Cleveland Greyhound Bus Terminal
National Register of Historic Places, 2 June 1999
The Cleveland bus terminal was built as part of a series of bus terminals constructed for exclusive use by the Greyhound Corporation, beginning in the late 1930s. It is the last of the series to be built in the Streamline Moderne style, and the first and most ambitious building constructed for this purpose immediately following World War II. The terminal was meant to serve as a Midwestern transportation hub with 21 bus docks and an expected 3 million passengers per year. The recently restored terminal not only continues to fulfill its original purpose, but also serves as a well-known community landmark in Cleveland.
The Cleveland terminal was built as an efficient space for managing bus traffic and provided for the comfort of its passengers. Using modern materials, the building design was meant to operate in conjunction with that of the Greyhound buses to create a seamless travel experience for customers.
The terminal was built on the edge of Cleveland’s downtown, several blocks from the highway in order to afford both easy access and removal from routes of intercity travel. As an isolated building, the terminal extended 250 feet along the street and 150 feet back. Its building-in-the-round design allowed not only for the great efficiency of organized accessibility from multiple sides, but also for a heightened functioning of its Streamline Moderne characteristics.
The wedding cake arrangement of the building’s three-story mass featured the signature elements of Arrasmith’s Streamline Moderne design including the Greyhound Blue porcelain enamel panels, L-shaped canopy, pylon sign, and juxtaposition of rounded and squared elements.
The interior of the terminal included a waiting room with walls finished in a plain buff color and seating for more than 300 people in blond oak benches set back to back. Other aspects of the waiting room included nine ticket windows, a central round information booth, a Greyhound travel bureau, a Travelers Aid office, a first aid room, fourteen phone booths, and five hundred baggage check lockers. A 930 foot mural of a United States travel map by local artist Glenn Shaw was painted above the ticket counter. Double stairways flanked the entrance area and led from the waiting room to its focal point, a gently curved balcony faced in oak veneer. The balcony gave access to the terminal offices, barber shop, and restrooms. The waiting room was lit by both indirect and spotlight illumination from the central suspended panel.
Gray’s Drug Store was located in the east wing, a Post House restaurant in the west wing, and either could be entered from both the waiting room and the street. The drug store included walls in a light grey with panel mirrors, a 45 foot long soda fountain with stainless steel food processing equipment, seating for 23 people, an open-front prescription counter, and a humidor room for tobacco products. The restaurant was painted in roses and greens with olive green walls. The space included seating for 180 people and stainless steel equipment, and it was open 24 hours a day.
22 October 1946 (groundbreaking); 30 March 1948 (completion)
The Cleveland terminal was originally built on at least 88,000 square feet of land on the eastern edge of the city’s downtown. It was an isolated building, which made it possible to give this Streamline Moderne building a remarkable aesthetic integrity, while operating as an efficient bus terminal. The Greyhound buses and commuter buses entered at the rear of the loading area along the northern edge of the property where there was also a large garage containing maintenance facilities for the buses. At the northwest corner of the building sat the dispatcher’s booth for monitoring arrivals and departures. The docking slips, where buses were loaded and unloaded, gave passengers direct access to the lobby of the terminal.
The building was constructed in seventeen months, a remarkably short time considering the size and complexity of the project. The terminal was faced in Indiana limestone with terra cotta accents of dark and light blue. All of the door and window frames were made of aluminum, with a wing-edge accent on the second and third-floor windows, the entrance canopy and the pylon sign 66 feet above the sidewalk. The pylon sign was faced with light rose-tan porcelain enameled metal panels with the word “Greyhound,” the mascot and a clock.
Modern air conditioning and heating systems regulated a comfortable temperature.
The central portion of the building is structurally reinforced to accommodate an additional four floors of office space on top of the existing three, but the expansion never happened. Arrasmith employed a wedding cake arrangement for the three-story mass of the building. All materials used were modern and reflected design elements of the Greyhound buses.
As a result of crowding at union terminals, in the mid-1930s Greyhound decided to begin building bus terminals exclusively for their use in larger cities. The company wanted to create a national chain of bus terminals as recognizable as their unique streamline buses. By the end of the 1930s, architect W.S. Arrasmith and industrial designer Harry Pack collaborated to create a list of factors for designing a Greyhound bus terminal.
W.S. Arrasmith was originally commissioned to design the Louisville Greyhound bus terminal in 1937; however, the company was so pleased with his design that they retained Arrasmith as a consulting architect into the 1970s. His series of streamline terminals helped to develop an unmistakable corporate identity for the Greyhound Corporation.
Streamline design began as an industrial design philosophy that applied to all aspects of design, and was incorporated by Greyhound when creating the company’s new image in the late 1930s. Arrasmith reinterpreted the streamline style of architecture employed in Thomas Lamb’s designs of the two Greyhound terminals in New York City and Charleston, South Carolina. Arrasmith introduced a practical approach to efficient bus terminal function and design. The idea was to incorporate the building and the bus into an operational unit, in which the design of the building reflected the bus design in color, material, and comfort. Until 1938, the Greyhound Blue terminals were faced with blue porcelain panels. Afterwards, Arrasmith finished the terminals in limestone, a more conservative material for a commercial building, generally grey in color. Around the same time, stainless steel had displaced Greyhound Blue on the buses. Limestone proved an excellent material for Streamline Moderne architecture because horizontal lines could be easily incorporated and curvilinear corners sculpted. The Cleveland terminal was the last Greyhound terminal to be designed in the Streamline Moderne style employed in many other Arrasmith-designed stations prior to the war. The terminals that followed employed a more avant-garde modernism that featured square corners and textured brick facades. The horizontality of the Streamline Moderne evoked the feeling of speed and movement, an appropriate association with a place of transport. Arrasmith had designed streamline buildings for Greyhound since 1937. The Cleveland terminal is where all of the best elements of the style are distilled: curvilinear flowing lines, smooth surfaces, cool grey color, and free standing sign.
The terminal was hailed as “The World’s Largest Bus Terminal” and as the “The Greatest Bus Terminal in the World” by the Cleveland News upon its opening. The grand opening of the terminal was a large civic event with both Ohio Governor Thomas J. Herbert and Cleveland Mayor Thomas A. Burke cutting a blue and white ribbon at the main entrance.
As the last Arrasmith-designed Greyhound bus terminal built in the Streamline Moderne style and the first Greyhound bus terminal to be built following World War II, the building marks the resurgence of the Greyhound Corporation’s cross-country construction of a national system of terminals. As Greyhound's largest and most ambitious project following World War II, the Cleveland terminal reflects the rapid re-engagement of the bus industry in the post-war era. Not only was it the first terminal to be built by the Greyhound Corporation following the war, it was the terminal which most extensively incorporated the elements of efficiency and ingenuity projected by the Greyhound Corporation. Arrasmith's Cleveland design is a repository for the most refined elements of the Streamline Moderne style as well as a symbol of the Greyhound Corporation’s history and the history of American transport.
Wrenick, Frank E. The Streamline Era Greyhound Terminals: The Architecture of W.S. Arrasmith. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2007.
"Greyhound Bus Station," National Register of Historic Places, last updated 29 January 2011, http://nrhp.focus.nps.gov/natregsearchresult.do?fullresult=true&recordid=3.
"Greyhound Restores Cleveland Terminal," Greyhound.com News Release,28 February 2000, http://www.greyhound.com/en/newsroom/viewrelease.aspx?id=26&year=2000.
Arrasmith, W.S. “Your Silent Salesman,” Bus Transportation. (September 1949): p. 72-75.
“Modern Terminal Lighting Techniques,” Bus Transportation. (April 1949): p. 48-50.
Steven McQuillin, Building Preservation Consultant.