Plain Dealer arts and entertainment reporter Laura DeMarco was so pleased with the reactions to her book Lost Cleveland—a chronological look at beloved city landmarks and institutions that no longer exist—that she decided to write a second book on Cleveland’s living landmarks.
“I was really overwhelmed by the response to lost landmarks [in Cleveland]. People were so into it,” DeMarco recalls of her first book, which was published in August 2017. “But they really wanted to know what our city is now.”
In Cleveland Then and Now, DeMarco examines Cleveland’s current incarnation and how the city has evolved since Moses Cleaveland first stepped foot on the banks of the Cuyahoga in1796. With over 143 pages of history and photos of neighborhoods, buildings, and landmarks, DeMarco does not examine those nostalgic icons lost over time, but rather those that have endured and weathered the city’s 220-plus years.
DeMarco covers the evolution of well-known places like Public Square, the West Side Market, Edgewater Park, and E. 4th Street (once known as Sheriff Street)—an entertainment district since 1875 with places like the Euclid Avenue Opera House, Rathskeller, and Otto Moser’s. She also delves into perhaps the lesser-known history behind locales like the Superior Viaduct and Short Vincent.
“These are places that really played a transformative role in or history,” DeMarco explains. “They played a part of our past, but they are part of our present as well.”
For example, DeMarco cites Playhouse Square as one beloved area that almost failed. “Playhouse Square is a key place in Cleveland because when they opened in the 1920s, it made Cleveland the largest theater district [outside of New York City],” she says. “It was a central destination for Cleveland, but the city went into decline and it could have gone the way of the Hippodrome. But the Junior League raised funds to save those theaters because they believed it would save downtown—and they were right.”
In the book, DeMarco writes about Central Market, Cleveland’s oldest and busiest market on the site of what is today Gateway. She also relates the story of how now Beachwood-based Temple-Tifereth Israel was once on E. 55th and eventually became Friendship Baptist Church, which played a role in the Civil Rights movement.
“It was a meeting place during the Civil Rights era with speakers coming through town,” says DeMarco. “In the early 1940s, the National Negro Council would meet there, and it hosted [singers] Bobby Womack and Sam Cooke. Places like that tell a bigger story about Cleveland."
DeMarco shares some historical tidbits, such as the fact that Bob Hope’s father was a mason who worked on Hope Memorial Bridge (formerly the Lorain-Carnegie Bridge), and that in the 1970s, Cuyahoga County engineer Albert Porter wanted to tear down the Guardians of Transportation to create additional lanes.
“Can you imagine if that happened?” asks DeMarco. “This guy thought it was a mistake.”
The Detroit-Superior Bridge, or the Veterans Memorial Bridge, opened in 1918 as the city’s first fixed high-level bridge, meaning it was high enough that it didn’t have to be raised or lowered to allow ship traffic through. “The bridge was a symbol that Cleveland had arrived,” says DeMarco. “You could drive in and out of the city in the car or on the [now-defunct] subway.”
These stories are just some of the history DeMarco covers in her latest book. While Lost Cleveland celebrated icons of the city’s past, Cleveland Then and Now celebrates the city’s progress. “It continues the story,” she says. “It jumps off from those places that were lost and talks about what’s still here and what happened. It grows hope because it shows what can happen with preservation.”
Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave. in Tremont) will host a book release party on Sunday, November 25 from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. DeMarco will be on hand to sign purchased copies and talk more with guests about Cleveland history. Cleveland Then and Now is available at Loganberry Books, Mac’s Backs, and Visible Voice Books, as well as through Barnes and Noble and Amazon.