Howard M. Metzenbaum United States Courthouse

Cleveland, Ohio | C.1910

Photo Credit: Accidentally Wes Anderson

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All rise! Today, we may find ourselves in court, but we can only be charged with multiple counts of curiosity. This hallowed courtroom resides in the palatial Howard M. Metzenbaum Courthouse, located in the heart of downtown Cleveland. Born out of a movement seeking to improve America’s cities, this grand structure was the centerpiece of a bold city plan. 

Wishing to mimic the grandeur of their European counterparts, American city planners at the turn of the century began to imagine what their cities could be like with tree-lined avenues, malls, and imposing places of government. This “City Beautiful” movement, promoted by architects such as Daniel Burnham, swept the nation, prompting many cities like Cleveland to redesign their cityscape. 

Opened in 1910, the Beaux-Arts-style courthouse and post office was the first structure to be built from Cleveland’s 1903 Group Plan. Designed by Arnold W. Brunner, the ornate colonnaded facade was inspired by the Place de la Concorde in Paris. In a further nod to the style of French royalty, two large statues on the front corners of the building were sculpted by Daniel Chester French, of Lincoln Memorial fame. 

In 2005, the DLR Group was tasked with rehabbing the structure to the changing needs of the Federal courts. Restoring some of the original courtrooms, the project’s pièce de résistance was the creation of a brand new skylight spanning the structure’s inner courtyard, creating a new public atrium that would have pleased any “City Beautiful” proponent. 

Whether summoned to its halls by papers or a piqued interest, this structure continues to be a public meeting place and downtown landmark used daily by city dwellers. For our purposes, however, the court is now adjourned. 

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