Saturday, June 21, 2008

Beautiful Cleveland

The Rust Belt Intellectual pays homage to the treasures of Cleveland:

Still, Cleveland is a beautiful city--one that does not deserve its long time moniker, "the mistake by the lake." It's West Side Market (pictured above) is one of the great urban markets in America. Last fall, I had a fabulous bratwurst sandwich from a little stall there, before heading over to the nearby Great Lakes Brewery to wash it down with a locally-brewed ale. Cleveland has some quirky and characterful neighborhoods. Just south of downtown is the Slavic Village, a neighborhood that is a hodgepodge of worker-built homes from the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And the jewel of Cleveland is the cultural district around Case Western Reserve University, home to all of the institutions built and richly endowed by Cleveland's once mighty upper class. There is enough cultural vitality in that part of Cleveland to support a lively Cinemateque, a weekly gathering of cineastes who can watch classic, obscure, and recent films that would never, never make it into a suburban multiplex. And Cleveland is home to one of the most robust movements for community economic development--a fact visible in the new housing and rehabilitation in many of its working-class neighborhoods.

Not to gild a turd, Rust Belt urban chic is an acquired taste. Someone pining for the clean and vibrant look of boomtowns such as Charlotte need not apply. But I think that more people would appreciate cities such as Cleveland if they had some firsthand experience.

If you aren't from there, then I wouldn't expect you to have the first clue about Pittsburgh. Albeit anecdotal, I'm aware of a number of overwhelmingly positive introductions to the Steel City. Most Europeans seem to like Pittsburgh's charms. The native love affair with Rust Belt cities, particularly among twentysomethings, is a comfort when considering the future. But places such as Cleveland desperately need a wider appeal.

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