Terminal Tower

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For the tower in Montreal, see Terminal Tower (Montreal). For the Pere Ubu compilation, see Terminal Tower (album).
Terminal Tower
The Terminal Tower complex in 1987
General information
Status Complete
Type Commercial offices
Location 50 Public Square
Cleveland, Ohio
Country United States
Coordinates 41°29′54″N 81°41′38″W / 41.49833°N 81.69389°W / 41.49833; -81.69389Coordinates: 41°29′54″N 81°41′38″W / 41.49833°N 81.69389°W / 41.49833; -81.69389
Construction started 1926
Completed 1930
Opening June 28, 1930
Cost $179 million
Owner Forest City Enterprises
Antenna spire 235 m (771 ft)
Roof 216 m (709 ft)
Top floor 52
Technical details
Floor area 577,000 sq ft (53,600 m2)
Design and construction
Architect Graham, Anderson, Probst & White
Developer Van Sweringen brothers
Structural engineer Henry Jouett

Terminal Tower is a 52-story, 235 m (771 ft), landmark skyscraper located on Public Square in downtown Cleveland, Ohio. Built during the skyscraper boom of the 1920s and 1930s, it was the fourth-tallest building in the world at its dedication on June 28, 1930 (after three buildings in New York City). It was the tallest building in the state of Ohio until the completion of Key Tower in 1991. It is part of the Tower City Center mixed-use development, and its major tenants include Forest City Enterprises, which owns the building and maintains its corporate headquarters there, and Riverside Company.[5]


Built for $179 million by the Van Sweringen brothers, the tower was to serve as an office building atop the city's new rail station, the Cleveland Union Terminal. Originally planned to be 14 stories, the structure was expanded to 52 floors with a height of 708 feet (216 m). It rests on 280-foot (85 m) caissons. Designed by the firm of Graham, Anderson, Probst & White, the tower was modeled after the Beaux-Arts New York Municipal Building by McKim, Mead, and White. The Terminal Tower opened for tenants in 1928, though the Union Terminal complex wasn't dedicated until 1930.

It remained the tallest building in the world outside of New York City until the completion of the main building of Moscow State University in Moscow in 1953; it was the tallest building in North America outside of New York until the Prudential Center in Boston, Massachusetts, was completed in 1964.

Radio station WHK placed antennas on the building to increase the range of its 1420 kHz signal.

In the 1980s, developers sought approval to make their proposed BP Building taller than the Terminal Tower, but city officials forced them to scale it down. The Terminal Tower remained the tallest building in Ohio until the 1991 completion of Society Center, now Key Tower.

Observation deck[edit]

On a clear day, visitors on the observation deck can see 30 miles (48 km) from downtown Cleveland.[6]

On August 26, 1976, gunman Ashby Leach stormed a Chessie System conference room on the 42nd floor.[7] Leach, who was disgruntled with Chessie System's decision not to pay into a G.I. Bill fund that would have increased his wages and benefits during his apprenticeship with the company, held 13 hostages before his arrest.[7] He was jailed for three months pending trial, then was acquitted of kidnapping and convicted of assault, extortion, and carrying an illegal weapon.[8] Upon his release, he embarked on a speaking tour for the group Vietnam Veterans Against the War.[7] After the hostage incident, direct access to the floor was removed. The observation deck reopened after Chessie left the building.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks, the observation deck was again closed to the public. In 2007, a proposal was brought to Forest City to reopen the deck. The proposal included a renovation of the deck and the addition of an express elevator to take visitors to it. This was to be done after the upper floors were renovated and the scaffolding removed. In 2010, Forest City Enterprises finished renovating the complex's elevators, upper floors, and spire. The observation deck reopened on July 10, 2010[9][10] for a limited period, with plans to expand public access.[11][12]

To reach the observation deck, visitors take the elevator to the 32nd floor and then transfer to another elevator to reach the 42nd floor. Before its original closure, the deck was open only on weekends to prevent disruption to the law firm that has offices on the 32nd floor.

External lighting[edit]

The tower lit up in rainbow colors in honor of Cleveland hosting the 2014 Gay Games in August 2014.

The Terminal Tower was lit when it opened in 1930. A strobe light on top of the tower rotated 360 degrees. It helped ships in Cleveland's port and airplane pilots landing at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport. In the 1960s, the strobe was retired and replaced with conventional aircraft warning lights. The tower only once went dark, during the 2003 blackout.

Today, the Terminal Tower's external lights include 508 LEDs that can be configured into various color schemes - such as red and green during the Christmas season and red, white, and blue for various federal holidays.[13][14]

Many Cleveland social and medical groups light the Terminal for their causes. In February, the Terminal is red for the American Heart Association Go Red for Women campaign, and pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month in October. Some of Cleveland's ethnic groups have had the Terminal lit in their traditional colors, such as green on Saint Patrick's Day. On Polish Constitution Day, usually May 3, Cleveland's Pol-Am community lights the Terminal in white and red (Polish flag colors), and the tower goes red, green, and white (Italian flag colors) for Columbus Day.

The Terminal also sports the colors of the various sports teams in town, such as red, white, and blue for the Cleveland Indians, orange and brown for the Cleveland Browns, and wine and gold for the Cleveland Cavaliers.[15] During the 2014 Gay Games, the Terminal was lit in a rainbow pattern (representing the gay pride flag).[16] In January 2015, the Terminal was lit in scarlet and gray in support of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the football team's National Championship run as Cleveland has a large OSU fan and alumni base.[17]

In popular culture[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Terminal Tower at CTBUH Skyscraper Database
  2. ^ Terminal Tower at Emporis
  3. ^ Terminal Tower at SkyscraperPage
  4. ^ Terminal Tower at Structurae
  5. ^ "Terminal Tower". Forest City Enterprises. Retrieved 2010-09-29. 
  6. ^ "Cleveland Recommended Tours". Yahoo! Travel. Retrieved 2008-06-15. 
  7. ^ a b c Hunt, Andrew E. (2001-05-01, copyright 1999). The Turning: A History of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. New York University Press. pp. 182–183. ISBN 978-0-8147-3581-7. OCLC 40848421. Retrieved 2010-09-28. Lay summary.  Check date values in: |date= (help)
  8. ^ Joy, Ted (June 1977). "The Siege of Terminal Tower". Mother Jones Magazine: 21–25, 58–59. Retrieved 28 September 2010. 
  9. ^ Petkovic, John (2010-07-09). "Terminal Tower observation deck reopens to the public". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  10. ^ Ischay, Lynn (2010-07-11). "Gallery: Terminal Tower observation deck reopens". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2010-07-13. 
  11. ^ Smith, Robert L. (2010-08-01). "Hundreds savor the view and the memories from Terminal Tower's observation deck". The Plain Dealer. Retrieved 2010-08-21. 
  12. ^ "Terminal Tower Observation Deck to open this Summer". Downtown Cleveland Alliance, 2010-06-28.
  13. ^ Terminal Tower lights - WKYC.com
  14. ^ Terminal Tower lighting - Tower City Cleveland.com
  15. ^ Terminal Tower in wine and gold - Twitter.com
  16. ^ Terminal Tower photos - Cleveland.com
  17. ^ Terminal Tower in scarlet and grey - Twitter.com
  18. ^ a b When Baseballs Fell From On High, Henry Helf Rose To The Occasion, by Bruce Anderson, Sports Illustrated, March 11, 1985
  19. ^ Nitz, Jim. "The Baseball Biography Project: Ken Keltner". Society for American Baseball Research. Retrieved 20 July 2010. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Preceded by
Chicago Temple Building
Tallest building in the United States outside of New York City
216 m
Succeeded by
Prudential Tower