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Issue Date: July 2013


Erick Trickey

Clevelanders dubbed our waterfront "Tin Can Plaza" in the early 1930s, when it was home to a garbage dump and a hobo camp. But in 1936 and 1937, Cleveland built and staged a monumental fair, the Great Lakes Exposition, along Lake Erie. "Fun on a Dump," declared Time.

The Court of the Presidents, a bridge over the bluff, connected downtown to the lake. Sixteen golden eagles reached more than 30 feet above the span, honoring the 16 U.S. presidents from the Great Lakes states. Fairgoers strolled past 100 concession booths. Rickshaws and minibuses plied the center lane.

Straight ahead, in the Marine Theater, young swimmers performed aquatic ballets in the lake to Johann Strauss' Blue Danube. The Automotive Building displayed new models from Detroit's Big Three and Cleveland's White Motor Co. To the east, fairgoers twirled in the midway's Tumble Bug and Loop-the-Plane, watched a lion chase motorcyclists and puzzled over the Television exhibit — a small screen on which, unbelievably, they could watch themselves walk by.

Today, 76 summers after the expo was torn down, Mayor Frank Jackson wants to build a new Mall-to-lakefront pedestrian bridge — but doesn't have the money. Cuyahoga County executive Ed FitzGerald wants a new Great Lakes Expo in 2016 — but he's running for governor, so someone else will have to throw that party.

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