In designing this building it was my intention to echo the energy of rock and roll. I have consciously used an architectural vocabulary that is bold and new, and I hope the building will become a dramatic landmark for the city of Cleveland and for fans of rock and roll around the world.
– I.M. Pei, architect of The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum
Rock and roll in Cleveland
When I found out I was going to Cleveland for a business trip, I asked myself, “What is in Cleveland?” I was too busy to do any research before I left, but once I landed, my cab drivers and the concierge at my downtown hotel were quick to point out The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum (1100 Rock and Roll Boulevard, Cleveland, OH, 44114, 216.781.7625), which wasn’t very far from where I was staying. I scratched my head. In Cleveland? How did that come to be?
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Foundation was founded in April 1983 by Atlanta Records founder and chairman Ahmet Ertegun. Ertegun and his assembled team began inducting artists in 1986 but the hall of fame did not have a permanent venue. Various cities lobbied to be the new home, including Detroit, Memphis, Cincinnati, and New York City, all of which had famous record studios and obvious ties to rock and roll music. Cleveland’s claims were legitimate ones – WJW disc jockey Alan Freed coined the term “rock and roll” and heavily promoted the emerging genre and the first major rock and roll concert – Freed’s Moondog Coronation Ball – was held in Cleveland. Furthermore, its radio station WMMS helped bolster the early careers of several artists in the U.S. in the 1970s and 1980s, including Bruce Springsteen and David Bowie, who began his first U.S. tour in Cleveland. The city pledged $65 million in public funds to build it, 600,000 fans signed a petition to locate it in Cleveland, and in a 1986 USA Today poll, respondents overwhelmingly chose Cleveland. Who knew?
So there you have it. The pyramid-shaped building is quite striking, designed by architect I.M. Pei, and sits on the shore of Lake Erie, facing the downtown skyline, in the city’s nicely redeveloped North Coast Harbor. Six levels house tons of memorabilia. Given my time constraint, I whizzed through, but you could literally spend a day there, reading all the signs and admiring the instruments, music sheets, costumes, and more. A couple of theaters show this year’s inductees to the Hall of Fame, as well as a permanent exhibit called the Mystery Train, which chronicles the history of rock and roll. If you’re a Rolling Stones fan, you can fully appreciate a very packed, as in artifacts and information, exhibit, “Rolling Stones: 50 Years of Satisfaction.” It’s a fun place and worth a visit, but plan for at least half a day if not longer. Expect to be overwhelmed and dizzy by the end of your time there.
Vintage love in Cleveland
The Cleveland Shop (6511 Detroit Avenue, Cleveland, 44102, 216.228.9725), a quality vintage, period costume rental, and consignment shop is the city’s oldest vintage shop. It opened its doors in 1979, but recently moved to its current location, in the west side of the city in Gordon Square. Voted Cleveland’s “best vintage,” the shop is well curated and nicely organized. The racks are divided by type of clothing and more importantly by decade. One half of the shop is vintage and the other half is the rental department where you can find your costume for Halloween or a themed party. They carry a big selection, for instance, of white vinyl go-go boots for those wanting to channel Nancy Sinatra from the 1960s and “walk all over” someone! Vintage to the Cleveland Shop is at least 25 years old, and they look for items from 1900 through 1970s, dipping occasionally into the 1980s. It’s definitely a great vintage shop to spend time in at a leisurely pace.
Baseball, good food, buildings with character
If I had fully thought out my trip, I would have stayed an extra night and flown to Raleigh, N.C., my next business destination on Wednesday. Why? The Cleveland Indians were playing tonight and they are in the thick of the American League Wild Card race. They play in a beautiful downtown stadium, Progressive Field – insurance anyone? – that I zipped by about four times in my cab rides in the 27 hours I was in Cleveland. The ballpark, which holds more than 43,000, began construction in 1992. Now that would have been a fun game to watch, especially given that the Indians won, 5-4, and are tied for the two Wild Card slots. I also wish I had time to walk around the downtown area and take artsy photographs of the old buildings and historic statues.
As for culinary experiences, I attended a business dinner at Table 45 Restaurant and Bar at the InterContinental Hotel (9801 Carnegie Avenue, Cleveland, 44106, 216.707.4045). For a hotel restaurant (the hotel is owned by the Cleveland Clinic and is on their campus), the food was very flavorful. Our party of nine shared appetizers – homemade tandoori naan with three dipping sauces, vegetable spring rolls, and an assortment of sushi. For my entrée, I ordered wild caught sockeye salmon and steamed coconut sticky rice wrapped in a banana leaf with Chinese broccoli and Thai glaze. The salmon was a touch dry, but otherwise a nice combination of flavors. I didn’t get a chance to finish my fresh blueberry crisp topped with sweet oatmeal crumb and lemon gelato because by that time everyone was leaving, which was just as well since I was quite satisfied with everything that had come before.
Twenty-seven hours later and I’ve already left Cleveland. Will I ever return? I actually hope so.