Video Vault: 1990 opening of Tower City in Cleveland

Historical look at the Terminal Tower, Tower City

CLEVELAND - The biggest construction project aside from the Panama Canal is how WEWS reporter Alan DePetro described the building of the Terminal Tower project.

Terminal Tower and its surrounding hotel, office buildings, train station and department store were the dream of the Van Sweringen brothers Oris and Mantis. Known collectively as "The Vans," the brothers broke ground on construction for the tower in 1926 and Cleveland's landmark skyscraper opened in 1930.

DePetro looked back on the construction of the Terminal Tower as part of the opening of the Avenue at Tower City on March 29, 1990.

The nearly 3 million square foot Tower City Center complex cost $400 million to build. Some of the 1990 buildings were placed atop original foundations poured some 60 years earlier.

A fascinating tidbit in his story is how full-size mock ups of storefronts and floorings were built in a warehouse so prospective tenants could see what their stores would look like.

A historic landmark, the dismantling and rebuilding of the facility was a painstaking, time-consuming effort.

At 708 feet tall (not including the flagpole), the Terminal Tower was this country's tallest structure outside of New York City until the mid-60s. It's no longer Cleveland's tallest structure as it was eclipsed by Key Tower in 1991.

Our video player contains the four-minute story from DePetro as well as a story WEWS reporter Elaine Tack filed for our 11 p.m. broadcast on the day of the grand opening.

Tack's story reminded me of the short power failure which occurred during the 5 p.m. hour that day. Tack blamed the outage on all of Cleveland's TV stations powering up for their broadcasts from the Tower City balcony.

There is a quick glimpse of our Live On Five team, Roy Weissinger, Wilma Smith and reporter Bill Younkin at our mobile anchor desk inside Tower City.

The topic of the first edition of Video Vault posted March 29, 2010, was marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Avenue at Tower City, click here to see that story and the first few minutes of that Live On Five broadcast.

In Tack's story, she talked to shoppers and retailers all giddy about the day and the prospect of the success of bringing people back downtown to shop. One expert she interviewed felt Tower City would only help the nearby Galleria which had opened to shoppers only a few years before.

Tower City Center has been energized anew with the recent opening of the Horseshoe Casino some 22 years later.

As for the "Vans," the Depression devastated them. Their fortune gone, both died in the 1930s, however their vision for downtown Cleveland continues to thrive.

Print this article Back to Top