Gloria Ferris

one woman’s view from a place by the zoo in the city

Archive for April, 2011

A Bit of History Moves When the Life of a Building Ends

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Today while skimming through Crain’s Morning Roundup, I clicked through to read the PLAIN DEALER story about the largest gift that Case Western Reserve University  has ever received. The gift came from the last local heir of the Williamson family.  The Williamson Building came to mind.  Then, I read this sentence.

The Williamson name isn’t widely known, perhaps because the family didn’t seek to put its name on buildings. Instead, they devoted their dollars and often personal time to educate minds, enrich spirits and solve social problems, said William Ginn, a retired lawyer and family friend. 

Story by Margaret Bernstein, Plain Dealer, April 29, 2011

I have no doubt that Mr. Ginn is correct in his assessment that the family valued people more than brick and mortar given their heir’s last gift to our community. Still, my interest was piqued.  Maybe it is because I know that the Williamson Building and the Cuyahoga Building were demolished to make way for 200 Public Square, first known as The Sohio Building, my employer at one time.  In fact, my signature is on the last steel beam placed in the building as are many other employees of the day.  My search began.  Here is what I found about the Williamson Building.  My connection was right!  In fact, the Williamson Building was built on the site of the Phillip Williamson homestead. What an historical record of the beginnings of the Williamson family.

Strangely enough,  this weekend as I held a postcard of the Williamson Building in my hand at the Akron Book Fair I had  a conversation with a former Clevelander about Alvie’s restaurant that was sandwiched between the Williamson  and Cuyahoga Building. I told him that Alvie’s had moved to Ontario Avenue. He didn’t remember either building or the wrought Iron clock created by Rose Iron Works in the Williamson but he did remember Schroeder’s and the name of the drugstore in the Williamson Building which I don’t.

As I write this post, I wonder what BP will give to Cleveland when “he” dies.  Cleveland has a rich legacy of philanthropic families that have endowed our community with great wealth.  We need to keep their memories and that value alive by continuing to create wealth, conserve and not spend it. Thank you Mr. Williamson from a grateful Clevelander.

Written by Gloria Ferris

April 29th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

If You Are Not Part of the Solution, You Are Part of the Problem

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Today is Earth Day. We have been celebrating this day for 41 years now.  On first Earth Day I was a student at BGSU.  My first  memory of that day isn’t much different from many spring days on campus-kite flying, sidewalk chalk art, boys playing guitars and girls with long flowing hair listening to folk songs.  There were impromptu debates on how our earth would not survive if we continued our dependence on oil and gas.  Chemically altered food would poison us and our children. Our streams and rivers would die with fish and wildlife gasping for breath.  Nuclear power was coming to a town near you and would be the death of us all. In fact, the peace sign so familiar to us all, began its career as an anti-nuclear power symbol which soon encompassed “no war” as well.   It sounds like those discussions were dark, bleak,  and desperate.

Not so, many of my college friends had plans for the solutions to all of the dire situations that could be our future.  All they had to do was graduate, have their degree, and change the world.  Many changes in our world did come to pass.  Two of the biggest  was the 1970 Clean Air Act and the 1972 Clean Water Act.  An act spurred in part by our own “crooked river, the Cuyahoga catching fire, not once but twice because of chemical sludge from the refineries and industries along its bank.  Today, a towpath trail is being designed to wind along that same river.  Fish, birds, amphibians, and reptiles have returned to its banks, and when the spring air warms, sculls will again be seen skimming across its surface.

Meanwhile, our state and federal legislators are preparing to gut our laws that insure clean air and water to our citizens.  At the same time, they are considering opening our system of state parks to drilling and “fracking” for oil and gas. Fracking, a term so new that I had to add it to my dictionary. Surface mining in Old Brooklyn was recently held off by a group of determined citizens, their councilman, and the City Planning Commission.  soon, we will be protesting the largest “trash to energy” incinerator in the nation using unproven techniques  with no assurance that the technology is safe for humans within the confines of Cleveland at the Ridge Road transfer station.    

There are those who would tell you that we cannot compete if we do not relax the laws put in place 40 years ago or if we do not embrace unproven technology to pay for energy. These same people rely on our memories being short.  Now, that we can see across the river and the smokestacks are mostly silent, they believe that they can eliminate  the laws that allow us to breathe easier and make us safe from chemical poisoning.

I would say this to all of you. Now, is not the time to relax laws to  make it easier to use the same old fossil fuels and chemicals that continue to pollute our air, but rather it is the time for Cleveland to innovate the new technologies that will carry us into the 22nd century just like those who came before us made us an industrial powerhouse in the 20th century.  We should be on the cutting edge of the new technologies needed for energy that does not pollute our environment. Yes, this may be expensive in the short term, but will be well worth the benefits overall.  Consider the alternative of cheaper in the short term, but more expensive in the long term with more health costs, less quality of life, and cheaper for whom the consumer or for the owners of the corporations getting the breaks.  Take a look at your latest utility bill.  You are conserving all that you can, and still the bills are rising.  Our dependence on gasoline is increasing due to less mass transit and the price just keeps on rising. Taxes, fees continue to rise while corporations continue to say that they cannot afford to do business in Ohio.  Really, who says so?  

Forty one years later, the phrase :If you are not part of the solution, you are part of the problem is just as true today as it was then.  Do not let fear guide you. Stand up and tell your legislature that now is the time for new ideas and new solutions. It is not the time to prop up corporations that are dinosaurs which will only die a slower death if they are allowed to gut the clean air and water laws.  Get out, take a walk, drink the fresh air, contemplate the wonders of the earth, and  know that you can preserve them for future generations. Use your vote.

Written by Gloria Ferris

April 22nd, 2011 at 10:18 am

Does Magic Live in Cafe’s Walls?

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The best place for French Toast in Cleveland  is at Cafe Miami in Old Brooklyn.  This morning the editors of the soon to be published (well, maybe not SO soon) first ever Brooklyn Centre Naturalists Cookbook met to continue collecting, editing, and working on this crucial fundraiser for our neighborhood group striving to become the next certified National Wildlife Community. But the first step to a good work session is a good breakfast.

And so, we ordered our breakfasts, sipped coffee, and settled down to work.  Cafe Miami is not the breakfast place for you on a Saturday  if you want a hurry-up and get going start to your day.  Larry’s place is a more of a read the paper, “what’s your hurry” kind of diner on Saturdays. Did I tell you that I LOVE the French Toast.  It is sublime. The inside is soft and the outside has a subtle crunch to it that offsets the softness. Delicious.

Every time I step through the door of Cafe Miami I feel like I have been transported to the Deep South. Maybe, it is the Mardi Gras posters on the wall, the Jazz feel to the place, or maybe I truly am transported to a different time and place.  I kid you not there is a magical feel to this cafe.  The salt and pepper shakers, the antiques, the books that are placed around the place which Larry always encourages people to read or borrow, and much, much more has to be seen to be believed.

Just as I think I can’t wait one more minute our food begins to arrive.  Recipes and computers are put aside as we dig in while the food is still hot.  As we talk about our week, we munch on toasted English Muffins, French Toast, eggs and bacon, I suddenly realize that we better get down to business, finish eating, and get back to work.   As we say good bye to Larry, owner chef, and his waitress, Marie , I glance at the clock realizing we have only used two hours of our Saturday.  I think to myself “how can this be” we finished  proofreading that huge stack of recipes, separated them by category, ate breakfast, and I feel as refreshed as if I had been soaking up sunshine on the beach. I stop cold as I look outside and see that it I am in cold and rainy Cleveland.   I kid you not I thought that I would be stepping out into the sunshine with a hot breeze tousling my hair.  Instead, I am dodging huge raindrops and am soaked to the skin by the time I reach the car.  I am telling  you that there is something magical about this cafe.  If you don’t believe me, visit it yourself, and prove me wrong.

Written by Gloria Ferris

April 16th, 2011 at 7:02 pm