Jack Bialosky Sr. Interview, November 6 2006

Jack Bialosky Sr. grew up in Cleveland Heights and has worked as an architect in Cleveland since the early 1950s. In this 2006 interview, Bialosky talks about running his own architecture firm in the city and some of the projects he has worked on, elaborating on issues surrounding his firm's work in building houses in Shaker Heights. Bialosky describes the historical development of Cleveland's Euclid Avenue and offers his take on other parts of the city's development, addressing mistakes made on the lakefront and stressing the need to attract new residents to the city. Bialosky also discusses the practice of architecture in the computer-age and the effects this has had on the newest generations of architects.

Participants: Bialosky, Jack Sr. (interviewee) / Gibans, Nina (interviewer)
Collection: American Institute of Architects
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Nina Gibans [00:00:00] Jack, you're Jack Bialosky, and I'm Nina Gibans, and we're talking today Euclid Corridor History Project, Oral History Project. So that's the main emphasis of our discussion. The results will be in two or three forms, one for the memory bank at CSU. the whole interview. Parts of it will end up probably on the kiosks that people can plug into as they walk up and down our Euclid Avenue when it's done. And the third thing is that it'll be on a website at the Cleveland Artists Foundation attached to what is Architecture of Cleveland dot org. And... I mean the Architecture of Cleveland dot com, which is a website that we've been developing on the architecture of Cleveland. And these interviews will be linked to that so that people who come to the exhibit or people who plug in can get a view, perspective of the architects of Cleveland. Okay, well, the first thing really is how did you become an architect? Where did you live? What were your influences? And how did you get there?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:01:37] It's a long story.

Nina Gibans [00:01:39] Well.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:01:39] It's an 81-year story. I always wanted to be an architect from the time I first heard the word, but I didn't know what an architect was and I still don't. But I went to... I lived in Cleveland Heights in an old farmhouse. It was a wonderful place to be raised. I went to Cleveland Heights High School, where I was not a very good student, and I was more interested in football than I was most anything else. So I did a lot of building. I learned to build models, ship models and airplane models, and actually some major projects that I enjoyed doing. And I applied to go to the University of Michigan, and they were very interested in my football but they said that I wasn't a good enough student for them to accept. If I would take the college boards, they would accept me if I passed with a given grade. So I went to my advisor at the junior... at the high school, told him what I needed to do it. And he laughed. He said, You'll never pass that College Board examination. He said, First of all, we don't give in examinations in high school the last more than 45 minutes and that's on all-day examination. And secondly, you can't spell. And I still can't. But he said he had an idea. He said the government is giving an examination for the Army and the Navy. You sign up for that and we'll prep you for it. And it'll be your test examination before you go in to take the College Board. So I did, and forgot about it completely. And then I took the College Boards. Actually, I took the math exam instead of the... I didn't have to spell it in math [laughs], and I passed it very well. Michigan accepted me and I was set to go there. But after I got there, and I was there just one day, I got a telegram from Uncle Sam saying, you also passed that Navy V12 exam and you have to report to Cleveland tomorrow morning. So I got right back on the train, came back to Cleveland, passed that physical exam, and they said, you just go home and wait about two weeks. We'll send you instructions as to where to go. And the instructions came they said, you are now a freshman at Yale University. Well, that was a total surprise and a little bit of a blow, a nice kind of a blow. So I spent my first year and a half at Yale undergraduate school. I spent the second year and a half at Bates College, which is where the Navy sent me. And that's a wonderful school. And then I went into the Navy. I was commissioned at the tender age of 18, and I spent a full year aboard an aircraft carrier at sea and applied to the university at Yale, again for their architectural school, which in those days was a professional school, not a graduate school. They accepted me and I went back to Yale in 1946 and graduated in 1949. And while I was there, I had the good fortune to work with about sixteen of the major architects in the United States who had been invited in for six-week periods each semester. I graduated in 1949 and just at the time I entered Yale University, the school switched from the Beaux-Arts program, which nobody knows much about today, to a contemporary architectural program. So when I graduated, incidentally, they allowed you to take the license exam before you graduated. Today you can't do that. And I managed to pass that. So I was licensed in the state of Connecticut, and Ohio had reciprocity so I was licensed here. But the only thing I knew how to do was contemporary architecture. I didn't know anything at all about the traditional sense of architecture. When I came back to Cleveland, I took a job with a full-time architect to learn how to draw chair rails and moldings and columns and all the things that I had never been taught in architecture school.

Nina Gibans [00:06:13] Which architect?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:06:14] Charles Coleman, Charles C. Coleman, and I spent a year with him. As a matter of fact, I spent a little more than that because I had worked for him while I was still going to school in the summertime. And at the end of about a year's time, I had learned quite a bit. And I had never thought about going out on my own at all. That never occurred to me. I think I chose architecture because I felt I could hide behind a drawing board for the rest of my life and never talk to anybody.

Nina Gibans [00:06:48] I want to ask you, when you said you had building projects though early, how early? When you were interested in building projects, you said in Heights, at Heights?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:01] At Heights?

Nina Gibans [00:07:01] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:07:02] Was that in high school?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:03] Yes, it was in high school.

Nina Gibans [00:07:05] Not before.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:05] Oh, yes, it was in junior high school too.

Nina Gibans [00:07:07] Okay.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:08] I had a shop in my basement,.

Nina Gibans [00:07:11] Okay.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:11] And my mother didn't like the shop in the basement, so she moved me out into the chicken coop, which was out at the barm.

Nina Gibans [00:07:18] Where was this farmhouse?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:20] On Cadwell in Cleveland Heights.

Nina Gibans [00:07:22] I know. Yes.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:23] Right at Coventry, not far from here.

Nina Gibans [00:07:25] That's right.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:25] You could walk it if I had it.

Nina Gibans [00:07:29] That's absolutely right.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:29] And I did a lot of building all kinds of things and enjoyed it immensely. And still do. I'm still a very strong do-it-yourselfer. I can make anything at all that you asked me to make as long as it doesn't have anything to do with a motor because motors I don't understand. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:07:52] Okay, so we're...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:07:54] Well at any rate, after about a year with Charles Coleman, there was more work coming into his office than he ever had before. I don't know that it was my fault, but much of it had to do with things I was doing. And I went to one day and I said, we have to hire some help. I can't do all this by myself. And he said, No, Jack, I don't think we're going to hire any help. He said, I've never had anybody but you work for me. So I said, well you're going to force me to go out on my own. And he said, Well, I hate to see you leave, but I think that's what you ought to do. And so I went out and opened my own office in my apartment house, which is right across the street. [laughs] And I worked out of the apartment for about six months and began to get busier and busier and opened an office down on Huron Road and hired a couple of people to work with me. And I began to grow. I had a move out of the Huron Road because it wasn't big enough into the Superior Building. I was there for about ten, twelve years. And...

Nina Gibans [00:09:05] Superior at?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:09:06] At 9th Street.

Nina Gibans [00:09:07] At 9th.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:09:08] Mm hmm. My father used to pick me up every morning and drive me to work, and he'd pick me up every night and drive me home. If he didn't, I could ride the rapid, but at any rate, in 1962 I took a lease at Shaker Square and about two years later I bought that building and I've been there ever since. That's where my office is today. The business grew very fast. I started out doing mostly houses, which I enjoyed doing then and I still enjoy doing. But it grew to hotels and it grew to bowling alleys and to everything but shopping centers. I didn't want any part of the shopping centers. That's not true today, of course. but that's the way it was then. And finally, the business grew to the point where I had to expand the office again when I moved to the Shaker Square Building, which is the name of the building, I took a partner and eventually one of my sons became an architect. He didn't really think he wanted to be an architect when he was a little boy, but he changed his mind. As a matter of fact, I have two sons that are architects. And he came back to Cleveland at his request, was here a very short period of time until we made him a partner, and I would say that he has been the biggest influence in my life next to the architects that I worked with while I was going to college. I was rather insulated from the architectural profession while I was working the first ten or twenty years because I was so busy doing what I was busy doing that I paid very little attention to what anybody else was doing. At any rate...

Nina Gibans [00:11:17] Did Jack... What was Jack's training, Jack Jr.?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:11:21] Well, Jack started out being a Classics major and he went to the University of Durham for his junior year in England. And when he was in... [Coughs] I'm sorry for the cough. I got that from him too incidently.

Nina Gibans [00:11:41] Would you like some water?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:11:42] No, I'm just fine. [laughs] When he was in his junior year at the University of Pennsylvania, he had a detached retina. He had had other problems when he was younger. He came home to have the retina repaired and he spent an inordinate amount of time with me. He wasn't confined to bed. He was allowed to move around. And when he went back to the University of Pennsylvania, he called me one day and he said, Get mom on the phone and both of you sit down. I have something important to tell you. I was trying to figure out which girl he was in trouble with, but that wasn't the case. He said, I finally came to the conclusion that what I really want in life is to be an architect, and I hope you won't be disappointed. Well, disappointed I wasn't. I was pleased. And he then, too, went to Yale University and got his degree there and incidentally, so did Bill. Both of them spent time in Durham and both of them got their degrees from the Yale School of Architecture. By that time, the school had become a graduate school and they both received their masters. When they were... When Jack was accepted to the university, they wrote me a letter and they said, We looked up your record and it was pretty darn good. And we discovered that you had more than enough credits to get a masters degree. So if you'll send us fifteen dollars, we'll send you your master's degree, which I did. So that's my training was a master's at Yale, and Jack's training and Bill's training were all at Yale University.

Nina Gibans [00:13:30] So that's been the strength of the firm...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:13:33] Yes.

Nina Gibans [00:13:33] After Jack joined you there.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:13:35] Mm hmm.

Nina Gibans [00:13:37] What about let's go downtown for a minute. Oh, even though your love is housing, and we'll come back to that, let's go downtown to childhood and Euclid Avenue and your memories of Euclid Avenue as you want to tell them and as you want to think about the buildings that you really, really have longed... that you think should be there that aren't there, the mistakes that we might have made, but let's think Euclid Avenue now.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:14:09] My memory of Euclid Avenue is strong, but not necessarily favorable. I remember the old houses that were lining Euclid Avenue, and I remember my being disturbed as they came down. And they can never be replaced. And Euclid Avenue will never get back to the grandeur it had when those large homes were along the avenue. I remember the department stores, May Company's, Halle's, Higbee's, and so on. And I remember that they each had a doorman, and my mother used to drive up in the car and get out of the Halle Company and the doormen would say, Mrs. Bialosky, how long are you going to be? She'd say, I'll be an hour, an hour and a half. He said, your car will be here when you get back. And it was. And that is gone and will never be seen again except maybe in London. That's a disappointment to me. I think my biggest criticism of the city of Cleveland, I have... I love Cleveland. I never considered moving anyplace else. But my biggest criticism happened in 1949 when I came back. Cleveland was a sister city to Toronto. They were almost identical in size and were very much the same. And they both passed a bond issue to build a subway in 1949. That subway never got built in Cleveland. It got built in Toronto, and that was Cleveland's biggest mistake. If that subway had been built, we would not be anything like we are today. It was scotched by the county engineer, a fellow by the name of Porter. He was interested in cars and freeways, and that's all he wanted to talk about and he made certain that subway never got going. As a matter of fact, the house that I bought on South Park Boulevard was right in the path of his Clark Freeway. I bought it there purposely knowing that they'd have to buy it back from me if they went ahead. But, of course, it was scotched. Unfortunately, the subway never went ahead. Now, we've done a lot of work with the RTA, and we're still working with RTA, and we think very highly of them as as a company. Their concept of this Euclid Avenue corridor runs contrary to everything I believe. I'm sorry to see it happen. I will support it. I think, you know, we can only go forward. We can't go backward. I'm very concerned about Euclid Avenue between the Public Square and 30th Street. I can't imagine any retail organization going in there on Euclid Avenue because you can't park and you've only got one lane of traffic there. You can't even pass somebody that isn't moving along to your satisfaction. So I'm very sorry to see this Euclid Corridor go. At one time they talked about light rail transportation, which would go up... I thought it was to go up Chester and that I would have liked to have seen because I think that, first of all, I think that Cleveland has some wonderful, wonderful things. The culture in Cleveland is superb. I don't have to mention the Cleveland Orchestra or the universities or the art museum, all those wonderful institutions. But they're not in downtown Cleveland. They're all out at University Circle. So I wanted to see downtown Cleveland tied to University Circle, and that's what this Euclid Corridor is intended to do. Hopefully that will happen, but I can't imagine that there will be any more people riding those busses than are riding them today. First of all, people don't like to ride busses. They don't feel safe on busses. They don't like that kind of traffic. They would much rather ride a light rail. Witness the rapid transit, which goes past your front window every day. That's a much more viable way of transporting people, and most of the major cities have done it that way. So I'm very doubtful that the Euclid Corridor is going to help downtown Cleveland or Euclid Avenue survive. I hope I am wrong and I hope I live long enough to see that I'm wrong, but I don't think this is going to happen.

Nina Gibans [00:19:14] Well, talk about individual buildings that you've really loved from any perspective but architecturally, which is your...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:19:26] Well, I would tell you that I'm a bit of an iconoclast. And Jack calls me... I can't even think of his name of the guy that tilted with windmills all his life because I still tilt with windmills. I really try to push what I believe and try not to talk down the things I don't believe, which is hard. I don't really have a favorite building in Cleveland that's in downtown Cleveland, with the exception of some of the older buildings that were built many years ago, which I truly love and enjoy. The churches. Cleveland has some wonderful bridges all over the city. I mean, way beyond what a normal bridge would be. When you used to travel down Liberty Boulevard, which is now Martin Luther King, there were wonderful bridges across that boulevard. And there are many exceptional churches, many of which have been torn down or are not now occupied in the proper way because people don't live in Cleveland. And until you get people to move downtown and live there, we aren't going to have a city at all. Way back in the 1950s, I was approached by one of the Cleveland councilman to design a residential area in the downtown Flats, which I did. When I say I designed it, I just made a a drawing, a perspective [of] what could it look like and what it would look like if it went ahead. Jack Russell was his name. He was quite an interesting guy. I once had a dog who was a Jack Russell dog. [laughs] I always thought it was named after him, but it wasn't. At any rate, that particular picture was published in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.

Nina Gibans [00:21:46] The drawing.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:21:47] That drawing. And it never got any push. It never went ahead, and Jack Russell lost his power and that failed as a result of that.

Nina Gibans [00:22:00] What year would that have been?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:22:00] That would be in the '50s. I can't tell you just which year because I don't remember. Shortly thereafter, I got involved with the Cleveland Stadium, the old stadium, which I felt was a very good building in spite of the fact that there were a lot of... It needed a lot of work. And I think it's a very unfortunate thing that the stadium was ever built where it was built. It was built there because I guess it was in the late '30s that there was an exhibition—exposition—[in] downtown Cleveland, the Great Lakes Exposition.

Nina Gibans [00:22:40] 1936 or something?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:22:40] I'm not very good on years.

Nina Gibans [00:22:42] I think that it was around then.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:22:43] I won't try to tie things to the year. But the stadium was built at that time. I remember being there for its opening. "The Last Days of Pompeii" was the the pageant that was being put on, and it poured so hard they couldn't even light off the firecrackers, and so they put it off to the next night, but the rain didn't stop. So although I went back the second day, I never did see... I didn't see the volcano erupt because they couldn't do it. There was just too much water. At any rate, that's another bad mistake Cleveland made, building the new stadium where they had the old one. Never should have been there. You can only approach it from one side. So the traffic conditions are really very, very bad. They made other mistakes. They put an airport down on the lakefront and used up all the lakefront. That has to go. I mean, maybe they can find another airport and maybe they can't, but the lakefront has to be turned into housing. It has to be turned into what Chicago has or what other cities have done. Until that happens, we won't have a downtown Cleveland. We also have other problems in downtown Cleveland, serious problems, and they're not architectural, although I can't point to a really top-grade architectural building in downtown Cleveland. I might be able to in the suburbs, but I can't do it in downtown Cleveland. Until we get a school system that allows people to live in downtown Cleveland and send their children safely to school to be educated properly, we will never have downtown. The people that are moving into the lofts that are now being built don't have children, and when they do have children they will quickly move out of downtown Cleveland or they will send their children to private school someplace in the suburbs because there aren't any private schools in downtown Cleveland either. We have other problems in downtown Cleveland. One of them is we don't have a good supermarket down there where you can buy groceries. Now, I think that's going to get corrected. And the other thing that we don't have is recreation. We don't have a track to run on a tennis court to play on, and putting one or two isolated tennis courts on a roof someplace is not the solution to the problem. We need true recreation in downtown Cleveland. So until those three things are resolved...

Nina Gibans [00:25:20] Where is the vision for the future that you're describing, the needs?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:25:25] Well, my vision right now has changed. It's changed over the last year because of a gentleman who has a much better vision than I have. His name is Bob Stark and he has a real vision for downtown Cleveland. And we're working on that with him, and we're delighted to be doing it. I think if he's able to produce what he has said he will produce, Cleveland will begin to come back again. The only thing he can't handle are the schools. That's... I'm sure he knows that. And I haven't heard him say it. But until... Maybe this new school superintendent is the right guy. He's moving in a great direction, and the new mayor has been moving at a pretty good direction. The old mayor really didn't do much of a job at all, but maybe this new guy will come through for us. So my vision is to see Cleveland not as it was, because it can't be as it was. There won't be those big houses on Euclid Avenue. And the very wealthy people may live in downtown Cleveland, but they aren't going to live in houses; they're going to live in condominiums and big apartment houses which don't even exist yet. But I think they will. That's what I see happening. I don't think I'll live long enough to see it. I hope Jack Jr. does.

Nina Gibans [00:26:53] Okay, let's... I hear the housing... [inaudible]

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:26:56] [Laughs].

Nina Gibans [00:26:59] Let's go back to your first houses that you did, the modern houses, because you came with that idiom in mind because you were... that was your perspective. So let's go back to the '50s.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:27:17] Well, that was a very difficult row to hoe in those days. I won't say I was the first modern architect in Cleveland—I don't think I was—but I certainly was the first modern architect that built anything that was so-called contemporary in the city of Shaker Heights. And that was a difficult row to hoe. It was so difficult that many of the good architects left Cleveland because they could not get their houses passed in the city of Shaker Heights or Moreland Hills or anyplace else where people had the money and the desire to live. So I fought that system right from the word start. I remember going before the Shaker board with a very modern house, the very first house I built up North Park for the Weisses. And it's still a good house, but it let me sidetrack for just a moment. I learned very early that Cleveland is not a good place to build a flat-roof house...

Nina Gibans [00:28:21] [Laughs].

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:28:23] Because flat roofs leak, and we have such terrible alternate thawing and freezing that eventually, no matter how well you build it, you're going to have a problem with a flat-roof house. [Sirens in background for 30 seconds] So... There's your noise. [laughs] Most of the houses that I built in the Cleveland area did not have flat roofs. At any rate, getting back to my story about this very first house, I wanted to build a big window, a big glass area and the Shaker board wouldn't let me do it. They said that looks like a store building. You've got to have mullions in your windows. You've got to have... Those mullions have to be taller than they are wide. Incidentally, if you drive around in Beachwood, you'll see a lot of windows with mullions that aren't taller than they are wide and they don't look very good, they're not well proportioned. So I had to try to figure out a way to get this big glass area in that house. And I went to the Gunton company. Bill Gunton was a classmate of mine at Heights High School. And I said to him, Can you make me a mullion that I can remove after the Shaker board has approved the house? And if they ever come out to ask, where are the mullions? Well, they're in the basement being painted. And he said, Yes, I think I can do that. And he did. And I did put them in and I did take them out. And they put the removable mullion in their permanent line. And you will see it everywhere, and I'm kind of sorry I did that because when they made the removable mullion, they put it between the panes of glass, and it doesn't look like a mullion. It has a very shiny... As a matter of fact, when we did our... Remodeled our office building and put an addition on it at Shaker Square, I went back to Bill and I said, can you give me two pairs of removable mullions, one that's inside the glass and one that we can put on the outside? He said, sure, I can do that. And he did. And we put that mullion on the outside and it really didn't look very good.

Nina Gibans [00:30:40] Is he still in business?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:30:42] Pardon?

Nina Gibans [00:30:43] Is he still in business?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:30:45] The Gunton company is, yes. That's the Pella window company.

Nina Gibans [00:30:48] Uh huh.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:30:50] And...

Nina Gibans [00:30:52] And his name is?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:30:54] His name was Bill. He's no longer with the company–

Nina Gibans [00:30:56] Okay, okay.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:30:56] I don't think, but... We took those... that second set of mullions off. They're in the attic someplace because they didn't come up to our expectations. At any rate, I fought the board at Shaker time after time after time, and when I fought them, I was very angry about having to fight them. As I look back on it and realize what they were trying to accomplish, they were right and I probably was wrong, although I won more battles than I lost. They were trying to preserve a certain feeling for the city of Shaker Heights that I didn't have much of a feel for in those days. I do now, but I didn't then. And they were doing a pretty darn good job. And if you compare the houses in Shaker to the houses that have been built beyond Shaker—Beachwood, Moreland Hills, and so on, you'll find the Shaker houses are infinitely superior to the houses that were built out there.

Nina Gibans [00:32:02] Are you talking designwise?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:32:05] Yes, I am.

Nina Gibans [00:32:05] Okay, so you're going back to the first part of the century when those houses were designed and built like fortresses, many of them...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:32:17] They were designed by very good, capable architects like Schweinfurth or Charles Coleman and many others that really did a superb job of design. And those houses now are 100 or 150 years old and they're holding up wonderfully and they look better... If you drive up... If you look at the houses that were built since World War Two, you'll find that most of those houses don't hold a candle to the ones that were built before.

Nina Gibans [00:32:50] But Jack, you built many of those.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:32:52] Well, I can't say my houses excepted. Someone else has to say that.

Nina Gibans [00:32:59] Well, having checked out some of them, there's... There are good houses and there are poor houses, you know. But some other architects came in perhaps after you to do Don Hisaka's house they did for his own living. There was Fred Taguchi's house on Drummond. Bill Morris. They all did houses in Shaker Heights. And they talk about—at least the living ones—do talk about the struggle with each house. So which is your own favorite house of yours that you did?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:33:47] My favorite houses are not in Cleveland, unfortunately.

Nina Gibans [00:33:49] Oh, really?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:33:50] But if we talk about Cleveland house, as I have several that I really think are top grade. The houses that I built on South Park and North Park Boulevard in my early days, the Weiss House, the Golder House, the Metzenbaum House, the Kansas House, the House that—oh, I'm trying to think of his name, the department store guy, but it'll come to me... at two o'clock tonight. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:34:23] Curtises?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:34:24] Curtises, yes. [crosstalk] Well, I did two houses for the Curtises, and the first one is now lived in by his son. And we've remodeled it three times. And each remodeling that we've done has enhanced, I think, the house, made it even more than it was. But the second Curtis house may be the best house I ever did.

Nina Gibans [00:34:44] And where is that?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:34:45] That's out next to University School off of S.O.M. Center Road. And that's a... That's a winner. Houses are... are very difficult. First of all, eventually a decorator becomes involved. And I don't know what the other architects think of decorators, but I don't hold them in high esteem. I don't think they've been properly trained. I don't think they have the right idea. They get in after the house has been designed, they want to change everything. They have no regard for the client's money. They don't care what they spend, and they don't do what I consider to be a good job. That's not...

Nina Gibans [00:35:31] None of them?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:35:32] Pardon?

Nina Gibans [00:35:33] None of them?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:35:34] No, that's not true of all of them. There are always some that are very capable, and they're the ones that have been well-trained and well... I always thought that a decorator ought to be an architect before they became a decorator. I think that being a housewife doesn't qualify it to decorate somebody else's house.

Nina Gibans [00:35:56] Interesting. What is a decorator's usual training?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:36:01] Well, today it's better than it ever was because they learn... They do learn to draw, some of 'em, and incidentally the architects don't learn to draw anymore. I don't know whether anybody's ever mentioned that to you. The computer is one of the best things that ever happened to our profession. And I'm reasonably capable on the computer, although I can't and don't do any working drawings on the computer. But I think that the computer has taken over the field to the point where architecture is going to be very sorry about it. I had a very unhappy experience. I went to the Ohio State football game this... two weeks, three weeks ago when they played Cincinnati and won. And right next to the stadium is the New School of Architecture. And it's a magnificent, brand-new building. Very original, very well done, very exciting, a little bit wasteful of space. But okay, that's the way it is. But as I walked through that building—and school hadn't started yet—there wasn't one single drawing board, one single T-square, one pencil, one triangle, or one piece of paper on the wall. They had all, if they had ever been there, been removed. And the only thing that was in that building were computers, and there were a lot of them. And I questioned a very good friend of mine who is a landscape architect in Columbus who teaches at the school about it. And he said, well, you're right, they don't teach anybody to draw. They're not interested in drawing. They only want to make sure you know how to use the computer. Well, people that come into my office learn how to draw. And they're much better on the computer than I'll ever be because, first of all, my hearing is bad. My sight... I can't read that screen as fast as they can read it. And having had carpal tunnel operations, I can't move the bug the way they move the bug. They're terrific at that. But they have to learn to draw because the computer doesn't think.

Nina Gibans [00:38:22] Did you learn to draw at Yale?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:38:24] No, I learned to draw before I went to Yale. I learned it when I was in elementary school, and I've been drawing ever since.

Nina Gibans [00:38:33] Right. This is philosophic...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:38:38] [Laughs].

Nina Gibans [00:38:40] But the concepts of design as they can be taught in the schools of architecture, is that the priority that should be in the schools, or should they be learning to draw?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:38:56] Well, you know that the teaching of architecture keeps evolving. It's not a static thing. It's very dynamic. It was extremely dynamic when I started because it went from the Beaux Arts, which was where every architect learned to paint and to sculpt and to where they only learned to draw by hand. And that was... I don't know that that was a step forward or not. But as... You know, I've been around fifty-seven years in this field. That's a long time. I've had multiple careers. It hasn't just been on even one career line. I've moved from houses to all kinds of things, to hotels to bowling alleys, still now into shopping centers but—not shopping centers—they're centers to live in. Crocker Park is a very good example, and we're doing many of those now, and we love doing... They're difficult to do.

Nina Gibans [00:39:57] But not in Cleveland.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:39:57] And yes, we are doing four of 'em in Cleveland.

Nina Gibans [00:40:06] Oh. Well, continue about drawing

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:40:09] Well, the teaching of architecture really is... You have to learn to draw. If you can't... If you can't paint and you can't draw and you can't sculpt, I don't think you can be a good architect. I look at many of the so-called star architects today, and most of them can draw. Frank Gehry can draw like crazy, and he's a wonderful sculptor. Now, if you don't like his buildings, that's kind of personal. But he's very exciting.

Nina Gibans [00:40:43] Right. And you talked about learning on the job and so if there are only computers...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:40:53] You're not gonna learn on the job. You have to learn more than how to draw and how to be an ar[chitect]. You have to learn to build. And I had that good fortune when I was in high school working for various builders. And I worked one year as a plumber's helper, one year as an electrician's helper, and one year as a mason's helper. And that was invaluable experience.

Nina Gibans [00:41:17] Right.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:41:18] And my children, my two boys had the same kind of training. So I think that it's very important. You can't walk out on a job and tell a workman how to do his job if you don't know how to do it. And don't ever—I learned this from Charlie Coleman the first day I was there—don't ever pick up the trowel and try and show the mason how to lay the brick. Describe it to him but don't do it because he's been doing it all his life and you haven't, and you're going to be made a fool if you try to do that. But if you know how to do it, you can explain to him what you want to see done.

Nina Gibans [00:41:56] So, is there any more you really want to say about Euclid Avenue?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:42:03] Well, I have high hopes for Euclid Avenue in spite of my doubts. I mean, I don't want to be a naysayer. I hope that the RTA is right andthat this new Corridor will produce what they want it to produce. What they want it to produce is traffic, and if it produces traffic it will be very successful. I don't see how it's going to do that yet. But if we can move some of the ideas like Stark has ahead, I think they stand a chance.

Nina Gibans [00:42:42] Any other memories of the buildings, for you personally?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:42:49] Well, you mean in downtown Cleveland?

Nina Gibans [00:42:54] Mm hmm. And anywhere out.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:42:56] I have done three or four major buildings in downtown Cleveland. I may be the only architect alive that's seen a 22-story building of his torn down. That was the Cleveland Clinic Hotel. And they put up a new building, which I don't think is any better than the one that was there.

Nina Gibans [00:43:15] How would you feel about that?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:43:17] Well, I was very hopeful that maybe the new building would be much, much more exciting than what I had done. One of the things that I did through my career—and I made plenty of mistakes, but—was to experiment with new methods of doing things. And Cleveland Clinic Hotel building was quite an experiment. And most of it came out really very well, but some of it didn't. First of all, Will McFarlan walked into my office on a Friday and he said, On Monday I have a meeting with the Cleveland Clinic. I need a picture of the hotel you're going to build for me there. Well, I said, you haven't given me any time. He said, You can do it. So I worked all weekend. I never went to bed that whole weekend. And I produced a drawing for him. And the building that was built looked exactly like that drawing. But in order to get it built, we had to do a lot of unique things. One of the things we did, and it was maybe the first time done in Cleveland, was to build the brick panels on the site, on the ground, not up on the building, and then to hoist them up into place. They were backed up with waterproofing and with insulation and a crane—and they had rods through 'em—a crane, picked them up, put them in place. And that was very successful. We did the same thing for the Bond Court Hotel because they didn't have room to do it on the ground. We built it in, I guess it was a Ravenna or Hiram, I can't remember—it was Ravenna, Ohio—and brought them up on a truck. There were some mistakes made there, but I don't think they were the architect's mistakes. They were Dow Chemical's mistakes. The product Sarabond didn't work out properly and it made water which cost less...

Nina Gibans [00:45:15] Wasn't there another building where that happened?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:45:18] There were thirty buildings around the country that that happened to. But we did a lot of innovating and most of the innovating was, has been successful, and we're still innovating. And most of it is successful. But it's very hard to be an innovative architect unless you're willing to accept the liability that comes with it. And that's not an easy thing to do.

Nina Gibans [00:45:46] And do you have to still fight City Hall for some of the design elements or what is that picture like?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:45:53] Well, I have to be careful what I say, because I know... I still have to go back to those cities for their approval. I would say that most of the cities make an effort to be helpful. Some of them really are very difficult to work with. They can remain nameless because I'm still going there.

Nina Gibans [00:46:20] Do you have an opinion about the Breuer building, the preservation of the Breuer tower?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:46:27] Yes, I think it definitely should be... It should remain. It should be adapted to use. It should not be torn down. It would be a shame to tear that building down. But they've torn so many other buildings down that they never should have torn down.

Nina Gibans [00:46:45] Right. And what about the Hisaka building?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:46:48] The what?

Nina Gibans [00:46:49] The Hisaka building on Cleveland State campus? It's going to come down.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:46:53] Uhhh.

Nina Gibans [00:46:55] The big, the big building.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:46:57] That's a mistake. Don't tear 'em down. Find another place to do what you want to do. Don't tear down landmarks. There's another thing which I haven't had a chance to tell you, though. One of the problems with Cleveland and with Cleveland's buildings is that Cleveland is the Forest City and most of those buildings and homes that were there were built of wood because we're the Forest City. We have plenty of.... We had plenty of lumber available to us. That's not true in places like Dayton, Ohio, or New Haven, Connecticut. There, those buildings are built of masonry and they stand a chance to last. And our wooden buildings in 100 years are gone. We have to do something better than to build them out of wood, but to build them out of EIFS, out of fake stucco, is not the answer. That won't hold up either. And neither do shake roofs hold up. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:48:11] Right. You need slate.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:48:13] You need slate, you need some artificial material. I mean, you don't have to go back to the... You don't have to go back to the old ages to find the materials that are going to last, although they did have them then. We have some new ones that are really very good and that will last forever. One of the things that bothers me is I hear people say, well, are you building that building to last for 50 years? And they're thinking, you know, that's what it'll last. I don't think that's so. I think a building ought to last for 200 or 300 years. I think 50 years is a, you know, flash.

Nina Gibans [00:48:52] Right.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:48:53] You gotta do better than that.

Nina Gibans [00:48:54] Fifty years is hardly a lifetime.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:48:56] Well, 50 years, I've seen my 50-year old buildings [torn down]...

Nina Gibans [00:49:01] Right. Right. Emma, do you have some questions?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:49:11] Not really. I'm just... Who's Bob Stark?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:49:14] Bob Stark is a developer, the head of the Stark Corporation. He built the Crocker Park. He built Eaton Square.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:49:23] Now was he actually involved from the city, like politically, or is he just...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:49:31] He's not a politician. He is the last person to accuse of being a politician, but he's got a very creative development mind. He is involved both with the City of Cleveland and something called the Y district, which I hope you will live to see. And he's involved with the City of Shaker Heights, you know, project, which I hope will come to fruition. And he's very creative in what he wants to do. And he's proved... He's proven that at Eaton Square and he's proven it at Crocker Park.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:50:09] What is the Y district?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:50:12] It's an area around the river that's shaped like a Y, and his intent is to make it a... not a shopping center like the other people are doing, but to make it into a center for living. He believes that, and he really pushes it hard, that retail should have people living above it so that they don't have to have people drive in from Shaker Heights to patronize their stores. They should be there. That's what's happened at Crocker Park and it's very successful.

Nina Gibans [00:50:44] Right. Crocker was the... No, Eaton was before Crocker.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:50:51] Well, no, Crocker was started before Eaton, but Eaton went faster. But Eaton is not finished.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:02] Does Eaton...

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:02] Neither is Crocker.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:04] Does Eaton... But Eaton doesn't have resident. Does even have residential?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:08] No.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:08] Okay.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:09] Not yet. Not yet.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:10] Oh! Where is your... Where's your other son? Where's your other son an architect?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:26] You mean Bill? He's a member of our company.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:28] Oh, he is too?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:28] He runs our New York office.

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:31] Oh!

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:51:37] Nina, did you have other questions?

Nina Gibans [00:51:39] Very good. So is there anything else you'd like to say?

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:45] No, I don't think so.

Nina Gibans [00:51:46] Okay! [laughs].

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:51:48] I've said too much already. [laughs]

Nina Gibans [00:51:50] No, this is great fun. And as you can tell, there are parts of it for each of these areas that I talked about in the very beginning. So, Jack, we're very grateful that you would do this, and say hi to Jack and Bill for us.

Jack Bialosky Sr. [00:52:08] I certainly will. I hope he won't think I put my foot in it again.

Nina Gibans [00:52:13] No. When... Are you turning it off?

Emma Yanoshik-Wing [00:52:17] Do you want me to turn up?

Nina Gibans [00:52:18] Uh huh.

American Institute of Architects

The American Institute of Architects (Cleveland Chapter) Oral History Project. In 2006, in collaboration with Nina Friedlander Gibans, the Center began collecting oral history interviews with some of Cleveland’s best-known architects. 26 interviews in all were captured by Gibans and a team of researchers and students from the Center. These interviews help bring the city’s great buildings to life, and shine a light on current issues in architecture and urban design, making the series a major…