Cleveland Centre ~Cracking the Code

g.US Map 1833~ pre-electric


Daniel Rothenfeld, April 21, 2016

Hidden in Cleveland’s back yard lies the Cleveland Centre landmark of 1833. A surveying marvel of the 19th century it placed Cleveland within the center of America’s post-revolutionary epic expansion. Dedicated in 1833 by a consortium of prominent civic entrepreneurs including Cleveland’s first mayor John W. Willey and City Council president, Richard Hilliard, the strategic infrastructure improvement was developed to accomplish several priorities providing legitimacy in public affairs and economic development.

Rediscovering the legacy of our forbearers, Cleveland Centre rises again. Just as the 1833 plan offered a solution for Cleveland to develop into a cosmopolitan metropolis, the authentic road radius network illuminates how Cleveland can awaken its core and re-zip the East/West divide enticing new investment. Revealing the commanding placement, the coherence emanates, unifying Cleveland’s urban vision.

In 1796 Moses Cleaveland surveyed a Euclidian Grid imposing a New England town square in the Western Reserve frontier for real estate speculation. By 1833 the Cleveland village had five thousand residents. As population spread out between East and West side settlements on the Cuyahoga River, “Public Square” was not adequate to provide unity for the city, divided by growth and demanding a greater order.

Breaking from the past, the Cleveland Centre Plan encompassed the Columbus Peninsula, fostering the idea of circulation to develop a lateral route across the river valley. Dedicated with the Ohio Erie Canal, the Centre established Columbus Road as the N/S axis in the environment. Originating dynamically from its midsection, the centerpiece division named “Gravity Place” astronomically fixed its hub on the rising and setting sun. From this central relationship Cleveland’s true point zero appears, a still point in the movement of time. At this midpoint a sunburst pattern of streets fanned westward across the peninsula creating interior allotments intended for residential and commercial growth. Streets named for various migrating nationalities ~Russia, China, German, English French~ bisected roads named for the seasons. A Symbol of Hope, penetrating barriers of language, as kinship with nature and productivity were linked.

Ten years after Cleveland Centre and the Canal were established, Cleveland population zoomed to 20 thousand. Railroads, a cheaper source of transport moved in. Taking the path of least resistance, tracks followed the low-lying lakeshore and rivers edge routes. Cleveland Centre streets became active rail yards, erasing the west end of the peninsula, altering the road radius circulation. All land uses remained except for residential, driven away by industrial growth. For the next 180 years, without the critical circulation function the organizing principle of Cleveland Centre was forgotten.

Giving way to cars, life in the central city declined ironically preserving Cleveland Centre from further land use development. The area has not been gentrified or totally bulldozed, as a result key elements and iconographic influence remain.

Today, under the shadow of the Federal Courthouse this southwest corner of downtown is a neglected urban landscape yet tantalizing features of Cleveland Centre are everywhere dotting the pathways and streets. From Public Square it’s a ten-minute walk to Columbus Road. Initially relieved to locate a few triangular buildings at Gravity Place, indicated on the map of 1833, with trains, light industry and recreation inhabiting the plan, parking and Impound lots now substitute historic areas. Land uses like residential disassociated from the original Centre represent the opportunity to rescue Cleveland’s founding heritage.

The rediscovery of Cleveland Centre is a significant find. In such an initial theme exists the cue, providing a higher aim of comprehensiveness to our perception and state of being. Knitting the divided radius together again, the road construct becomes reactivated extending the west end of Fall Street between the Rowing Club, Skateboard Court and Merwins Warf Restaurant parking areas to Columbus Road. The crucial reconnection puts points back together and associated networks reappear, fitting the Canal Basin/Tow path trail redevelopment plan with existing land uses, returning circulation, coordinated function and intentional purpose.

Placed within the larger tradition of American Transcendentalism the Centre Landmark is a genuine symbol of cosmic scale allowing heaven and earth to meet. Experienced on the spot the sensation is the sensation of time converging toward the present. Holding life in this total vision is in its essence the truest human deed. A place of collective pride for stimulating growth and economic prosperity, these are the influences inherited by the Cleveland Centre of 1833 based on the space-time extension, gathering multiplicity into unity at our center.

daniel rothenfeld



Design Activist ~ providing inspired creative through critical analysis and planning. Conceptual development imparting new trends transforming perception with meaningful solutions and provocative design.

Originality in contemporary brand strategy, fine art, public art, urban planning and design.

Planning and Design

Rothenfeld Studio LLC, Cleveland Ohio 1984-Present

- Collinwood Recreation Center; “GO” mural, 2011
- Baseball Heritage Museum; League Park, Creative Director, 2014
- Cleveland Clinic Foundation; Distinguished Service Awards, 2001-15
- NEORSD: Current Activator Water Wall: Geo. McMonagle Building, 2003 - Cleveland Clinic Foundation: 21st Century Donor Wall, 2000
- University of Akron: Century Rock Monument, 1991

Ø Museums, Exhibitions, Collections

  • -  Heller Gallery, New York City

  • -  Belkin Collection, Huntington West, VA

  • -  Cleveland Museum of Art/ Glass Today, Cleveland, OH

  • -  Spaces, Un-reconciled Passion, Cleveland, OH

  • -  Great Northern Corporate Art Center

  • -  American Craft Museum, “A Decade of Craft," NYC

  • -  Glas Kanazawa '90, Kanazawa, Japan

  • -  Holsten Galleries Invitational, Stockbridge, MA

  • -  Nielsen Gallery, Stockholm, Sweden

  • -  Sothebys, The Creative Glass Cent of America, NYC

  • -  Reily Hawk Galleries, Cleveland, Ohio

  • -  Wheaton Village Collection, Millville, NJ

  • -  Royal Danish Collection, Copenhagen, DK

  • -  Corning Glass/New Glass Exhibit, Corning, NY

  • -  Spaces, Premiere exhibition event, Cleveland, OH

    Ø Academic Lectures, Workshops and Teaching:

- - - - - -

Oberlin College, Oberlin Ohio, 2014-15
Arts Collinwood, “Artful Endeavor” Public Art lecture, 2010 Ursuline College, Adjunct Professor, Pepper Pike, OH, 2007 St. Joe University, Tampa, FL, 2006
Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 2000–05
Kent State University, Kent, OH, 1978

Principal Partner: New Museum Art Gallery, East 4th Street, Cleveland Ohio 1996-1997

Art Director

Sampson/Carnegie Company Advertising Agency, Cleveland, Ohio 1993-03, full time 2003- part time

Ø Development of agency creative and added 18% to new business accounts. Ø Team member on agency marketing strategy, copy, print, video production Ø Research marketing communications opportunities for client accounts


DESIGN ACTIVISM: Planning, Design, Fine Arts


Ø Opportunity Corridor, Public Park right-of-way proposal, Cleveland Ohio, 2014
Ø Amusement Park proposal, St Clair Corridor, Levin Collage of Urban Affairs, 2014 Ø Gurdjieff Foundation of Ohio- (GFO) “Seeker of Truth” event book, 2011
Ø “Spirited Vision” Painting and Notes, self-published book, 2014
Ø Arts Collinwood, advisory board, 2007 to 2012
Ø Carpe Diem, Solo art exhibit, Dante, Cleveland, Ohio, 2010
Ø Lakefront Station/North Coast Bridge proposal, CUDC Cleveland, Ohio, 2010
Ø “Unbelievable” H.S. Goldring memoir, creative direction. 2010
Ø Cleveland Collective, E.93 St. expressway redevelopment proposal, 2010
Ø “Assemblage:” benefit Arts Collinwood, Cleveland, Ohio 2009
Ø RTA, Shaker Station proposal, Shaker Heights, Ohio, 2009
Ø “Up to Now,” 30 year retrospect, Arts Collinwood, Cleveland, Ohio, 2006
Ø Baseball Heritage Museum, installation, Colonial Marketplace, Cleveland, 2005-13 Ø Nature Center Dike 14, proposal, Cleveland Foundation, Cleveland, 2004
Ø Gray's Armory/Civil War Museum proposal, Cleveland Foundation. Cleveland 2004 Ø Shaker Blvd. Transit corridor concept proposal, Cleveland Foundation, 2004
Ø Future Search, Bratenahl Village, green space team leader, Bratenahl, 2003
Ø Lakefront Development Plan, Proposal, 2001
Ø Observation Tower proposal, Colonial Marketplace, 1999
Ø E4th St. Cleveland “Arcade” street lighting concept proposal, 1999
Ø Cleveland Film Festival, Tower City opening event design, 1994
Ø RTA Station, Hopkins Airport expansion model, 1992
Ø Playhouse Square, Euclid Ave. Performance Park proposal, 1992
Ø Society Center, Project planning committee, CRS, 1991
Ø Curator, Square to Square Mural Painting Projects, 1984-1994
Ø Century Rock Monument, Buctal Common, University of Akron, 1991
Ø Amusement Park in the Flats proposal, 1990, 2000
Ø Geodesic Dome proposal, Nautica Stage, 1989
Ø Murray Hill Arts Walk, founder Cleveland, 1986
Ø Ohio Arts Council Fellowship Award, 1986
Ø Cuyahoga Building, adaptive reuse proposal (WRHS library), 1979

Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University, MUPDD, 2014 Civic Innovation Lab, Weatherhead School, CWRU, Cleveland, 2004

Master of Fine Arts
Kent State University, Kent Ohio, 1984

Bachelor of Fine Arts
Rhode Island School of Design, Providence, Rhode Island, 1977 

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Volume 1, Issue 2, Posted 9:20 PM, 05.10.2016