"" Writer's Wanderings: Cleveland's Countdown to RNC - Public Square

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Cleveland's Countdown to RNC - Public Square

New hotels. New Restaurants. And a new Public Square. Cleveland is getting spruced up for its anticipated visitors.

Public Square was originally laid out in Moses Cleaveland's survey as the center of the Connecticut Land Company's plan for the city. In 1856 the first fountain was constructed on the square followed by several monuments that earned it the name of Monumental Park. The familiar monument that still stands today even with all the renovations is the 125 foot tall Soldiers and Sailors Monument dedicated in 1894.

The square became a transit hub and eventually downtown streets bisected the square dividing it into quadrants. Over the years stagecoaches, streetcars and buses have all been a part of the scene in the center of the city. When the Cleveland Union Terminal (known locally as the Terminal Tower) opened in 1930 becoming the tallest building in the world outside of New York City, some renovation was done to the square to make it more an open space of green lawn.

Proposed renovation.
The return of Civil War troops, World War I and II troops, the display of the caskets of President Lincoln and President Garfield, and demonstrations against the Viet Nam War are all a part of its history. While 1936 brought the Republican Convention as well as the Great Lakes Exposition to Cleveland there was no mention of a major renovation of the square for the events. It was after all during the Great Depression but the two events did a lot to help Cleveland's economy at the time. It didn't do much for the candidate, Alfred Landon, who lost heartily to Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The 1940s and 50s brought lots of talk about a subway system but nothing ever came of it. Other plans since then have come and gone. Some replantings and a few new things have been added along the way but not until 2002 did the city begin to seriously consider again a complete renovation of the square.

When the RNC was awarded to Cleveland, the Group Plan Commission that had been formed to look into improving Public Square approved the plans of James Corner who has done work in New York City. The planned renovation that has been underway now since last year is for a reunited square, removing Ontario Street that divided it and making a butterfly shaped walkway that will allow a stroll through the beautified green area soon to be splashed with the color of beautiful gardens. The Soldier and Sailors Monument will still stand and will be joined by a statue of Moses Cleaveland and an early 20th century mayor, Tom Johnson.

Public Square will certainly be a spot that says, "Welcome to Cleveland."

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