Cleveland and Aviation History. What Could Have Been and Why It Didn’t By Michael D. Roberts

   
1) Fred Crawford (right) presents Thompson Trophy to aviator Roscoe Turner at Cleveland  National Air Races 1934(?) (WRHS)
2) National Air Race poster 1947
3) Lewis Research Center sign at entrance Brookpark Road 1962  (CSU)

Cleveland and Aviation History.
What Could Have Been and Why It Didn’t
By Michael D. Roberts

           Billowy clouds,  majestically back-lite by the sun’s glow, is the sky above a Cleveland Labor Day. It  heralds the coming of fall, the best and most compelling season here.   Its arrival is accompanied by a fury of sound as demonstrating  air craft roar and roll in the heavens.

            The sky holds an important history for Cleveland which for a time was the citadel of the world’s aviation achievement and adventure.   And then, in later years, it played a key role in America’s race to the moon.

            However, the fame, glamor and prosperity  of aviation eluded  Cleveland over the years as the city lost its edge in innovation, partially because of bad politics, a loss of vision,  a crippling Depression  and  the government’s  dispersion of industry in World War II.  Some say the town never  fully recovered from these adversities.

            But as World War I drew to a close in 1918, Cleveland’s industries thrived and its development of technology continued  to be dynamic, an economy driven by steel, electrical machinery, chemicals, paints, machine tools, and automobiles. In 1920, Cuyahoga County ranked as the fourth most productive manufacturing region in the country.

            To support this diverse economic base was a financial infrastructure of 38 banks that encouraged the expansion of existing businesses and the development of new ventures.  Equally important, was the psychological dynamic that existed in that era’s political and business leadership. It embraced the future with a progressive pride that focused on achievement and wealth.

            This environment generated  opportunity and the greatest source of that ingredient was skyward.  World War I was the coming  of the airplane and the promise of a whole new industry beckoned  irresistibly  to visionary entrepreneurs.

            Ironically, the development of  American aviation had been hindered by the very inventors of the airplane.  The Wright brothers, who first few in 1903, claimed they owned patents to virtually every feature that constituted an aircraft.  The brothers were litigious in protecting their interests and succeeded in stalling the efforts of others to develop an aviation industry in the United States.

            While the air plane’s success in World War I foretold its future, not one American- made aircraft flew  in that conflict.   As a nation, the U.S. was far behind  the European countries in flight.

             When the United States declared war on Germany April 6, 1917,  Cleveland businessman Alva T. Bradley sought a way to take advantage of his avuncular  contacts in Washington.  The  U.S. Secretary of  War was Newton D. Baker, a former Cleveland mayor and a friend.   Procuring military equipment for the war was in the hands of another Cleveland businessman.

            Bradley, through  contacts in the sports world— he  was the managing partner of the Cleveland Indians— met Glenn L. Martin one day in California.

             Martin was 31 that fall in 1917, but  already was recognized as an aviation pioneer, pilot and inventor.  He had just endured an unpleasant business defeat  when he met  Bradley and was looking for a way to reconstitute his aircraft company.  Bradley was searching for ways to take advantage of the war effort and bring a new industry to Cleveland.

            Bradley convened Cleveland businessmen Charles Thompson, S. Livingston Mather,  A.S. Mather and W.G Mather to raise enough money to lure the  young aviator and his ideas to the city.  The company was originally located on 9th Street near Chester Avenue.

             The five investors raised $2.5 million for a  new factory which was relocated at East 162nd Street and St. Clair Avenue, eight miles from downtown. It employed nearly 400.  A small landing strip called Martin Field was constructed and used by the postal service as the city had yet to build an airport.  When Martin obtained a contract from the army to build bombers for the war, many of his workers from California joined him in Cleveland. The new Martin company was incorporated on September 10, 1917.

            Among those joining Martin would be Donald Douglas, Larry Bell, and Dutch Kindleberg who would go on to create such companies as McDonnell Douglas, Bell Helicopter, and Rockwell International. Martin’s company would  eventually merge into Martin Marietta.  Cleveland was poised at the cutting edge of aviation technology, but its political and business  leaders failed to realize it.

            By most accounts Martin was an odd character, and clearly one that would not fit in with Cleveland’s  Union Club crowd.   He had worked in the circus, flew in early movies,  raced automobiles, set  flight records and possessed   a quirky personality.  Even though The Cleveland Press cast him as one of the town’s most eligible bachelors, he  did not date.  He preferred the company of his mother, Mina, who was constantly at his side.

            A tall, thin man with thick black hair, circular eye glasses,  and a bit flamboyant in dress,  Martin possessed a strangely aesthetic appearance. One writer noted that he had “prissy” mannerisms and was often critical of the smallest things.  One business associate said of him that he was not the kind of man with whom you would want to spend a vacation.

            But Martin had a zest for the good life.  He drove around town with his mother in an ostentatious Stuz Biarritz automobile with snakeskin trim.  They lived in a 19-room, 2.-acre mansion on Lake Shore Boulevard in Bratenahl.

            The 61,000 square  factory at 16800 St. Clair was completed in April and the first prototype bomber flew on August 17.  In October, the  army flying service accepted the plane and ordered 50 MB-1s.

            The company built 20 bombers before the war ended in November of 1918 and with it the cancellation of the contract for  planes.  In 1919, the government continued to order a few MB-1s but the costs of production continued to rise while profits dropped and  the Cleveland investors soon lost interest.

            Only the intercession of Brigadier General Billy Mitchell, head of army aviation, saved the Martin company from failure.  Mitchell was a aviation visionary who sought to prepare the nation for the next war by investing heavily in air power.  At risk to his career, he funded Martin toward those ends.

            The Martin bomber did not see action in World War I, but it did find its place in aviation history when it sunk an obsolete German battleship in a highly publicized and controversial demonstration of air power promoted by Mitchell.

             Through out his Cleveland years Martin had been active promoting the need for a sizable airport that could meet the future needs of  a major city.  Martin Field had became a liability of sorts. People complained of crashes in the neighborhood  The bombers could not be flown from the site and had to be transported by rail to the east coast at a cost of $800 per plane at which the government balked.

            In January of 1925, William R. Hopkins, the city manager of Cleveland submitted a document to city council that proposed a study of the possibility of constructing a municipal airport. There were no such facilities  in existence in the country.

            Hopkins assembled a panel of experts with unmatched experience  in aviation including Martin along with Billy Mitchell, Captain Eddie Rickenbacker, of World War I fame, and other members of the army and navy air services.  They were assembled to select a site for an airport.  Martin had hopes that the city would provide land on the site for him to build  an aircraft factory. The city dashed those hopes just as the Baltimore Industrial Bureau contacted Martin, urging he move his company to that city. In the meantime, the Navy was advising that Martin  move his plant to the East Coast where seaplanes could easily be produced.

            An account in the The Cleveland Press at the time quoted a business man as saying it was the banks that drove Martin from the town.

            “They thought he was a screwball,” quoted one businessman.

            The refusal to aid Martin was a terrible mistake, one that  proved  harmful to the future of the city’s industrial base.  Years later Frederick C. Crawford, a contemporary and himself a significant figure in aviation here , would tell the writer that it was the plain stupidity of public officials here that  resulted in Martin’s departure.

            “To think that at  one time we had  five aviation pioneers here that would go on to create the biggest aircraft companies in the world and that we lost them is stunning,” Crawford said.

            Martin would go on to flourish in Baltimore, developing remarkable technology that went into some of the best aircraft in the world.  The advancements in aviation created by World II enabled the business  to prosper in peacetime.  The company eventually grew to be known as Martin-Marietta and employed as many as 50,000 at one point.

            Meanwhile, public interest in aviation was stimulated by the airplane’s role in World War I which was coming to a close.  Surplus planes and trained pilots suddenly became  available for commercial enterprise. At first, army pilots flew six-cent air mail on scheduled flights. What is considered to be the first official commercial use of air mail  in the U.S. occurred on August 12, 1918 when the Post Office Department initiated the service.

            Cleveland was an important way point on those early air mail runs.  Located between the busy postal hubs of New York and Chicago, the city was an key link in the emerging system. Cleveland’s first flights began in December of 1918 even though the city had no real airport.

            At first a crude landing strip was established at Woodland Hills Park at East 93rd and Kinsman Avenue.  The pilots complained of  the location because of the many trees surrounding it.  Landing was particular dangerous at night.

            When the weather made the park location inoperable, Glen Martin offered  the use of his facilities at St. Clair and East 162rd Street.  Postal officials informed the city that even Martin Field was inadequate and if the city wished to remain a principle stop in the mail system it needed a real airport. The  message was a wake up call for government and business officials.

            For those who find government’s grind indecisive and slow, the history of Cleveland’s airport is refreshing and remarkable. Hopkins presented a plan to city council in January of 1925. The site committee which included Glenn Martin had identified a location on Cleveland’s west side that was deemed perfect.  The city then promoted a $1,250,000 bond issue to purchase 1,014 acres of land from the city of Brook Park. It  was located 1.6 miles from Riverside Drive to the bank of Rocky River and 1.4 miles from Brookpark Road.  The original airport used only 100 acres of land and in all some 30,000 trees were cleared for its runways.

            The early days at the airport  consisted of a cement block building and a hastily cleared field with a 1,400 foot runway in what was then a remote part of town.  On May 1, 1925 a east bound flight landed with mail destined for New York.  It marked the first takeoff from the field. The airport was officially dedicated on July 1, attracting some 100,000 persons, a testimony to the era’s romance with aviation.

            The airport was the first municipally owned anywhere and within two years it was deemed the busiest  in the world with the traffic of eight planes every 24 hours.

            In retrospect the purchase of the land with the anticipation of the growth of aviation was one of the best decisions by a Cleveland government.  By 1935 the landing space had been expanded to over a thousand acres making it by far the largest airport in the world.  The four largest airports in Europe—Croyden in England, LeBourget in France, and Templehof in Germany could all be placed within the perimeter of Cleveland Municipal Airport with room  for yet air field similar in size.

            It was not just the size of the airport that drew admiration from the aviation community, it was the technology that Cleveland Municipal  Airport brought with it.  Claude F. King, who would go on to be the manager of the airport, invented the first lighted night landing system, a blessing for all the aviators who flew the mail.  And when then airport commissioner Major Jack Berry returned from a trip to England and witnessed the use of radio in the controlling of aircraft, he found  the ubiquitous and ingenious King had already installed a  radio which was  the first  voice two-way radio communication in the world. Now pilots could be advised of weather, field conditions and nearby air traffic.

            It was King’s conception of a control  tower featuring radio communication that was the principle on which every airport in the world would henceforth adopt and adapt to give aviation the global reach we know today.  In 1927, plans for a lakefront airport east of the 9th Street pier were first introduced. It took 20 years, and considerable land fill until it was completed as Burke Lakefront Airport.

            The world war had glamorized the airplane and the American public could not get enough of it as veteran pilots with surplus planes barnstormed across the county offering rides and entertaining crowds with aerobatics.  Youths built models and the movies heightened the interest with films flavored with romance, stunts and dog fighting.

            Aviation industries  blossomed and developed technology that leap-forged flying forward at a tremendous rate.  To test and heighten this technology air races were held and the first official national event took place on Long Island and was sponsored by The New York World in 1920.

            In Cleveland two men took special interest in the idea of national air races which were circulating through various cities for nine years.  Why not host an aviation extravaganza at the biggest airport in the world every year? They reasoned.

            Louis W. Greve and Frederick C. Crawford both lead companies that manufactured aircraft parts and had a decided interest in promoting their products while at the same time doing the same for aviation in general.   Greve was the president of the Cleveland Pneumatic Tool Company which made hydraulic landing gears.   Crawford at that time was general manager of Thompson Products which later would  become TRW.  Crawford would preside over that company in later years.

            Thompson Products had developed a sodium valve for aircraft engines that was used by Charles Lindbergh on his famous 1927  trans Atlantic flight to Paris.  Years later at his 100th birthday party, Crawford told me that the night before the flight he changed the valves in the aviator’s plane, the Spirit of Saint Louis, without the Lindbergh’s knowledge.

            “Lindbergh knew about flying, but not much about engineering,” Crawford said.  “If I hadn’t changed those valves chances are he would never have made it.” The later publicity that the company received from those valves in that plane proved to be  invaluable.

            Thanks to Crawford and Greve, Cleveland was selected for the 1929 national air races.  The town was beside itself as the opening ceremonies were held downtown with a parade comprised of 200 floats, 21 bands and hundreds of marchers attended by an estimated 300,000 spectators. The spectacle  shut down Euclid Avenue on a hot day late in August.  Three Goodyear blimps patrolled the skies above the celebrants.

            The next day more than a 100,000 persons attended the first flying events in a sensational display of aviation that was reported world-wide.  There were demonstrations of techniques like dead stick landings, parachuting, acrobatics and a Navy  team that flew tied together with rope.   Charles Lindbergh piloted an open cockpit plane, banking over a standing crowd. Other aviation luminaries like Amelia Earhart appeared and each day there was a set of air races including an all woman’s contest known as the “Powder Puff Derby.”

            But what seemed to seize the crowd’s attention the most was the close -course racing which would become a hallmark of the event.  The first race was a flight of five laps around a 10-mile circuit marked by pylons with the finish line ending in front of the grandstands.  The winner averaged 194.9 miles per hour.

            That first race was sponsored by the Thompson Company and its trophy would later become emblematic of aviation’s highest achievement.  Air racing proved a dangerous pursuit as  six pilots lost their lives seeking  glory that weekend.

            In many ways that August air race  was the last good time that the city would experience for years. In two months the stock market would crash and pitch America into the Great Depression followed by World WarII.

            In 1930 the races were held in Chicago, but because Cleveland had produced a $90,000 profit the year before the city was awarded the races for the next five years.  The races were canceled during World War II, but resumed in 1946. (As a child, the writer witnessed the races that year. It left him with an indelible  interest in aviation.) It was a spectacle of flight featuring powerful planes developed during the war along with the first jets.  The thousands who witnessed the demonstrations and races were awe struck by the noise, beauty and force of the event.

            But it was just that—the speed and power of the whole thing—that would ultimately cause the demise of the aerial extravaganza. Tragedy struck in 1949 when one of the racers missed a pylon and crashed into a house in Berea, killing a mother and child.  That effectively ended high-power air racing at the Cleveland airport.

            The races were important beyond the entertainment they provided.  In the 1930’s, suffering from the Depression, the government had little money to spend on research and development of aircraft. The races offered an alternative with its competitive spirit and pilots willing to push the envelope in developing engines and experimenting with fuels.

            This also translated to emergence of a substantial aviation industry in and around Cleveland.  While there was no company that built an aircraft from the sum of its parts, there were, over the years, ancillary businesses that played a big role in developing those parts that went into flight.  For instance, there was the Standard Oil salesman who accidentally discovered the Wright brothers at work in Dayton and recommended the oil that went into the first flight at Kitty Hawk.  Standard Oil of Ohio would later become a major sponsor of the air races.

            When Lindbergh made his famous flight to Paris, his plane was fueled with Standard Oil gas that ran  through tubing made the Parker Appliance Company on Cleveland’s west side. Later, after the war, the company bought the Hannifin Manufacturing Company and it exists to day as Parker Hannifin a manufacture of aircraft values,  hydraulic supply systems, flight controls and other aviation products.

            The company had equipment on NASA’s moon landings.

            In the late 1930s the federal government, spurred by the dark events in Europe, realized that American aviation  was lagging behind that of the major world powers. German, Japan and England were producing the best aircraft based on advanced technology.  There was alarm and a sudden need to unlimber the nation’s celestial ingenuity.

            The National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) announced a national  competition for an aircraft-engine research laboratory, a  venture that would cost an estimated $40,000,000 and be the largest such facility in the world. Some 40 cities applied for the project and the search was reduced to just five finalists, Cleveland being among them.  There was plenty of land adjacent to the airport which gave the city somewhat of an edge in the matter.

            Fred Crawford, not only  a capable  engineer, but an astute politician as well, seized on the idea like a man possessed.  The laboratory  would be a perfect companion for his company which  ultimately became TRW. It would also raise Cleveland’s profile in the aviation community.

            Crawford slyly pointed out to the search committee during hearings that Cleveland was beyond the range of German bombers and the Nazis undoubtedly would soon have aircraft that could threaten any East Coast sites that were proposed for the laboratory.

            The big obstacle facing the city was electrical power.  The Cleveland Electrical Illuminating Company did not have the capacity to produce the needed power to run the gigantic wind tunnel which was the  soul of the laboratory.  But at the last minute Crawford hit on a plan that would solve the problem.

            The wind tunnel would only be employed at night when the city’s electrical grids were in moderate use and with that ingenious stroke the huge laboratory found its home.

            The laboratory was dedicated on May 20, 1943 and consisted if 12 buildings and  wind tunnels able to produce winds of five hundred miles per hour. The facility was able to test aircraft engines at 67 degrees below zero.

            It should be noted how prescient the city’s leadership was in those days.  The acquisition of an immense acreage of land in the anticipation of the future of aviation lead to the development of an aircraft industry that then attracted the NACA laboratory which would later become NASA Lewis and play an important role in the Apollo program and the landing of a man on the moon.

            In many ways the work at the laboratory was vital, but esoteric in that it did not yield itself  to interesting publicity, leaving the public uninformed as to what took place within its sprawling confines. Added to that, much of the work was cloaked in secrecy. It played a major role in developing the engines and fuel that enabled B-29 bombers to fly at heights that Japanese defenders could not reach resulting in an end to that terrible conflict.

            With the end of World War II,  aviation entered a new era with the introduction of jet engines and research on fuels that would produce  supersonic speeds.   In 1950 the Lewis laboratory began to experiment with liquid hydrogen, a light explosive fuel that was difficult to manage but offered the ingredients that would propel heavy loads at high speeds.

            As the cold war began to grip the world, a lonely black B-57 could be seen by fishermen on Lake Erie  as it scooted  across summer skies, a curious sight that was shrugged off as an aerial oddity.  What few knew was that the jet was was equipped with one engine that was fueled by liquid hydrogen.   The engineers at Lewis were in the process of taming the volatile gas.

            On October 4, 1957, the American public awoke to the stunning news that the Russians had sent a satellite into space.  A sense of palatable panic seized the nation which prompted President Dwight Eisenhower to create a civilian organization that would shepherd all projects related to space into a single entity known as the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.  It would initially be organized and lead by the leadership of the Lewis Laboratory which was converted into a NASA installation.

            On  May 25, 1961,  President John F. Kennedy made a dramatic speech to  a joint session of Congress announcing a  plan to put a man on the moon before the end of the decade.  The mission was to became known as the Apollo project and its embryonic beginnings would be found  in the Cleveland scientific community.

            T. Keith Glennan, president of Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University) was NASA’s first administrator and the first leader of the Apollo program was Abe Silverstein, the director of the Lewis Research Center.

            The real story of the moon landing on July 20, 1969 was liquid hydrogen.  The Russians were never able to develop a powerful enough  fuel to duplicate the feat, a crowning achievement for the

scientific team at the laboratory which is now know  as NASA  Glenn after astronaut John Glenn, the  first American to orbit the earth.

            But the sad addendum to this story rested in the  politics  connected to the establishment of NASA.  Despite all of  Cleveland’s contributions to the success of space flight, it was overlooked when it came to the creation of the agency headquarters.

            President Kennedy had put the space program in the hands of then Vice President Lyndon Johnson of Texas who was the masterful politician of his time.  Glennan learned this early in the project.

            According to his diary, Glennan received a call from Congressman Albert Thomas, a Texas Democrat, who headed the appropriations committee reviewing the NASA budget. The call dealt with where the headquarters of the Manned  Space Center  would be established.

            “Now look here, Doctor, let’s cut the bull, Thomas says. “Your budget calls for $14 million and I am telling you that you won’t get a god-damned  cent unless that laboratory is moved to Houston.”

            Later Lyndon Johnson would quip that Houston was closer to the moon than Cleveland.  It was a cruel demonstration of the lack of political clout that Ohio possessed in Washington.

“Transportation in Northeast Ohio. Where’s the equity?” a forum on Weds June 14, 2017

“Transportation in Northeast Ohio.
Where’s the equity?”

Wednesday June 14, 2017 7:00-8:30p.m.
Cost: Free & Open to the Public
Urban Community School 4909 Lorain Avenue, Cleveland OH 44102

RSVP here   Event flyer here  Preview here

Panelists:
Derek Bauman, Vice Chairman, All Aboard Ohio

Grace Gallucci, Executive Director, NOACA: Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency

Hunter Morrison, Senior Fellow, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs

Akshai Singh, Member, Clevelanders for Public Transit

Moderator: Ginger Christ, Reporter, Plain Dealer

This panel will discuss the role transportation plays in creating more equitable communities. It will tackle how to offer affordable public transit and design infrastructure to meet the needs of residents throughout the region and examine the funding challenges in doing so.


Ginger Christ

Co-sponsored by the Urban Community School, Case Western Reserve University Siegal Lifelong Learning Program, League of Women Voters-Greater Cleveland, Cleveland.com plus Lakewood, Heights and Cuyahoga County Library Systems

Corporate sponsor: First Interstate Properties, Ltd. 
For more information, email: 
teachingcleveland@earthlink.net

Transportation in Northeast Ohio aggregation

1 Transportation In Greater Cleveland James A. Toman 

2 Tour: “Transportation History in Cleveland”

3 The Clark, Lee and Heights Freeways

4 Transportation History in Cleveland

5 Highways in Cleveland

6 Urban Transportation in Cleveland

7 Bridges in Cleveland

8 Aviation in Cleveland

9 Port seeks to become steward of river, lake (Crain’s Cleveland Business 7/25/11)

10. Transportation steered Cleveland’s growth as a major Midwestern city: Plain Dealer 175th 1/8/17

Transportation in Greater Cleveland by James A. Toman (.pdf version)

Transportation in Greater Cleveland by James A. Toman

James A. Toman has authored or co-authored 18 books on various Cleveland topics, particularly those relating to the downtown district and to public transportation. An inveterate collector of Cleveland streetcar photographs, he has also photographed most of the streetcar, light rail, and subways systems in North America. He holds a doctorate in education/clinical counseling, and retired in 2006 after 43 years in the teaching field.. His last educational post was as dean of the Social Sciences/Human Services Division at Lorain County Community College.

The link is here

 

Overview on Transportation from Encyclopedia of Cleveland History

The link is here

Transportation In Greater Cleveland James A. Toman

Transportation In Greater Cleveland (PDF)

by James A. Toman

Technology Creates a Modern Transportation Era
John Fitch Wikimedia CommonsFor thousands of years, humankind depended on muscle power, animal or human, to move people and goods from one land location to another. that would finally change in the 18th century with the invention of the steam engine. It revolutionized the way in which work was accomplished, and it ushered in the “modern age.” The first successful use of steam power for transportation was the work of John Fitch. In 1787 his steamboat traveled along the Delaware River in Philadelphia. It was Robert Fulton, in 1807, however, whose steamboat Clermont successfully plied the Hudson river between New York City and Albany, that ultimately marked the arrival of the age of the steamboat. While the challenge of using steam to propel shipping along the waterways had been met, it wasn’t until 1825 that its application to land travel arrived. This took the form of a steam locomotive, invented by George Stephenson in England. It was four years later, in 1829, that his Rocket locomotive traveled between Liverpool and Manchester averaging 30 miles per hour. The Rocket proved that steam railroads were the wave of the future. The first steam train serving Cleveland came in 1850. It connected the city to Chicago and New York City.

The Rocket Locomotive

Steven's Steamboat - History of Steven's Intitute of Technology - stevens.edu/sit/The use of steam locomotives for city transportation, however, was really not feasible. The noise, smoke, and soot that accompanied them made them unsuitable for an urban environment. As a result, the city version of the stagecoach, the horse-drawn omnibus, continued a while longer in cities like Cleveland as the main means of transit.

The omnibus was faced with its own set of problems. The omnibus mainly had to travel along unpaved streets, which after rain or snow, often became impassable for the clumsy vehicles. thus, the idea of putting the omnibus on rails built in the streets offered real advantages. These street railways, as they were known, were pulled by teams of hHorse drawn streetcar in Cleveland, Ohio circa 1900 Courtesy Cleveland Memoryorses and proved considerably more reliable than the omnibuses. Cleveland’s first two horsecar lines, one operating along Woodland Avenue and the other along Euclid and Prospect Avenues, opened within days of each other in 1859.

In 1860 the population of Cleveland reached 43,417, an increase of over 250% from the previous census in 1850. The increase in numbers also meant that people were spread over a larger area of the city, making transportation increasingly important. This trend made the investment in street railways ever more attractive. Entrepreneurs interested in laying rails in city streets needed to apply to the city of Cleveland for a franchise. By 1875 nine separate companies were operating street railways in the city. Street railway leaders, however, were not content to continue operating with horse- drawn cars, and so the search continued for a suitable replacement power source.

In 1879 Cleveland inventor Charles Brush had installed electric lighting along Public Square. Its reliability as a lighting source suggested that it might also be the answer to powering the street railways. Two other Clevelanders, Edward Bentley and Charles Knight, gave the idea its first successful trial. On July 26, 1884, a mile of electrified line on Central Avenue was tested. Cleveland became the first city in the nation to have an electricity- powered streetcar line. the Bentley-Knight system, utilizing a trough buried between the rails, encountered problems, especially when rainwater would flood the power conduit. It was discontinued after a month of operation.

Another system was then under development in Richmond, Virginia, the work of Frank J. Sprague. His system brought electric power to the streetcar via an overhead wire. A trolley pole on the car’s roof took in the power and transferred it to the car’s electric motors. It was the Sprague system that proved most effective and was adopted in most cities across the country. Cleveland opened its first Sprague installation on Euclid Avenue, from East 118th Street to East 55th Street, in December 1888. Electrification from East 55th Street to Public Square was completed in July 1889.

Even as electricity brought about the triumph of the streetcar in public transportation, in Germany Karl Benz began building the first automobiles, powered by internal combustion engines. the automobile would soon challenge the dominance of the streetcar, and within 50 years it would become the dominant force in urban planning.


Creating a Transportation System
While electrification represented significant technological progress for public transit, it also meant that additional capital would be needed to build electrical power plants, substations, and the overhead distribution network. Recognizing the advantages of economies in scale, the street railway operators saw an answer in mergers between the separate companies.

By 1893, the various independent lines came under the control of just two companies, the Cleveland Electric Railway Company and the Cleveland City Railway Company. In 1903 Cleveland city railway company merged into the Cleveland Electric Railway Company. The consolidation, however, did not bring peace to the local public transit scene.

By 1900 Cleveland’s population had jumped to 381,768. It was the seventh largest city in the nation. automobile ownership that year was estimated at 150. this meant that public transit was of vital importance to almost every Clevelander, and naturally there were different concepts about how public transit should be operated and managed.

The Cleveland Electric Railway Company was a private company. It viewed its investment in public transit as a sound way to generate dividends for its stockholder. Ridership in 1903 passed the 100,000,000 mark, and with fares set at a nickel, the company was showing a solid profit.

The railway company’s vision about public transit, however, contrasted sharply with that of Cleveland Mayor Tom Loftin Johnson, who led the city from 1901 to 1909. Johnson, a Progressive in public policy thinking, believed that public transit was a service which should operated by the city at the lowest possible cost to passengers.

At the time Ohio law did not authorize cities to own public transit operations, so in the interim, Johnson and his allies created the Municipal Traction Company. Organized as a holding company, its aim was to lease Cleveland electric railway’s lines and operate them in trust until such time as city ownership became possible. True to his Progressive ideals, Johnson advocated a three-cent fare instead of the five-cents which was then being charged.

Naturally, his point of view alarmed Horace Andrews and John Stanley, the leaders of the Cleveland Electric Railway Company, who were not interested in ceding control of their properties or finding their profits squeezed. But Johnson’s allies had the upper hand. The city could choose not to renew the franchises under which various lines were then being operated. Facing that threat, Cleveland Electric Railway Company reluctantly agreed to lease its lines to a newly created Municipal Traction Company.
Mayor Tom Johnson - 3 cent fare 1908 Courtesy of Cleveland Memory

The battle, however, was not over. With reduced income, the municipal traction company was unable to meet its workers’ wage demands. to save money routes were revised, much to the riders’ displeasure. a strike followed, but when that had been settled, disgruntled employees conveniently chose not to collect fares from the passengers. Ultimately municipal traction company could not pay its debts, and in 1908 the local streetcar lines went into receivership.

The case was held in the federal district courtroom of Judge Robert W. Tayler. He determined that the street railways belonged to the private company, renamed as Cleveland Railway Company. He also held that the railways operated over streets belonging to the public. His solution was to set up a 25-year franchise for the Cleveland Railway Company, but to make it subject to oversight by a Cleveland Traction commissioner. The commissioner was authorized to determine routes and schedules for the company, but the company was to be entitled to an annual 6% return from its operations. the new organizational scheme thus recognized the interests of both private and public factions. It went into effect on March 2, 1910.

People getting on the train from the Detroit-Superior Bridge, 1918 Courtesy of Cleveland Memory


The privately-owned Cleveland Railway Company operated the city transportation system until 1942, when the city of Cleveland established the Cleveland Transit System and purchased the railway’s assets.

Building a union railroad station—another battle
Just as the streetcar industry was critical for transportation within the city, the steam railroad played that same role for transit and commerce between cities. Cleveland was in need of a new passenger railroad depot.

While the traction issue had been settled by a court, the site for a new Cleveland railroad station was to be decided by the voters. It was a contest between a lakefront site at the northern end of the mall and one on Public Square, the former favored by the city’s establishment and the latter by two entrepreneurs on the rise – Oris Paxton and Mantis James Van Sweringen.

In 1903, behind the leadership of mayor Tom Johnson, a Group Plan Commission unveiled a plan which would clear 101 downtown acres. Its centerpiece was a 500-foot wide central mall, stretching from Rockwell Avenue north to the bluff overlooking the lake front railroad tracks. New government buildings would be built along the mall perimeter, giving Cleveland an impressive new civic center, befitting the city’s ever increasing status. Most of the buildings proposed in the Group Plan were built. Plans for a new railroad station, however, languished.

At the time Cleveland had several railroad stations, each serving different railroad companies, but the main Union Depot, at the foot of West Ninth street, was the busiest. It served both the Pennsylvania and New York Central railroads. It had been built in 1865, and it was in deplorable shape and filthy from decades of pollution from the steam locomotives that served it. The first site to greet most visitors to the city, it was a civic embarrassment.

Union Passenger Depot, located at the foot of Bank and Water streets, on the Lake Erie short, was built in 1865 entirely of stone and iron. Print created from a wood engraving 1876 Courtesy of Cleveland MemoryThe city fathers were intent on completing the Group Plan with its location at the northern end of the mall. That location, however, did not please the railroads that entered Cleveland from the south: the Erie, Nickel Plate, Baltimore and Ohio, and Wheeling and Lake Erie railroads. nor did a lakefront location benefit the Van Sweringen plans for creating an express route for their rapid transit line from Shaker Heights into downtown.

Ultimately, the decision about the location of a new station was left to the voters. On January 6, 1919, they went to the polls and by a 3:2 margin selected Public Square as the site for the development. In doing so the voters set into motion the Cleveland Union Terminal Project, which over the next 15 years would significantly alter the city’s skyline and create for Cleveland its most famous landmark. Simultaneously, however, their decision left the long-time civic vision to complete the Mall Plan unfinished. Over the 100-plus years since the Group Plan was first presented, Clevelanders have been vocal in demanding that the basic mall layout not be compromised. That issue has bedeviled plans over the years, and it remains a challenge to the present time.

Daniel Burnham's Group Plan 1903 with Arnold Brunner and John Carrère Courtesy 1903 essential-architecture.com


Voters, politicians, and a subway

http://images.ulib.csuohio.edu/u?/press,1073Sometimes voters decide, and sometimes elected officials get the final word. Three times Cleveland developed plans for a downtown subway, but none of these ever came to fruition, each for different reasons.

The first plan for a downtown subway was the result of the dramatic increase in passengers on the surface lines of the Cleveland railway company. Between 1910 and 1920, annual passenger totals climbed from just over 225,000,000 to nearly 451,000,000. Downtown Cleveland had become the place to shop, not just for inhabitants of the city, but for the entire Northeastern Ohio region. Streetcar traffic and the increasing number of automobiles, which numbered over 40,000 by 1920, were choking the downtown street network.

The Detroit-Superior Bridge (now the Veterans Memorial Bridge) opened in November 1917. It had been designed with two decks, the top one for pedestrians, bicycles, and automobiles, and the lower deck for streetcars. The separate right of way for the streetcars was intended to speed their way across the Cuyahoga River, and suggested to city planners additional transportation advantages that could come from a subway.
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The plan called for modern streetcars operating over the outer portions of existing routes, then joining traffic-segregated rapid transit rights of way, before dropping into a downtown subway loop. It was a plan similar to those then operating in Boston and Philadelphia (and which continue to the present time in those cities). The down- town subway loop would have been built beneath Huron Road, East 13th Street, Superior Avenue, and West Third Street to Cleveland Union Terminal. It would have connected the uptown shopping district (Halle’s and Sterling’s, Bonwit Teller) with the stores clustered near Public Square (Bailey’s, Higbee’s, and May’s).

In 1945 the city of Cleveland hired a Chicago consultant, Deleuw, Cather and Company, to review the modernization plans. Its report held that the city only needed a single rapid transit line, rather than several, but it supported the idea of a downtown subway. Plans for the rapid transit line went forward, and today’s red line, the portion from Windermere to West 117th street (later extended to West 143rd street and later to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport) was the result. It opened in 1955. The subway portion of the plan, for which a $35 million bond issue had been approved by voters in November 1953, was in the planning stages.

Highway improvements were also getting increased attention. In 1940 county voters approved a bond issue to finance the next stages in highway improvements. Automobile registration in the county had skyrocketed to 350,000, a more than eight-fold increase in just 20 years. Motorists faced daily gridlock on the existing street network. Limited access freeways were seen as the answer, and work began on the Willow Freeway (today’s I–77).


Transit Subway: http://www.urbanohio.com/forum2/index.php?topic=10253.30

In 1944 a comprehensive plan for future freeway development was published. it called for “Outerbelt” freeways, serving the perimeter of Cuyahoga County, as well as radial freeways with downtown as their axis.

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Substantial progress of translating this system of limited-access roads, however, did not occur until after 1956 when Congress passed of the Federal-aid Highway act to establish the interstate system. The first portion of a revised highway plan, generally designed along the lines of the 1944 version, was the Innerbelt Freeway. Its first segment opened to traffic in 1959.


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The plan for the downtown subway became the focus of heated debate. While its advocates cited the need for a rapid transit system with more than one downtown station, the plan was vigorously opposed by Cuyahoga County engineer Albert Porter. He contended that population was shifting to the suburbs, public transit ridership was falling (by 1959, from its peak in 1946, 250 million riders since its peak in 1946), and that downtown was losing its pre-eminence as a destination. Ultimately, his arguments prevailed, and in December 1959, the county commissioners decided not to issue the subway bonds.
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At the same time, taking advantage of the federal support for building the interstate system of Highways, local planners moved forward. Beginning in 1956 with the downtown Innerbelt, the road-building project eventually resulted in 116 miles of super-highway within Cuyahoga County.

Beginning in 1960 Cleveland Transit System officials proposed a series of six new rapid transit lines that would radiate from downtown to all corners of the county. It was their belief such an investment was the only way to mitigate the pull of decentralization. None of these was ever built.

Randall Park Mall 1976

The automobile had become the highest priority in transportation planning, and it would remain in that position right up to the present time.

Regionalization begins to take hold

In 1950, the city of Cleveland reached its all-time peak in population, with 914,808 city dwellers. Cuyahoga County’s population also continued to grow, reaching 1,389,582; the city’s population accounted for 66% of the county total.

But then things began to change. At first the loss of city population was modest. Between 1950 and 1960, Cleveland lost just over 4% of its residents. By 1970 the out migration to the suburbs had accelerated, the city losing another 14% of its citizens, and for the first time more people were living in the suburbs than in the central city. Cuyahoga County’s population had climbed to 1,720,835.

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During the 1970s the trend became even more severe. Cleveland lost another 177,057 residents during that decade, and for the first time the county also saw its numbers shrink. Besides the loss in numbers from Cleveland itself, the suburbs had also begun to lost numbers. Altogether, the county’s population fell by 222,435 to a total of 1,498,400.


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Not only had the population begun to move ever farther from the mother city, but Cleveland’s strength as an industrial and manufacturing was also being eroded, as plants and jobs moved to the southern states and out of the country as well. These demographic changes translated into a dollar drain, and the city could no longer afford to operate elements of its infrastructure. The response was recognition that the burden of supporting urban life had to be spread more broadly.

One of the first steps towards regionalization came in 1968 with the establishment of the Northeast Ohio Areawide Coordinating Agency (NOACA). The agency was charged with establishing priorities for future transportation and water quality projects.

Soon came a series of other transfers, responsibility being shifted from the city to county and/or regional bodies. In 1968 the commercial waterfront became the responsibility of the newly established Cleveland-Cuyahoga County Port Authority. In 1970 the Metroparks assumed control of the Cleveland Zoo. The Cleveland sewer system was turned over to the Northeast Ohio Regional Sewer District in 1972. In 1975, the Cleveland Transit System, deeply in debt and bleeding ridership, was turned over to the Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority. And then in 1978 the state of Ohio established the Cleveland Lakefront State Park to manage the city’s lakefront park properties.

In the course of a decade the city of Cleveland was able to shed financial responsibility for all of these assets, and turn them over to a countywide authority for their future operation. It was a real start towards regionalization, but that effort seemed to stop at the county’s borders.

In transportation, for example, the new Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority was authorized to serve the broader Northeast Ohio region, but doing so would require adjacent counties seeking the service to support it financially. None of the neighboring counties chose to do so.

The 1980 census revealed a drastic drop in the city’s population, to 573,822. For the first time Cuyahoga County also showed a loss, with some 220,000 fewer residents than just one decade earlier. The steps taken towards regionalization during the 1970s were proving to be only a temporary solution. A broader support network was needed.
It took some time to develop a plan that would advance the regionalization effort. In 2004 the Greater Cleveland Partnership (formerly the Greater Cleveland Growth Association and itself a product of merger among area advocacy and development groups) launched a three-year plan to “mobilize private-sector leadership, expertise and resources to create jobs and leverage investment to improve the economic vitality of the region.” One component of the plan resulted in the major chambers of commerce in the region joining to form Team NEO, a business-development agent for 16 Northeast Ohio counties. Another was the formation of the Cleveland Plus marketing alliance to coordinate a general marketing strategy and program for the region. These programs helped not only to promote the region to the rest of the country, but they also served to raise the consciousness of the local population (about 4,000,000 in the 16-county area) of the importance of working together to advance the region. One manifestation of this local consciousness was the approval by Cuyahoga county voters in November 2009 of a new charter for more effective county government. The resulting vision from these efforts is essentially threefold: 1) sustainable economic development, 2) population stabilization, and 3) quality of life across the region.

These are the 21st-century challenges that now face Northeast Ohio, and a broad consensus has been achieved about them.
NOACA, the agency responsible for local transportation planning, in its Connections 2030: A Framework for the 2030 Transportation System, reflects this consensus. in particular, NOACA has identified revitalization of the region’s urban core as a primary focus. It has also produced a goal to “establish a more balanced transportation system which enhances modal choices by prioritizing goods movement, transit, pedestrian and bicycle travel instead of just single occupancy vehicle movement and highways.”

The first half of the 20th century emphasized improvements in the public transit system. the second half of the century was focused on the automobile. Public policy at the start of the 21st century endorses yet a third vision.

New Challenges for Transportation in Greater Cleveland

Many ideas have been advanced to achieve the goals to achieve the three fold goals for revitalizing Northeast Ohio. as with most ideas of this kind, there are both advocates and critics, not mention a plethora of obstacles that must be faced and surmounted to bring these plans to life. east of them tackle the challenge from a different perspective.

Highway planning

Three highway projects are on the planning frontline in 2010. Two represent a reconstruction of existing highways and the other a return to a long dormant idea.

The most costly of these projects involves the rebuilding of the Innerbelt Freeway, a task made necessary by the deterioration which the fifty-year-old downtown bypass route is experiencing. The project calls for a second bridge to be built across the Cuyahoga Valley. When that project is completed the existing bridge will be completely rebuilt. The project also involves the re-engineering of the lakefront “Dead Man’s” Curve, as well as reducing the number of on/off ramps between the curve and the bridge.

As is typically true of most Cleveland projects, this one has experienced considerable public criticism, centering around bridge design and the impact on downtown venues from fewer access points.

The second highway project involves rebuilding the West Shoreway (also designated as Ohio Route 2). The reconfiguration would cover the highway from Baltic Avenue on the west side to downtown. The plan envisions changing the limited-access, 50-mph freeway into a tree-lined boulevard with a 35-mph speed limit. It would add three entrance/exit points along the route, thus making Edgewater Park and adjacent properties more accessible to the west side neighborhoods that flank the highway. Such an improvement is seen as enhancing the prospects for the continued revitalization of the Detroit-Shoreway neighborhood. The project is seen as contributing to the goal of improved quality of life for city dwellers.

The third project carries the name Opportunity Corridor. It is a 2.75-mile boulevard running from the eastern terminus of interstate 490 at East 55th Street east to East 105th street at the edge of the city’s University Circle medical, educational, and cultural hub. NOACA has given the project a high priority.

The current plan represents a significant reconfiguration of the long-abandoned Clark Freeway which would also have traveled east from East 55th street, but its path would have carried it through Shaker Heights, significantly disrupting both residential and park settings. It was vetoed by the residents of that suburb.

The new routing would have minimal impact upon residential neighborhoods, running through mostly abandoned industrial sites and along the rapid transit right of way that traverses the area. The highway is seen as a significant economic development tool, opening up some 350 empty acres to new industrial construction and the attendant jobs that these would generate. The plan also addresses quality of life issues, making the University Circle attractions more directly accessible from the area’s existing interstate highway system.

The Port of Cleveland

Port of Cleveland

Cleveland’s very existence is due to its geographic location at the confluence of the Cuyahoga River and Lake Erie.  Cleveland was founded in an era when water transportation was the primary means for moving freight.  The Port of Cleveland has continued to be an important part of the region’s commercial network.

As the regional priorities have changed, however, a growing consensus has emerged that the location of the port, on downtown lake front land,  may not be the most promising future use of that area.  A 2004 City of Cleveland planning document called for major redevelopment of the downtown waterfront for residential and recreational use.

A preliminary proposal to address this interest suggested relocating the port facilities farther east to a newly created dike area near East 55th Street.  The cost of such a move, the time required for its implementation, and changes in personnel on the Port Authority board and its management team, however, spelled the end of active consideration for the idea

Instead, at least in the short term,  port officials are looking more closely at underutilized port land west of the Cuyahoga River, and they are pursuing plans to increase the capacity of the port to handle container shipping via Montreal and the St. Lawrence Seaway.  Such a development is seen as attractive to international shippers,  considering the congested nature of  ports on the eastern seaboard.  Another aspect of this plan would envision facilities to handle truck traffic ferried across Lake Erie from Canada.

An urgent problem faced by the community is the need to build a new dike to handle dredging from the Cuyahoga River.  The current dike at the east end of  Burke Lakefront Airport will have reached capacity by 2014, and the port needs to determine a new site for the more than 300,000 cubic yards of sediment removed from the river and harbor each year.

Passenger Railroad Service

Passenger rail service for Clevelanders is limited.  As of 2011, Amtrak trains connect Cleveland with Chicago, the Lake Shore Limited and the Capitol Limited.  The eastern portion of the Capitol Limited route connects Cleveland to Washington, D.C., and the Lake Shore Limited connects with New York city and Boston.

In 2009, the federal government’s stimulus plan authorized a $400 million plan to connect Cleveland with Columbus and with Cincinnati, via Dayton.  The so-called 3C route was warmly greeted by then Governor Ted Strickland, although critics cited limitations to its appeal for travelers.  Because the plan would have had passenger trains sharing existing track with freight trains (although some of the route would have been improved by additional passing sidings), the passenger service’s top speed would be limited by existing safety regulations.  Critics felt that while rail service would be more comfortable than intercity bus travel, its inferior schedule speed would be a deterrent to broad acceptance.

Newly elected Governor John Kasich rejected the 3C proposal in one of his first acts upon taking office in 2011.

The Greater Cleveland Regional Transit Authority has also studied the development of a commuter rail network.  In its Transit 2025 document, it offers the possibility of developing rail connections between Cleveland and Painesville, Aurora, Akron, Lorain, Elyria.  A rail link beyond Lorain to Sandusky via the existing Nickel Plate corridor has more recently been given a closer look, but any prospects for such a line carry a completion date at least ten years into the future.

Airport Decisions

Cuyahoga County has three airports: Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, and the smaller Burke Lakefront Airport and Cuyahoga County Airport. The question has been rather continuously raised about whether both of the smaller airports are really needed. Burke Airport was built in 1947 on the site of a lakefront garbage burning site. Cuyahoga County Airport opened in 1950 in suburban Richmond Heights.

The two smaller airports serve to siphon smaller private and corporate aircraft from Hopkins, thus relieving congestion there. In light of the fact that neither smaller airport has achieved the promised benefit that was forecast for them, should operations be consolidated at one of them?

If Burke were to be closed, 450 acres of valuable lakefront land would be opened for commercial and residential redevelopment. Its central location, however, in comparison to Cuyahoga’s location 11 miles east of downtown, makes Burke a more appealing to the business traveler.

While planners suggest changes in the current status of the two smaller airports, officials continue efforts to improve the infrastructure and operational features of both facilities. A decision about the future does not appear imminent.

Pondering Past and Present Policy

Past Ponderables
1. The first of the six downtown department stores closed in late 1961. If the downtown circulator subway (rejected by the commissioners in 1959) had been built, would it have allowed downtown to remain a vibrant shopping district, or might it have slowed the decline, or was the eventual death of the Euclid avenue shopping zone inevitable?
2. Would the proposed development of a more extensive rapid transit system, connecting inner and outer ring suburbs to downtown, succeeded in offsetting the pull of outmigration from the city; might it have mitigated the appeal for the suburban office parks that sprang up in the suburbs?
3. Construction of the interstate highway system in the county made cross-county travel much easier for motorists. the highways, however, required a right of way that resulted in the demolition of hundreds of homes in Cleveland and which often severed neighborhoods. to what extent was the highway construction program the cause for accelerating the loss of city population and of increasing urban blight?
Present Ponderables
1. Have such organizations as NOACA, Team NEO, and Cleveland Plus correctly identified the priorities which are most critical to the revitalization of Cleveland and of Northeast Ohio? Are there other priorities that should be added to the list or which should replace the current emphases?
2. Are the projects being proposed as addressing the region’s most compelling needs well chosen to meet the established priorities? are these likely to achieve the goals toward which they are pointed?
3. What data can be summoned to either support or criticize plans for a) highway changes; or b) commuter or intercity railroad development, or c) port relocation, or d) airport consolidation?