The creator takes up nostalgic reminiscences and historical past in ‘Misplaced Cleveland’
A third-generation Cleveland arts and entertainment reporter and plain dealer, Laura DeMarco has heard a slew of stories that start with, “Remember When Cleveland Used To …”.
In fact, most lifelong Clevelanders get sentimental when places like Euclid Beach Park, Higbee’s, or Municipal Stadium start talking. So much so that DeMarco decided to write a book about these long gone – and sometimes forgotten – places. Lost Cleveland will be celebrated with a book launch on Saturday September 16 at the Prosperity Social Club.
The book is DeMarco’s ode to her hometown and offers a chronological story of the city’s rise and fall from the fifth largest urban and industrial powerhouse in the country to its modern resurgence. Her passion for Cleveland history comes from the honest: “My grandmother and father lived here all their lives and they always had interesting stories about Cleveland,” says DeMarco.
At the Plain Dealer, DeMarco began studying the lore of Cleveland and was enthusiastic about the city’s past himself. “Cleveland’s exploration of the past is very different from that of Cleveland that we know now,” she says. “We didn’t get a lot of things like skyscrapers. People cheered when they blew up the Williamson and Cuyahoga buildings in 1982. “
The implosion of the Williamson and Cuyahoga buildings in the public square was intended to make way for the headquarters of Sohio / BP. But DeMarco also points to the decline of downtown shopping in places like Higbee’s and the Bond Store, once valuable experiences that have now been “completely erased”.
These are the places DeMarco explores in Lost Cleveland. She admits that she is too young to remember some of the places she covers but argues that it is worth rediscovering. Examples of this are public spaces such as Luna Park amusement park and Gordon Park, which DeMarco considers the predecessors of today’s metroparks.
“Luna Park closed in the early 20th century, and Gordon Park had a grand bath house and beach house,” explains DeMarco. “These old places were where people could gather for fun.”
Other focal points are the Cleveland Arena, where the first rock concert took place in 1952; the Hollenden Hotel on E. 6th Street and Superior Avenue, where Dean Martin began; and the Hippodrome Theater between Euclid and Prospect Avenues, which opened in 1907 with an act of horses dipping into a water tank from the balcony.
And of course, DeMarco covers the places that have been remembered lately like Hough Bakeries and the Memphis Drive-In. The book contains 65 entries and more than 200 photographs of Cleveland’s architecture, history, art, town planning, nightlife and industry.
DeMarco says the book may serve as a lesson for the next generation as Cleveland thrives as a city again. “Hopefully we won’t knock things down,” she quips. “It would have been difficult five to ten years ago [reminisce]. But I think we’ve turned a corner and there’s a lot of civic pride now. “
Lost Cleveland is available at local bookstores such as Appletree Books and Mac’s Backs, as well as on Amazon.
The book launch party is open to the public and will take place on September 16 from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. at the Prosperity Social Club (1109 Starkweather Ave.) in Tremont. The event features nostalgic Cleveland dishes like mimosa and orange sorbet – a treat featured at the Great Lakes Exposition – and Humphrey popcorn balls from Euclid Beach Park. Accordionist Stan Mejac will play classic polka favorites.
Watch the Williamson & Cuyahoga Buildings implosion in 1982: