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Terminal Tower Observation Deck takes the city through history

Terminal Tower opens observation deck
Posted at 4:56 PM, Feb 06, 2017

Easily regarded as one of Cleveland's landmarks, the Terminal Tower is an enduring reminder of the city's history, identity, and the perpetual reminder to progress.

Terminal Tower has undergone many changes, on the interior and exterior, but one part of the tower that hasn't changed is the 360 view it provides the public of the city.

The observation Deck usually isn't open during the winter months, but a special event is giving the public a rare look at the city after dark. The Terminal Tower partnered with St. Jude's Children Hospital for a special opening of the deck from 4-8 p.m. during the weekend of February 10-14.

"This gives people access to see this beautiful city while helping a great cause," said Toni Magana, property manager of the K&G Group that owns the tower.

With the special event landing on Valentine's Day, Magana reminisces how the observation Deck is more than just a way to see the city. It has become an integral part of people's lives. Over the years, she has heard stories of couples having their first date at the deck and even some getting engaged.

"It's a romantic get away that finishes off the beginning of their relationship to the next step in their relationship," Magana said.

Rooted in a deep history, and considered a national landmark when it was first built, the Terminal Tower was considered one of the tallest skyscrapers in the country next to impressive skyline in New York City. 

Standing at 708 feet with 52 levels, the Terminal Tower was built in May of 1928.

The archivist at Tower City Drew Rolik looks back at the construction of the tower. In 1930, the Terminal Tower was the third tallest building in the world.

"You can see the whole city. You can see five county areas and a view that captures 32 miles of our city. It's really an impressive site," said Rolik.

The Union Terminal Project was conceived by brothers Oris P and Mantis J. Van Sweringen with the original idea to quicken the commute between Shaker and downtown. The tower modeled after New York City's approach to transportation and infrastructure.

Bill Barrow, head of special collections at the Michael Schwartz Library at Cleveland State University, said the original plan included only a 14-story structure, but with the idea to bring more commercial tenants to the space and the tower's connection to Public Square, the tower was constructed with 52 stories. 

"We think of the Terminal Tower as our landmark, but really it was the landmark identified across the country and around the world. It was part of the building boom era," said Barrow. "The Terminal Tower gave visitors and Cleveland residents something to identify with other than a messy, polluted rust belt city."

While the tickets for the special weekend fundraiser sold out in the last week of January, the public can have the bird's eye view when the observation deck opens for the season in April.

"The Terminal Tower is important to the city. I've had people say to me that it is the Eiffel Tower of Cleveland. And you know what, it truly is," said Magana.