Terminal Tower

Formally dedicated in 1930 following over four years of extensive demolition, excavation, and construction, the Cleveland Union Terminal centralized the city's passenger rail service and gave Cleveland a signature landmark, the 52-story, 708-foot tall Terminal Tower.

The Union Terminal project was conceived by brothers Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen in conjunction with the development of their other major project, the suburban community of Shaker Heights. They had initially planned to build only a small train station near Public Square in order to facilitate a quicker commute between Shaker and downtown. Eventually, however, the project grew more ambitious when the brothers proposed Public Square as an ideal site for a new, centralized rail station - originally planned to be built on the north end of the Mall as part of Daniel Burnham's Group Plan. In addition, the Van Sweringens scrapped the initial plans for a more modest 14-story office building to sit atop the new train station in favor of the massive 52-story Terminal Tower.

The shy, reclusive Van Sweringen brothers always shunned the spotlight, even opting not to attend the Union Terminal's grand opening ceremonies in 1930. Their effect on Cleveland and its development in the twentieth-century, however, remains on display today.


"What an idea!"
Architect Peter Van Dijk describes the genius of the Van Sweringen plan to connect Shaker Heights with downtown Cleveland. ~ Source: CSU Center for Public History + Digital Humanities
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It Was Like the Emerald City
Author Shawn Hoefler remembers the excitement of approaching the city during family trips to Cleveland ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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An Ornate Skyscraper
Shawn Hoefler on Terminal Tower's size and decoration ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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Ethnic Influences On The Tower
Norman Krumholz of Cleveland State University talks about what he sees as the ethnic influences on the Terminal Tower's architecture and design ~ Source: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection
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