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55 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio

Updated on February 9, 2011
55 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio
55 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio

From the completion of The Terminal Tower in 1930 through nearly the next 30 years, downtown Cleveland suffered a severe drought of construction of significant structures. That drought finally ended in 1958 with the completion of 55 Public Square, a 22-story, 300-foot tall skyscraper just off the northwest corner of Public Square.

Known for years as The Illuminating Building — for its long-time prime tenant The Illuminating Company (formerly CEI, or the Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company) — 55 Public Square was designed by the architectural firm of Carson & Lundin. With strict Modernist lines and an exterior skin of glass and aluminum curtain-wall, it bears a striking resemblance to Gordon Bunshaft’s Lever House in New York City. The Cleveland skyscraper, however, is nearly twice the overall size of the Manhattan structure, encompassing 430,000 square feet.

Built at a time of steel shortages, 55 Public Square incorporated only 10 stories of steel framing. Those floors are sandwiched between the massive ‘floating’ concrete slab foundation several stories below ground, and an upper 12 stories of reinforced concrete frame construction (the first use of such construction in the city). The building’s south façade is capped by nearly-story-high brushed metal numerals displaying the Public Square address.

The site upon which 55 Pubic Square was constructed originally served as home to several of the city’s courthouses of the 1800s. Also occupying the site by 1879 was the world’s first electric streetlight, a Brush arc lamp created by Clevelander Charles F. Brush. A replica of that streetlight has hung since outside the John Q’s restaurant hugging the southwesterly base of the high-rise tower.

The sleek rectilinear office tower rises from a tall glazed lobby, fronting on a modest and simple pedestrian plaza separating the tower from Frankfort Avenue. Serving the tower on its northern flank is a seven-level parking garage.

Neighboring 55 Public Square to the east just across West Roadway is 75 Public Square, the previous home of The Cleveland Electric Illuminating Company. That 1915 structure is a 15-story Italianate design by Hubbell & Benes Architects on the strict columnar order, organized into clearly identified base, shaft and capital with wide overhangs.      

A marker55 Public Square, Cleveland, Ohio -
55 Public Square, Cleveland, OH 44113, USA
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Impressive views from this tower of all of Public Square and its surrounding landmark buildings.


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