With the Toronto Raptors up against the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA playoffs, it seems like a good time to post about our awesome getaway to C-Town, back in April. We stayed downtown at the comfortable Wyndham Hotel on Playhouse Square and just about everywhere we went we saw Go Cavs! pennants and posters. Let’s hope the only place the Cavs go is home to lick their wounds after a good drubbing.
Sometimes called “the north coast” by Ohioans because of its vantage on Lake Erie, Cleveland was a prosperous industrial port from the late 1800s through the roaring twenties. That prosperity left a generous art deco legacy in the city, witness the pylon above, one of four Guardians of Traffic on the Hope Memorial Bridge. To the left of Hermes is Terminal Tower, a deco skyscraper completed in 1930 and for decades the tallest building in the USA outside of New York City. There it is again, below, peeking from behind I.M. Pei’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, one of the reasons we hit the road for Cleveland.
The city is considered the birthplace of “rock ‘n’ roll” because it was Cleveland DJ Alan Freed who popularized the phrase on his early 1950s show, “Moon Dog House Rock and Roll Party.” Freed favoured uptempo rhythm and blues that appealed to both black and white youth; naturally enough, he is a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.
The Hall of Fame is tons of fun and provides a real learning opportunity, even for a former rock critic know-it-all like yours truly. No matter what part of rock history resonates for you, there is something to marvel at. I loved it all but the Patti Smith “Cult Hero” doll was one of my favorite bits of memorabilia.
As good as it is, the hall of fame paled in comparison to the Cleveland Museum of Art. I was blown away by the collection, by the architecture and by the sculptures — on the south side, Rodin’s Thinker, to the north, Anish Kapur’s enveloping C-Curve (right) and Tony Smith’s angular Source (left).
Like Chicago’s Cloud Gate, C-Curve is made of polished stainless steel; the convex reflection is right-side up, the concave reflection is upside down. There’s also a warning cautioning viewers that they can be “burned or blinded” by the magnified sunlight. Now that’s powerful art!
The museum, which is celebrating its centenary this year, was beautifully re-imagined by architect Rafael Viñoly in 2000. Viñoly’s design tastefully unites the original limestone structure and Marcel Breuer’s 1971 addition with a magnificent indoor courtyard and new wings to the east and the west.
Todd and I were amazed by the collection, which felt endless and featured superior works by Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, Modigliani, Monet, Manet, Cezanne, Gaugin, and on and on and on. I was happily surprised to see works I’d grown up admiring like George Bellows’ Stag at Sharkey’s, below left, and Henry Bone’s enamel rendering of Titian’s Bacchus and Ariadne.
For a Torontonian who spends entirely too much time on Nathan Phillips Square, it was a lovely surprise to stumble upon a maquette of Henry Moore’s The Archer on the edge of the inner courtyard.
I was also happy to see that as is customary in American art museums, the CMA sprinkles extraordinary decorative arts throughout the galleries, giving them pride of place among the fine art.
From the glass cube below — one of Viñoly’s additions — you get a stunning view across the campus of Case Western Reserve University to Frank Gehry’s incredible Peter B. Lewis Building, part of the Weatherhead School of Management.
Todd and I made a beeline to the Gehry even before feasting on the art.
The fanciful, steel-clad shapes are impressive, obviously, but we were also taken with how Gehry kept the curves and angles going with a more mundane material like brick. Art deco and rock ‘n’ roll aside, I would say that the Cleveland Museum of Art and its proximity to this astonishing structure, are worth the five hour drive from Toronto. And lest I forget, the museum is absolutely free.
So what else did we get up to in Cleveland? We ate and drank very well for not a lot of money, exchange rate nothwithstanding. We enjoyed more than one breakfast at Lucky’s Cafe, featured in the Food Network’s Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives, where the nosh was delish and the servers cracked me up; any time I said, “Thank you,” they responded with, “Mmhmm.”
Like Toronto, Cleveland is a city of neighbourhoods, sprawling neighbourhoods, so a car isn’t just recommended, it’s essential. We covered a lot of ground and got to see plenty of the city while trolling for vintage furniture shops.
As previously mentioned, we did well at Flower Child, above, where patience and perseverance can pay off if your antihistamines can hold on. Yes, it’s a bit junktastic but not nearly as bad as “vintage department store” Sweet Lorain (7105 Lorain Road) whose door I will never darken again; too much junk, too much dust, not enough room to move without breaking something, which I did.
At the other end of the spectrum is The Gallery (2415 Tremont Avenue), above, which we stumbled upon while cruising for breakfast spots. The shop is well curated with slightly higher prices, great quality goods and room to breath. I would have bought several things including the chairs, below, for $500 USD (the pair), if we hadn’t already bought a sofa and side tables. I didn’t love the upholstery but the frames had personality to burn with a cool double X detail in the back; they were also supremely comfortable.
The super cool, brass “bullet” lamps, below left, were priced sky-high at $750 (the pair) but I’m sure negotiation would have brought them down to earth. Todd found similar on 1stdibs.com for much more money.
I also loved the coffee table with the upended legs; I’ve never seen another quite like it and thought it was well worth the $325 being asked.
The other spot I’d highly recommend is Detroit Antiques (5015 Detroit Avenue) where quality was high but the prices were not. Owner Mike revealed that a certain Queen West dealer had been a frequent customer back when the exchange rate was more favourable. We spotted the closed shop on a drive by and kept driving by, day after day, until at last it was open. Apparently, in Cleveland, it’s common for stores like these to open Thursday-Sunday, so take note.
There’s more to see in Cleveland, like the amazing turn-of-the-century shopping arcades, one of which has become a Hyatt Hotel, but that will have to wait until our next visit. Until then, greetings from Cleveland. Go Raps!