Mr. Thomas J. Stepwith was a Cleveland resident, born in 1925, who graduated from the Ohio State University in 1949 with a degree in landscape architecture. Throughout his life, Mr. Stepwith traveled around the world, visiting several states and many countries in both Europe and Asia.
Mr. Stepwith was involved in several creative pursuits, including writing and the visual arts -- especially photography. He wrote a book in the 1950s that was never published. He designed and patented a cabinet in 1969. He created several works of art -- a few of which he copyrighted -- that were often collages of his photographs, drawings, and poems. Sometimes he sent his photographs and artwork to notable figures or institutions, such as the Clintons during Bill Clinton's presidency and the Cleveland Museum of Art.
In 1985, Mr. Stepwith was hit by a car while in a crosswalk. Soon afterward, he moved into a high-rise apartment building on West 25th Street that offered him an amazing view of the downtown Cleveland skyline, which he began photographing. Mr. Stepwith took photos of the view several times a week until he died in 2002. Most of the photographs are standard size, but he also shot panoramic views and had some of his best photographs enlarged.
Through his photographs, Mr. Stepwith documented the development of the Downtown Cleveland skyline -- and the development and modern history of Cleveland itself. Images include:
- The construction of Key Tower.
- The demolition of the Sheriff Cold Storage Building to make way for the Gateway District.
- The development of the Gateway District with Jacob's Field (now Progressive Field) and Gund Arena (now Quicken Loans Arena).
- The skyline view during the first games at Jacob's Field and Cleveland Browns Stadium.
- Gardens at the Garden Center of Greater Cleveland (now the Cleveland Botanical Garden).
- Construction on the Cleveland Federal Courthouse.
- A flag flying at half-staff atop Terminal Tower on Sept. 12, 2001.
In addition to the skyline development, Mr. Stepwith also captured breath-taking views of the Cleveland sunrise:
The Thomas J. Stepwith Collection at Cleveland Public Library has six components: Cleveland Photographs, Travel, Creative Works, Slides, Correspondence, and Personal Papers.
View more of the Cleveland photographs on Flickr. Contact the Special Collections Department located on the 3rd floor of the Main Library to view this collection and other unique collections.