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Issue Date: December 2011


Living History: 18 more journeys inside classic Cleveland

Sokolowski's University Inn /1923/

Sterle's Slovenian Country House /1960/

Clevelanders like their portions big and their checks small, so savvy ethnic restaurateurs have learned to offer a square meal for a square deal. There's no more seminal local restaurant than Sokolowski's University Inn, established in 1923, where Bernie, Mike and sister Mary Lou dish mom's home cooking in trendy Tremont. The pork chops are worth a pig-out, the rice pudding casts spells, and the only "small plates" are saucers. Don't pass on the pierogies. (Boiled thing, you make my heart sing.) Sterle's Slovenian Country House, a bar in 1960 and a restaurant since 1973, serves flavor bombs such as klobase and zelje (sausage and sauerkraut) and a jeterca so good you'll forget it's liver and onions. On polka nights, Friday and Saturday, you'll swear you've wandered into a wedding reception. (You may kiss the bride, any bride.) Both kitchens dish a memory tug back to family dinner at Grandma's, except now you don't have to sit at the kids' table. Sokolowski's University Inn, 1201 University Road, Cleveland, 216-771-9236, sokolowskis.com; Slovenian Country House, 1401 E. 55th St., Cleveland, 216-881-4181, sterlescountryhouse.com

Grays Armory /1893/

It's no coincidence that Grays Armory looks like a fortress. Those long, thin fourth-floor windows were built to double as rifle placements. The Cleveland Grays, a private militia, built the armory to defend their stockpile of armaments against that worst-case scenario of the 1890s, a rioting mob. Today, you needn't besiege the place to see inside. Tours (by appointment) take visitors into the billiards room where Teddy Roosevelt shot pool. The head of a wild boar hangs there, wearing a German helmet, a reminder of the Grays' service in World War I. The locker room is still filled with vintage uniforms and Russian bearskin hats. The massive drill room is home to a massive Wurlitzer organ, moved here in the 1970s. To the right of the building entrance sits a war trophy: a Confederate cannon seized on a West Virginia battlefield in 1861. 1234 Bolivar Road, Cleveland, 216-621-5938


Bay Barber Shop /1962/

Stride past the Bay Barber Shop's striped pole, toss your coat on a tree hook, and you'd be forgiven for looking for a Life magazine to see what JFK and Jackie are up to. The Bay — four chairs, 50 years' experience, no waiting — has carved a reputation for gentlemen's haircuts since Camelot. That's Bob Howe, son of founder Ken, manning the clippers, sharing the secrets of their longevity. "A good barber knows what to talk about — sports, whatever. A great barber knows what not to talk about." Bob maintains a library of every Bay High yearbook since 1956. "Adults like to reminisce," he says. Resurrecting your Mötley Crüe summer can be dangerous. "Kids look up their parents and say, 'See, Dad? You had long hair!' " 27223 Wolf Road, Bay Village, 440-871-6363, baybarbershop.com

Rider's Inn /1812/


Brookpark Skateland /1960/

On Wednesday and Sunday nights, Brookpark Skateland trades its neon blue, yellow and green disco lights and DJ music for something sweeter: the hypnotic, cascading sounds of Mike Clemens on the pipe organ. Adults in sequined skate dresses glide around the rink, their arms flapping out for balance like penguin wings. Couples clasp hands and waltz. It wasn't until the '80s that Skateland lifted its dress policy; men were required to wear dress shirts and slacks (no jeans!), women skirts or dresses. Many skaters still adhere to the old rules. 13445 Brookpark Road, Brook Park, 216-267-3966, brookparkskateland.com

Johnny's Hot Dog /1912/

Directly underneath the West Side Market's 137-foot brick clock tower, in stand A-1, hot dogs have satiated hungry shoppers for most, if not all, of the past 99 years. Here, by the old newsstand, the pay phones, 50-year-anniversary Coca-Cola thermometer and the battle-scarred griddle top, Johnny's Hot Dog serves them up topped with mustard, chili and onions for $2.50. The market's southwest corner looks much like it would've in another era, except Johnny's now sells hot dogs on Fridays during Lent. In the '40s and '50s, the stand's Catholic owner sold only cod that day, says Linda Bowling, who's worked behind the speckled green counter for 40 years. 1979 W. 25th St., Stand A-1, Cleveland, 216-696-6834, westsidemarket.org

Mahall's 20 Lanes /1924/

Instead of a bar where everyone knows your name, Clevelanders value a bowling alley where everybody knows your average. Tom Mahall, owner of Mahall's 20 Lanes, totes a 205 (and it's Muh-HALL, not MAY-hall for those scoring at home). Tom's grandpa John thought his neighbors might enjoy a place to relax after a mill shift, so he traded the family butcher shop for a furniture store and installed a dance floor and a few lanes in 1924. "There was no television, so for the workers from the factories along Berea Road, this was their entertainment," says manager Sue Shestina. Mahall's replaced the dance hall with more lanes in 1937 and added a billiards wing in 1958. "Arthur still sends our regulars a birthday card," she says. That would be Arthur Mahall, John's son, who is 85 and nearby working on a spare. "201 average," says Shestina. 13222 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-521-3280.

Old National City Bank Building /1915/

It looks built to withstand anything, even a financial earthquake. Cleveland master architects Walker and Weeks designed the old National City Bank Building lobby in majestic neoclassical style, with rows of Corinthian columns framing the deposit windows and a towering staircase of pink Georgia marble. Downstairs, bronze gates finished in gold emphasize the safety in the safe deposit vault beyond them. Looks can deceive; National City acquired the building in 1933 from Guardian Savings & Trust, a casualty of Great Depression bank runs. Now it's a PNC Bank branch. 623 Euclid Ave., 216-222-3030


The Popcorn Shop Factory /1949/

The van that careened into The Popcorn Shop Factory storefront in 2000, nearly knocking it over the falls, might have been the best thing to happen to the place. Current owner Dewey Forward's subsequent restoration scraped off several decades' worth of linoleum and tacky wallpaper to reveal the 1875 flour mill shop's original oak floors and wood paneling. Forward took the shop back to both the 1870s and to 1949, when the McClennan family began selling buttery popcorn and rock candy there. His antiquing efforts brought in a compact cast-iron oven to hold coffee condiments and an ornate armoire to store novelty candy and Beemans gum. The sound of Bainbridge's toe-tapping big-band station 91.5 FM slow-dances your senses back in time, inviting you to share an ice cream sundae with your sweetie — two spoons, of course. 53 N. Main St., Chagrin Falls, 440-247-6577, chagrinfallspopcorn.com


White Oaks /1928/

Brandt's Candies /1948/

Every Friday the students of McKinley Elementary get one free piece of candy, all handmade using the recipes of George and Agnes Brandt, who opened Brandt's Candies in Willoughby in 1948. "We want kids to know what good candy is," says owner Barbara Phillips. Workers make the treats just as George Brandt did, laying caramel to cool on the marble table before dipping it in chocolate. Behind the knotty pine walls, the maple creams, nougat chews and lemon jellies are still created in a process that takes up to 15 hours. They're laid at kid-eye level in simple showcases, letting the chocolate's natural beauty speak for itself. 1238 Lost Nation Road, Willoughby, 440-942-1016, brandtscandies.com

Harbor Inn /1895/

Stepping into The Harbor Inn feels like entering a ship's hold. Cleveland's self-proclaimed oldest existing bar is dark and windowless. The place smells of stale beer and mustiness. After 116 years, the Harbor Inn has no pretensions. Located on the West Bank of the Flats, it was a shot-and-beer harbor for bleary-eyed sailors who stepped off Great Lakes freighters in the 1920s. A large caster bell from an 1895 bulk freighter, Zenith City, hangs in the middle of the bar. Orange and white life preservers rescued from Navy ships dangle from the rafters. The long mahogany bar, with a backsplash molded into the shape of a ship, hasn't been changed or replaced in 90 years. And in homage to the bar's beginnings, the jukebox still plays "Harbor Lights." 1219 Main Ave., Cleveland, 216-241-3232, harborinncleveland.com

Memphis Kiddie Park /1952/

Once upon a time, an accountant named Stuart Wintner sunk a few carnival rides into a cornfield, figuring if you build it, and serve cotton candy, they will come. And they have, since 1952. At Wintner's vest-pocket Disneyland, Memphis Kiddie Park, signs warn that no patrons over 50 inches tall are permitted aboard. A small fry's crying jag will stop a ride. The Little Dipper and Kiddie Park Race Course still wait beyond the 6-foot rabbit in front of the box office. Stuart's son Russ helms the park now. "You're outside in the fresh air, around people having fun. What could be better? Plus you get a whole new set of patrons every seven years." Or every 50 inches. 10340 Memphis Ave., Brooklyn, 216-941-5995, memphiskiddiepark.com

Elmwood Bakery /1940s/

It took three days to set up and shoot the Elmwood Bakery scene in American Splendor, but none of that time was spent replicating the film's 1970s Cleveland look. The store, a bakery since the 1920s, bought by Andrew and Mary Rerko in the 1940s, could play itself in any era. "Everything is exactly the same," says Andrew Rerko III, their grandson and a co-owner. The 80-quart Hobart mixer from 1945 still works. The Westinghouse ceiling fan dates back at least to the '40s. So does the recipe for the buttercream frosting for Elmwood's signature wedding cakes. Rerko's father, Sonny, 78, comes in from 11 p.m. to 5 a.m. to bake the bread and mix the cake batter. 15204 Madison Ave., Lakewood, 216-221-4338

Big Ed's Main Street Soda Grill /1938/

Big Ed's Soda Grill in Vermilion has an air of innocence and lightness, a reminder of when phosphates and egg creams cost a nickel and happiness came served in a tall, chilled tin cup. Faded Coca-Cola ads and old milk bottles line the shelves at this 1938 soda fountain, and a vintage jukebox sits in a corner. The original crushed red vinyl booths still line the floor. At the counter, a waitress churns out a thick chocolate milkshake. They're made the way they were back when Big Ed's opened as Hart's Drug Store: with real, hand-scooped ice cream, whole milk and flavored syrups, mixed in a tin cup by the spindles of an old-fashioned milkshake maker. "Our shakes are authentic," says waitress Lindsay Roseberry. "We use real ingredients — and make our shakes from scratch." The frothy concoction is poured into a tall glass and served with a striped straw. 5520 Liberty Ave., Vermilion, 440-967-4002

Old Arcade /1890/

No one had seen a shopping mall before, so Clevelanders 121 years ago struggled for words to describe the new Arcade. "A Complete Town," one headline read. They weren't used to shopping for men's hats, chinaware, pianos, umbrellas, canes and Belgian lace under one roof, especially a glassy 300-foot-long roof erected by a bridge company. But Sunday walks through the Arcade soon became a popular pastime. The Old Arcade, probably the country's most gorgeous Victorian light arcade, glows gold in sunlight and after dark, thanks to the light of countless lamps. Wedding parties flock to its grand staircase. It's home to the Hyatt Regency Cleveland Hotel, a bar, restaurant, food court and several shops. You can't put a price on irreplaceable beauty like this, though Cuyahoga County is trying: The Arcade, sadly, is in foreclosure. A September sheriff's sale failed to attract a minimum bid of $7.8 million. 401 Euclid Ave. & 420 Superior Ave., Cleveland, 216-696-1408, theclevelandarcade.com


Terminal Tower observation deck /1928/

Using archival photos, Forest City transformed the Terminal Tower's 42nd floor observation deck to the way it was in 1928, right down to the 12 viewing windows' chrome handrails and the revitalized radiators beneath them. A directional key embedded in the silver and charcoal tile can help you get your bearings, but so does the Great Lake at true north. It's easy to imagine GIs taking one last look at home before descending to the train station below and heading off to war. Today, the parking lots and modern buildings have replaced much of what they knew, but they'd still recognize the West Side Market, the Old Stone Church and Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument, three bridges across the Cuyahoga, the public buildings on the Mall, and many landmarks on Euclid Avenue. Seeing the futuristic Rock Hall and Science Center, they'd know America won, but the empty storefronts up Euclid would make them think Cleveland lost its way. When 83-year-old security officer Betty Thomas would come up here as a child, a stand sold souvenirs such as Terminal Tower snow globes. Now what you take away is how much better the view would be if we'd fought harder to preserve it. "We have not maintained our own area," Thomas says sadly. Open Saturday and Sunday. Tickets $5. 50 Public Square, Cleveland, 216-736-7646

Union Trust Building Murals /1924/

Jules Guerin was already a celebrated illustrator in the 1910s when he executed the murals for the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., filling the marble above the Gettysburg and Second Inaugural addresses with earthly seraphim. Thousands pass his murals in Tower City daily, but connoisseurs point to Guerin's Union Trust Building murals, from 1924, as his best local work. Built like a basilica, the L-shaped bank lobby boasts a three-story ceiling and marble columns worthy of a Medici palace. Guerin added scenes representing patriotism, justice, industry and architecture, set in the Cleveland he saw. So his allegorical figures are posed against a backdrop of industry and lake commerce. Union Trust would wither within a decade, and the building has changed hands several times since (it was the Huntington Building until this fall; the lobby is now closed, awaiting a new tenant). But Guerin's vision endures, a picture of our brawny past, in mint condition. 917 Euclid Ave., Cleveland


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