As the nation celebrated its centennial, Cleveland began its festivities July 1. The four-day fete included a midnight jubilee July 3, and Fourth of July parade and a balloon launch — likely the first of its kind in Cleveland — from Public Square. Below the balloon, young men clamored up the statue of Commodore Oliver Hazard Perry to get a better view. The monument stood at Ontario Street and Superior Avenue in the center of the square until 1878.
Built in 1890, the Society for Savings building has anchored Ontario Street and Rockwell Avenue for 125 years. Beside it is the Cleveland Chamber of Commerce building. With the dedication of Terminal Tower in 1930, the chamber moved to new digs there, making room for the Cleveland College — part of Western Reserve University. The building was demolished in 1955. Completed in 1991, the 57-story Key Tower occupies the same footprint today.
By the 1970s, pedestrian traffic waned and the uptick in cars and transit had reshaped Public Square into an entirely unglamourous space with wide streets, myriad bus stops and raggedy trees. In the late '70s, the Garden Club undertook an effort to reinvigorate the square. It took until 1986 to complete the $12 million renovation, which kept Public Square's role as a transit hub intact while adding parklike features such as two fountains.
Public Square's latest incarnation, under construction, is slated for completion before July's Republican National Convention. With rolling greenery, a water feature for kids and limited vehicle traffic through the center of the square, the leafy design by James Corner Field Operations harkens to the square's original purpose as a public green space. This time, however, it's for people, not sheep, as it was in the New England-style square laid out in 1796.