In the more than 210 years of its existence, the skyline of Cleveland has undergone continual change. But since 2002, the city’s panoramic profile has been punctuated by four uniquely different tall structures: The Terminal Tower, the former BP America Building (now 200 Public Square), Key Tower, and the Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Building.
In its earliest years, Cleveland did not even have a skyline. Though the original surveying party laid out Public Square and the early street grid, the city’s first settler, Lorenzo Carter, instead chose to build his cabin along the bank of the Cuyahoga River below the plateau that was to eventually become ‘downtown’. Soon, however, structures were being constructed about Public Square and throughout the growing village.
After the completion of the Ohio and Erie Canal in 1832, the community grew rapidly, incorporating as a city in 1836. The growing city’s wealth was founded on industries fed by river, lake, canal and rail traffic — warehousing, shipping, ore, coal, manufacturing, steel, and automobiles. By 1889, the Society for Savings Building became the city’s tallest structure, at 10 floors and 152 ft. However, within 7 years, it gave way to the 221 ft.-tall Guardian Bank Building.
By 1920, the founder of Standard Oil, John D. Rockefeller, had made his fortune, and had erected a 17-story structure bearing his name on West Superior Avenue. Eight years later, The Terminal Tower took command of the downtown skyline, towering over Public Square to a height of 708 ft. (52 stories). In typical Beaux-Arts style, The Terminal Tower is capped by a series of step-backs, crenellations, spires, and radial flourishes that give it a distinctive wedding-cake profile against the clouds.
Offering a decidedly different profile is the former BP America Building (now 200 Public Square), opened in 1987. Held to just 658 ft. (45 stories) so as not to outdo The Terminal Tower, this structure presents two slightly flared wings to its massive vertical slab. Its overall mass is reduced and finessed by its stair-step setbacks both in plan and in elevation. Its Late Modernist (almost Brutalist) styling and extruded vertical mass make it a striking visual counterpoint to The Terminal Tower only a few hundred yards away.
In 1991, these two giants were joined by a third, Key Tower, headquarters of Key Bank, just north of Public Square. Key Tower established a new record for the city, soaring to 948 ft. (57 stories). It also added yet another style and profile to the skyline. Key Tower, designed by Cesar Pelli, is an elegant Postmodern spire clad in warm stone and silvered metal. Its uniquely terraced pyramidal cap of reflective metal added one more distinctive form to the profile of Cleveland.
The fourth and latest unique form to occupy the city’s skyline arrived over a decade later with the Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Building. This structure contains only 24 stories, yet rises to a height of 430 ft. Occupying a site southwest of Public Square near the Cuyahoga River, it is modeled on a Greek column, clad in whitish stone, with a curved façade and a massive accentuated cornice.
Descend into the Flats onto Columbus Road or Center Street for dramatic views of the City of Cleveland above the Cuyahoga River.
- Cleveland's Key Tower
When this office tower was completed in 1991, it became the nations tallest structure between New York and Chicago.
- The Terminal Tower: A Cleveland Landmark
As Cleveland continues to struggle with its identity and future, one landmark remains unchanged.
- Cleveland's Cuyahoga River
Key to its founding as well as its future, the Cuyahoga River is the heart of Cleveland.
- Cleveland's Tower City Center
The main concourse: The Avenue at Tower City Center A mixed-use development that rivals in complexity and features such great urban assets as Rockefeller Center and Grand Central Station, Tower City Center is the hub of downtown Cleveland. Tower...
- Tour Cleveland's lakefront (and riverfront)
Cleveland Browns Stadium You might start your tour of Cleveland's lakefront (and riverfront) at the foot of West 3rd Street where it meets Lake Erie â well, almost, anyway. There you'll find Cleveland Browns Stadium, among a cluster of other fine..
- See Cleveland's Horseshoe Casino
Cleveland's Horseshoe Casino, in the shadow of the Terminal Tower If you are one of the fortunate ones who have acquired an entry ticket or wristband for the Grand Opening of Cleveland’s Horseshoe Casino this coming Monday evening, May 14th, at...
- Cleveland's Erieview Tower
Erieview Tower Whether you call it Erieview Tower, or the Tower at Erieview, or Erieview Plaza Tower or simply 100 Erieview, this 40-story modernist slab, designed by the architectural firm of Harrison & Abramovitz, dominated Cleveland’s financia
- The Carl B. Stokes Federal Court House Biuilding
Completed in 2002, this 24-story tower is one of four distinctively-capped high-rise structures defining the core skyline of downtown Cleveland.