Uncategorized, About Cleveland, My blog.

Holden Arboretum’s David G. Leach Research Station.

IMG_20180513_114917In Madison, at the Eastern edge of Lake County, is the David G. Leach Rhododendron Research Station.   Bought by noted rhododendron hybridizer David Leach in 1970, it has been a part of the Holden Arboretum since he donated it in 1987.  This 30 acre parcel is located in a stretch of NE Ohio that’s just perfect for growing rhododendrons.


The main test field.


Two of the test plants.

The guide told the group that it takes 25 years for a plant to go from germination to possibly retail. Leach was able to put 80 of his hybrids on the market, all of which are planted on these grounds.  Along with the display gardens there are test fields and greenhouses where seedlings and larger plants are checked to see which ones have the desirable qualities needed for a plant in today’s home garden.   Steve Krebs, who has been director since Mr. Leach’s death in 1998, has continued with his small team this work.  While Leach focused on plant hardiness, Krebs is working on plants that would be resistant to fungal root rot based on a species plant found in Taiwan.


A tray with the most recently germinated seedlings.

Admission is $10 per person to see the grounds but for Holden members it’s free.  The tours are conducted at set times.


Photographs by James Valentino





A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Another Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180501_124248Already a week ago, I drove up to Catawba and, after an hour wait, hopped on the ferry to Put-n-Bay.  As mentioned in a previous piece for the blog, it happens to be a very popular tourist destination in Ohio and a place I have known for years.  Considering how early in the season it was, I was surprised to see as many people around as there were.  While most of the big eateries are still closed on the weekdays, some were in fact open such as Pasquale’s.  I glanced at their website the night before so when I noticed it while walking past it I decided to stop in for lunch.  It wasn’t a large lunch menu but enough to choose from and they did a good job on the cheeseburger and fries.  The harbor was unusually empty, but then again boats are just starting to get into the water at this time of year.  In fact, as I stood on one of the piers I saw two speedboats come in to join the other three already there.  More were out of the water, many with fishermen trying to catch walleye since this is the season to do so.   I have a hunch that Put-n-Bay Harbor will be all filled up by Memorial Day and the place will be like tourists expect it to be.


Inside Pasquale’s.

Considering I haven’t done much recently on the blog, I am surprised that so far it has received this month 28 views.  That’s pretty good considering.  Between the job, the house, the three ring circus called the Mueller and Cohen Investigations, and events like a Democratic Club Dinner in a place called Lake County, there is so little time to sit down and think about a subject for a piece that may be good enough to be published in a magazine but the editors never will.  However, this is not the end of the blog by a long shot.


Downtown Put-n-Bay looking towards the Perry Monument in the distance.

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

Demolishing the CIA.


The former Cleveland Institute of Art building on East Blvd.

Last week, I spotted on Twitter a tweet about what will be on the agenda for that week’s Cleveland Planning Commission meeting.  The thing that stuck out for me was not just seeing the request for grants for the East 185th St./Marcella sewer project (and a permit to demolish a building next to the LaSalle Theater for what I hope is more parking) but something at University Circle.  It’s official, they now plan to demolish the old Gund Building on East Boulevard that was home to the CIA.  Now, for all those who don’t live on the North Coast, CIA can also mean the Cleveland Institute of Art which sold this building to the Art Museum and CWRU when it moved everything to their new facilities on Euclid Avenue a few years back.

Naturally, I have many memories connected to the 1956 building.  Not only did I take a painting class there but I was there practically every weekend because of the Cleveland Cinematheque which I was a strong supporter of.  I knew practically every inch of that building.  In fact, the drawings and proposals in the basement done by its industrial design students helped inspire me to write a piece a few years back on the fate of the Design District proposed by one of its’ instructors, Dan Cuffaro, for the are around Playhouse Square.

While the new Institute of Art Building is very nice, it’s still not the same for me.  Not only have I not gone to a Cinematheque show in months but when there I only see the main lobby and atrium.  Everything else seems hidden away.  As for the old building soon to be demolished for a park, I’ve walked past it at least a dozen times this year heading to other places.  It does look forlorn and you can see it’s been vacant for a long time.


Another view.

Things keep changing.


Photographs by James Valentino.


A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Uncategorized

Easter Saturday at Wojtila’s Bakery; A Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180331_091838I came across this bakery in Euclid, Ohio, almost 20 years ago when I was chair of a coffee and pastry committee at ‘the job’ and heard about this from someone I don’t recall.  For about seven years each Friday morning I would drive over to Wojtila’s on East 222nd Street and pick up a dozen or so doughnuts, miniature potica rolls (Slovenian nut rolls), and danishes.  It was pretty much a thankless task and I gave up eventually but I did get to meet the people who work there.    I also learned they had wonderful lady locks and at Easter very good egg breads and Daffodil cakes.


Now, what is a daffodil cake?  Originally an Easter tradition made at the old Hough Bakeries, it is an angel food-chiffon cake with white frosting.  The frosting can be flavored either with lemon or pineapple and it was a constant fixture at my Grandma’s Easter breakfast every year after going to church.   Since Hough Bakery closed, more than one bakery (including Heinen’s of all places) have tried to fill the demand.  To me Wojtila’s comes pretty close.

So, this past week I took the time to call and place my order to pick up at around nine in the morning today.  As one would expect it was busy since many other people were coming to pick up their orders as well.  I also got to chat with the owner, Mrs. Wojtila, who used to pick up the phone when I placed those orders for work over a decade ago.  While the original bakery in St. Clair closed years ago, this one and the one they have out in Mentor are still open.  I didn’t ask her how busy the Mentor one gets.


Another Easter is upon us, may everyone who reads the blog have a wonderful one.

Photographs by James Valentino

A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

One More Quick Little Post.

IMG_20180311_115315It’s hard to write on a blog when you have so much else going on.

Recently, I went out to a local garden center to check a few things such as what spring bulbs and seeds have arrived and fertilizer for my spruce tree.  While there, I stopped in their houseplant display room where everything was in bloom.  From potted gardenias with their fragrant white blooms to florist cyclamens and African violets, they were are welcome sight to see right now as my snowdrops try to keep growing despite day temperatures not reaching 40 degrees F.


I have written enough about spring here in Cleveland for all of you who don’t live here to get an idea what it’s like.  Soon places like the garden center will be packed with people buying things for their yards and so will I.


Photographs by James Valentino

A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, My blog., Opinion, Uncategorized

The State of the Neighborhood; A Quick Little Post.


East 185th Street looking North.

While the mayor and his merry band at City Hall figure out how to hire more policeman by the end of this year, I didn’t let this fact stop me from taking a walk down my street this Sunday.  After all, one of the supposed advantages of a Cleveland neighborhood over moving out to the urban fringe is their walk-ability.  On a sunny, almost early March-like Day in January, I took a stroll up to see what was going on with the La Salle Theater.  From the photos you can see how much work has been put into renovating this place.   It’s a great thing that the councilman, and Neighborhood Progress, came up with the money to finish this. While we may not have a street like Pittsburgh’s Walnut in this city, places like East 185th have the potential to do a whole lot more and, right now, it looks like it might just happen.


The La Salle Theater with its’ new marquee.

Then, it was a stop at Gus’ Diner East 185 for lunch.  It wasn’t packed like usual but I just missed most of the lunch crowd and got one of the two booths that were still empty.  As I ate a corned beef sandwich and fries, I continued working on a project of mine that is now 43 pages long.  Some of it does cover what is going on here in North Shore Collinwood and the vast potential this place, and other Cleveland neighborhoods, have.







A few days later, while the national news swirled and buzzed with the unthinkable only two years before, I had to take a long walk home from my mechanic who has a garage off the Shoreway in neighboring Euclid.  Getting back on my street, I had an opportunity to see some of the houses that are for sale or recently had a history of foreclosure, vacancy and neglect.  Just like everywhere else in the city of Cleveland, the streets off of East 185th St. were really hit by the mortgage crisis.  However, for those who follow this blog know, things have stabilized since 2010 and slowing rebounded.   Yesterday I had even more encouragement seeing a new driveway in a Cape Cod that is apparently being renovated.  This is significant because of what I remember as a kid growing up here.  Thirty to Forty years ago, the owner at that time was a woman in her 50s and she had a thing about her lawn.  It seemed like every year she would have it ripped up and re-seeded so it would have that golf putting green look.  I would sit in the back seat of the car my parents were driving and sometimes see her standing on her front lawn.  With her curlers still in her hair and covered by a scarf she would look down at how the germinating lawn was growing.  Flash forward to 2010.  She was already dead by then, the house had a few owners, and by that year was vacant.  The front lawn was not only full of weeds but not even cut.  If by a miracle she came back to see this, the lady probably would have had a fit; just like many of the other old homeowners I remember living up and down Cherokee.  Well, yesterday, for the first time in years, not only was there a new driveway but that Cape Cod looked almost like it used to be.


A Cape Cod with a brand new driveway.

As I finish this so I can watch another State of the Union Address, I think it is fitting I should at least write about this place.  Let’s see what interesting things happen along these streets during this year.


A view of Cherokee Avenue looking West.



Photographs by James Valentino





About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Northeast Shores Membership Meeting.

IMG_20180116_181313For those who read this blog, you may know that the neighborhood I live in has a community development corporation called Northeast Shores.  Yesterday, January 16, 2018, it had their membership meeting at the Collinwood Recreation Center on Lakeshore Blvd.   In a surprisingly full room, local residents, merchants, and representatives of such groups as the Hospice of the Western Reserve learned what has been going on with the local development corporation.  There were elections for new board members, and the candidates got to tell the crowd a little about themselves.  Many of them seemed to have moved to the area in the past decade.  That is an encouraging sign but also means that there were very few people I knew in that room.

Another thing on the agenda was a short speech by the owner of an accounting firm doing their books.  He stood up to tell everyone that they should have their report ready by the next meeting.  It would be interesting to see since Northeast Shores has had to let go most of its’ staff last year and move into space given by the Hospice of the Western Reserve to which the executive director, Camille Maxwell (who became director last year after her controversial predecessor left), is sincerely grateful.

What would a community meeting be without of few words from Mike Polensek?  The councilman gave give everyone the run down on what has been going on in the ward.  while I heard half of it before, such as Cleveland’s police officer shortage, Mike did talk about some of the major projects in the neighborhood such as the ongoing LaSalle Theater renovation and the new Oliver Hazard Perry Elementary School under construction.  He also said a few words about how people should be supporting the development corporations and try to make them as strong as ones elsewhere in the city. Last but not least, the Power Point presentation showing the new marquee of the LaSalle Theater, all lit up at night, drew a lot of applause from the audience.  I can’t wait to see the LaSalle when it’s finished.

Last night was kind of encouraging.  I keep telling people that it’s a toss-up on what’s going on here but there are a lot of committed people who seem to be investing a lot into the future of North Shore Collinwood and that’s wonderful.  Now, if we can City Hall to give us our income tax increase money’s worth this year, as in more police patrols and funds for home repairs for residents, that can be a great boost.

When I drove home, I had to stop at the light at East 185th Street and LaSalle.  There across the street from me was the theater and its’ brand new marquee.  This is something people would notice driving in from Lake County to dine at the Standard or get a beer at the Cleveland Brewery.  It also shows that our development corporation managed to pull this project off and it’s something the staff should be proud of.  So should Councilman Polensek.  There will be more news about the neighborhood to come.


Photographs taken by James Valentino