Brendan Ring describes being the owner of Nighttown in Cleveland Heights. He begins with a discription of his history, the history of the building, and a history of the establisment. He also discusses previous owner John Barr. He talks about his favorite acts that passed through Nighttown, which included big names like Wynton Marsalis and Stevie Wonder. He also talks about the challenges of running a restaurant in a building not made for restaurants. He recalls how the restaurant was and still is a meeting point for many writers and journalists in the Cleveland area. He mentions the many collectables hung on the walls of Nighttown, and discusses his favorite pieces. Finally, he ends by talking about the Cedar-Fairmount neighborhood and his great fondness for the area.
Brendan Ring [00:00:02] Okay, sure, Brendan Ring.
Kelsey Smith [00:00:08] Alright, that's good and today's July 24, 2012. Alright, so where were you born?
Brendan Ring [00:00:13] I was born in a town called Cahersiveen in County Kerry in Ireland in 1963. April 1963.
Kelsey Smith [00:00:23] And how did you come to Cleveland?
Brendan Ring [00:00:24] I came. Well, I first of all, came to New York. I was a [inaudible] engineering student. And I came to New York in the summer of 1984 just to work for the summer and ended up loving New York and decided I'd take a year off school and stick around New York. And then I blinked, and 10 years later, then my wife got offered a job in Akron, Ohio. And I had at the time I had a small bar in Queens, New York. And then I decided I'd say, let's move out here and try Cleveland for a year. I thought. And that was 20 years ago now. So that's how I ended up in Cleveland. And I just, you know, saw an ad in the Plain Dealer one day for a job at Nightown and started working as a bartender here in 1992.
Kelsey Smith [00:01:13] Who owned Nighttown at the time?
Brendan Ring [00:01:13] A fellow named John Barr. He had opened Nighttown in February of 1965, and Nighttown was named after the Nighttown chapter in Ulysses, the novel by James Joyce. So it kind of seemed like a natural fit for an Irishman to walk in here. Even though it really is not an Irish bar as such. But yeah, John opened it in 1965, a very successful place, very famous place for a long time. And when I walked in in '92.
Kelsey Smith [00:01:41] What was it like working here when you first started?
Brendan Ring [00:01:41] Oh, it was a great place. I mean, you know, the minute I walked in the door, I felt comfortable with the place. I I had three interviews that day, but this place felt right. And it was a great place, great history. I mean, lots of writers, lots of historians, people from the universities, people from the clinic. It was a great kind of melting pot of people. And I like that because it kind of reminds me a bit of New York. And so I walked here as a bartender for maybe just about a year, and then he made me the general manager and which I did for the next eight years. And then I bought the place in 2001.
Kelsey Smith [00:02:14] What made you want to buy this place?
Brendan Ring [00:02:19] Well, the fellow who owned it previously and I hit it off from day one. And it just seemed like the natural order of things that I would become the owner because, you know, he was getting on. He was up in his 70s at this point when I bought the place. He's in his 80s now and it just seemed like a natural progression. And just trying to figure out how to buy it was the hard part. But I luckily met a fellow here one night who had grown up down on 123rd and St. Clair, whose parents had come from Ireland, who happened to be the chairman of a bank, Northern Savings and Loan in Elyria and he bankrolled me. And he was you know, it was a big deal because I had to buy the building and the two buildings next door as part of the deal. So luckily, I found a good Samaritan who kind of backed me and that's how I ended up owning the place so.
Kelsey Smith [00:03:11] What are the two buildings?
Brendan Ring [00:03:11] Next door, we have a bakery and a beauty salon, which John owned all of them, so I had to buy the whole package. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:03:19] Do you still run those?
Brendan Ring [00:03:20] Yeah, I mean I mean, I rent them out yeah to a Swiss baker, who's a fellow immigrant from Switzerland, he sells us all our bread. So our bakery is almost like having a bakery on premises. It's right next door. And then Claire runs a beauty salon right next door on Cedar Hill as well as Cedar Hill Salon so.
Kelsey Smith [00:03:38] So what do you about the history of this building?
Brendan Ring [00:03:38] And I know a little bit about the history of the building. The building was built in 1923 and there were four storefronts in this building and we're sitting in the furthest east storefront right now. And and, you know, various businesses around here over the years back, way back. I was actually talking to John about this yesterday because I knew it was going to meet you was the middle part where you walked in the main entrance to Nightown, there was a candy store forall of the kids. And John, and John was born in 1929 and he said he grew up in East Cleveland. But everyone at that point was moving up to the Heights and it was a candy store. All the kids in the neighborhood would come to this candy store. And then there was a diner in the first in the most Western storefront in the building was a diner, Cedar Hill Diner. Then you had the candy store, like I said, and then you had a beauty salon in the next room below us. And then up inside here, you had like a deli, a corner store kind of thing and that was back in the '20s and '30s and then prior to Nighttown opening in 1965, the main entrance was a place called the Silhouette Lounge. And Silhouette Lounge was owned by Cadillac Amusements, which were a mob-owned outfit. They're still here in town. But back in the '60s, the feds were making the mob divest themselves of any connection with liquor. So they had to sell any any connection with liquor, so they had to sell. That's how John ended up buying the Silhouette Lounge, which was a known mob bar. And because the feds were putting pressure on the mob in Cleveland at the time, so they had to get out the liquor business. So that's how he ended up buying the place for very little actually at the time. But it wasn't a very nice place. It was a formica clad pool table, kind of giant in the middle. And then all the other stores were around Nighttown still and one by one, John had taken over each of the stores to take the entire frontage on Cedar Road to become Nighttown. All of it. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:05:48] How did he get into jazz then?
Brendan Ring [00:05:49] Well, John, John, John loved jazz. And when I got here in '92, we, you know, there's a type of jazz called stride and stride piano was very popular in the '20s and '30s. And John at the time was bringing in a couple of the bigger players in the country, maybe once or twice a year only. And when I got here. This is a huge restaurant to fill all the time, and at the time I took it over, it was kind of waning. It was kind of had crested and was heading down the other side, like all things do. And I thought, well, how do I fill a place this big on a regular basis? So I decided I was just going to throw my all at jazz and try and bring in, bring in the biggest names in the country in every genre of jazz, not just stride piano. I mean, you know, urban jazz, smooth jazz, you know, and old-time jazz, new jazz, whatever. We just decided we're going to do it all. So we decided back in, I probably didn't make that decision till about '95. And then in about 2000, I hired a fellow named Jim Wadsworth, who's far more knowledgeable about jazz than I am because I tried to run the restaurant trying to do the jazz at the same time was too much. Now it's to the point where it's taken off to the level that, you know, Downbeat Magazine, which is the the Bible for jazz lovers around the world, named us for last six years straight one of the top jazz venues in the world, not just in the United States, which is a huge undertaking. There's no other place in Ohio. Very few places in the country. I mean, you have New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, maybe. And so now we're really on the map. And so everyone that's anyone in jazz now plays this room everybody, so.
Kelsey Smith [00:07:27] What have been some of the more memorable performances?
Brendan Ring [00:07:31] You know, it's funny, someone was asking me that just yesterday, what was your. My favorite show ever was Joshua Redman, who's a phenomenal saxophone player and a huge act, really almost too big for this room. But we did have in about five years ago, and that was probably the most memorable concert I enjoyed in here. And because everything is subjective, you could ask ten people, you get ten different responses in terms, well, you know, one night and this wasn't the scheduled actually, two of them weren't scheduled concerts; they just happened. Wynton Marsalis walked in here one night at 11:30 after playing down in one of the big theaters in Playhouse Square. And sat down at the piano, which he doesn't usually do because he plays trumpet and sat down and played music while reciting Yeats poetry all night long to a very small audience here till the wee hours of the morning. That was probably one of my most memorable nights. He did come back another night and played trumpet to an audience too just because. And then last year I happened to be in New York one night and my phone rang at 11 o'clock and I was out and about and my manager said, Oh, my God, you won't believe who just pulled up. And he's sitting down at the piano and he's playing to an audience of about 30 people. He's bought everybody champagne. It's unbelievable. And it was Stevie Wonder. And he sat here and played for two hours, you know, for free just because he had gotten to the Ritz Carlton that night. He was getting an an honorary degree from Oberlin. And he asked the concierge at the Ritz. He said, what's the coolest spot in town, man, that they've got a piano at? And the guy said, Well, Nighttown. So he showed up here on Sunday night at 11 o'clock. So that was memorable in its own right. But there's been so many because we've had so many people, you know, Ray Brown, McCoy Tyner, Ahmad Jamal and Lou Rawls. I mean, the list goes on and on. It's a who's who, you know, of jazz. So they're all great. But they're the three that stand out, I suppose, for now. New memories are to be made daily. Yeah.
Kelsey Smith [00:09:24] I guess another question I have, what are the challenges of operating in a historic building?
Brendan Ring [00:09:37] I only have to go back to yesterday because of that, you know, yes, Monday, Monday in the restaurant business as well. I mean, I walked in yesterday morning. Let's see. And. The hoses were down in the kitchen, which the hoods were down in the kitchen, the beer cooler was down in the basement. There was a flood in the basement. And that was just yesterday. And a lot of it has to do with the fact it is an old building. And when I called the guys out to fix the hoods, crawling up in this old building is very difficult. I actually said to John Barr, my predecessor, who stopped in for lunch yesterday. I said, I said I was in a restaurant the other night down, down the hill, Club Isabella. And I said, God, I was looking around they built it from scratch, from the ground up. I said, I wonder if they realize how lucky they are because you can get to build it exactly as you want it, not try to squeeze a restaurant into a building that wasn't intended for it. I mean, when this building was built in 1923, I'll give you a for instance, when they built these buildings in 1923, there's a six-inch sewer pipe that goes out of this building like all the buildings that were built in 1923. Well, whoever designed this building didn't realize that some guy was going to open the restaurant one day that had 400 seats. That uses a lot of dishwater that there were going to be, I don't know, twelve toilets more than they planned and that they were going to be 20 sinks more than they had planned and so on and so on and so on. So it's always a really big problem. The plumbing in this building is a nightmare that I couldn't even describe how bad it is. But we have to live with that. I had two new coolers delivered in the basement yesterday for keg beer, and we had to put the cooler sitting on concrete blocks nine inches high because we flood so often in the basement here. Because the other thing is we're the last building on the hill here. And the the drain lines that are out there in the middle of Cedar Road were not intended for the volume that they have when they were designed as anyone that lives in northeast Ohio knows where the sewer bills are headed because there's so much sewer construction going on now. So we're the last building in the hill. So when it backs off, we get it first and it ends up not sewer, but rainfall water. It ends up backing up into our basement first and then on up the hill but those two buildings next door, don't have basements, so they don't have to deal with it. The bank doesn't have a basement. Then where Starbucks is the Height Center building, they deal with the same problems I do. I just get it first. So, yeah, there's immense challenges to an old building. Just from the upkeep standpoint, it's a constant job. I said to someone last week that I need an operations manager just to look after this building because it has to be a labor of love. Because I tell you, it's, it's hard. It's very difficult. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:12:22] And then on the flip side, what are some of the pleasures of being in an old building?
Brendan Ring [00:12:27] Well, I mean, all you have to do is stand outside across the street and look at the building and that, that answers that question, or look at the structure. Just look at the moldings, look at the ceilings, look at all that stuff. You're never going to get that in a new building. I mean, new buildings, they all tend to be the same. They're made of paper, basically. I mean, [they] put up aluminum studs and they put, you know, half-inch drywall. I mean, you can put your fist through it in any of these new buildings. That wall right there you're looking at is probably 18 inches thick of concrete and stone. I mean, it's got character. It's got integrity. I mean, and again, they're beautiful to look at. They were built by artisans, not by, you know, people basically not training these days. Anyone can build a building today. But this is different. I mean, it's just it's got character. You wrap your arms around it it's beautiful.
Kelsey Smith [00:13:17] Do you know who designed the building?
Brendan Ring [00:13:17] I don't I don't the big architect back in the day around here was Walker and Weeks, and so it's very possible that they might have done it. It's also possible, see we, this was a golf course here. I don't know if you are aware of that or not, but this whole area here was a golf course and it was owned by John Rockefeller and a few investors.
Kelsey Smith [00:13:37] And I'm trying to remember the reason. I think the reason why it ended up being built on was because these guys were very, you know, hard line religious in their own way and they would not allow golf on Sundays. Back in the, in the teens and golf clubs started opening out a bit further east who didn't have the same, you know, old we'd say, you know, white Anglo-Saxon Protestant tendencies these guys had. And it opened on Sunday. And as soon as the golf course started opening Sunday, this became unviable. And then, of course, Cleveland was starting to start to push its borders out. And this was very prime development land because their street streetcar ran right up to here. So they started developing all around here. And this was all a planned community in the same way that you've planned the states now and all these streets around Delaware, Bellfield, Grandview they were all planned streets on that golf course. I think it was called the Euclid Golf Course or something like that, but.
Kelsey Smith [00:14:39] I also wanted to ask you about, I saw on your website you have the Cleveland Press, the Press Club of Cleveland.
Brendan Ring [00:14:46] Right.
Kelsey Smith [00:14:48] How did that come about?
Brendan Ring [00:14:48] Well, first of all, Nighttown was all, excuse me, Nighttown was always synonymous with writers. They tended to come here back when John started out first. John started Nighttown first. It became a place where and, you know, famously in Esquire magazine in 1960 Nighttown was named one of the top pick up joints in the country. And the reason that happened was women started to come here because it was known that Nighttown was a kind of place where smart guys hung out and smart meaning writers from The Plain Dealer and the Cleveland press kind of made this their home and he kind of pitched the place as a singles place. And women would show up here because they met smart guys and it was different than a lot of bars in that respect. And there was always a respect for women here. So that's how it became synonymous with the press. And then about five or six years ago, Bruce Hennes, who's first of all a good friend of mine and also became my PR guy, he's on the board of Cleveland Press and the Cleveland press never hadn't had a permanent home for 30 years or so. I think they used to be in the Statler Hotel downtown back in the day. And Bruce pitched to them the idea of a permanent home for the Hall of Fame, where people come in and look at the plaques of the Hall of Fame and the photographs and the memorabilia. And this is a big place. And I had in the area that I could do it in. And so we then, we then became the Press Club Hall of Fame. So people actually come now to see Hall of Fame within the restaurant. It's kind of cool, really. And I see people that are relatives or people that remember certain writers. They'll come by here and you'll see them in there glancing at the history of the people. And then every year we we add six more people to the Hall of Fame. And, for instance, Kelly O'Donnell, who you might know that name, she's on CNN now. She grew up in Cleveland Heights, used to come here when I actually started working here first. And then she her star roles and she became she's big in the national scene, though. She just became a member of our Hall of Fame this past year. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:16:40] What, do you know any, off the top of your head, any of the notable writers who came here?
Brendan Ring [00:16:45] Well, I mean, well, I mean, I came here and still come here, you know, Mike Roberts, Mike O'Malley, Dorothy Fuldheim, Jane Scott. And it's not just the Writer's Hall of Fame, the Press Club also encompasses television, radio, all media. So, you know, everyone from Ted Henry to. any and all of the anchors on TV right now, a lot of them are in the Hall of Fame, Michael Heaton, his father, his name escapes me now you know, the old man, Mr. Heaton and Alex Machaskee, who used to be the publisher of the Plain Dealer. I mean, every one of them, more or less, come here, you know. Regina Brett, she was just here yesterday, so, yeah, all the writers come here.
Kelsey Smith [00:17:44] Is there anything on the wall that's like your favorite as far as memorabilia?
Brendan Ring [00:17:44] I had two guys in here last night from New York who are industrial designers, and they asked me to walk them around and show them the place. They said we have nothing like this in New York, which is great to hear. And they're wrong, by the way. But there's two places in New York that are McSorley's Old Ale House and a place called Raoul's on Prince Street are very like Nighttown in terms of memorabilia and I reminded them that last night. But in terms of favorite, there are two. There's a lot of stuff that's my favorite, but there are two, two posters. That are Prohibition-era posters that were used to hang around in Kentucky during, before prohibition was passed to try and persuade people to vote for prohibition, and they're called Ten Nights in a Barroom. And there I have two of the ten. They're very, very valuable, but they are posters depicting the bad things that happen if you hang out in bars. And probably my favorite one is called, of he series, is called Followed Your Father Come Home with Me Now. And it's a little girl trying to pull her dad out of the bar on payday. He looks disheveled, all torn up. He's drunk, probably a working man back in the, in the '20s maybe, who's obviously spent his paycheck in the bar. And the lecherous bar owner is standing there looking. He's obviously got his money and the kid's obviously been sent to the bar by, by the mother. A story often repeated in the restaurant bar business to this day, by the way. And I love that one. Another favorite of mine is the great Cleveland artist, sculptor, painter Viktor Schreckengost, who literally came here four times a week. And we not only hosted his 100th birthday party here, I [also] hosted his post-funeral meeting here and gave me one of his jazz posters, signed it to me about twelve years ago. That's probably my most coveted piece, I suppose. Followed Your Father might be my favorite piece, but that's my most coveted piece. But there's so much stuff on the walls. Just. When the two guys in New York were here last night, introduced them to John because he happened to be sitting here having dinner and they said to him, how did you amass such a collection of phenomenal artwork? And John said that when he started collecting back in, 1965 people weren't doing the collecting that they're doing now. And they didn't really put a whole lot of value on the stuff that he was buying at estate sales or auctions. He bought it, bought a lot of the stuff for literally nothing, nothing. And I've got a piece hanging up at home that I took off the walls at Nighttown soon after I bought the place because an art dealer came in to me and said, I'd like to buy that off you. And it was a painting by a fellow named Mueller that John bought from an old estate sale up here on North Park back in 1966. And John paid five thousand dollars for 1966, and to put things in perspective. He bought Nighttown in 1965 for five thousand dollars, so he paid the same a year later for one painting. But this art dealer said to me, I'll give you one hundred sixty thousand dollars for the painting and the painting the next day was hanging in my living room because it was too valuable to hang up in here. But that's just it again, wouldn't actually be one of my favorite things, but that's just the way it was. John collected a lot of stuff from Cleveland Heights homes, from a lot of the old landed gentry of Cleveland Heights homes when a lot of them were moving out east in the late '60s, early '70s, out moving out to Hunting Valley, Pepper Pike, and those places. And they were selling off their big homes in the Heights are selling out the contents. That's where he got a lot of this stuff, you know, and he got it very, very cheap. But the great part about it is it's staying in Cleveland Heights, you know, it's not going anywhere. In the other room over there, I have a piece of glass that was made in the Tiffany Studios in Cleveland. And, you know, we're talking history here, right? 1967 he told me. He was driving down on Bellflower and at that time they were knocking down a lot of old Cleveland, a lot of Euclid, Euclid Avenue mansions were being knocked and he was driving by one day and this building had already been torn apart a little bit. And at the top of the landing, he said this beautiful piece of arched glass and he said to the contractor, can I get that? Can I buy that? And the guy said, no, no one's coming on the site. It's too dangerous. But John says but it's beautiful. How are you going to do it? And he goes, we're just going to knock it down. And then he came back up to Nighttown and had a few drinks with a few buddies of his, and they went down that night at 2:00 in the morning and hacked this thing out of the wall. I'll show it to you before you leave, hacked it out of the wall, put it in a big convertible car with a moose head, which is still sitting in the other room. And they basically stole it and they installed it here at Nighttown. And a few years ago, I had the thing redone. We didn't know what it was, but I had a guy, a stained glass guy here in Cleveland, very good and well thought of nationally thought of guy come and fix it. I asked him how much it will cost to fix that, and he said to me, it's going to cost $7000 to fix that. Whoa. And then he says, you know what you got, don't you? And I said, I don't know what I got. He said, that was made in Tiffany Studios here in Cleveland, not, not by Louis Tiffany himself, but Tiffany had a store in New York. You know, what Tiffany is he still in New York, but he also had one in Cleveland because Cleveland was a very, very wealthy town at one point with a lot of money. And Tiffany was able to open a studio not just in New York, but in Cleveland. And the studio in Cleveland did his work. So we have a piece of Tiffany glass and a moose head that was stolen that's still here. Okay, statute of limitations has gone on that a long time ago. So I can see that's safely so.
Kelsey Smith [00:23:24] There's a lot of Tiffany just in churches around here.
Brendan Ring [00:23:27] There is yeah, and my favorite piece is over at Wade Chapel in Lake View Cemetery beautiful piece there, you know. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:23:36] So, do you, do you still collect anything or?
Brendan Ring [00:23:39] Oh, yeah, I took off, I took on where John left off and right behind you here. Again, part of Cleveland's history, I just bought that piece there from a customer who at his brother is a movie poster, maybe that one of the top movie poster collectors in the country lives in Arizona. But he bought it off his own brother about 25 years ago but it was sitting in his attic he never framed it. And if you look on it there it says Ritchie, Ritchie Lithograph Company. Well, I love telling this story because not, no one knows the story. But back in the '20s when the movie business was getting going in Los Angeles and the three main printing plants in the country for movie posters were in Cleveland, Ohio. Because no one first of all, knew where, where was the movie business going to spawn? No one really knew. And posters for anything for Ringling, Ringling Brothers all over the country were made here in Cleveland. And the biggest of the companies in Cleveland was a company called Ritchie. So people in Hollywood make a movie and they were called Ritchie in Ohio to make their movie posters and ship them out. And at that time, a lot of them were hand-painted on cloth okay? And then they were reproduced, but in a method that's not done anymore. This one you see right here was the original, the original hand-painted one for this movie For the Soul of Rafael and that was from a book by Marah Ellis Evans [Marah Ellis Ryan], which was a bestseller back in the teens and they made a movie out of it. And it was a movie about feasting and all that kind of stuff. I did look it up online and it was a big hit back then. It was a love story. So I just bought that piece and that was a huge one. And [I] actually [I] like movie posters. John wasn't into movie posters, so around the walls. If we walk later on, I'll show you. I have a lot of, a lot of very rare old movie posters that I started to collect about five or six years ago. And I also collect prints. I go every year to New York print show at the Armory on Park Avenue and I buy and I'm particularly interested in prints, barroom prints from back in the '20s and '10s and '30s and with a particular emphasis on McSorley's Bar in New York, which is one of my favorite saloons in the world. So I have, you know, seven or eight pieces from there, but I have a lot of other prints from just from barrooms, barroom history, lore, that kind of thing.
Kelsey Smith [00:26:12] What about these photos?
Brendan Ring [00:26:12] He bought them he bought them from a guy who was a theater buff and there's a whole series of them there and what they were is they were letters to a Broadway producer and these people here were all famous actors, John Barrymore isn't one of them, the Barrymore family, he's in one of those posters, but they were just letters that greatful actors wrote to a producer on Broadway back in the. Actually, I think that was in the 1890s. Those ones come from, you know, this one that you see here on your left. They are two ships passing in the night on Lake Erie, the city of Toledo, and the city of Detroit. And there's an unbelievable story around that. John had that hanging on the wall. Make a long story short, that was a steamship line that used to run between Detroit, Toledo, Cleveland, and Buffalo. That's how people got around the Great Lakes back in the back in the '20s. And a few years ago, there was an auction at a restaurant down in Independence and I went down there, I was looking for stainless steel sinks and. Did you notice the, this Nighttown stage when you walked in that big there's a big architecturally detailed piece over the stage. Well, when I got into this bar to buy the feds actually close this bar down because the owner was dealing drugs and I went down there to buy a stainless steel sink. And this thing that you see over our stage was dividing the bar from the dining room. And I thought it was beautiful, but it was painted white. But I saw something in it and I asked them, can I buy that and we dismantle it and it was made of plaster and we took it back here and I put it in the basement it remained there up to two years ago. I just didn't know what to do with it. So long story short, I decided I was going to make it the backdrop to the Nighttown stage and I had an artist come in, conceptualize what she thought it would, should look like. And we put it up and now it's famous. Everyone knows it as the Nighttown stage. And a guy walked in here one night and said to me, you know what that is, don't you? And I said, I have no idea. I said, it's beautiful, it's old, but I don't know what it is. He goes, I believe that was one of the ribs of the first-class dining room on a ship called the City of Detroit that used to play the waters of Lake Erie back and forth in the '20s and '30s. And he says, the reason why I think I know that that's what it is, is he said, my family migrated from Detroit, Detroit to Cleveland in the 1930s during the Depression. And he, he was a lawyer. His name is Don O'Connor. He was a lawyer here and passed away a couple of years ago in town. And now here he piqued my interest. So I took a trip one day out to the Inland, and the reason he said it he knew that that's what it was, was there was a photograph at home of them on the ship when they came to Cleveland. He brought me the photograph. Well, it sure as hell looked like that to me. So one day I took a trip out to the Inland Seas Museum in Vermillion and I talked to the curator out there and he showed me, he said, yeah, we've got all the pictures from that steamship line. And sure enough, there it was there was the first-class dining room. And I don't know which of the ships it was, but they were all the same of my Nighttown stage, but then I could see, even though the pictures were black and white, you could tell there it was painted in a very gilded fashion from the '20s. So I came back at the artist and said, I need you to paint it again. Here's a photograph. Paint it again the way you think it looks in color from a black and white photograph. So now we like to believe that it looks just like it did. And the ship, by the way, I followed up the history, the ship, the ship, ship was beached on a sandbar purposefully in the 1950s when it was no longer of use to anyone because it was, you know, you see it right there. They beached it and just let it rot. And it just basically rotted into the lake because that's what they did in the '50s and '60s. They didn't care about old stuff. Everything was new back then. They thought it was better then. And that's that was the history of that. And ironically, that was here before the rib of it got here, which is really cool. So.
Kelsey Smith [00:30:06] That's amazing.
Brendan Ring [00:30:09] Yeah.
Kelsey Smith [00:30:10] How much of the woodwork and such is original?
Brendan Ring [00:30:15] Not not really a whole lot of it. I mean, the floors that are underneath you, there's probably six floors underneath us at this stage. I know that every time we, we redid this floor we're standing on two years ago and when we, we had, you know, I think about a floor that's only as good as the floor underneath it. So we we peeled about six different types of floor. And it was really like a microcosm of the history of the 20th century, really, because at the very bottom was the original oak hardwood floors that would have been put in back in the day. And then as time went on and quality and taste went into the basement, we went all the way up to the black and white tile of the '60s to linoleum to really bad shag carpet and then all the way up now we have a tight pile carpet because that's what we do now. And somebody will probably hate that 20 years from now. But, yeah, not not there's not a whole lot. They actually did the wood floor in the what we call the original dining room is still the original floor from the 1920s. Roughsawn oak, probably eight inches wide that would be original. For some reason, there's not a lot of crown molding in this building. There's a little bit, but not a lot, because I, my guess is a lot of it was probably removed as the years went by and as the function of each of the stores changed. Yeah.
Kelsey Smith [00:31:50] You know, I don't really have any other questions. If you have anything else you'd like to add?
Brendan Ring [00:31:51] Anything I'd like to add? I mean, we're talking really about this neighborhood per se. I mean, you know, [I've] lived in a lot of places, but this neighborhood right here, [the] Cedar-Fairmont neighborhood of Cleveland Heights is really, you know, historically beautiful, I mean, it was all built. Everything around us here was built at roughly the same time, rough excuse me, roughly 1920 to 1928 say. And this building, like I said, was 1923. And it's just, it's just, it's such a unique neighborhood in northeast Ohio. I've been in, like I said, been in a lot of places, I don't think that there's a neighborhood like this that I've ever been in because it's really and truly has a village feel to it. We all know each other. Just before I came to meet you, I walked into Starbucks and I had to say hello to probably eight people, which is amazing, really. You don't really get that anymore. You certainly won't get that in any suburb. You know, the newer suburbs, I guess. But you'll get in these old historic neighborhoods. And a lot of the reason why this neighborhood here succeeds is because a lot of people who think, like I think tend to gravitate towards this neighborhood. So you end up with a really cool, eclectic group of people that live in all of these surrounding streets here. You know, everyone from the students at the university to the professors at university to people that are just like all things. And it is a great microcosm of people that live here from young to old. It doesn't reflect the newer suburbs in that respect. You know, it's great. It's convenient to downtown. It's convenient to everything. You can walk to everything here. It's just a great neighborhood. There you have it.
Kelsey Smith [00:33:26] Well, thank you very much.
Brendan Ring [00:33:27] You're welcome.
Initial interviews in this series were conducted between 2011 and 2013 at the Coventry Village Reunion in support of Historic Heights App Tours, a Cuyahoga Arts & Culture-funded grant project sponsored by FutureHeights, Cleveland Heights Historical Society, and Cleveland Heights Landmark Commission. Additional interviews were collected in 2018 in coordination with the Cleveland Voices podcast.