CLEVELAND, Ohio -- Buffalonians are accustomed to living in an architecturally rich city with a bum rap.
But the City by the Lake is hardly the only Rust Belt city with a black eye. Cleveland, its much-maligned neighbor that also resides along Lake Erie, 195 miles to the west, also boasts terrific architecture too often overshadowed by economic woe.
That's a shame, because Cleveland's treasures -- from Beaux-Arts and Neo-Classic monuments like the Cleveland Public Library, to Modernist icons like I.M. Pei's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, to Postmodern reevaluations like Frank O. Gehry's Peter B. Lewis Building -- provide a treasure trove of discoveries.
The skyscrapers, block-long converted warehouses, movie palaces-turned performing arts centers, and office and municipal buildings display a range of stylistic approaches that create a downtown full of architectural integrity.
Here are some sights to be on the lookout for:
*Peter B. Lewis Building. The latest entry in Cleveland's architectural hierarchy may eventually become its most luminous. As it is, Gehry's curvy, undulating building -- part Alice in Wonderland, part "The Blob" -- has been a fascinating conversation piece since opening in 2002 at Case Western Reserve University.
The main architectural exterior materials are brick, glass and stainless steel cladding, which consist of thousands of interlocking, shingle-like panels. The riot of metal strips that wrap around the building suggests Medusa's hair.
"I think [the Lewis Building] has very quickly taken center stage as one of the defining landmarks for the university and the city," said Richard J. Boland Jr., professor of information systems in Case Western's Weatherhead School of Management. He represented the university as chair of the faculty committee concerned with the building's design and construction.
Jack Quinan, art historian at the University at Buffalo, went to see the building and found it a wonder to behold -- and to explore.
"It struck me as an apparition when looking for it among the other buildings at Case Western. It's a building you can walk around and climb around. It's high adventure," Quinan said.
He believes the university location has probably shielded Gehry's flight-of-fancy from more controversy than it's received. "It's somewhat protected in an academic setting. It's not out there in a downtown civic center."
*Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum. Pei's minimalist, geometric steel and glass shapes on Lake Erie is also no stranger to controversy. His design has been criticized for being too cold and pristine, corporate even, rendering it incapable of capturing the spunk and funk of rock and roll. Then again, the notion of creating a high-brow repository for low-brow artifacts once seemed incongruous to those who feared rock and roll was being embalmed rather than immortalized in the static confines of a museum.
That concern seems moot 12 years later, where people of all stripes come to celebrate rock music from the Dave Clark Five to Dave Matthews. Meanwhile the futuristic exterior -- with its possible referencing of the guitar, let alone the cover of Pink Floyd's "Dark Side of the Moon" -- has taken its place as one of the city's most defining structures.
Rising from the waterfront as it does, and reflecting in its mirrored exterior both Lake Erie and downtown Cleveland, the geometric forms have grown to symbolize the city as the rock hall has become, along with basketball star LeBron James, its most popular calling card.
"Whether you love it or hate it, it is a very iconic structure," said Terry Stewart, the rock hall's president and chief executive officer. "Everybody comes to see it, and everybody takes photographs of it. We are the biggest marquee for the city."
*The Arcade. Bearing some resemblance to Buffalo's smaller Market Arcade, this five-story atrium linking two nine-story buildings was designed by John Eisenmann and George H. Smith, and financed by John D. Rockefeller, Marcus Hanna and other captains of industry to replicate the 19th-century Vittorio Emanuele arcade in Milan, Italy.
The decorative cast-iron work, numerous gargoyles, four levels of balconies and 300-foot-long skylight all contribute to the building's grandeur. The 1890 site, like so many classic downtown structures around the country, nearly met the wrecker's ball in recent decades, but gained new life after the Hyatt Regency Hotel took up residence in 2001.
Now, the Arcade is home to a first-floor food court, spa and dozens of retail shops and eateries. Our comfortable stay in the Hyatt brought everything the Arcade has to offer right to our doorstep, including a scrumptious all-you-can-eat Sunday brunch.
The stone-and-brick exterior alongside Superior Avenue, with its large arch, was done in Richardsonian Romanesque style. The entrance on Euclid Avenue, however, was redone in the 1930s in art deco fashion.
*Historic Warehouse District. As in Buffalo, the conversion of Victorian-era warehouses to residential lofts, as well as for commercial and retail purposes, is helping bring people back to the city.
The sturdy structures in downtown's oldest commercial center -- some nearly a block long -- range in style from the Italianate Burgess and Hoyt buildings of the mid-1870s on West 6th Street to the Rockefeller Building's example of an early steel-frame skyscraper influenced by Louis Sullivan. Adorned in architectural majesty, these city blocks reflect Cleveland's cultural and historic richness.
Plans for additional residential expansion in buildings thought of as urban blight not so long ago and the addition of a full-service grocery store are further good news for downtown preservation efforts and the resurgence of urban living.
*Terminal Tower and Ohio Bell Huron Building. The 708-foot-tall, neo-classical Terminal Tower was second in height only to New York's Woolworth building when it opened in 1934, and remained the tallest building outside of New York for another 30 years.
The building by architects Graham, Anderson, Probst & White continues to hold a prominent position in the city skyline and downtown's Public Square, eclipsed only by the Key Center in 1990.
The observatory deck has been shut down since 9/1 1, but the site is a shopping destination. The mixed-use complex features a rail station turned shopping mall, hotel and department store, as well as office buildings and central post office.
At 24 stories, the 1927 Ohio Bell Huron Building, by Hubbell & Benes, is Cleveland's largest art deco structure, its tiered design influenced by Eliel Saarinen's "Moderne" skyscraper style of that era.
The building is said to have been the inspiration for the Daily Planet of "Superman" fame by the comic's Cleveland-raised creators, Jerome Siegel and Joseph Shuster. That was enough for4-year-old to appreciate Cleveland's architecture, although his enthusiasm waned when he couldn't go inside to meet Clark Kent.
Other distinctive buildings include the Art Moderne-style Greyhound Bus Terminal (W.S. Arrasmith); the classically detailed Huntington Building (Graham, Anderson, Probst & White), once the second largest office building in the world; the Beaux-Arts Cleveland Public Library (Walker & Weeks); the Old Federal Building (Arnold W. Brunner); and the Cleveland Museum of Art (Hubbell & Benes), whose 300-foot-long facade of white Georgian marble overlooks picturesque Wade Park Lagoon.
Cleveland is also home to architecturally rich neighborhoods, as well as churches and temples. The city's rare collection of 1920s-era movie palaces in Playhouse Square Center include the Palace Theatre, by noted theater architects Cornelius and George Rapp, who also designed Shea's Buffalo, and the neighboring Ohio and State theaters by Thomas W. Lamb.
If you go
Convention & Visitors Bureau of Greater Cleveland: (800) 321-1004, www.travelcleveland.com.
A good Web site for information on Cleveland buildings is www.clevelandskyscrapers.com
Trolley Tours of Cleveland, located at the Powerhouse at Nautica on the West Bank of Cleveland's Flats; (800) 848-0173, www.lollytrolley.com. Tours are available daily through October; reservations are required for one- and two-hour tours.
Places to go:
Peter B. Lewis Building, Case Western Reserve University, 1119 Bellflower Road; (216) 368-2030.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum, East Ninth and Erieside; (216) 781-7625, www.rockhall.com.
Terminal Tower/Tower City Center, 50 Public Square; (216) 771-0033.
Historic Warehouse District, Northwest of Public Square; www.warehousedistrict.org.
Playhouse Square Center, 1501 Euclid Ave; (216) 771-4444.
Ohio Bell Huron Building, 750 Huron Road.
Cleveland Museum of Art, 11150 East Blvd.; (216) 421-7340, www.clevelandart.org.
Old Federal Building, 201 Superior Ave.
Cleveland Public Library, 325 Superior Ave.; (216) 623-2800, www.cpl.org
Greyhound Bus Terminal, 1425 Chester Ave.
Hyatt Regency Cleveland at The Arcade, 420 Superior Ave.; (216) 575-1234, www.cleveland.hyatt.com.
Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, 24 Public Square; (800) 468-3571.
Cleveland Marriott Downtown at Key Center, 127 Public Square; (216) 696-9200.
Glidden House Inn, 1901 Ford Drive; (216) 231-22130.
Waterstreet Grille, 1265 W. 9th St.; (216) 619-1600.
Great Lakes Brewing Company, 2516 Market Ave.; (216) 771-4404, Ext. 228.
Winking Lizard Gateway, 811 Huron Road East.; (216) 589-0313.
House of Blues Restaurant, 308 Euclid Ave.; (216) 523-2583.
Trattoria Roman Gardens, 12207 Mayfield Road; (216) 421-2700.
Estimated time: 3 hours
Distance: 195 miles
Take 190 South. Merge onto 90 West via exit 54-61 toward Erie. Take OH-2W, Exit 174 B toward downtown Cleveland. Take West 3rd St. exit.