Cleveland’s Terminal Tower History

Terminal Tower is one of the most famous landmarks in the city of Cleveland, towering over Public Square in the center of the city. Standing in Public Square, Terminal Tower is still the most majestic building in the city even though it is no longer the tallest building in Cleveland. (Key Tower is taller.) The Cleveland Union Terminal and Terminal Tower project was the largest construction project of the 1920s in the city.

Cleveland’s Terminal Tower HistoryTerminal Tower was built during the 1920s and 1930s and was the tallest building in North America outside of New York City until 1964. The unprecedented engineering for the project included building foundations 250 feet deep for the tower, the demolition of more than 1,000 buildings, and the construction of many bridges and viaducts for the railroad approaches. Terminal Tower is now part of the Tower City Center complex that has office buildings, hotels, and retail shopping.

The original tower was built by Oris P. and Mantis J. Van Sweringen, brothers, who are also known for building Shaker Square and Shaker Heights, as an office building for the brand new Cleveland Union Terminal train station. While the original plan was to have a tower of only 14 floors, it was increased to 52 floors later. Terminal Tower was designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White.

In the 1980s, a plan to build a taller building than Terminal Tower was put forward but was rejected by city officials who wanted to keep Terminal Tower as Cleveland’s tallest building. Terminal Tower remained the tallest building in Cleveland until the completion of Key Tower in 1991.

Terminal Tower was lit when it opened in 1930. A strobe light on top of the tower rotated 360 degrees. The strobe helped ships in Cleveland’s port and airplane pilots landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. In the 1960s, the strobe light was retired and replaced with conventional aircraft warning lights. The tower only once went dark, during the Northeast Blackout of 2003.

Terminal Tower is lit in a golden color at night, and during the holiday season, it is lit in red and green. Sometimes it is lit in other colors for significant events. After the September 11, 2001 attacks, Terminal Tower was lit in red, white, and blue.

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