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‘Cleveland Then and Now’ highlights local history

November 18, 2018

‘Cleveland Then and Now’ highlights local history

CLEVELAND, Ohio – Plain Dealer arts and culture writer Laura DeMarco is quickly becoming Cleveland’s new pop historian du jour. It all began with her first book, “Lost Cleveland,” a look at local historical sites that had faded from view, victims to the whims of time and change.

She now has another book hot on the heels of “Lost Cleveland.” It’s called “Cleveland Then and Now” (Pavilion Books, 144 pp., $22.95).

Nostalgia is like a religion to many in Cleveland, and DeMarco’s book made her a high priestess of sorts. She found herself much in demand on the book-talk circuit around town. Equipped with her trusty slide show of vintage photographs from the Cleveland State University Historical Archive and the Cleveland Public Library, she was invited to make more than 30 public appearances to talk about her book and the research that went into it.

The result was that “Lost Cleveland” went into three printings and is still selling like hotcakes. DeMarco’s British publisher, Pavilion, knew a gold mine when they saw it.

“Clevelanders are passionate about our history,” said DeMarco, 45. “During the question-and-answer section of my talk, people kept asking me about what became of this place or that place,” because “Lost Cleveland” was about bygone landmarks.

But also, she said, “They wanted to know about institutions that were still around.”

Those questions inspired the new book, “Cleveland Then and Now.” It concentrates on Cleveland landmarks that have stayed intact and ones that have adapted to survive.

“Playhouse Square, for example, is a crown jewel of Cleveland redevelopment,” said DeMarco. “Ray Shepardson made that cultural renaissance happen in the 1970s. And we’re still building on it today.”

Not all of DeMarco’s discoveries have fared as well. The Warner & Swasey Observatory on Taylor Road in East Cleveland was a gift to the Case School of Applied Science in 1920. The building was abandoned in 1980 and has been in hideous disrepair ever since. DeMarco calls it a “tragic ruin.”

DeMarco, who has been at The Plain Dealer for 19 years, worked on “Cleveland Then and Now” for five months. The publisher hired Karl Mondon, a photographer from the San Jose Mercury News, to take the “Now” photos for the book.

“It was great working with Karl, because I got to spend a week with him introducing him to all the great parts of Cleveland,” she said.

The 144-page coffee-table book has almost 150 photographs. DeMarco is pleased with it.

“There’s more variety in this book than in the last one,” she said. “We visit new places. We go farther out from Cleveland’s center than we did in the last book.”

On Sunday, Nov. 25, DeMarco will embark on a new round of book events, beginning with a book signing from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Prosperity Social Club, 1109 Starkweather Ave. in Tremont. The event is free, and Prosperity will be serving brunch from 10:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.

BOOK SIGNING

Cleveland Then and Now

Who: Author Laura DeMarco.

Where: Prosperity Social Club, 1109 Starkweather Ave., Tremont.

When: 11 a.m. Sunday, Nov. 25. Free.

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