Cleveland City Hall

On July 3, 1916, Cleveland city councilmen convened for their weekly meeting. But this was no ordinary get-together. Instead, it was the legislators’ inaugural gathering in Cleveland’s glamorous new city hall at 601 Lakeside Avenue—the very first Cleveland building constructed specifically to function as council chambers. Previously, Cleveland's council chambers had shared roofs with retailers and private and commercial offices. The first place local government business was conducted was in a log cabin.

On April 5, 1802, the first Cleveland Township elections took place at the home of James Kingsbury, one of Cleveland's most important pioneers. After that spring, the Kingsbury home (now the site of the Federal Building at East 9th Street and Lakeside Avenue) became the site of township elections and government meetings, and remained so until 1815. In November, 1836, Cleveland finally had a city council, and the newly elected councilmen chose the two upper floors of the Jones Building, located southwest of Public Square, as their city hall.

In the summer of 1875, Cleveland's city hall headquarters moved to the Case Block: a commercial building on Superior Street where the Cleveland Public Library's main building now stands. For thirty years, Cleveland City Hall shared this building with everything from a ladies clothing store and hotel to artist studios. Not until 1906, when it purchased the Case Block building, was Cleveland able to claim that it had an entire building for its city hall.

Around the time the Case Block building was purchased, plans to build a new city hall were presented to Mayor Tom Johnson. The design was finalized by 1907 and construction began in 1912. Four years later the $3 million building was completed. It was architected by Clevelander J. Milton Dyer, who also designed the Cleveland Athletic Club, the First Methodist Church at 3000 Euclid Avenue, the Coast Guard Station at the mouth of the Cuyahoga River, and myriad residences along Euclid Avenue and in Wade Park (University Circle).

The new City Hall is one of many structures conforming to Daniel Burnham's 1903 Group Plan. Thus its styling is similar to other Group Plan buildings such as the Cuyahoga County Courthouse (1911), Public Auditorium/Music Hall (1922), the Cleveland Board of Education Building (1931, now the Drury Hotel), and the Cleveland Public Library (1925). What may be most striking is the building’s similarity to its neighbor to the west, the Cuyahoga County Courthouse. Both buildings feature bays on each end, balustraded roof lines, and a central pavilion with three entrance bays. City Hall has been designated a historic landmark by the Cleveland Landmarks Commission.

On July 4, 1916, Cleveland welcomed its new government building with a citywide celebration. City Hall's bronze doors were opened at noon and Clevelanders flooded in to see the council chambers and mayor's suite. Concerts of orchestra music and singing filled the building with music. The day ended with the largest fireworks display the city had ever seen.

Since 1916, Cleveland City Hall has undergone several restorations to keep it a functioning location for city affairs. Council Chambers underwent major renovations in 1951 and 1977. However, the façade remains largely unchanged. Today, in addition to the mayor's office, many departments—including City Planning, Finance, Public Health and Public Safety—are housed inside City Hall.

Images

Cleveland City Hall Cleveland's own government building was proposed along with an entire governmental Mall complex in the Cleveland Group Plan of 1903. The construction of the building took place on Lakeside Avenue at East 6th. Its architecture is heavily influenced by the Beaux-Arts style. Source: Cleveland Parks Department Photograph Albums, Volume 4, Cleveland Public Library Date: ca. 1926-28
City Hall Rendering, 1907
A rendering of the proposed Cleveland City Hall from the Report on the Group Plan, 1907 edition. Image courtesy of Cleveland Public Library Digital Gallery
An Anniversary to Remember Cleveland City Hall's dedication day, July 4, 1916, also fell on the nation's 140th birthday. That July was also the 120th birthday of Cleveland, and the year marked the 80th anniversary of Cleveland's status as a municipality. Image from Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Ground Breaking for Cleveland City Hall Many plans had been suggested for a government office specifically designed for the city. For many years, however, nothing was acted upon. An ambitious multi-building undertaking was finally proposed, seeking to transform Lakeside Avenue into a Mall complex, with City Hall being part of it. The project became known as the Cleveland Group Plan. The Group Plan Commission, consisting of members Daniel Burnham, Arnold Brunner and John Carrere, presented its plan to Mayor Tom Johnson in 1903. City Hall was designed in 1907 and construction began in 1912. Image Courtesy of Cleveland States University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
City Hall Lobby When Cleveland's councilmen visited what was soon to be their new chambers in early June of 1916, they noted that their voices easily echoed when speaking from the platform. This characteristic of the building was most likely missed by the public as they flooded into City Hall from noon until eleven p.m. the day of its dedication. City administrators, including Mayor Harry L. Davis, greeted visitors who were being led around by boy scouts and entertained by two concerts given in the City Hall lobby. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Cleveland Press Collection.
Voter Registration in Cleveland City Hall, 1948 After City Hall's bronze doors opened for city business in 1916, the building served to meet Clevelanders' needs in a variety of ways. Besides being the chambers for the city council and the mayor, city hall has also been a place for voter registration, protests, the City Planning, Finance, Public Health and Public Safety offices, and even for a time the location of the city's treasury safe. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Cleveland Press Collection.
City Hall on Fire On Tuesday, March 9, 1982, a fire began on the fourth floor of Cleveland's City Hall. The room in which the fire started—and luckily was contained—was filled only with city financial and bond records. The fire caused $100,000 worth of damage. The blaze was the result of a damaged extension cord leading to a coffee maker. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Cleveland Press Collection.
Restorations at City Hall City Hall's construction was completed in 1916. Since then, there have been numerous renovations not only to preserve the existing architecture, but to adapt the building to the city's growing and changing needs. Image from Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Old City Hall Building Before moving to its current location, Cleveland's council chambers were located in the Case Block, a building situated on what is now the location of the Cleveland Public Library's main building. On February 18, 1875, city officials leased the $800 thousand building for $36 thousand per year to serve as Cleveland's City Hall. Because the building was so large, the city rented out the space to artists, retail store owners, and business owners. The architect of the building—Charles W. Heard—also held office space in the Case Block. After renting the building for 31 years, the city purchased it in 1906, only to move to its new home on Lakeside Avenue ten years later. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Cleveland Press Collection.
View of City Hall from Superior Street Cleveland's City Hall stands at 601 Lakeside Avenue but this was not always its current location. In fact, Cleveland did not originally have its own building dedicated specifically to civil affairs. The desire to build along the lake was part of a huge undertaking for the city, spearheaded by progressive Mayor Tom Johnson. Its construction was also associated with the City Beautiful Movement and still stands as a landmark for The Cleveland Group Plan. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Cleveland Press Collection.

Location

601 Lakeside Ave NE, Cleveland, OH 44114

Metadata

“Cleveland City Hall,” Cleveland Historical, accessed May 19, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/405.