Filed Under Transportation

The Greyhound Bus Terminal

Streamline Moderne was all the rage in the 1940s. Architect A.S. Arrasmith was a leading proponent—designing more 60 Greyhound stations with exceptional post-Deco grace and style.

“Greatest Bus Terminal in World,” barked the Cleveland News when the Greyhound Bus Terminal opened its doors on March 30, 1948. And why not? Replacing a shabby and outmoded terminal on East 9th Street, the new Chester Avenue station, like many others nationwide, brilliantly channeled a design movement called Streamline Moderne (an offshoot of Art Deco). Across the US, homes, cars, trains, bicycles, furniture, clocks, radios and even telephones were being “streamlined.” Think Airstream trailers, Buick Roadmasters, butterfly chairs, and even the Cleveland Coast Guard Station (built in 1940). Faced in light Indiana limestone, the Cleveland Greyhound station epitomized the trend: Prominent horizontal lines. Undulating walls. Smooth exterior surfaces. Curved staircases leading to a curved balcony. All these features worked together to create the fluid effect Greyhound execs wanted—the home of an innovative, forward-moving transportation services provider.

The brains behind the building was architect William Strudwick Arrasmith (1898-1965) for whom designing Greyhound stations was almost a career. Arrasmith’s first Greyhound commission work was a Louisville terminal that opened in 1937. During World War II, Arrasmith commanded forces in Europe and served with the Army Corps of Engineers. After the war, he and his family moved to Cleveland where he began work on the Chester Avenue terminal. Altogether Arrasmith designed more than 60 Greyhound stations, along with several hospitals, hotels, and even a prison.

Today, Greyhound continues to operate out of the Chester Avenue building. Although many things have changed, the basic interior is intact. Originally, the west end of the terminal had a Post House restaurant with 17 booths and three U-shaped counters. A Gray Drug Store in the east wing had a 45-foot soda fountain. A ticket counter used to be where the restrooms are now located. The facility also had an onsite barber shop. The second floor continues to house sleeping rooms for Greyhound drivers. The gold and tan terrazzo floor remains unchanged and two giant pillars still frame the entrance.

The 1948 opening was quite the affair. Ohio Governor Thomas Herbert, Cleveland Mayor Thomas Burke and copious press and spectators celebrated the 250-foot-long station, ringed with 21 bus docks—a “landlocked ocean liner,” according to Cleveland historian Carol Poh Miller. Also unveiled at the 1948 ceremony was a sleek new Greyhound model: the Highway Traveler. Nowadays bus travel is no longer considered a dashing way to travel. However, the terminal remains a model of architectural style and grace. The station was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1999.

Images

Greyhound Terminal, Cleveland, ca. 1950s Shown in a 1950s postcard, the Greyhound Terminal in Cleveland is one of the busiest in the country. Since opening in 1948, the station has served approximately three million travelers annually. Source: Cleveland Memory Project, Cleveland State University Special Collections
A Speedy Building The horizontal lines created by the rows of windows, the edges of the roofs, and the curved walls at the end of the first and third levels of the structure all add to the Streamline Moderne Style. The style is characterized by an aerodynamic look and a feeling of speed. As can be seen in this 1950s photograph, these elements are clearly present in the Greyhound Terminal building. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
A Station of Function The flat roofs of the Greyhound Station are characteristic of the Streamline Style. The roofs also serve a functional purpose as they allow for more stories to be added to the building if necessary. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
The Largest Lobby This photograph of the Greyhound Terminal lobby demonstrates the size of the station itself. Built as the largest bus station in the United States, the terminal lobby has the ability to accommodate 300 travelers at one time. Image courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Capital Design 1. The Greyhound Bus Terminal in Washington, DC, was completed in 1940 for a cost total cost (land and building) of $1,000,000. This photo was taken in 1976 during an extensive remodeling.
Traveling in Style Mrs. America 1955 urges reader to “Go Greyhound.”
Early Streamline Moderne The Louisville Bus Terminal—completed in 1937—was William Arrasmith’s first Greyhound commission.
Great Lines Arrasmith’s Cincinnati station, since demolished, was completed in 1942.
"Go Greyhound" This 1950s postcard depicts the Norfolk, VA, Greyhound station which was built in 1942.
Going to the Source In 2011, retired Cleveland attorney Frank E. Wrenick wrote “The Streamline Era Greyhound Terminals: the Architecture of W.S. Arrasmith.”

Location

1465 Chester Ave, Cleveland, OH 44114

Metadata

Chris Roy and Joseph Wickens, “The Greyhound Bus Terminal,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 30, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/467.