One question that arises with the preservation of a historic building is: how will the now-impossible-to-demolish building be used?
Will it be some sort of visitors’ center with plaques and informative trifold brochures? Expensive lofts? Or perhaps awkwardly retrofitted office space? In the case of the Cleveland Trust Rotunda, a novel answer was concocted: let’s turn it into a grocery store.
The building itself was completed in 1908 and has a history and architectural pedigree befitting a landmarked structure. It was built by the Cleveland Trust Company, a bank which grew with Cleveland’s early-20th-century prosperity to be one of the largest banks in the United States (and, notably, one of the first American banks to feature branch locations). It was designed by architect George B. Post, who also designed the New York Stock Exchange, the Wisconsin State Capitol, and the Manufactures and Liberal Arts building at the Chicago World’s Fair. The interior murals were painted by Francis Davis Millet, a popular American artist at the time who later perished on the Titanic. The building features an 61-foot-diameter, 85-foot-high rotunda topped with a Tiffany-style stained glass dome. It is, in other words, a significant and remarkably beautiful building.
Notable even in its time as a grand and richly decorated bank headquarters, the Cleveland Trust Rotunda served as the company’s central branch for decades through the 1970s when the bank forced the city of Cleveland into default. It ultimately fell out of use as a commercial facility and closed its doors in 1996. Attempts by Cuyahoga County to convert it into county offices proved abortive, and plans to tear it down (prior to landmark designation) proved too expensive. Thus, the building sat empty for almost two decades.
However, as reurbanization brought more residents back to downtown Cleveland, and the adjacent Brutalist tower (which was also a Cleveland Trust building) was converted into a modern high-rise apartment buildings Cleveland-based grocery chain Heinen’s saw an opportunity and, in 2015, opened their first downtown location in the old Cleveland Trust Rotunda.
Instead of teller windows, meat, fish, and hot deli cases now ring the rotunda. Additionally, seating for “Heinen’s Global Grill” can be found under the exquisite stained glass dome. Thus, downtown Clevelanders now have an architectural jewel of a grocery store, and the Cleveland Trust Rotunda is open and accessible to the public once again.