Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Public Square in 1839, in color!

The Cleveland Grays on Public Square, Northwest Quadrant

One of my big complaints about books and other publications dealing with history is that there's too much gray text and what few illustrations there are, are in black and white. Vibrant imagery helps draw the reader into the narrative. Imagine my surprise when I came across this painting of Public Square, in downtown Cleveland, in 1839, at the Western Reserve Historical Society.

I don't recall, in print, any color images of Cleveland from the 19th century. I was stunned when I found this 1873 print of Public Square. We need color images to better illustrate the historical narrative. While cost may have been an issue in print, it isn't on the web.

I've seen this image reproduced in black and white before. I don't believe it's ever been reproduced in color. [Ed note (July 13, 2010): The painting was reproduced in color in Transformations in Cleveland Art, 1796-1946.] Further, next to it was another oil painting of Public Square, from the 1850s. Alas, my photograph of it did not turn out well enough to share.

The scene, of the northwest corner of Public Square, was painted by Joseph Parker in 1839. It features the Cleveland Grays. It is more notable, however, for the depiction of the area.

The church in the center is the First Presbyterian Church. The Old Stone Church would be built later on the site by the same congregation.

This painting provides an excellent illustration of what the center of Cleveland looked like 170 years ago. It shares much with the New England culture that created it.


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  2. There's what appears to be a church steeple under construction on the right side of the painting. Might that have been the Second Presbyterian Church?