West Branch

 

The most recent event was this past Saturday at the Carnegie West branch of the Cleveland Public Library. The Sketch Crawl met at 10 am on the steps of the library, which is located at 1900 Fulton Road. Before we set about sketching, the branch librarian went over the history of the building and gave a behind-the-scenes tour. Carnegie West is both the first branch library in the city (celebrating its 100th Anniversary this year), as well as the largest (28,000 total square feet).        

During the tour, we had the opportunity to see not only the main rooms of the branch, but also the old Dickens room, the former auditorium in the basement, and a handful of other rooms that are generally inaccessible to the public. Although restoration efforts need to be made to some of the rooms, a lot of the original – and beautiful – framing and woodwork is still there. Additionally, we learned about some of the upcoming events at the branch including their Alfred Hitchcock Film Festival (April 8, 15 & 22 at 5:30 pm) and a Jazz concert featuring the Oberlin College Music Conservatory (April 17 at 2:00 pm).      

St. Patrick's Church near the Carnegie West Branch

Other nearby buildings, such as St. Patrick's Church, also provided excellent subject matter for sketching

 

After the tour, we got down to sketching until noon. With its modified Renaissance style of architecture and brick structure with terra cotta trim, the exterior of the library provided ample subject matter for a number of us. However, the park and other nearby structures — such as St. Patrick’s Church on Bridge Avenue — were also interesting.  Even the interior of the library was where some focused their attention — one group member did a beautiful watercolor depiction of the art tiles above the fireplace in the Children’s Room.      

Although this was my first Sketch Crawl, this event series has been taking place since 2007.  Recent crawls have included the Metroparks Zoo’s Rainforest, the old Gospel Press Building, and Tyler Village – former home of the Tyler Elevator Company. And now that the weather is turning warm, the May Sketch Crawl is supposed to be at the Mather/downtown lakefront area.      

Besides getting to explore unusual spots in Cleveland, the Sketch Crawl is worth checking out because it provides a low key venue for people who use a variety of mediums (from pencil, ink, and charcoal to watercolor and photography) and also bring different skill levels (from someone like me – who was 10 years out of practice – to individuals with a finely developed skill). I’m excited to check out the Sketch Crawl in coming months and am pleasantly surprised that my new pursuit of discovering and writing about Cleveland has led me to rediscovering another pursuit I used to enjoy so much.      

Closeup of exterior columns

Beautiful detailing on and around the exterior columns

 

     

CLE Sketch Crawl/Carnegie West Library 411:

Cleveland Sketch Crawl
First Saturday of every month at varying locations
Sponsored by Downtown Cleveland Alliance
@DowntownCLE      

Carnegie West  Branch Library
Location and Hours
Branch Events/Programs