Abandoned clothing factory in Ohio
Joseph and Feiss Clothcraft Shops, Cleveland Ohio
At the turn of the 20th century, Cleveland ranked fourth amongst cities vying for supremacy in the garment industry. New York City dominated with Philadelphia, Baltimore, Cleveland, and others trailing behind in terms of total employment numbers. In Cleveland, the garment industry provided a significant percentage of employment opportunities and was only second to iron and steel in terms of total employment numbers.
Garment production was often categorized depending upon whether the firm produced men's or women's garments. In 1916, Cleveland ranked fourth in the production of women's garments. It had many successful firms devoted to this area of production, including H. Black & Co., Printz-Biederman, and Bobbie Brooks. In Ohio, Cleveland ranked first in terms of employment at women's garment firms, but was ranked second behind Cincinnati in the men's sector. This was unusual because more than sixty percent of the national garment industry labor force was employed in the production of men's clothing." Though fewer firms were engaged in the men's clothing sector in Cleveland, two firms, the Joseph & Feiss Company and Richman Brothers, became nationally-known men's clothing brands. At their height, Joseph & Feiss and Richman Brothers each employed well over two thousand people.
The Joseph and Feiss Company first began in Meadville, Pennsylvania in 1841 as Kauffman & Loeb. The firm sold a line of men's and boy's clothing as well as supplied tailors with piece goods. In 1845, the firm moved to Cleveland, under the guidance of Kaufman Koch. Later named Koch & Loeb, the business established itself in the wholesale men's apparel field. By 1897, the name had changed to Goldsmith, Joseph & Feiss, and the company had begun experimenting with garment production entirely in-house rather than contracting the sewing work to independent seamstresses and tailors. Initially, they used a small back room on the third floor of the company's St. Clair building for this purpose." Soon afterward, the firm began looking for more space on the west side of Cleveland. It began construction of a new factory at the West 53rd site under the guidance of Julius Feiss in 1900.
As noted by Edna Bryner in her 1916 book about Cleveland's garment industry, there were a wide range of conditions for garment workers in city. Despite laws that prevented the manufacture of garments in residences, this practice continued and such workshops employed ten to as many as seventy-five workers in poorly lit and cramped conditions. In contrast, Bryner observed that the larger factories, such as the Joseph & Feiss plant, provided well-lit, spacious, and clean working conditions.
The Richman Brothers Company, Joseph & Feiss's main competitor, was established in Cleveland in 1879. The company took its modern form when, in 1907, it opened its first retail outlet in Cleveland. The company grew to operate 119 outlets nation-wide, and its plant on East 55th Street in Cleveland supplied these outlets with mid-priced men's suits and clothing. Construction of the Richman Brother factory on East 55th Street began in 1915, a full decade and a half after Joseph & Feiss began constructing the West 53rd Street site and several years after the completion of the 1907 addition. The original part of the Richman Brother's factory is U-shaped like the administration building at the Joseph & Feiss site. The Richman Brothers factory did not take its final shape until additions were constructed behind the original building in 1924, 1927, and 1929. The benefits the Joseph & Feiss Company achieved by leading the men's garment industry in Cleveland, with innovation in production methods and factory development, were surely capitalized upon by the Richman Brothers Company.
In A Century of Progress, Paul Feiss described Julius Feiss, his father and the champion of the company's movement towards the inside operation method, as a "brilliant, courageous, and dynamic innovator who conceived of and introduced the new plan of inside operation" to the Joseph & Feiss partners. The development of the inside shop model was a radical change in the garment industry, but the precise history of the inside shop model is rather murky. According to Edna Bryner, around 1895 "English Jews introduced the 'Boston,' or factory method [of garment production], through which the employment of skilled tailors was largely done away with." In an earlier system, the contract model, "the making clothing [occurred] under contract in the homes of city operatives and in the workshops of journeymen tailors." However, the shift to the inside shop or factory system may have been begun as early as the 1880s in Baltimore, as the garment industry grew in size and workers became more concentrated and connected to single shops. Yet, Professor Jesse Eliphalet Pope noted in his 1905 book, The Clothing Industry in New York, that the inside shop model took root in the men's garment industry at a later date." Inevitably, the move to the inside shop model laid the groundwork for future modifications and innovations of Cleveland's men's garment industry by the Joseph & Feiss Company.
After establishing an internal manufacturing operation in 1897, Joseph & Feiss no longer used the contract model and was able to focus on modernizing production and factory organization. By the time the company, under the "Clothcraft" name, was in full operation at its state-of-the-art West 53rd Street facility in 1921, it had a reputation for crafting quality but affordable products and for taking care of its employees. Richard A. Feiss, the older son of Julius Feiss, was "an early experimenter in the fields of production and personnel management." He implemented the modern management and production techniques of the scientific management system, which were established by Frederick Taylor. Many of these techniques are still used in industrial engineering and logistical analysis.
Other changes in the garment industry occurred in the 1890s as well, in which Joseph & Feiss took part. Consumers were becoming more educated about the quality of readymade clothing and manufactured products. Individual brands also became important differentiators in certain industries. Joseph & Feiss's brand "Clothcraft" was inspired by Elbert Hubbard, the publisher of The Philistines, which was widely read, especially among young people. The use of the word "craft" also alludes to the popular and contemporaneous Arts & Crafts movement. Paul Feiss, the younger son of Julius Feiss, was eager to adopt a new advertising program to respond to the changing times. He was allotted ten thousand dollars and the decision was made to use the funds to publicize the company's best-selling blue serge suit: "No. 5130." This suit retailed at fifteen dollars. In a successful campaign, the No. 5130 suit became known as the Model T of suits. The Clothcraft brand and volume sales had a far-reaching effect on the entire operation. Both would remain integral to mid-market men's garment producers.
The Joseph & Feiss Company was known for its experimental management practices. To wit, "Richard Feiss, in 1913, decided to change drastically the existing methods of manufacturing men's clothing by adopting the concepts of scientific management and new methods of employment management." A devotee of scientific management and a president of the Taylor Society, an organization dedicated to the ongoing study of progressive employee management, Feiss "established a central planning department to coordinate the flow of materials, reorganized operations to minimize the movement of materials; subdivided each job to encourage specialization; used time studies, introduced bonuses and re-designed chairs, tables and other equipment to reduce fatigue.
Between 1910 and 1915 production increased 42% and cost decreased 10% while hourly wages were raised 45% and weekly wages 37%. Feiss continued to streamline operations using the techniques and philosophy of scientific management, such as time studies. Feiss soon learned that the Taylor methods could not be the only guiding principle of a manufacturing operation. In 1909, when he also cut the piece rate of the most highly skilled workers, many of them struck...Feiss was shocked. Realizing his work was flawed...he began an ambitious effort to enlist the employee's cooperation.
To this end, Richard Feiss created the new position of employment manager and, in 1913, hired a woman to fill the post; both actions were extremely innovative for the time, especially in an industrial context. He sought the help of Meyer Bloomfield, director of the Vocational Bureau of Boston, to find a candidate. When Mary Gilson, a graduate of Wellesley College and herself an advocate of the Taylor system, learned of Feiss's plans to integrate improved production methods with the selection, training, and development of workers, Gilson realized the company could become a beacon for future developments in employment management. She joined Joseph & Feiss at this time.
Additionally, Gilson understood the garment industry workforce was largely female, and she stood firm regarding promotions and equal pay for female employees. Richard Feiss supported her ideas: he spoke at the Political and Industrial Equality League and gave a paper entitled, "Legislation Intended for the Protection of Women in Industry." That Gilson, herself, was an anomaly in the 1910s and 1920s did not escape her. In later years, she published What's Past is Prologue, and in this book, she recalled her tenure at Joseph & Feiss as the following:
Gilson also believed that scientific management for the first time gave women the opportunity for "upward mobility within the [garment] factories." She pointed out that worker incentives must include the promise of promotion. It could not be denied to women without effectively squelching their morale and corresponding efficiency. Gilson argued that "New England textile mills, that would not promote women, undermined the principles of good management by depriving them of motivation." She believed that "since it is a man's world, men must give women a chance." Thus, Gilson established a counterpoint to the Boston factory ethos in a Midwest operation.
Richard Feiss wanted to create an organization whose aim was not merely the manufacture of clothing, but also provided for the development of all employees through what he called "Personal Relationship." Feiss gave Mary Gilson complete freedom to institute necessary personnel changes based on his vision of "fitness for position and organization." Along this line, "Gilson spearheaded a vigorous campaign to improve the employees' skills and lives." To reach this goal, Gilson developed seven methods to gauge fitness of an employee for a certain position in the factory. These methods included: application forms, physical examinations, mental examinations, an interviewing program, an orientation program, a training program, home visits, employee counseling and, finally, employee participation in decision-making.
Physical exams were conducted to keep all positions filled with fit men and women. Mental examinations were made through psychological tests. The company relied on the opinions of psychologists and physicians, which aided the selection of employees. In fact, because of Gilson's efforts, Clothcraft was one of the first companies to utilize such methods to test the manual skills and dexterity of applicants. Gilson used these same tests later on to determine a woman's fitness for positions with additional responsibilities.
Mary Gilson and Richard Feiss also believed in education for the company's workers. As Gilson noted, "[t]here are two kinds of training due a worker; one kind related to the technique of his job and one to the development of his character as a worker and citizen." Immigrant workers attended English classes three days a week. The Cleveland Board of Education provided textbooks and teachers, and the Cleveland Public Library came bi-weekly to refresh the company's four hundred-book reserve. The Cleveland Public Library operated a small branch at the factory.
As part of Gilson's seven methods, entry and exit interviews were held on the first day and at regular intervals throughout the employee's adjustment period. An orientation program introduced new workers to the programs and accommodations the company offered, including the dining halls, locker rooms, auditorium, recreation halls, swimming pool, bowling alleys, barber shops, athletic fields, the dispensary, medical operating room, and classrooms.
Home visits gave Gilson additional key information, which created another forum for change. She discovered that two-thirds of the girls took home their pay envelopes unopened; they were working to keep the family peace. Since bonuses were intended as a motivator, it was important that the girls knew when they received such a motivator. Gilson insisted she would not pass on pay incentives without the parents' guarantee that the increase would go entirely to the worker. Gilson observed that this increased both efficiency and contentment of the female workers. Based on her Clothcraft experience, Mary Gilson also published a labor study titled, "The Relation of Home Conditions to Industrial Efficiency" in 1916.
Management under Feiss not only encouraged employee participation in the decision-making activities at Joseph & Feiss, employee committees were also established by Gilson such as the foremen's meetings, the Employee Advisory Council, and the Heads of Tables conferences. The employee groups could propose changes as well as veto those proposed by management. This allowance for employee input created a system of checks and balances against management's decisions.
In 1921, all of the company's operations had moved to the West 53rd Street location. The new factory facility was an extension of Richard Feiss's vision. To wit, "[a]ll of the manufacturing space was located on one floor, lighted with sawtooth skylights [throughout], which provided splendid north light." A state-of-the-art forced air ventilation system provided a constantly renewed source of fresh air for the workers.
In later years, Mary Gilson reflected upon opening day at the newly expanded facility:
Joseph & Feiss incorporated numerous progressive innovations. A nursery was available, giving mothers with pre-school children the chance to work. This was a significant form of assistance, especially considering most of the employees were female, and many were recent immigrants. There was a Clothcraft Penny Bank for worker's savings and loans. Employees were granted ample rest breaks, as time studies showed productivity increased when employees received such breaks.
Feiss and Gilson created programs and incentives that "responded to the total needs of the employees." In addition to the items noted above, because science of the era determined that drinking water was best consumed at forty-five degrees, the Joseph & Feiss cafeteria served drinking water at forty-five degrees. Potted ferns grew in the factory to improve worker morale. There were also company orchestras, bands, and sports teams. A worker could leave her station in hot weather to get ice cream in the cafeteria, and he or she could buy suits at reduced rates.
Most days the voices of workers in song could be heard. An article from the Cleveland Plain Dealer from May 8, 1921 reported, "Adah Walker is one of the many Clothcrafters who sing together at their work. On especially happy days, the songs raise high above the whirr of the heavy power machines."
Healthcare was another key concern of the management. The administration building housed a dispensary and restroom on the second floor. In addition, there was an operating room, which was used two days a week by a physician, one day a week by a surgeon, and one day a week by an eye doctor. Dental services were also provided. A nurse was on staff for educational reasons, on-site care, and home visits.
The progress and success of the company was also reflected in the monthly Clothcraft newsletter, which was produced by the employees. The newsletter reported on activities, gardens, and factory events. Since the factory closed for a month every September, the October issue was often filled with vacation reports. It was a forum for poetry and recipes as well as articles written by both workers and managers. A September 1921 issue contained an article by Mary Gilson entitled, "Qualifying for Promotion." Cleveland trivia and histories by Isaac Joseph, called "Reminisces," ran for several months. In September of 1924, the Executive Committee Board used the newsletter to address the recession in the garment industry and its effects on the company."
Richard A. Feiss's and Mary Gilson's innovations at Joseph & Feiss were practiced until 1925 when they were largely abandoned by the company, not for any flaws in the practices themselves but because of external pressures and disagreements among the owners of Joseph & Feiss. As part of an austerity program needed to save the company, most of these programs were discontinued. Both Gilson and Feiss resigned in 1924. Gilson said, "In later years I have realized that, while the depression and a combination of unfortunate circumstances razed much we had erected, many of our experiments lived on in the plants and hearts and minds of our visitors and the young men and women who were under our wing for varying periods."
Gilson in her own right was a pioneering woman and early feminist. Though her role did not involve political activity or social work, she sought to change the industrial workplace and the relationship between employers and employees internally. She is mentioned as an early figure in the history of management practices, and her life is a rare example of a woman in the 1910s and 1920s, who did not accept her gender as a hurdle and hindrance to her life. Gilson entered industrial in a position with a large amount of responsibility and oversight.
After leaving Joseph & Feiss, Gilson continued her economic scholarship in the field of industrial management, working as a consultant, publishing several books on the field and teaching economics at the University of Chicago. It was there that she wrote her autobiography, What's Past is Prologue, which recounted her experiences and study of applied scientific management at Joseph & Feiss. She died in Chapel Hill, North Carolina in 1959.
Richard Feiss went to Boston in 1926 and opened a consulting business. In 1940, he moved to California, where he
remained until his death in 1956. Gilson described Richard Feiss as,
With Richard's departure in 1924, his younger brother, Paul Feiss, took over as Chairman of Joseph & Feiss. Paul reported that in 1934, when the number of workers in the factory numbered 2100, labor voted to unionize:
In comparison, the Richmond Brothers Company remained non-union throughout its existence and continued to be plagued with problematic relationships with the Amalgamated Clothing Workers of America.
After unionization, Joseph & Feiss continued to perform well. In July of 1942, the factory shifted to the production of uniforms since, due to World War II, the manufacture of civilian clothing occurred on a restricted basis. August 15, 1945, the Joseph & Feiss Company was awarded the U.S. Government's "E" award for its excellent record in the production of naval uniforms.
The "E" award was the first of its kind given to a large clothing manufacturer. Commander S. J. Singer, U.S.N.R. presented it to both union workers and management. He reported that despite manpower shortages and that uniforms are one and half times more difficult to produce, the company posted a seventeen percent efficiency increase between 1942 and 1945. The Joseph & Feiss Company was largely responsible for clothing the U.S. Navy during the war and developed the long-standing Navy Uniform Service plan.
In 1966, Joseph & Feiss merged with Phillips-Van Heusen, now the world's largest men's shirt and shoe manufacturer. Phillips-Van Heusen produces the brands Izod, Lacoste, Calvin Klein, Bass, Chaps, MICHAEL Michael Kors, and several other mid-range and high-end lines. Its corporate model worked well with that of Joseph & Feiss. Both preferred the wholesale and licensee business models, where the company focused on production and not on the management and operation of brick-and-mortar stores. In the 1970s and 1980s, Joseph and Feiss reached its zenith in terms of production volume and sales. Its annual gross revenues reached well over $100 million. Yet, further difficulty lay on the horizon.
Hugo Boss AG, a West German men's clothing and accessory firm, purchased Joseph & Feiss in early 1989 and created Hugo Boss USA. By that time, Joseph and Feiss was the country's oldest tailored clothing manufacturer, producing the Cricketeer, Baracuta, Country Britches, Cricketeer Woman, and Joseph & Feiss brands. It also manufactured licensed clothing for Geoffrey Bean. By 1989, Joseph & Feiss's sale volume reached $170 million. Hugo Boss USA manufactured the Boss Hugo Boss, Joseph & Feiss, Cricketeer, and Geoffrey lines at the West 53rd Street plant. At this time, Hugo Boss also managed a clothing outlet store at the site. In the early 1990s, reports of delayed production and spotty quality trickled into the media. Unable to maintain confidence in its management at the time, Hugo Boss USA was restructured between 1992 and 1995.
Ultimately, Hugo Boss USA could not stave off shifts in the industry: growing international competition and changing fashion tastes. By 1996, Hugo Boss sought to shed Joseph & Feiss from its portfolio of brands due to weakening mid-range men's clothing sales. The Men's Warehouse purchased the Joseph & Feiss trademark in December 1996; the West 53rd Street plant was not part of this deal. In 1997, Hugo Boss moved its remaining manufacturing operations and employees from the West 53rd Street site to its distribution center on Tiedeman Road in Brooklyn, Ohio. At this time, Americon-Homes of Beachwood, Ohio purchased the site for redevelopment into residential townhouses and apartments.
The Joseph and Feiss Company Clothcraft Shop site is located a few miles west of downtown Cleveland and is about 7 acres in size. The site contains two buildings: the administration and warehouse buildings, and two other structures: an elevated railroad spur and eight fence piers. Other notable landscape elements include three sycamore trees lining Walworth Avenue. The administration building, which served as the original factory on the site, sits on the southwest corner of the property. It is u-shaped in plan and was built with brick and sandstone. Original woodworking, iron columns, and general organization of the spaces remain. It has early Gothic Revival elements suitable for an industrial building and presently is mothballed. It is in a tenuous condition due to a fire and moisture infiltration to which the photographs will attest. The warehouse building, built from 1920 until 1921, is generally rectangular in plan with four towers at each corner of the building. Concrete columns punctuate the main interior spaces. The brick exterior is highlighted with sandstone decorative elements that have Gothic Revival, Neo-Classical, and Art Deco influences. The overall feel of the building is that of a Germanic Gothic daylight factory. The warehouse building's foundation is solid but its interior finishes and flooring have been damaged by moisture intrusion. The administration building is approximately 23,000 square feet in size and the warehouse has approximately 80,000 square feet of floor space.
The Joseph and Feiss Company Clothcraft Shops buildings are located on an almost seven-acre site, which is bounded by Walworth Avenue and Interstate 90 to the north and northeast, Junction Road to the southeast, the Chicago, Cleveland, Cincinnati & St. Louis railroad tracks to the south, and West 53rd Street (formerly Swiss Street) to the west. Two buildings stand on the site; the administration building (the original factory on this site) (1900-1904), with an attached brick water tower (1907) and the warehouse building (1920-21) and its attached smokestack (1920-21). Remnants of a railroad track spur (1920-21) and fence posts (1933) also contribute to the industrial character of the site and mark its northern and southeastern boundaries. The spur was an integral component of the functioning of the complex during production. Located to the south of the warehouse building, it is elevated on massive reinforced concrete piers and cross-beams. The brick, concrete, and stone fence piers demarcate the complex's northern boundary in an aesthetically pleasing manner. Three sycamore trees lining Walworth Avenue also remain on the site. The administration building and the attached watertower were designed by Lehman & Schmitt, Architects, a prominent Cleveland architecture firm that specialized in courthouses and other public buildings. They were responsible for Twing Hall at Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland's Central Armory, City Hospital, and Temple Tifereth Israel. Lockwood, Greene & Co, Engineers designed the warehouse building for Joseph & Feiss. Though Lockwood opened a Cleveland office to service Joseph & Feiss during the 1920-21 major expansion program, the firm was established in Boston and became the nation's foremost textile mill and garment factory design shop in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.
In 1900, the north-most section of the administration building was constructed upon the southwest corner of the current site. By 1904, two additions had been added to the initial structure to complete its U-shaped form. During the modification of the administration building at this time, original doors and windows were incorporated into the new portions of the expanded factory. This expansion utilized Lehman & Schmitt's initial construction drawings, which allowed for the segmental growth of the company's physical plant. In 1907, Joseph and Feiss again increased its factory square footage with a new one-story saw-tooth roofed factory space to the east of the administration building. This building is no longer extant and was demolished by the previous owner in 2003 to 2004. To provide a fire suppression system and sufficient water pressure for the new building, a brick water tower was also constructed in 1907. The company embarked on a third major expansion project in 1918, when Joseph & Feiss began to buy the residential lots to the east and north of the administration building. By the end of 1919, the company gained the lots that comprises the current site and had prepared the property for the construction of a larger physical plant. By 1921, the Lockwood, Greene & Co designed warehouse and manufacturing facility had been completed. Periodically from 1921 until 1990, the owners of this site made interior and exterior modifications. In 1926, the interior of the administration building was renovated and the north entrance was modified. In 1933, the company installed the brick posts that mark the northern edge of the site, of which eight are still extant. The posts contain a concrete core, and are two feet by two feet in plan. The cores were then faced with red brick to match the warehouse building in Flemish bond. Each was finished with a cut sandstone cap. The posts stand seven-feet and one-quarter foot tall. The then-owners removed the steel industrial windows from the first bay on the warehouse's south elevation in the early 1990s, and in 2003 to 2004, Ameri-con Homes demolished the central portion of the manufacturing complex as part of their failed development plans. The mothballing of the administration building occurred at this time as well.
Despite the original industrial purpose of the Administration Building, it was designed with neo-Medieval and Gothic Revival exterior features. Its interiors are those of a late 19th-century factory building. Also, attached to its eastern facade is a five-story brick tower, which dates to c.1907.
Because this building was constructed in several stages, its facade and spaces have their own idiosyncrasies. In general, this two-and-a-half-story building is U-shaped in plan. The "U" steps out a little to accommodate the boiler room and smokestack in the southwestern portion of the building. There is also a basement level that extends above grade.
The exterior has a rusticated sandstone base with Flemish brick bond running above. On the southern portion of the building, there is a rusticated sandstone stringcourse near the foundations. The windows have sandstone sills, either smooth cut or rusticated, and arched lintels. Many windows on the first and second levels are arched with brick, creating a simplistic blind arcade. At the basement level, the windows are generally grouped in pairs with a brick divider. They have been filled with concrete masonry units (CMU). The windows on the facades facing West 53 Street are grouped in trios. On the first and second story, the window openings originally contained two four-over-four double-hung windows with a wood divider. At some point the original windows were replaced with one-over-one double-hung windows. Many of the openings on the first floor have been bricked in with CMU, and plywood covers many of the openings on the second floor; the wood dividers are still present though. A sandstone belt course lines the building just below the parapet crenellation and sandstone coping. At some locations, the original crenellation pattern is still present on the north elevation at the east and west corners and on the south elevation.
The first story of the original smokestack is present on the south facade. This octagonal stack was lowered at some point and its new top re-coped with a matching sandstone belt course and crenelated parapet wall. Remains of the metal Clothcraft Clothes and Joseph & Feiss Company signs are also visible. Some letters are currently missing from the signs.
The facades facing West 53th Street were once considered the front of the building and the main entrance was located in the northeast corner of the courtyard. Between 1926 and 1933, the main entrance was moved from the courtyard elevation to the north elevation, where a brick and concrete staircase extends from the building. Brick and concrete steps with a metal railing were added.
When the company demolished the original one-story structure, which was attached to the northern portion of the existing building, Lehman & Schmitt incorporated existing window frames and one door frame into the courtyard facade. In the north stairwell, windows from the first addition (1900-1903) were incorporated into the stairwell.
The roof is generally flat with drainage occurring through scuppers at the sandstone stringcourse line. A new synthetic roofing material replaced the gravel roofing material. A saw-tooth skylight peaks out of the roof at the north end of the building with six windows facing north and one in each side. The skylight is placed between iron columns located on the second story.
The basement was originally equipped with men's and women's locker and lunch rooms, a kitchen, washrooms, a rag room, a boiler room, and an engine room. More space was allocated for the women's locker and lunch rooms than the men's accommodations, an unsurprising sign that the company employed more women than men. The basement under the original section of the building contains seven square, brick piers that line the center of the space. The brick partitions which divide the women's locker rooms are still present. The remaining portion of the original structure contains two more posts, a hallway, a stairway, and a portion of the women's lunchroom.
The 1904 addition contained sixteen iron columns supporting a wood beam and plank ceiling. A frame partition divided the space longitudinally into the women's lunch room and the men's locker room. Another hall, set of stairs, and the kitchen was located between these rooms and the men's locker room and rag room.
The mechanical systems and boilers were removed from their original locations. These spaces now contain exposed brick walls, damaged wood floors, and columns supporting large beams overhead.
The first floor originally contained large open rooms segmented with iron columns. Along the west facade facing the courtyard, a row of rooms portioned the space between two stairways for an office, a store room, a shipping room, and a restroom. The additional space provided by the 1904 addition was also supported with brick walls and thin, yet tall, iron columns.
The October 1926 revisions further divided the first floor's open spaces. An entrance lobby and entrance stairway was constructed on the north end on the building. This wing contained offices for the company's salesmen and the pattern-making department, a reception and waiting area, and the nurse's station, dispensary, and medical rooms. Although plaster has been damaged in some areas, wood doorframes and wood-paneled wainscoting is still present.
The middle section of the building contained offices, sample rooms, merchandising, mail and stenographic rooms, a small elevator shaft, offices for executive management and their secretaries, and restrooms. The space above the boiler room contained a bookkeeping office, a meeting room, file rooms, and an extra office. Framing denotes where corridors and offices were once located, though it has sustained some damage.
Attached to the east facade of the administration building is a five-story brick tower, which was added in 1907. It once contained a gravity-powered, elevated water tank before the steel tank was added to the northwest tower of the warehouse building. Built with a darker brick, almost brown in color, the tower is rectangular in plan with a gabled roof, parapet walls, and rectangular brickwork patterns which articulate the top portion and sides of the tower.
A successor to the European tradition of encasing utilitarian functions in charming architecture, the water tower is also constructed of bricks in a Flemish masonry bond pattern. A large rectangular brick pattern encases the window openings on the north and south elevations. Some openings were filled in with brick; others contain CMU. A flat-cut stringcourse highlights the separation between the top floor of the tower and its main height, where additional brick rectangular panels contain a diamond pattern. A brick cornice and another sandstone stringcourse provides a horizontal break on the east and west elevations. In the gable ends, recessed rectangular panels fill the space. On the west elevation of the tower, a panel door opens to the administration building's flat roof. Above, a brick buttress supports a small balcony, where a flag pole and simple metal railing are also present.
On the east elevation, witness marks from the saw-tooth roof line of the demolished manufacturing building are visible. A portion of the brick exterior was removed and is now supported with iron posts and CMU-filled openings.
The Joseph & Feiss Clothcraft warehouse is a four-story brick and reinforced concrete industrial building located to the east of and upon the same site as the administration building. In plan, the building is generally a large rectangle punctuated by square and round concrete columns, with four attached towers serving as circulation, storage, and washroom spaces. A brick smokestack is located to the east of the building and an elevated water tower stands on the building's northwest tower.
The exterior of the warehouse is designed with references to the Gothic Revival and Collegiate Gothic styles, with modifications to accommodate the building's scale and industrial purpose. There are also Neo-Classical and Art Deco influences in the exterior details, a remnant of the mixing of styles in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Rich red brick mortared in a Flemish bond covers most of the building's exterior. At its base, the concrete foundation is exposed (though coated with white paint) and one is able to see the pattern left by the wood forms used in its construction. In some areas, brick has been replaced, repointed, or tagged by graffiti artists. The building has many strong horizontal and vertical elements, which provide depth and texture to the large wall expanses. The roof has a crenelated parapet, defined by longer battlements and thin openings and capped by cut sandstone. The play of the vertical and horizontal elements trick the eye into believing the building is less massive than it truly is.
The south facade, one of the longer facades, contains eight bays. Seven are flanked by brick pilasters rising from a projecting sandstone stringcourse above a brick soldier course, which marks the division of the first and second levels.
The pilasters' vertical reach is interrupted by a double sandstone stringcourse between the second and third levels. At the roof, the pilasters are finished with "capitals" created from a herringbone brick bond and geometric sandstone elements. One of the capitals has been damaged. Between the pilasters, large steel industrial windows with horizontal pivots have been inset to bathe the interior with natural light.
The eighth bay is unique as it lacks much of the defining brickwork, pilasters, and capitals found upon the first seven. It retains the horizontal flow of the two stringcourses, centered window openings, and sandstone sills. On the basement level, two square window openings and a doorway, both filled with CMU, punch through the concrete wall. A double 3-by-4 single pivot window fills the opening on the first level; a double 3-by-6 dual pivot window fills the opening on the second level, and double 3-by-7 dual pivot windows fill the openings on levels three and four. This bay is also capped with cut sandstone coping.
On the basement level, the coated concrete foundation wall has little articulation except for the pattern created by the wood forms. On the basement level, bays four through seven contained three square window openings each that are currently filled with CMU. Bay five contains a CMU enclosed doorway. The window openings retain the original sandstone sills. In some places mortar has been lost. Bays one, two, and three do not have any window or door openings. This portion of the building is mostly unexcavated. Some damage to the concrete has occurred where original windows were removed. A brick header course separates the basement and first levels.
On the first level, the facade is plain Flemish bond masonry, the window openings in the first three bays have been bricked in with CMU. The fourth and fifth are open with the original windows removed. The sixth bay contains three openings each with a 3-by-4 light, single-pivot steel window. The seventh bay contains a single opening with a triple 4-by-4 light single pivot window. The original sills remain, with some damage.
On the second level, the fenestration pattern is: a triple set of 4-by-6 light dual-pivot steel windows with sandstone sills set above rectangular brick spandrels that fill the wall space to the stringcourse below. The window groupings and brickwork are outlined by an inset header or row-lock course. On levels three and four, the fenestration is split by pilastrelli that begin at the double stringcourse. As a result, the window systems consist of double 3-by-6 light dual-pivot metal windows with narrower lights. The pilastrelli are capped with sandstone elements that fold the pilastrelli back into the brick facade. These windows are highlighted by inset header columns. In the second bay from the west, the pilastrelli and windows were removed from both the third and fourth levels. Some of the sandstone sills have been scratched or chipped.
Between the double stringcourse belts above the second story, the metal letters of the Clothcraft Clothes sign, an early Joseph & Feiss brand, seem to float astride the exterior wall. The san serif letters are bolted to metal flanges which are bolted to the masonry units. The "A" from Clothcraft and the "L" from Clothes are missing.
The south facade has a rectangular six-story tower at its southwest corner, which contains a shaft for two freight elevators. The tower is ringed on two sides by the two stringcourses. A more elaborate parapet wall sets the tower apart from the large rectangular mass of the building. The tower's fenestration is located on the south elevation: single 3-by-4 light single-pivot windows on levels two, three, and four, and a single 3-by-3 light single-pivot window on level five. There is also a concrete masonry unit (CMU)-filled doorway at ground level. The original wood paneled door was not removed; it is still present on its hinges within the elevator shaft and behind the bricked-in opening.
The construction of this tower consists of large reinforced concrete beams placed at the divisions of each floor. Concrete piers located at the tower's corners support these beams. The space between the piers and columns is filled with brick masonry. The foundation of the tower is also formed reinforced concrete. Two freight elevators use the shaft. On each level, a brick divider separates the elevator doorways, and a pocket supported with metal cross bracing protects the elevator cab doors when they are in an open position. Some of the elevator openings are of differing heights. Metal elements seen on the tower's exterior hold the elevator rails to the building.
The north elevation, the other long facade, has seven bays similar to those on the south elevation, with a narrower eighth bay. Again, pilasters rise from a single sandstone belt with the brick soldier course below at the division between the first and second levels. The double sandstone stringcourse between floors two and three is also fully intact. The same capitals finish the pilasters and all are intact. This facade retains the same parapet wall pattern and sandstone coping as the south elevation.
At the basement level, the formed concrete foundation of the building is exposed, though coated. Five of the eight bays are exposed as the grade inclines towards the northwest tower. Each of the exposed bays contains three rectangular window openings, currently filled with CMU. A brick header course marks the division between the basement and first level. On the first level in bays one, two, four, and five, the larger window openings contain triple 4-by-4 light, single-pivot steel windows with sandstone sills. Bay three contains two window openings of differing widths divided by brick. One opening contains a single 3-by-4 light single-pivot window; the other is covered with plywood. The window openings in bays six, seven, and eight are also filled in with CMU.
On levels two, three, and four, the original sashes are extant, though many of the steel pivot windows have been removed and much of the glass has been either removed entirely, replaced with a synthetic material, or has been otherwise damaged. On the second level, bays one through seven contain triple 4-by-6 light dual-pivot windows with sandstone sills over three rectangular brick panels created with soldier and header courses surrounding rectangles of Flemish bond. The windows, sills, and rectangular pattern are enclosed by a header course, which matched the design on the south facade.
Levels three and four retain the fenestration and brickwork pattern of the south facade. Here, all pilastrelli are intact and divide each bay in half and are capped with sandstone. Each window opening in bays one through seven contains a double 3-by-7 light dual-pivot steel window.
The eighth bay lacks the decorative brick patterns below the window openings, but it is flanked by two capitals, positioned closely to one another. The window openings are centered in the bay and are much narrower than those in the other bays,only two lights wide. The window opening on the first level is filled with CMU; the openings on the second and fourth levels contain a single 2-by-6 light dual-pivot window; and the opening on the third level contains a single 2-by-7 light dual-pivot window. Sandstone sills are present in all of the openings as well.
Two five-story towers anchor the north facade, one at the northeast corner and the second at the northwest corner. The tower at the northeast corner is smaller in size and is less adorned by pilasters and patterned brickwork. Fenestration for this tower is located on the north and south elevations. The stringcourses and brick headers flow around this tower as well. It is set off from the rest of the facade by its additional height, and its simpler facade articulation and window pattern. At the base of the tower (the basement level) on the north elevation, a doorway containing a metal door is framed by a concrete and a metal header. Above the doorway are a brick balconet and a 3-by-4 light metal window. The window reads like a glassed doorway to a true balcony found in medieval towers and castles. The balconet reads as a low brick balustrade and sandstone railing. Levels three and four also contain a single, centered opening filled with a 3-by-4 light metal window on the north facade.
On the south facade of the tower, there are window openings on the basement, first, second, third, and fourth levels. These openings are filled with single 3-by-4 light, single-pivot windows. This tower contains an access staircase.
The tower located at the northwest corner of the building is by far the largest and most elaborate of the building's four towers. On the interior it contains staircases, concrete ramps, washrooms (the fixtures have been destroyed), and storage rooms. It also provides structural support for the building's elevated water tower. The weight of the water tank seems to be causing bowing to the brick masonry below.
The north elevation of the tower, which served as the main entrance, is marked by a single bay with projecting and inset features. The overall effect is one of vertical elongation of the tower's mass. At the first level, there is a projecting bay, a story and a quarter tall, which also serves as a balconet for the second level. On this bay, two pilastrelli flank the wide arched doorway and project from the sandstone stringcourse and the brick soldier course, which also has sandstone dentils regularly interspersed in the belt course. This feature either looks like classical dentils or gothic battlements. Above the stringcourse are three sandstone shields offset by a brick rectangular patterned created with lockrows, header bond, and Flemish bond. The balconet and pilastrelli are caped with cut sandstone. The door header is a large arched and molded piece of sandstone, which is supported by angled brick walls. The original door was removed and the opening has been bricked in with CMU.
Behind this bay, four engaged pilasters seemingly rise from the base of the building to the third level. Within the four pilasters are three centered, thin window openings set back into the brick facade. The windows are 2-by-4 light, single pivot steel windows. In the brick inset are rectangles created with seven header rows. Above the windows additional features create another balconet. The eye is tricked by the presence of four very short projecting pilastrelli which sit on sandstone scroll brackets that start in line with the lower course of the double stringcourse. This balconet is also capped with sandstone, with window sills in the third level flush with the sandstone capping.
From the upper course of the double stringcourse, a single two-story inset bay divided by four pilastrelli rises and terminates with an offset crenelated parapet. Between the pilastrelli on the third and fourth levels are three window openings in the following rhythm: a 2-by-7 light dual pivot window, then a 4-by-7 light dual pivot window, and lastly another 2-by-7 light dual pivot window. Between the windows on the third and fourth levels and above the fourth-story windows are rectangular brick bands. The pilastrelli are capped with sandstone elements below the parapet capping.
The exterior treatment found on the north face of the tower is generally replicated on the east and west facades with the following exceptions. On the tower's east facade, first level, three window openings and a flat wall expanse take the place of the entrance treatment. The window sills are present. The openings themselves are filled with CMU. The windows are intact on the upper floors; however, much glass is missing and some of the frames have been damaged.
On the tower's west facade, third level, one window opening was replaced with a doorway and a metal door. This exit once provided access to the roof of the demolished manufacturing building. The walls of the first and second levels, once interior walls, lack the fine treatment present above. Remnants of the connections to the manufacturing building are still visible; the rough brick, the large horizontal concrete beam supported by a concrete pier, the projecting brick entryway to the second level, and the concrete ramp and filled-in openings on the first level.
This tower is constructed in a similar manner to the other towers; however, due to the water tank above, much larger concrete piers are embedded within the walls. The concrete slab floors are supported with additional concrete header beams which remain exposed.
The first floor of the tower contains the entryway, sprinkler drain, a small elevator shaft, which was never put into service and remains bricked in, women's restroom, and ramps to the second floor. The ramps are constructed from reinforced concrete with reinforced concrete pillars and concrete curbs. The locations of the original metal pipe railings are still present. Unfortunately, much of the original railings were removed and in some places the concrete has been damaged due to their removal. The flooring is terrazzo.
The second floor contains ramps and stairs, and men's and women's restrooms. The stairs are constructed with a concrete base with brick soldier-course risers and tiled treads. The stairs also had pipe rails, most of which were removed. The third floor contains stairs, the elevator shaft, and men's and women's restrooms. The fourth floor also contains stairs and framing for additional unfinished rooms.
Above the northwest tower stands a white, metal water tower with a 20,000-gallon capacity. The water tank itself is cylindrical in shape with a hemispherical bottom, a circular balcony with a metal railing, and a conical roof. Four supporting columns connected with cross-bracing flare out from the tank and stand upon the supporting tower. This tank design was considered to place less stress on the tank's bottom and to be more pleasing to the eye than a flat-bottomed tank set atop girders. In general, the tank and tower set-up was considered more economical than standpipes from both financial and design standpoints. Graffiti artists have tagged the tank as well.
The west facade projects slightly forward from the northwest and southwest towers at the third and fourth levels. The facade is flush with the towers on the second and first levels. At accessible locations, the facade has been tagged with graffiti. On the first level, small openings are interspersed across the facade, and one doorway that has been filled with CMU. A massive horizontal concrete element can also be seen. At the division between the first and second levels, rough concrete has been exposed where concrete slab floors once connected to the warehouse building.
On the second level, the flat facade is punched open by four large doorways. In two of the four doorways, metal roll doors are still present. The gearboxes for the doors are extant as well. Other smaller openings, possibly used for mechanical systems, can also be seen and leave the building open to the elements. The division between the second and third floor is marked by tar, metal joiner markings, and rough concrete. These openings once connected the warehouse to the manufacturing building.
The third and fourth levels again read as one unit interrupted by the verticality of the windows, pilasters, pilastrelli, and capitals. The rhythm of the upper portion of the west facade follows as such: flat wall expanse punctured by two 3-by-5 light dual pivot windows, one above the other; a double-width projecting pilaster topped with two herringbone bond and sandstone capitals; four sets of double 3-by-7 light dual pivot windows two above the other two and divided by a pilastrelli and brickwork; a single-width pilaster with a single capital; again four sets of dual pivot windows divided by pilastrelli and brickwork; a double-width pilaster topped with two capitals; and finally the flat expanse punctured by two 3-by-5 light windows, arranged one above the other. The sandstone-capped crenelated parapet finishes this facade.
The three-bay east facade carries forward many of the architectural motifs and patterns found on the other facades: the sandstone and brick stringcourses, the bay and window patterns from the south elevation, the decorative capitals and brickwork, and crenellation. A few openings have been filled with CMU and metal.
Additional features include a smaller two-and-a-half story tower located at the south corner, the smokestack, and ductwork that connects to the smokestack through a former window opening. The window sill is still present.
The tower, trapezoidal in shape, has sandstone and brick stringcourses in line with those wrapping around the building, and four window openings on its south and east elevations. Only one window remains intact: a 3-by-4 light single-pivot window located on the first level of the south facade. The other openings have been filled with brick or CMU. It appears that this tower received repair work at some point in the past, as the top is constructed with a different type of red brick. There are signs of effervescence on the bricks and some structural shifting of the tower itself.
A brick-lined concrete smokestack is located to the east of the warehouse. The octagonal concrete foundations are sixteen feet nine inches deep and twenty-five feet wide. The interior diameter of the stack at its base is fifteen feet with a wall thirty feet thick. The original construction plans show brick lining on its interior. The exterior is currently faced with red brick. A lighter color brick was used to spell "Joseph & Feiss." However, as the stack was shortened, only "& Feiss" remains.
Originally, the stack connected to the building's boilers through an underground brick-lined concrete tunnel. A metal duct, a later addition, now connects the boilers to the stack through a partially bricked-in window on the first floor of the east elevation. A brick buttress was constructed on the stack to support this duct.
The warehouse has four levels plus a half basement. The remainder of the basement level is unexcavated. Each level is generally 85.5 feet wide by 190 feet long. The building's structure consists of six-inch reinforced concrete slabs supported by square or round concrete columns positioned every twenty feet. Removable partitions could be installed if office space was needed for designers or managers. The result is an essentially open and flexible space lit naturally or with rows of simply-styled lamps.
The basement contains the engine room, the boiler room, and two corridors to reach these rooms. One corridor extends from north to south while the other, intersecting the first, extends from the west side of the building to the one-story engine room. This corridor is accessed by a small staircase in the main tower or via the doorway and stairs in the northeast tower.
In the engine room, six square, twelve feet tall columns support the concrete slab ceiling. A brick bearing wall separates the engine and boiler rooms. The boiler room, a two-level space, contains two-story square columns which support the concrete slab floor of the second level. I-beams are embedded in these square columns, which have a flared pyramidal shaped "capital." Both rooms have concrete floors and walls. The boiler room is also connected to the staircases in the northeast and southeast towers and the egress door located in the northeast tower. This room is crisscrossed by steel girders, iron piping, and other metal structures: walkways, ladders, and ducting. Original lamp fixtures are present in the room.
The first floor contains what was once the sponging room. With a twelve-foot height clearance, this room covers about two-thirds of this level, with the other third remaining open to the boiler room below. Within the sponging room, eighteen square columns with pyramidal capitals stand in a grid configuration of three rows by six columns. This level has brick walls surrounding engaged concrete piers which have angled capitals. The brick walls, engaged piers and concrete columns were painted with the wainscoting effect (light tone above a waist high area of a darker tone) that has been applied throughout the building. Set within the concrete floors is a metal-edged trench.
This floor also has a catwalk, leading between the sponging room and the northeast tower. Metal industrial windows installed in the interior wall of the catwalk provide glimpses of the boiler room below. The catwalk was constructed with brick and concrete walls and concrete floors.
The second-floor space was once used for cutting fabrics based upon pre-made patterns. Between the rows of square concrete columns, cutting tables were set up end to end and reached the entire length of the building. This level has a fifteen-foot height clearance and the advantage of large expanses of windows. Between the large window openings, concrete engaged piers support the concrete slab floors along with twenty-four columns arranged in a three-by-eight grid. These columns, too, have pyramidal capitals. Above the windows and brick walls, a concrete header beam spans the engaged piers. This level's walls also retain the wainscoting paint scheme on the exterior walls, engaged piers, and columns.
Metal pipes, strips, and HVAC ducting are connected to the ceiling. In some places, metal strips reach from the south to the north wall. Most of the original drain pipes are missing. Holes in the column capitals reveal their former placement. The flooring is maple over cinders and the concrete slab, and the maple flooring was laid in a diagonal pattern. Because of the missing drain pipes and exposure to moisture, water has pooled on the flooring causing it to warp and buckle in nearly all locations. In others, the flooring was removed and then burned. Overall, the remaining wood flooring is in poor condition.
The third and fourth floors also have fifteen-foot height clearances with twenty-four round columns arranged in a three by eight grid. The columns are aligned with the concrete engaged piers. The columns also have conical capitals. The engaged piers stand between the window openings and brick walls. The piers, brick walls, and columns are painted with the wainscot scheme. Maple wood flooring is also present on these floors but it is laid parallel with the west facade rather than diagonally. And, miscellaneous metal strips, chains, and piping remain attached to ceilings.
By 1874, the southwestern boundary of Cleveland had reached Storer Avenue, and the area in which the Joseph & Feiss factory now stands was platted mostly for residential purposes, mainly worker cottages. The Big 4 Railroad had constructed track through the Walworth Run Valley to the south of the site and built the stockyards for which the neighborhood is now known. The Walworth Run, a creek named for a prominent Cleveland farmer and postmaster, once flowed freely to the north of the site. Stockyards, breweries, and other commercial entities, located along the run and railroad tracks, used the small waterway as a sewer. The polluting of the run resulted in depressed land values. But, by 1898, it was incorporated into Cleveland's sewer system under Walworth Avenue in an effort to encourage development in the area (Cleveland Atlas, 1898). Two street car lines also ran on nearby streets: Lorain Avenue to the north and Clark Avenue to the south.
In November 1900, Goldsmith, Joseph, & Feiss Co. received a building permit to construct a one-story brick shop building at the southwest corner of the present site. This building was designed by Lehman & Schmitt, a prominent Cleveland architecture firm (Building Permit No. 37395, City of Cleveland, Division of Buildings (1900). In 1901, the company began experimenting with branding and developed the Clothcraft Clothes name. The name is still present on signs on the warehouse and administration buildings. By 1903, the company had completed an addition to the one-story building: the two-story northern portion of the existing U-shaped administration building.
Lehman & Schmitt again provided designs for the southern portion of the administration building in 1904 and offered alternative designs to accommodate the firm's rapid growth. The original plans for this addition called for a two-story structure and the removal of a portion of the existing building, presumably the original one-story building. Window and door sashes from the original building were retained for the new addition. The plans also provided for a sunken boiler room without structure above it, and an alternative design with two-stories above. What was built included a two-story addition for offices, stock, and manufacturing, and a basement boiler room, with an attached smokestack. Much of Lehman & Schmitt's design is present today (Building permit #50616, 11/17/1904; original blueprints, 1904) though some alterations were made to the interior and entrances in 1926.
Within this space, the company had fully shifted its production model from the contract system, where the company sent piecework to contracted seamstresses or tailors, to that of the inside shop, where all production happened on the company's premises. Internal company histories declare that Joseph & Feiss was "a pioneer in the establishment of the first inside shop manufacturing [process] on its own premises." Therefore, by 1904, with the completion of this currently intact structure, the Joseph & Feiss Company had achieved the construction of a freestanding garment factory before Richman Brothers or the H. Black Company, two other well-known garment manufacturers in Cleveland.
By the fall of 1907, the firm, now named the Joseph & Feiss Company, had again engaged Lehman & Schmitt to design a second larger addition to the east of the administration building between the Big Four railroad tracks and Haight Avenue, which was later vacated. Construction of this new addition began at the end of September 1907 (Building permit #14099, 9/27/1907). By 1912, a five-story brick water tower and a one-story brick and iron-posted manufacturing addition had been completed.
Between 1912 and 1918, the site remained relatively unchanged except for the addition of a skylight in 1914. In 1918, Joseph & Feiss gained building permits to "alter" many of the dwellings surrounding the factory on Haight Avenue and Junction Road. Though classified as alterations on the permits, the structures were actually demolished. In 1919, the City of Cleveland vacated Haight Avenue, and in 1920, Lockwood, Greene & Co had prepared designs and construction documents for a large addition to the manufacturing building and an attached warehouse building. By 1921, with the completion of these additions, the factory complex had reached its largest size. The administration building received an interior renovation in 1926, and the company added the brick, concrete, and stone fence posts in 1933.
For the next seventy years, the site was in full use and the company made alterations, mechanical upgrades, and small additions as needed. The site ceased to be used for mercantile purposes when it was sold in 1997 to Americon-Homes for redevelopment. In 2003 to 2004, while under Americon-Homes' ownership, the large manufacturing building at the center of the site was torn down. The current owner, Urban Housing Ltd, a developer of other successful Federal Tax Credit projects in Cleveland, purchased the site at auction in January of 2009.