Hoisted atop Terminal Tower’s 70-foot flagpole, a camera captures the second-tallest view outside of New York in 1927. Automobiles are black beetles; Hotel Cleveland is a yawning pit 771 feet below.
Built in 1918, the $4.5 million, 1,000-room hotel joined the new Union Terminal complex (officially dedicated June 28, 1930) in the 1920s. The rapid transit tunneled beneath. For almost 30 years, the tower-hotel duo incinerated night’s pitch; the hotel’s name like filament, the sepulchral tower a phosphorescent ghost.
When the tower’s highest steel was raised in 1927, its skyward climb arrested the attention of a young photographer named Margaret Bourke-White. In July 1928, Jean A. Lussier offered to fly from the tower using hand-propelled wings, for a $25,000 advance.
Roughly 250 feet below street level, the tower continues on a skeleton of steel and caissons. Bedrock buried 226 feet was the clay’s first hostage. In October 1928, Patrick Cleary and Patrick Toolis worked themselves into a 103-foot grave after their shaft filled with 40 feet of cement. Their bodies were chiseled out.
Operations fell after the ’40s. In 1976, Save-the-Square paid the slouching
hotel’s creditors, the terminal went on the National Register of Historic Places and Ashby Leach slipped to the tower’s 32nd floor with a sawed-off shotgun. By 1978, the last passenger line left.
K&D bought the tower in 2016 for $38.5 million, spending $100 million converting 11 floors into 297 luxury apartments. Resurrected as the Renaissance Cleveland Hotel, the hotel remains at its side.