Sunday May 14th

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The English Oak Room was the former fine dining room for the Cleveland Union Terminal, and served Cleveland’s business elite from 1930-1975. For many years, it was considered among the finest restaurants in the city. The Van Sweringen brothers, who built the Cleveland Union Terminal Group, always strived for authenticity: the dark oak that panels the walls is truly English—it’s from Sherwood Forest! The Art Deco chandeliers and colorful plasterwork of the ceiling are notable.

The Van Sweringen brothers had ambitious plans—their Cleveland Union Terminal had more square feet than Grand Central Terminal in NYC, and incorporated more shops and restaurants. Besides the English Oak Room, there was a large cafeteria, lunch counter, ice cream parlor, and tea room. Combined, the dining facilities could serve 10,000 people a day for lunch. Shops included what was called the world’s largest drug store, a men’s clothing store, a women’s boutique, bookstore, cigar store, and a barber shop. The 39 shops and restaurants at the Cleveland Union Terminal were considered the “world’s largest merchandising service” operated by a single company.

All the restaurants and shops were managed by Fred Harvey, Inc., considered the finest in the industry. They built their reputation for fine restaurants and hotels along the Santa Fe Railroad. With time, they also operated at Union Stations in Los Angeles, Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City. Cleveland represented the easternmost city of their domain, so the advertising slogans read “From Cleveland to California” or “From Cleveland to the Pacific Coast” for “3000 miles of Hospitality.”

Waitresses at Fred Harvey Restaurants, who came to be known as “Harvey Girls,” were of the highest standard: attractive, well-mannered, and educated. And they were paid a generous income for the time. The Harvey Girls were said to have helped “civilize the American Southwest.” July Garland starred in the 1946 MGM musical film “The Harvey Girls.”