Renovations at the former Statler hotel reveal century-old building's storied past

Posted at 11:33 AM, Oct 29, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-30 10:07:19-04

When doing stories on old buildings, you often hear the familiar refrain "if these walls could talk," well at the Statler in downtown Cleveland they kind of can. The 106-year-old red brick landmark former hotel on Euclid Avenue is undergoing a $14 million facelift and the work is opening up parts of the building closed off in some cases for decades.

"The history of the building is spectacular. It's fun every day to come in and just see what we uncover next," said property manager Shannon Kleinman. The re-discoveries include a former speakeasy that legend has it operated in the basement of the Statler during Prohibition which went from 1920 to 1933. The bar and dance floor are still intact as is the stairwell leading to a gated entrance at street level. For good measure, the door at the bottom of the steps has a bullet hole through the glass.

"This is our Mezzanine level which has been closed off for many many years," Kleinman pointed out as part of her tour. "We're looking at putting some retail office space up here along with a community room and an outdoor patio."

The Statler Hotel opened in October 1912 and grew to 1,000 rooms hosting so many events for the city's biggest names in its grand ballroom, decades later it enjoyed a second act after being converted to office space and in 2001 was converted into apartments at the very early stages of what would be downtown Cleveland's residential resurgence.

The property was acquired earlier this year for $40 million by Cleveland based Millennia Companies that owns many other downtown properties including own Key Tower. In July, work began on overhauling each of the building's 295 units and restoring many of the long-hidden public spaces.

"We're looking for retailers to open up the restaurant," Kleinman said which is connected to the closed-off men's lounge which would be part of the restaurant space. The lounge is still adorned with leaded and stained glass as well as rich woodwork.

Also, the former ballroom could one day be re-envisioned as a state of the art indoor dog park.

All work they hope to complete by September 2019, work that is tapping into the building's past as part of its future.