About Cleveland, Uncategorized

The Jazz Age: American Style in the 20s.


Exhibition sign featuring Josephine Baker.

Over the years, the Cleveland Museum of Art has held many world-class exhibitions such as Monet in Normandy and Pharoh: King of Ancient Egypt to delight area patrons.  This holiday season is no different.  The Jazz Age: American Style in the 20s is going on right now in the Kelvin and Eleanor Smith Foundation Hall.   There are over 300 pieces in the show, which, as Mark Mezoros wrote for the News Herald, is done in collaboration with the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum in New York City.  It was so good that I went twice.



A skyscraper themed desk from the 20’s.


One of the displays.

One of the things that strikes the visitor is how French American Art Deco Style was at the time.  Names like Ruhlmann, Franck, Lalique, Cartier and, of course, Chanel meet the eye among the jewelry, furniture, gowns, and even cars on display.  After all Paris was still the art center of the world at the time, and Americans were the ones with the money. Many had no qualms boarding the Paris or the Ile de France to see the City of Light for themselves.  In return, many Parisian designers, artists, and intellectuals (let’s not also forget the cafe owners with a full bar), were fascinated by America, be it New York City skyscrapers to Josephine Baker and it relected in their work. However, the show also features pieces from American artists and even Bauhaus and the Vienna Workshop so it’s more eclectic than it sounds.


An original Chanel No. 5 bottle and case.


One of the exhibition rooms in the Exhibition.







The show runs through January 14, 2018 so there is plenty of time to head down to University Circle and see this visual delight.



Photographs taken by James Valentino

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

Yum Yum Sweet Shop: A Quick Little Post



The front entrance to Yum Yum Sweet Shop in Peninsula Ohio.

One thing about driving down to Peninsula Ohio in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park is that parking is hard to come by.  With all the people who come down there to walk the towpath trail, rent a bike, or stop in some of the shops, I usually wind up driving through or parking too far to really feel like seeing what’s in those houses lining Route 303.  Well, Saturday, I was lucky enough to get the last empty space on the street and stopped at finally the Yum Yum Sweet Shop which is located just a few doors down from the Winking Lizard.  It was a good thing too because right next to the front door was  a sign stating that the place is moving soon to Cuyahoga Falls.







There was everything for a sweet tooth there from the standard candy bars you were to find at your drug store to those that have become had to come by here, like the Clark bars that I wound up buying.   There was also homemade chocolates on display, gourmet ice cream and popcorn, and different types of soda pop drinks you would not see in your office vending machine.


Yum Yum Sweet Shop in its’ current building.

The owner plans to move to a new place on Front Street in downtown Cuyahoga Falls next to a new ice cream parlor that someone she knows is going to open.  It will be a “sweet corner” as she puts it and said that she would have a lot more varieties of candies to choose from over there for customers to be tempted with.  I would argue that a place like this would also be a really nice addition to the Cleveland scene; say a shop on East 185th Street for example?  We can always dream….


What was brought home.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.



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

Happy Holidays, and all that.

Thanksgiving 2017 has come and gone that the Christmas shopping season is officially here.

While others may be driving all over NE Ohio to stand in line for deals that may not be there at prices that would probably be lower on December 27th, I am here typing a quick little post unrelated to many of the themes of this blog.  In fact, since I wrote about the Ohio Land Bank Conference a few months back, I really haven’t had the time or, shall we say inspiration, to write a carefully researched piece for this site.  I am thankful that a few people actually keep looking at this blog.  So far, 107 views have occurred this month and that’s something.  I am also thankful that my new furnace is running in the basement, the new roof on the garage prevented anymore leaks when there has been rain, and a little bit of snow, and I managed to have found the money to pay for both (at least on an installment plan).  There are other things to ponder….

Dana Milbank in his latest op-ed piece for the Washington Post (Dear Sarah Huckabee Sanders: I’m thankful that Trump has failed) puts it down so succinctly what I feel so far about this year with Donald Trump as president.  I hope and pray that one year from now I’ll be thankful for a whole lot more; such as the Democrats winning back the Senate, the Mueller investigation leading to some individuals going to jail, and a lot more of those relatives and acquaintances of mine who voted for Trump last year get buyer’s remorse and realize what a disastrous decision their vote has been.  Locally, I am thankful that Councilman Michael D. Polensek received ninety percent of the vote in his ward and won another term.

Enough with the politics.

I am hopeful, instead of thankful, that property values continue to increase no matter how slowly, in North Shore Collinwood and more people move in and fix up houses like I see they are doing.  I hope that Mayor Frank Jackson uses the money from the one percent income take hike we voted for last November hire hundreds, and not just 65 like this year, more policemen to make all of Cleveland’s neighborhoods safer.  I hope that the LaSalle Theater, whose renovation is almost finished, will be a catalyst for even more investment on East 185th Street so and be a launching pad for all those plans to redevelop the street that I attended meetings for a couple of years back.

On a more personal note, I am also hopeful that, next spring, an organization or publisher would take a look at this project of mine that I have been working the past couple of months.  Not only that, it would be hopeful to see that, instead of them sending an email a month after I submitted it saying “thank you for your interest be we decided it’s not a good fit” they would say “this is wonderful, can we publish it?”  Of course, that’s way too early to say if the odds are good or not for that to happen.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year, Happy Holidays and all that.



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

Election 2017; A Quick Little Post.


The Slovenian Workers’ Home for the Ward Eight Election Party.

Another election day is winding down and I am back from Ward 8 Councilman Michael D. Polensek’s party at the Slovenian Workers’ Home on Holmes Avenue.   As we all told him, the councilman had no problem beating his opponent and earned another term.  Cuyahoga County Councilman Anthony Hairston as was winning last time I saw on the television by a large margin.  This is great because, not only do I think he would make a very good councilman for that ward but he is easily beating the previous councilman there; and the reason why in the last redrawing of the city wards things got so messed up in the Northeast Corner of the city.   However, the biggest surprise is the low voter turn out in the city as a whole.  Mike told me around eight o’clock it was 26 percent and that included absentee ballots like mine.  It’s possible that the numbers changed since then but it does seem that the vast majority of eligible voters in the city of Cleveland just didn’t get out to vote.

On the other hand, what has happened tonight in Virginia is wonderful for a Democrat like myself.  The nine-point lead Ralph Northam had over Ed Gillespie is as significant as what the talking heads on the news are now saying.  If this is a harbinger of things to come in 2018, and the Democrats come up with a strong message and real proposals, then there will be some hope.


Photograph taken by James Valentino


A Quick Little Post, About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

Thoughts on the Neighborhood: A Quick Little Post.


House currently for sale off of East 185 St.

Tonight, as I still contemplate why someone smashed two glass panes on my front porch door last night, I return to thoughts about this neighborhood on the Northeast side of Cleveland.  Two days in a row last week I had conversations with different people regarding the place we live in.  On that Tuesday, at my local block watch meeting, a guy who lives on my street seemed rather pessimistic.  A neighbor of ours recently sold his house and moved out.  The man at the meeting said that the couple wanted to move out a year ago but had to fix up the house first.  Then we talked about the guy across the street from him selling his house and the fact that as he walked around the Indian streets in our neighborhood he hasn’t seen as much junk in the yards in his entire time living here.  Of course, the couple that moved had a school age son and, like so many before them, wanted him to attend something better than Cleveland Public Schools.  In fact, their house sold for almost $69,000 which is in fact a good sign.  While homes averaged here $100,000 in 2000, they plummeted to the point that in 2010 they were going for $24,000.  One can argue the effects of panic selling and the mortgage melt-down have for the most part vanished.  As for the junk, and the rarely mowed lawns at certain houses that I remember once as impeccably landscaped, I admit it’s true.  However, I have also seen houses with new porches, paint jobs, and people living there.

The next day, October 11 2017, as I was leaving my ward club meeting on Holmes Avenue in the neighborhood to our south, I had a good chat with Mike Troha who was for years a building inspector and also a long-time resident.  He hasn’t been so optimistic about North Shore Collinwood today than in the past twenty years.  He has also noticed homes being fixed up and that young couples as well as empty nesters were moving in places other than north of Lakeshore Boulevard.  “Even around 185 St, and Nottingham Road?” I asked him and he said yes.  So, you see, two days and two different views from two different men living in the same place.

This is what you get for living in a place that is considered a tipping point neighborhood.  All major cities have them, especially in the Rust Belt.  These are places where they can be the settings for major revitalization, or shortly become the empty wastelands that are so many other inner-city neighborhoods dominated by empty lots.  I can honestly say that we are a far cry from the latter, but as this act of vandalism to my porch door shows, there are issues.  We have to keep it real, after all even suburban communities in Lake County have their problems.  It would be nice to get away from it all but can everyone afford to live in Hudson or Avon (or Carmel California for that matter)?   Besides, as I see the new railings being put on the the porches of the duplex next to me, I do agree in part with all those people who these days say that this is such a great neighborhood and give it a few years to really take off.


The La Salle Theater currently under renovation.

Tuesday this week, I stopped after work at the Slovenian Worker’s Home on Waterloo Road where there was a spaghetti dinner.  It was  fundraiser for our councilman, Michael D. Polensek, who is up for re-election this year.  Anyway, I ran into the neighbor who I talked to last Tuesday.  The first words out of his mouth was his pleasant surprise seeing all the work being done on that duplex next to me. “They are really going to town” he said.  I also learned tonight that the cousin of Polensek’s assistant bought a house on East 174 St. for $5,000 and is renovating it.  It happens to be an Arts and Crafts style home and from previous conversations, I knew that they plan to live in it.  Seems like Mike Troha was right after all.



The Fishing Pier at Villa Angela Beach.

Photographs by James Valentino.

About Cleveland, Community and Economic Development, Uncategorized

The Ohio Land Bank Conference.

The Seventh Annual Ohio Land Bank Conference was held Monday through Wednesday September 11th through the 13th at the Crown Plaza Hotel in downtown Cleveland.   Presented by the Thriving Communities Program of the Western Reserve Land Conservancy, members of 46 Land Banks throughout the State of Ohio, along with many others, met for two days of seminars, networking, and speeches.


Crown Plaza Hotel at Playhouse Square.

The keynote speaker of the event was former Ohio Treasurer (and current head of the Consumer Protection Bureau) Richard Cordray who stopped in for Lunch on his way to the West Coast.  While his aid was coy about whether or not he was going to run for governor, her boss sure delivered what was in effect a campaign speech.  The one comment of his that stuck out was that, when it comes to delinquent properties; “There’s no fixing until someone comes in the fix them.”  That’s where the Land Banks come in.


Jim Rokakis and Richard Cordray (right) smile for the camera.

There were seminars as well, at an extra cost, on location mobile workshops for those interested in getting out of the hotel and into the area. Cleveland’s Buckeye Neighborhood: A Case Study in Comprehensive Community Redevelopment and Rid All Green Partnership Growing Food, Jobs and Green Neighborhoods.  The one that intrigued me the most was the one done by Ian Beniston and Tiffany Sokol; the Executive Director of the Youngstown Development Corporation (YNDC).  They have managed without Federal subsidies or tax credits, to repurpose vacant houses in that city, sell them to permanent homeowners, and in the process increase the property values in ‘tipping point’ neighborhoods.  Last year, the YNDC rehab bed 23 homes.  The vast majority who work on the rehabs are local residents; laborers, electricians, etc., and they use Facebook to market them.  The average day a house is on the market is 2 days, compared to a 9 month average for homes in Youngstown as a whole.  Another interesting fact is that the deed requires the purchaser to occupy the house for at least five years.


Terry Schwarz, the director of Kent State’s Cleveland Urban Design Collaborative, was prominent in two seminars at the Conference. In Rehab Strategies for Vacant Properties, she joined a panel that included Kathleen Crowther of the Cleveland Restoration Society on showing what can be done to rehab vacant properties.  The main market challenge is ensuring true equity and quality of work on a project as well as establishing worth. In other words, after they rehab a house will it help raise property values on that street?  Their look at the historic Scofield Mansion I found particularly interesting. Built in 1898 by Cleveland architect Levi Scofield, it was abandoned by 1997 and after complications involving the Cleveland Housing Court wound up with the County Land Bank who in turn gave it to the Restoration Society.  With donated services, it was able to do some stabilizing work on the property, such as cleaning out rooms and doing much needed masonry repair. The plan is to completely restore the mansion to it’s former glory.  It will be interesting to see the final results.  Ms. Schwarz was also in the Vacancy and Climate Resilience Seminar where she joined Nicholas Rajkovich in showing how cities can use their vacant parcels for storm water management, green space, and reforestation programs.


Nicholas Rajkovich and Terry Schwarz at their presentation.

Working Together, how to revitalize our neighborhoods was presented by Summit Land Bank head Patrick Bravo and the Director of Planning and Urban Development for the city of Akron,, Jason Segedy (who I remembered from a Building One Ohio Conference a few years back).  They don’t want to do Hunter Morrison’s “Shrinking Cities Thing,” as they called it.  Instead, they want Akron to grow.  In 2016, they did a Market Analysis study for the city and many neighborhoods are ‘too affordable’.  However, one=quarter of the city’s neighborhoods (like around Stan Hywet Hall) are competing very well in the real estate market.


A view of the ballroom at lunch, September 12, 2017.

When I asked him in a subsequent email, Jim Rokakis replied that he hoped the attendees got something truly beneficial from the conference.  “I wanted them to see best practices of other land banks around the state of Ohio,” he wrote back, ” I wanted them to share ideas.  I wanted them to help us chart a course going forward.  When we do this, and this is our seventh, we do it to create an open and free exchange of ideas and to encourage each other in this very important work.”  As for me, what did I get out of it?  Having that Masters in Urban Planning gathering dust somewhere in my bedroom, nevertheless, I think that the Land Bank Conference was an excellent way to see what is now going on in community development matters in Northeast Ohio, and what individuals are doing right now to solve some serious problems in their home towns; most notably what to do with the vacant properties that still plague the home of John Kasich’s “Ohio Miracle.”  In fact, I have been thinking about contacting people I know involved with the Northeast Shores Development Corporation to see if they can head out to Youngstown for the day and let Ian show them how they can apply his measures to North Shore Collinwood.  After all, there are land bank houses that can be rehabilitated and sold there too.

Next year Mr. Rokakis said he wanted the Conference to be at Ohio State University in Columbus.   As for this year’s conference, you can access the presentations online at https://www.wrlandconservancy.org/sessions/.


Photographs taken by James Valentino.




About Cleveland, My blog., Uncategorized

Riding the Rails with the Lake Shore Live Steamers.



A mobbed Penitentiary Glen Nature Park, September 10th 2017.

About twenty minutes from Cleveland in Kirtland in Lake County is the Penitentiary Glen Nature Park.  Originally called Halle Farm, it was the summer home of Sam Halle of the Halle Brothers Department Store who purchased the place in 1912.  Since 1976 the 424 acre property has been owned by the Lake Metroparks.   I have driven past this place over the years and it always seemed busy.  This year, I discovered one fo the reasons why; something very unique.


A view of the station and would be riders.


A train coming into the station.


Just a few yards away from the nature center on the edge of the woods is a train station which serves as the depot for the Lake Shore Live Steamers; whose miniature trains ride the rails through the trees.  These are not toy trains however, but more like the one that  Walt Disney rode on in his home movies.  Volunteers, such as fellow North Shore Collinwood resident (and former radio guy) Dennis Crislip, operate the locomotives and people can ride on top of the freight and passenger cars they pull.  Twelve times a year, the public is allowed to join in the fun.


One of the trains.


Riding the rails towards the covered bridge.  Taken in August.

Established in 1969, Lake Shore Rails came to Penitentiary Glen in 1983 when the back orchard track was laid out.  Since then, more routes have been added and there are 30 trains in total operated by the members. All of them are privately owned, built from kits and on  a few occasions completely from scratch.  They are powered by gas operated engines with hydroelectric pumps.  The train cars have an incredible amount of detail to them.  In the case of the Boston Main Locomotive that really caught my attention, the story behind the Pullman cars it pulled is worth noting.  The man who built it wrote the Pullman Company to see if he could obtain a swatch of their paint color so he can match the paint as authentic as possible.  The company must have been quite impressed with him since they wound up sending him cans of paint in the original color.


The layout of the railroad routes.

According the President Ken Brooks, there are clubs like this all over the county.  In fact there is one large one in Arizona that attracts a national following.  However, they don’t run until January because of the heat.

Naturally, the Lake Metroparks take the opportunity to use these free ride events as a way of promoting their own events.  The second time I went, September 10th, was Bug Day and the Nature Center was almost as busy as the railroad with families exploring the rooms and looking at the displays. As it turned out, what I thought was the Halle residence is in fact the stables with an addition built when it became a nature center; doubling its size.  The horses were sure living in style back in the day!  There are a few other buildings associated with the farm to the north, including one where the railroad enthusiasts store their trains.


One family poses for the camera.

The Lake Shore Steamers will be having their free Sunday rides from 1:00-3:00 PM off and on throughout the rest of the year, including today, October 9th, and December 2nd. Dennis mentioned that they are always looking for volunteers which can mean those lucky individuals can hop on the rails twenty-eight other times of the year.   This is really one of the hidden gems of NE Ohio.


The Nature Center.

Photographs taken by James Valentino.