Monday, March 22, 2010

The Arcade: one of the best interior spaces in the country

The Arcade

Now that it is finally spring and we're all thinking about leaving our houses again, I thought I'd address the best public interior space in Cleveland, as well as one of the very best, if not the best, in the country.

The Arcade, which runs between Euclid Avenue and Superior Avenue, was completed in 1890. It is a National Historic Landmark. The architects were George H. Smith and John Eisenmann. The space was created as a shopping center, with offices on upper floors. The Euclid Avenue entrance is higher than the Superior Avenue one, which effectively creates two main floors.

This photograph was taken in 1965 by Martin Lindsey for the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS). It shows the Superior Avenue façade prior to the installation of an architecturally insensitive canopy by the Hyatt Regency Hotel, which occupies part of the building.

This photograph, also by Martin Lindsey for HABS, illustrates the Euclid Avenue façade. The first two levels were remodeled, with the polished marble seen here, in 1939.

The Historic American Building Survey uses the following text to explain the significance of this space:
The Cleveland Arcade is a particularly noteworthy example of the skylighted arcade - a building type that is one of the most unique contributions of nineteenth century architecture to the urban scene. Functionally and commercially this prominent Cleveland structure is an arcade, for it provides a passageway between two large urban thoroughfares and it contains many shops and offices related to the individual companies. But its tiers of galleries and dramatic use of interior space make it architecturally more skin to the light courts of the multi-stories commercial structures which were developed before the introduction of sufficiently brilliant interior artificial lighting. In construction the Arcade is mixed in technique and materials and reflects the rapid changes in high buildings in the 1880s and 1890s - an era that saw the birth of the skyscraper.

It's worth noting that they also have extensive documentation and architectural drawings of the Arcade, which will surely be of interest to anyone wanting to do further research on the building.

This postcard, from the Cleveland Memory Project at Cleveland State University, illustrates the interior of the Arcade at night, in the 1920s. It shows the relatively small amount of light generated by the existing illumination sources, as mentioned above.

As of this writing, the Arcade was currently working through the foreclosure process. If you haven't been in a while, stop the next time that you are in downtown Cleveland. If you go through it every day, slow down a little to enjoy it.

I don't know what the best use for this space is. Stores now demand more space than they used to. Many businesses have left downtown. Whatever this space is used for in the future, it should be in such a way that allows for public access.

The Arcade is the most architecturally significant building in Cleveland. It houses an incredible interior space. Let's find some way to take advantage of it.


  1. I took advantage by having my wedding reception there! The best.

  2. Russ, what a great idea! Was it in one of the restaurants? I have to imagine that that would be a grand space to have a wedding in as well, if you could negotiate it.

  3. We couldn't be happier to be opening our restaurant in the arcade very soon. We want to help make the building a great place for Clevelanders to gather once again.
    Brad - Co-owner, Pizza (216)

    PS Do you have any information on the tile work that was done in the arcade? We will be attempting to restore the tile in our space and were wondering how old it might be. Please feel free to contact us at