Thursday, November 15, 2012

ANOTHER TREASURE ABOUT TO FALL: JOHN MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL


The landmark John Marshall High School is about to succumb to the wrecking ball.  At the beginning of October, I sent a plea to each of the Cleveland School Board members, to the School CEO Eric Gordon, and to Mayor Frank Jackson, asking them to to reconsider their decision to demolish John Marshall.  All of these public servants have the power to stand up and say, “Let’s not do this.”  But they have not spoken up.   They are choosing to remain silent.



It is almost too late now.  Within a few weeks, this beautiful structure will be gone. Some of the stonework is currently being removed, to be saved “for future reuse.”  I would still welcome some sort of stay of execution for this wonderful landmark.  But damage has now been done.  It is definitely the eleventh hour for John Marshall.


What they are about to do is a tragedy and a travesty.  

And there is nothing I can really do to stop  it.  A ‘Save John Marshall’ Facebook group, led by the indefatigable Satinder Puri, has lobbied the city administration and the school board for months to try to save the building, but their voices were not heard.  As mine has not been heard.  Maybe our voices have been heard, but not really listened to.  This pretty clear from the reply letter I received from School CEO Gordon (posted below), where he reiterates the same tired talking points about why the building must come down. 

Existing spandrel panel soon to be lost under a pile of rubble.

There are questions about the whole decision-making process.  Questions about the propriety of the Landmark de-listing hearing by the City Landmarks Commission.  Questions about the calculations used to compare the costs of replacing the building versus renovating the existing structure.  Questions about the accuracy of the square footage numbers used in those calculations.  And questions about whether the cost of asbestos abatement and building demolition were figured into the pricetag for the new building.  These questions have gone unanswered.  

CEO Gordon did offer me an image of the new building to be constructed in John Marshall’s place.  The reader can judge for oneself whether he or she thinks the new building will have the character and level of craftsmanship of the old, and whether the new John Marshall will ever stand a chance of being listed as a City Landmark.

Rendering of Proposed New John Marshall High School (Image courtesy CMSD)

Here is my letter to CEO Gordon:

4 October 2012

Eric S. Gordon, CEO
Cleveland Metropolitan School District Board of Education
1380 East Sixth Street, Room 152
Cleveland, Ohio 44114 

Dear Mr. Gordon,

I am writing to you to tell you that it is not too late.  Yes, the construction trailer is on site, the fences have gone up, and interior materials abatement has begun, but the solid shell of the John Marshall High School building is still wholly intact.  I am writing to you as a concerned citizen, neighborhood resident, and architect to urge you to STOP the demolition of John Marshall.  This noble structure can and should be renovated to continue serving the educational needs of our children for generations to come.  

    
John Marshall boasts beautiful brick and stone construction, as well as fine Art Deco detailing that cannot be replicated in a new building.  Overall, the structure is in very good physical condition, especially for a building that is 80 years old.  The brick is not spalling.  The foundations are not moving.  It has many pleasant, light-filled classrooms.  This solid and proud building has stood for many years as a true landmark in the neighborhood.  It is a part of the community, and it is an enduring symbol of our forbearers’ commitment to the ideals of a quality public education for all.


We all can agree that our students deserve top-notch facilities in which to learn and succeed.  The building as it stands may not meet all the needs of modern educational facilities.  But surely at least part of John Marshall, in particular the original core of the building that fronts on West 140th Street, could be saved and renovated for use as general purpose classrooms.  The City of Cleveland has stated that it wants to be a leader in the field of sustainability.  Saving and renovating historic structures is the most ‘green’ type of architecture that can be done, earning numerous credits under the LEED certification system.  Just as John Hay High School was renovated and is now a gem of the East side, John Marshall has the potential to be the pride of the West side. 

If you take action to stop this senseless demolition, I am fairly confident that at least 216 members of the Save John Marshall Facebook group, as well as the 2,000 signers of a petition to renovate, would change their votes from ‘No’ to ‘Yes’ on Issue 107.  Because you will have done the right thing.  And you will have demonstrated to us that the School Board is taking Cleveland’s school system in a positive new direction.

Attached for your review, please find my Elegy for the School of the Arts, about another community treasure that was recently lost to demolition.  The location and particulars of the buildings are different, but both structures are architectural gems, built in a time when civic institutions were constructed with pride and intended to endure for many years.  It is too late for the School of the Arts.


But it is not too late for John Marshall.  I understand that the OSFC funding system makes it more challenging to renovate rather than build new.  But sometimes the more arduous path is the more rewarding path.  And it’s never too late to do the right thing.  Until it is, of course.  Until the first day that the backhoes start ripping into the hallowed brick and stone of John Marshall High School.  Then, it will be too late. 

As CEO of the Cleveland Metropolitan School District, you have the power to save this civic treasure.  I ask you to do so now. 

Respectfully,
Daniel DeAngelo
Architect/Town Planner


Here is his response:


The City of Cleveland continues to head in the wrong direction by recklessly destroying its precious architectural legacy.  One day, we will wake up and look around, and we may find that there is nothing left of value in our city to save.  

R.I.P. John Marshall High School


5 comments:

  1. Thank you Mr. DeAngelo for your effort and for recording the details here.

    Jeff Buster

    ReplyDelete
  2. Satinder P. S. PuriNovember 17, 2012 at 2:47 PM

    PART 1 OF 4
    These comments have been submitted in four parts because of this site’s limitations on the number of characters.

    Mr. DeAngelo: Many thanks for the article posted on your blog, the beautiful photographs, and for writing to Mayor Jackson and CEO Gordon to SAVE JOHN MARSHALL.

    City Hall has meted out gross injustice -- through sustained & collusive inaction, and vote rigging – to over 2,400 petitioners who want to SAVE historic 80-year old JOHN MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL.

    The SAVE JOHN MARSHALL campaign has over 400 pages of correspondence that show that Mayor Jackson, Councilman Sweeney, Cleveland Metropolitan School District CEO Gordon, and others have not been honest, trustworthy, accountable, clear, and transparent on the $50 million John Marshall High School Construction Project.

    On November 15, 2012, Mayor Jackson was told, both via e-mail and certified mail, that there will be a hunger strike to SAVE JOHN MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL.

    A hunger strike is a Cry for Justice when due process is denied to citizens who have neither power nor wealth.

    The hunger strike will start on Tuesday, November 20, 2012 and will continue indefinitely unless the demand is met.

    The demand is that Mayor Jackson and others
    (Councilman and City Council President Martin J. Sweeney;
    CMSD CEO Eric S. Gordon;
    Chair of CMSD Board of Education Denise W. Link;
    Cleveland Landmarks Commission Chair Jennifer Coleman;
    Manager of Architecture Robert Vilkas;
    Councilman Anthony Brancatelli; and
    Councilwoman Phyllis E. Cleveland)
    provide written responses by Monday November 17, 2012 at the latest, to questions (on the $50 million John Marshall High School Construction Project) all in the context of Mayor Jackson’s statement: I have “never lied to you” and the The Plain Dealer’s call for honesty, trustworthiness, accountability, clarity, and transparency in public officials.

    There are nearly 60 questions included in an over 120-page document. The document was sent to Mayor Jackson both via e-mail and certified mail on November 8, 2012. If any member desires a copy – please send me a message with your e-mail address – and I will be glad to forward a copy.

    I have included eight examples of questions from the November 8, 2012 document: Questions E1, E2, E3, E4, E7 and E8 for Jennifer Coleman, Chair CLC (Cleveland Landmarks Commission); and questions F1 and F2 for Robert Vilkas, Manager of Architecture, City of Cleveland.

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  3. Satinder P. S. PuriNovember 17, 2012 at 2:50 PM

    PART 2 OF 4
    These comments have been submitted in four parts because of this site’s limitations on the number of characters.

    Mr. DeAngelo: Many thanks for the article posted on your blog, the beautiful photographs, and for writing to Mayor Jackson and CEO Gordon to SAVE JOHN MARSHALL.

    QUESTIONS FOR JENNIFER COLEMAN, CHAIR OF CLC (CLEVELAND LANDMARKS COMMISSION) PERTAINING TO THE JANUARY 12, 2012 MEETING:

    Councilman Sweeney (also City Council President) rigged the 5 to 4 vote to demolish landmarked historic 80-year old John Marshall at the January 12, 2012 CLC (Cleveland Landmarks Commission) meeting. The Chief Architect of the City of Cleveland (with the title of Manager of Architecture) who should be preserving and protecting our landmarks -- voted to demolish our architectural gem.

    Mayor Jackson took no action when the vote rigging and other irregularities were brought to his honor’s attention.

    For example, at the January 12, 2012 Cleveland Landmarks Commission meeting, despite repeated requests, the Chair refused to let me respond to inaccuracies in the financial numbers, on behalf of petitioners, while the School District, their Architect, and Councilman Sweeney were free to get up and interject at any time. Additional irregularities are discussed below.

    Also, City Hall has not submitted any requested public documents pertaining to vote rigging and irregularities.


    E1.
    A member (Allan Dryer) was absent at the subject meeting. While quorum was still satisfied, Councilman Sweeney nevertheless brought in Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland as a one-day replacement -- not clear under what rules of the Commission -- and she also voted for demolition. City Hall has not submitted any document citing the CLC rule to justify temporary replacement of CLC member Allan Dryer by Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland at the January 12, 2012 CLC meeting even when quorum did not require a replacement.

    Question E1: Please quote the specific CLC rule under which Councilwoman Phyllis Cleveland was brought in as a one-day replacement even when quorum was satisfied?
    Response:

    E2.
    Question E2: Please specify the dates of all other CLC meetings during your (Jennifer Coleman’s) tenure as Chair – when a CLC member was absent – and quorum was satisfied – yet a temporary replacement was brought in?
    Response:


    E3.
    According to the CLC’s website: The mission statement of the CLC is listed as follows: “To encourage the preservation of historically and architecturally significant buildings and historic districts within the City of Cleveland.” In addition, the website lists the following statement: “The Landmarks Commission is an eleven-member board of preservation-minded individuals consisting of architects, historians, property owners, attorneys, Cleveland City Council representatives, the Director of City Planning, and the Commissioner of Architecture.”

    At the CLC meeting, Councilwoman Cleveland stated that she liked new things and was not a preservationist. City Hall has not submitted any document confirming whether the Councilwoman met the requirements for membership in the CLC.

    Question E3: Did Councilwoman Cleveland meet the requirements for membership in the CLC as a preservation minded individual?
    Response:

    E4.
    City Hall has not submitted any document confirming whether Councilwoman Phyliss Cleveland toured the 80-year old historic JMHS facility before the January 12, 2012 CLC meeting.

    Question E4: Did Councilwoman Phyliss Cleveland tour the 80-year old historic JMHS facility before the January 12, 2012 CLC meeting?
    If yes, please provide the date and time of the tour.
    Response:


    ReplyDelete
  4. Satinder P. S. PuriNovember 17, 2012 at 2:54 PM

    PART 3 OF 4
    These comments have been submitted in four parts because of this site’s limitations on the number of characters.

    Mr. DeAngelo: Many thanks for the article posted on your blog, the beautiful photographs, and for writing to Mayor Jackson and CEO Gordon to SAVE JOHN MARSHALL.


    QUESTIONS FOR JENNIFER COLEMAN, CHAIR OF CLC (CLEVELAND LANDMARKS COMMISSION) PERTAINING TO THE JANUARY 12, 2012 MEETING (CONT.):


    E7.
    The Chair was aware “there were lots of questions about the financial numbers.” In the January 19, 2012 article by Ken Prendergast posted on Cleveland.Com: “Cleveland Landmarks Commission clears way for John Marshall High school demolition”, Jennifer Coleman, Chair of CLC stated: “It’s important to have a connection to the past,” she added. “I understand the (school) district’s economic argument, but I think there were lots of questions about the financial numbers. In 20 or 30 years, we’re going to look back and realize how much we’ve lost. The question is, how can we go forward?”

    City Hall has not submitted any document confirming the CLC rule under which the Chair of CLC permitted a vote (at the January 12,
    2012 CLC meeting) on whether landmarked 80-year old JMHS should be demolished when the Chair was aware that “there were lots of
    questions about the financial numbers.”

    Question E7: Why did you (Jennifer Coleman) as Chair of CLC permit a vote (at the January 12, 2012 CLC meeting) on whether landmarked
    80-year old JMHS should be demolished when you were aware that “there were lots of questions about the financial numbers.”
    Response:

    E8.
    At the CLC meeting, the Chair (Jennifer Coleman) stated that speakers in public sessions were limited to 2 minutes. I spoke, within the allotted time on behalf of over 2,400 petitioners. However, Councilman Sweeney was allowed to speak for 18 minutes without any objection from the Chair. City Hall has not submitted any document confirming exception to the 2-minute rule and why Councilman Sweeney was allowed to speak for 18 minutes without any objection from the Chair.

    Question E8: Why did you (Jennifer Coleman) as Chair of CLC permit Councilman Sweeney to speak for 18 minutes, without any objection, when the stipulated rule, according to the Chair, was 2 minutes?
    Response:


    ReplyDelete
  5. Satinder P. S. PuriNovember 17, 2012 at 3:01 PM

    PART 4 OF 4
    These comments have been submitted in four parts because of this site’s limitations on the number of characters

    Mr. DeAngelo: Many thanks for the article posted on your blog, the beautiful photographs, and for writing to Mayor Jackson and CEO Gordon to SAVE JOHN MARSHALL.

    F. QUESTIONS FOR ROBERT VILKAS, MANAGER OF ARCHITECTURE, CITY OF CLEVELAND:

    The Chief Architect (Robert Vilkas) of the City of Cleveland (with the title of Manager of Architecture) who should be preserving and protecting our landmarks -- voted to demolish our architectural gem at the January 12, 2012 CLC (Cleveland Landmarks Commission) meeting. Mr. Vilkas is a member of the CLC and at the January 12, 2012. meeting, Mr. Vilkas did not provide any explanation for demolishing the landmark.

    Question F1: Why did you (Rober Vilkas), as Manager of Architecture of the City of Cleveland, vote to demolish landmarked historic 80-year old John Marshall High School at the January 12, 2012 CLC (Cleveland Landmarks Commission) meeting?
    Response:

    Question F2: According to the CLC’s website: The mission statement of the CLC is listed as follows: “To encourage the preservation of historically and architecturally significant buildings and historic districts within the City of Cleveland.”

    In voting to demolish landmarked historic 80-year old John Marshall High School at the January 12, 2012 CLC (Cleveland Landmarks Commission) meeting, how did you (Robert Vilkas), as Manager of Architecture of the City of Cleveland, “Encourage the preservation of historically and architecturally significant buildings within the City of Cleveland?”
    Response:

    WANTED FOR CRIME IN PROGRESS SERIES: MAYOR JACKSON & COUNCILMAN SWEENEY FOR DESTROYING HISTORIC JOHN MARSHALL HIGH SCHOOL IN CLEVELAND, OHIO!

    Please see my blog at the link shown below. So far there have been five posts pertaining to the series:

    http://realneo.us/blogs/satinder-p-s-puri

    ReplyDelete