Tudor Arms Hotel: A swanky gothic revival cornerstone in University Circle

Since the early 1930s, the Tudor Arms Hotel has stood as an icon on the corner of Carnegie Avenue and Stokes Boulevard, towering over University Circle. Throughout the building’s history, guests ranging from Cleveland’s 1930s elite to mobsters and entertainers, to students and modern-day business travelers have enjoyed the Tudor Arms’ beauty and architectural detail.

The building was designed in 1929 by Cleveland architect Frank B. Meade, who was known for his iconic Tudor designs like the Hermit Club and many homes in the Heights. The 12-story Gothic Revival building was the tallest building in University Circle in 1933 when it opened as the exclusive Cleveland Club.

The structure, which featured large leaded windows, was built of brick with limestone details that include gargoyles, keystones, and even a statue of Moses Cleaveland on the northeast corner of the fifth floor. These architectural details made the Cleveland Club building a standout in the neighborhood.

Main BallroomMain BallroomInside, amenities included a swimming pool, a bowling alley, and a library. Two grand ballrooms—the Crytal and the Tudor—showcased vaulted coffered ceilings, crystal chandeliers, hand-painted murals, and art deco adornments. The ballrooms were known for extravagant parties and exclusive memberships.

The Cleveland Club also rented out its ballrooms for private events. One of its most notorious guests was mobster Al Capone, who often hosted his own parties in the ballrooms.

Legend says Capone even had his own private pool built in the hotel, so he did not have to swim with the other guests. There are also rumors that a now-sealed tunnel led from the Tudor Arms basement boiler room to an unknown location in Little Italy.

The Great Depression caused ongoing financial struggles for the Club, forcing it to close its doors permanently in 1939. The building reopened that same year as the Tudor Arms Hotel.

Main Banquet/Meeting Room as seen from the balconyMain Banquet/Meeting Room as seen from the balconyUnder the transformation into the hotel, one of the ballrooms became a popular supper club—known as the Empress Room—where the likes of Lawrence Welk, Patrice Wymore, Duke Ellington, and Louis Armstrong performed. The late-night performances, and sometimes flamboyant performers, earned the Tudor Arms a seamy reputation in the neighborhood.

By 1960, the institutions and businesses in University Circle began to show concern that the hotel’s lavish nightlife was unfit for the historical nature of the neighborhood. Western Reserve University and Case Institute of Technology took over the building and invested in a $500,000 renovation to use the hotel for graduate student housing. In 1971 the school leased the Tudor Arms to the Cleveland Job Corps, which remained there until 2007.

In 2009, hospitality management real estate developer MRN Ltd. began a $22 million restoration project on the Tudor Arms, including restoring the brick and limestone façade, rehabilitating the ballrooms, and building out the hotel rooms. The Tudor Arms opened as a DoubleTree by Hilton in 2011.

Today, the historic hotel continues to showcase the opulence that once attracted Cleveland’s elite. The building’s penthouse serves as an Airbnb.

The building was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1994, and in 2015 it was added to the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s list of Historic Hotels of America.

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Karin Connelly Rice
Karin Connelly Rice

About the Author: Karin Connelly Rice

Karin Connelly Rice enjoys telling people's stories, whether it's a promising startup or a life's passion. Over the past 20 years she has reported on the local business community for publications such as Inside Business and Cleveland Magazine. She was editor of the Rocky River/Lakewood edition of In the Neighborhood and was a reporter and photographer for the Amherst News-Times. At Fresh Water she enjoys telling the stories of Clevelanders who are shaping and embracing the business and research climate in Cleveland.