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Cleveland The Sixth City

( Originally Published 1913 )

THEY call her the Sixth City, but that is only in a comparative sense, and exclusively in regard to her statistical position in the population ranks of the large cities of our land. For no real citizen of Cleveland will ever admit that his community is less than first, in all of the things that make for the advance of a strong and healthy American town. His might better be called "the City of Boundless Enthusiasm." Your Cleveland man, however, is content to know it as the Sixth City.

" Not that it really matters whether we are the fifth or the seventh or the sixth," he tells you. " Only it all goes to show how we've bobbed up in the last twenty years. You know what we used to be an inconsiderable lake port up on the north brink of Ohio with Cincinnati down there in the south pruning herself as a real metropolis and calling herself the Queen City. We might call ourselves the Queen City today and stretch no points, but that's a sort of fancy title that's gone out of fashion now. The Sixth City sounds more like the Twentieth Century."

And Cleveland having thus baptized herself, as it were, proceeded to spread her new name to the world. " Cleveland — Sixth City" appeared on the stationery of her business houses ; her tailors stitched it in upon the labels of the ready-made suits they sent to all corners of the land ; her bakers stamped it on the products of their ovens; big shippers stenciled it over packing-cases ; manufacturers even placed it upon the brass-plates of the lathes and other complicated machines they sent forth from their shops. Today when you say " Sixth City " to an American he replies " Cleveland," which is precisely what Cleveland intended he should reply.

Now why has Cleveland taken her new position of sixth among the cities of the land? Ask your Cleveland man that, and he will take you by the elbow and march you straight toward the docks, that not only line her lake front but extend for miles up within the curious twistings of the Cuyahoga river.

" Lake traffic," he will tell you, and begin to quote statistics.

We will spare you most of the statistics. It is meet that you should know, however, that upon the five Great Lakes there throbs a commerce that might well be the envy of any far-reaching, salty sea. To put the thing concretely, the freight portion of this traffic alone reached tremendous totals in 1912. In the navigation months of that year, exactly 47,435,477 tons of iron ore and an even greater tonnage of coal moved upon the Lakes, while the enormous total of 158,000,000 bushels of grain were received at the port of Buffalo. And although there are tens of thousands of sailormen upon the salt seas who have never heard of Cleveland, the business of the port of Cleveland is comparable with that of the port of Liverpool, one of the very greatest and the very busiest harbors in all the world. For four out of every five of the great steel steamships carrying the iron ore and coal cargoes of the lakes are operated from Cleveland. Until the formation of the United States Steel corporation a few years ago she could also say that she owned four out of five of these vessels. And today her indirect interest in them, through the steel corporation, is not small.

As the Cleveland man continues to din these statistics into your ear, you let your gaze wander. Over across a narrow slip a gaunt steel framework rises. It holds a cradle, large enough and strong enough to accommodate a single steel railroad " gondola," which in turn carries fifty tons of bituminous coal. The sides of the table are clamped over the sides of one of these " gondola " cars, which a seemingly tireless switch-engine has just shunted into it. Slowly the cradle is raised to the top of the framework. A bell strikes and it raises itself upon edge, three-quarters of the way over. The coal rushes out of the car in an uprising cloud of black dust and drops through a funnel into the expansive hold of the vessel that is moored at the dock. The car is righted ; some remaining coal rattles to its bottom. Once again it is overturned and the remaining coal goes through the funnel. When it is righted the second time it is entirely empty. The cradle returns to its low level, the car is unfastened and given a push. It makes a gravity movement and returns to a string of its fellows that have been through a similar process.

You take out your watch. The process consumes just two minutes for each car. That means thirty cars an hour. In an hour fifteen hundred tons of coal, the capacity of a long and heavily laden train, have been placed in the hold of the waiting vessel. You are familiar, perhaps, with the craft that tie up at the wharves of seaboard towns, and you roughly estimate the capacity of this coal-carrier at some forty-five hundred tons. It is going to take but three hours to fill her great hold, and you find yourself astonished at the result of such computations. You confide that astonishment to your Cleveland man. He smiles at you, benignly.

" That is really not very rapid work," he says, " they put eleven thousand tons of ore into the Corey in thirty-nine minutes up at Superior last year."

And that is the record loading of a vessel for all the world. When the British ship-owners heard of that feat at a port two thousand miles inland, they ceased to deride American docking facilities.

The Cleveland man begins telling you something of this lake traffic in iron ore and soft coal almost three-quarters of the total tonnage of the lakes. The workable iron deposits of America are today in greatest profusion within a comparatively few miles of the head of Lake Superior — nothing has yet robbed western Pennsylvania and West Virginia of their supremacy as producers of bituminous coal. There is an ideal traffic condition, the condition that lines the railroad cars for forty miles roundabout Pittsburgh. The great cost in handling freight upon the average railroad comes from the fact that it is generally what is known as " one-way " business that is, the volume of traffic moves in a single direction, necessitating an expensive and wasteful return haul of empty cars. There is no such traffic waste upon the Great Lakes. The ships that go up and down the long water lanes of Erie and Huron and Superior do not worry about ballast for the return. They carry coal from Buffalo, Erie, Ashtabula, Conneaut and Cleveland to Duluth and Superior and they come back with their capacious holds filled with red iron ore. There is your true economy in transportation, and the reflection of it comes in the fact that these ships haul cargo at the rate of .78 of a mill for a ton-mile, which is the lowest freight-rate in the world.

Cleveland built these ships, in fact she still is building the greater part of them. And she thinks nothing of building the largest of these steel vessels in ninety days. Take a second look at that vessel the coal cars are still pouring their grimy treasure into her hold. She is builded, like all of these new freighters, with a severity that shows the bluff utilitarianism of the shipbuilders of the Great Lakes. None of the finicky traditions of the Clyde rule the minds of the men who today are building the merchant marine of the Lakes. One deck-house, with the navigating headquarters, is forward; the other, with funnel and the other externals of the ship's propelling mechanism, is at the extreme stern. Amid-ships your Great Lakes carrier is cargo and nothing else. No tangle of line or burden of trivials; just a red walled hull of thick steel plates and a steel-plate deck — broken into thirty-six hatches and of precisely the same shade of red — for these ships are quickly painted by hose-spray. Remember that it is ninety days — from keel-plates to launching. In another thirty days the ship's simple fittings are finished and her engines in her heart are ready to pound from down-Lakes to up-Lakes and back innumerable times.

If we have given some attention in this Cleveland chapter to the traffic of the Great Lakes, it is, as we have already intimated, because the traffic of the Great Lakes has made her the Sixth City. It has also made the most important of her industries, the very greatest of her fortunes. Your Cleveland man will tell you of one of these before you leave the pier edge. It was the fortune that an old Lake captain left at his death a little time ago the fortune a mere matter of some twenty-eight millions of dollars. The old captain knew the Lakes and he had studied their traffic all his life. But his will directed that his money should not be expended in the building of ships. It provided that at least a quarter of a million of the income should annually go to the purchase of Cleveland real estate. And Cleve-land was quick to explain that it was not that the old man loved shipping less, but that he loved Cleveland real estate more. He had the gift of foresight.

If you would see that foresight in his own eyes drive out Euclid avenue — that broad thoroughfare that leads from the old-fashioned Public Square in the heart of the city straight toward the southeast. Euclid avenue gained its fame in other days. Travelers used to come back from Cleveland and tell of the glories of that highway. Alas, today those glories are largely those of memory. The old houses still sit in their great lawns, but the grime of the city's industry has made them seem doubly old and decadent, while Commerce has pushed her smart new shops out among them to the very sidewalk line. Many of these shops are given over to the automobile business — a business which does not hesitate in any of our towns to transform resident streets into commercial. But in Cleveland one may partly forgive the audacity of this particular trade in recognition of its perspicacity. For Euclid avenue, rapidly growing now from an entirely residential street into an entirely business highway, is the great automobile thoroughfare of the East Side of the city. And when you consider that one out of every ten Cleveland families has a motor car, you can begin to estimate the traffic through Euclid avenue.

There is a West Side of Cleveland — you might al-most say, of course — but one does not come to know it until he comes to know Cleveland well. The city is builded upon a high plateau that rises in a steep bluff from the very edge of the lake. Through this plateau, at the very bottom of a ravine, wide and deep, the navigable Cuyahoga twists its tortuous way into Lake Erie. It seems as if that ravine must almost have been cut to test the resources of the bridge-builders of America. For it has been their problem to keep the Sixth City from becoming entirely severed by her great water artery. They have solved it by the construction of one huge steel viaduct after another but the West Side remains the West Side and always somewhat jealous of the East. She knows that the great public buildings of Cleveland — that comprehensive civic center plan to which we shall come in a moment — are fixed for all time upon the East. And so when Cleveland decides to build a great new city hall, the West Side demands and receives the finest market house in all the land.

So it is that it is the East Side that your Cleveland man shows you alone when your time is limited, and so it is that Euclid avenue is the one great thoroughfare of the whole East Side.

" If you want to know how we've bobbed up, look at here," the Cleveland man tells you.

You look. A contractor is busy changing a railroad crossing from level to overhead; a much-needed improvement despite the fact that it should have been under surface rather than overhead when you come to consider the traffic that moves through Euclid avenue in all the daylight hours and far into the night.

" When the old Cleveland and Pittsburgh it's part of the Pennsylvania, now was built, thirty-five or forty years ago, they thought they would put the line around the town. But the town was up to their line before they knew it — and they decided ten or a dozen years ago that they would put a suburban station here." He points to a handsome red brick structure of modern architecture. " The Pennsylvania folks are long-headed — almost always. But if they had known that Cleve-land was to become the Sixth City within ten years they never would have put two hundred thousand dollars in a grade crossing station at Euclid avenue. The way we've grown has sort of startled all of us."

Today Euclid avenue is a compactly built thorough fare for miles east of that Pennsylvania railroad crossing. It is at least two miles and a half from that crossing to Cleveland's two great educational lions the Case School of Applied Science and the Western Reserve University and they in turn only mark the beginning of the city's newest and most fashionable residence district.

Indeed Cleveland has " bobbed up." And her growth within the last quarter of a century has been more than physical, more than that recorded by emotionless census-takers. For beneath those grimy old houses on Euclid avenue and the down town residence streets, beneath the roofs of those gray and grimy story-and-a-half wooden houses which line far less pretentious streets for long miles, lies as restless and as hopeful a civic spirit as any town in America can boast. It makes itself manifest in many ways —as we shall see. The man who first brought it into a working force was a resourceful little man who died a little while ago. But before Tom L. Johnson died he was Mayor of the city ; something more; he was the best liked and the best hated man that Cleveland had ever known; and he was better liked than he was hated.

In person a plump little man with a ceaseless smile that might have been stolen from a Raphael cherub, a democratic little man, who knew his fellows and who could read them, almost unfailingly. And the smile could change from softness into severity — when Tom L. Johnson wanted a thing he wanted it mighty hard. And he generally succeeded in getting it. He could not only read men; he could read affairs. He saw Cleve-land coming to be the Sixth City. And he determined that she should realize the dignity of metropolitanism in other fashion than in merely census totals or bank clearances.

Johnson began by going after the street railroad system of the town. He had had some experience in building and operating street railroads in other parts of the country, and he set out along paths that were not entirely unfamiliar to him. It so happened that at the time he began his crusade Cleveland was quite satisfied with her street railroad service. Her residents went out to other cities of the land and bragged about how their big yellow cars ran out to all the far corners of their rapidly growing city. But Johnson was not criticising the service. He was merely saying in his gentle insistent way that five cents was too much for a man to pay to ride upon a street car. He thought three cents was quite enough. The street railroad company quite naturally thought differently. In every other town in the land five cents was the standard fare, and any Cleveland man could tell you how much better the car-service was at home. That company produced vast tables of statistics to prove its contentions. Tom L. Johnson merely laughed at the statistics and reiterated that three cents was a sufficient street-car fare for Cleveland.

The details of that cause celιbre are not to be recited here. It is enough here to say that Tom L. Johnson lived long enough to see three-cent fares upon the Cleve-land cars, and that the conclusion was not reached until a long and bitter battle had been fought. The conclusion itself as it stands today is interesting. The owners of the street railroad stock, the successors of the men who invested their money on a courageous gamble that Cleveland was to grow into a real city are assured of a legitimate six percent upon their stock. They cannot expect more. If the railroad earns more than that fixed six percent its fares must be reduced. If, on the other hand, it fails to earn six percent the fares must be raised sufficiently to permit that return. The fare steps are simple, a cent at a time, with a cent being charged for a transfer, or a transfer being furnished free as best may meet the income need of the railroad.

At present the fare is three cents, transfers being furnished free. A little while ago the fare was three cents, a cent being charged for the transfer. That brought an unnecessarily high revenue to the railroad, and so today while the conductor who issues you a transfer gravely charges you a cent for it, the con ductor who accepts it, with equal gravity, presents you a cent in return for it. This prevents the transfers being used as stationery or otherwise frivoled away. For, while the street car system of Cleveland is among the best operated in America, it is also one of the most whimsical. Its cars are proof of that. Some of them are operated on the so-called "pay-as-you-enter " principle, although Cleveland, which has almost a passion for abbreviation, calls them the " paye " cars. These cars are still a distinct novelty in most of our cities. In Cleveland they are almost as old as Noah's Ark compared with a car in which you pay as you leave — a most sensible fashion — or a still newer car in which you can pay as you enter or pay as you leave — a choice which you elect by going to one end or the other of the vehicle.

But the fact remains that Cleveland has three-cent fares upon her excellent street railroad system, to say nothing of having control over her most important utility, the street railroad, which pays six percent dividends to its owners. The three-cent fare seems standard in Cleveland. In fact, she is becoming a three-cent city. Small shops make attractive offers at that low figure, and " three-cent movies " are springing up along her streets. She has already gone down to Washington and demanded that the Federal government issue a three cent piece to meet her peculiar needs. So does the spirit of Tom L. Johnson still go marching on.

It must have been the spirit of Tom L. Johnson that gave Cleveland a brand-new charter in this year of Grace, 1913. Into this new charter have been written many things that would have been deemed impossible in the charter of a large American city even a decade ago. Initiative and referendum, of course— Johnson and his little band of faithful followers were not satisfied until they had gone to Columbus a few winters ago and written that into the new constitution of the state of Ohio — a department of public welfare to regulate everything from the safety and morals of " three-cent movies " to the larger questions of public health and even of public employment, the very sensible short ballot, and even the newest comer in our family of civic reforms the preferential ballot, although at the time that this is being written it is being sharply contested in the high courts at Columbus. Cleveland rejected the commission form of government. The fact that a good many other progressive American towns have accepted it, did not, in her mind, weigh for or against it. She has never been a city of strong conventions witness her refusal to regard the five cent fare as standard, simply because other towns had it. Neither has tradition been permitted to warp her course. A few years ago her citizens decided that her system of street names was not good enough or expansive enough for a town that was entering the metropolitan class. So she changed most of her street names almost in the passing of a night. In most American towns that would have been out of the question. Folk cling to street names almost as they cling to family traditions. But Cleveland folk seemed to realize instantly that the new system of numbered cross-streets — with the broad diagonal highways named " roads "— after the fashion of some English cities — was so far the best that she immediately gave herself to the new scheme with heart and soul, as seems to be her way.

To tell of a splendid new charter adopted, of the control gained over her chief utility and necessity, of the progressive social reforms that she houses, is not alone to tell of the splendid heart and soul that beats within the walls and roofs of her houses. It is, quite as much, to tell of a remarkable cooperation, remarkable when you consider that Cleveland has become a city of more than six hundred thousand humans. That cooperation may best be illustrated by a single incident :

A retail dealer in hardware recently opened a fine new store out in Euclid avenue. He opened it as some small cities might open their new library or their new city hall — with music and a reception. His friends sent great bouquets of flowers, the concerns from which he bought his supplies sent more flowers ; but the biggest bunch of flowers came from the men who were his competitors in the same line of business. That was Cleve-land — Cleveland spirit, Cleveland generosity. Perhaps that is the secret of Cleveland success.

One thing more — the plan for the Cleveland civic center. For the Sixth City having set her mental house in order is to build for it a physical house of great utility and of compelling beauty. You may have heard of the Cleveland civic plan. It is in the possibility that you have not, that we bring it in for a final word. When Cleveland set out to obtain a new Federal Post Office and Court House for herself, a few years ago, it came to her of a sudden that she was singularly lacking in fine public buildings. It was suggested that she should seek for herself not only a Federal building but a new Court House and City Hall as well. In the same breath it was proposed that these be brought into a beautiful and a practical group. It was an attractive suggestion. In the fertile soil of Cleveland attractive suggestions take quick root. And so in Cleveland was born the civic center idea that has spread almost like the proverbial wildfire all the way across the land.

To create her civic group she moved in a broad and decisive fashion. She engaged three of the greatest of American architects A. W. Brunner, John M. Carrere, D. H. Burnham two of them poets and idealists, the third almost the creator of America's most utilitarian type of building, the modern skyscraper. To these men she gave a broad and unlocked path. And they created for her, along a broad Mall stretching from Superior street to the very edge of that mighty cliff that over-looks the lake, a plan for the housing of her greatest functions.

It is not too much that Cleveland should dream of this Mall as an American Place de la Concorde. It was not too much when the architects breathed twenty millions of dollars as the possible cost of this civic dream. Cleveland merely breathed " Go ahead," and the architects have gone ahead. The Post Office and the new County Building are already completed and in use, the City Hall should be completed before 1915 comes to take his place in the history of the world. Other buildings are to follow, not the least of them a new Union station - although there will be travelers who will sincerely regret the passing of Cleveland's stout old stone station, whose high-vaulted train-shed seemed to them in boyhood days to be the most lofty and wonderful of apartments. The bulk of this new open square is yet to be cleared of the many buildings that today occupy it. But that is merely a detail in the development of Cleveland's greatest architectural ambition.

The civic group can never be more than the outward expression of the ambitious spirit of a new giant among the metropolitan cities of America. As such it can be eminently successful. It can speak for the city whose civic heart it becomes, proclaiming her not merely great in dollars or in the swarming throngs of her population, but rather great in strength of character, in charity, in generosity — in all those admirable things that go to make a town preeminently good and great. And in these things your Cleveland man will not proclaim his as the Sixth City, but rather as in the front rank of all the larger communities of the United States.

Personality Of American Cities:
Steel's Great Capital Pittsburgh

Cleveland The Sixth City

Chicago And The Chicagoans

Twin Cities St. Paul Minneapolis

Gateway Of The Southwest St. Louis

New Orleans The Old French Lady Of The Riverbank

San Antonio The City Of The Little Squares

Denver The American Paris

Portland - Seattle - Tacoma

San Francisco — The Newest Phoenix

Read More Articles About: Personality Of American Cities

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