Abandoned department store in Ohio

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio
Date added: May 16, 2023 Categories:
Looking southwest (1992)

Built from 1918-21 as the City of Massillon's first high-rise structure, the eight-story Ideal Building is an important illustration of Massillon's emergence during the 1910s and 1920s as a steel-based industrial and commercial center. Pre-WWI industrial expansion in the community marshaled in a period of economic prosperity, spurring growth in the city's mercantile and business sectors. Optimism in Massillon's future, along with a desire to take advantage of an expanding retail and office market, caused the Hess-Snyder Company to construct this major downtown department store and office building. The decision to build the Ideal Building in 1918 was an event which both signified and was influenced by the city's emerging industrial status.

The Stark County Story by Edward T. Heald, published in 1958, lists the architect for the Ideal Building as Robert Powell of Cleveland. Powell, whose full name was William Robert Powell, was a Cleveland architect from 1909 until 1964. Trained at Columbia University and the Sorbonne in Paris, he designed a number of commercial and public buildings in the Cleveland area. He may have been most noted for his design of the Cleveland Heights City Hall, completed in 1923 (demolished). Among his other known commissions were the Lorain Medical Building and Reserve Lithograph Building (1931) in Cleveland, in addition to two fire stations (1929-30) and the Cumberland Pool and Bath House (1927) in Cleveland Heights. The Ideal Building, designed early in his career, used the classical motifs that Powell favored in these other buildings. As a prominent addition to Massillon, this building was an important early commission for this little-known Cleveland architect.

In the years prior to 1918, the city of Massillon saw a resurgence of industrial activity following a period of dormant manufacturing growth at the turn of the century. Most significant was the establishment of the Central Steel Company and its new sheet mill in 1915. With this plant's construction, and Central Steel's lucrative contracts during World War I, Massillon was firmly established as a steel-producing center. In addition to Central Steel, the pre-WW I years produced several other important industries in the community, including Massillon Aluminum Company (1910), Reliance Manufacturing (1911), Massillon Rubber Company (1913), Peerless Drawn Steel Company (1913), Enterprise Aluminum Company (1914), and Massillon Steel Casting Company (1927).

The impact of this industrial expansion on the Massillon community was significant. The city's population grew slowly in the first years of the 20th century, but increased at a much faster rate during the teens and twenties. Massillon's population grew from 11,944 at the turn of the century to 13,879 in 1910, an increase of 16 percent. By 1920, the population had reached 17,428, a ten-year increase of 26 percent. During the decade of the 1920s, the city grew by 50 percent to a population of 26,400. For the first time since the 19th century, the city added new housing allotments, particularly in the vicinity of the steel mills in south Massillon. Also contributing to the community's development was the designation of Massillon in 1913 as one of the cities on the Lincoln Highway, which passed through the heart of the commercial district on Main Street (now called Lincoln Way).

It was in this climate of growth that the decision to build the city's first skyscraper was made in 1918. Massillon was expanding its status as well as its size, the economy appeared strong, and advances in steel-frame construction had made tall buildings possible. Members of the Hess-Snyder Company, an important 19th century manufacturer of stoves and furnaces, determined that they would build a multi-story retail and office building to house their Ideal Company Department Store, a business which they had operated in Massillon since 1904. Contributing to their decision was the acknowledged trend in retailing toward multi-level department stores, already commonplace in urban centers, but just reaching smaller communities such as Massillon.

The history of the Ideal Company begins in 1904 when it was established as a dry goods store by Frank H. Snyder, son of one of the founders of the Hess-Snyder Co., a prominent Massillon stove and furnace manufacturer. Snyder was ambitious from the outset, opening the Ideal Company in two Massillon locations in 1904. Typical of the period, these stores occupied first-floor retail space in two and three-story commercial buildings, with apartments or offices on the upper floors. With a population of nearly 12,000 in 1900, Massillon supported four dry goods stores in 1904. Following trends in larger cities, three of these businesses converted to department stores in the early 20th century, broadening their stock and setting up departments. However, only the Ideal Company built a new building on a scale that would establish it as the premier department store in Massillon.

The Ideal Building was built specifically to house the full-line department store on the first five floors and basement, with rental offices on the upper three floors. Characteristic of multi-story department stores, the Ideal Company organized its merchandise by floor, included a mezzanine, installed elevators, and used unit fixtures that could be moved around at will. When it opened, the store featured home furnishings and wares, men's furnishings, lady's ready-to-wear, dress goods, shoes, accessories, millinery, carpet, furniture, and wallpaper. The 1921 opening-day newspaper article proclaimed: "From roof to basement, not one cent of expense has been spared by the Hess-Snyder Company to make the building complete. Following the lead of the builders, the Ideal Co. has spared no expense in making its new store a model. Altogether, building and store furnish a magnificent new addition to Massillon's mercantile district."

Massillon's downtown is typified by two and three-story, mostly brick commercial buildings that were constructed from the mid-19th century to the mid-20th century. During the early 1900s, new commercial buildings were generally built in the tradition of the city's 19th-century structures, although using more simplified designs and sometimes occupying more than one building lot. The eight-story Ideal Building was a significant change from what had come before. As the first building in Massillon to be more than five stories in height, it had a dramatic impact upon the character of the city. It was followed two years later by the seven-story First National Bank Building. Both the five-story McClymonds Building and the First National Bank building were built to house banks on the ground floor, while the Ideal Building was originally built as retail space.

The retail orientation of the Ideal Building is significant because the amount of retail space that it provided was far greater than any that had previously been built in the city - over 40,000 square feet for department store use. The building also offered three full floors of office space in a modern, steel-frame structure accessible by elevators. At the time, the five-story McClymonds Building, built in 1909 was the premier office location in downtown Massillon.

Although the Ideal Department Store remained in the building, the Hess-Snyder Company sold the structure in 1925 to the Ohio-Merchants Trust Company, a bank formed in that year by the merger of the Merchants National Bank and the Ohio Banking and Trust Co. (It is noteworthy that Ideal Company president Frank H. Snyder was a director of the new bank.) The eastern two-thirds of the first floor was converted to banking use, and a 30-ton vault was installed at the south end of this space. The department store retained the west storeroom as its main entrance and continued to use the upper floors as before. Both the department store and banking uses remained in the building for long periods of time. The locally-owned Ideal Department Store was a long-successful retail anchor in downtown Massillon, remaining in business through the late 1950s. The company had 100 employees in 1954. The Ohio-Merchants Trust Company grew to become the largest bank in the city. In 1957, it merged with People's Bank of Canton to form the People's-Merchant Trust Co. The bank was acquired by AmeriTrust in about 1975, and remained in this building until 1986.

Building Description

The Ideal Department Store Building is an eight-story Commercial Style landmark in downtown Massillon, Ohio. Constructed of steel frame with brick tile walls, the building was the first high-rise building to be constructed in Massillon when it was completed in 1921.

Defining features of the Commercial Style that are seen in the Ideal Building includes its flat roof with moderately projecting cornice, tripartite window treatment, and the clear distinction of the base, middle, and top of the building through the use of different materials. In addition, the building displays classical details in the upper and lower facades, reflecting the Classical Revival style popular in the early 20th century.

Occupying a corner location, the Ideal Building has prominent north and east elevations fronting on Lincoln Way and First Street, S.E., respectively. Fenestration pattern, materials, and design details are repeated on both elevations. The north elevation has three bays on all floors, and the longer east side elevation has seven bays. West and south elevations of the building are unornamented.

The first two floors and top two floors of the Ideal Building are faced in terra cotta and accentuated by classical details, while the middle four floors (the shaft) of the building are faced in brick with unornamented piers and spandrels sharing a common plane.

The building has a projecting terra cotta cornice with dentils, egg, and dart molding, and acanthus leaves. Below the cornice, the tripartite windows on floors seven and eight are slightly recessed from the plane of the wall surface, with Corinthian pilasters, spandrels decorated with a medallion, and end piers, all faced with terra cotta tiles. A projecting terra cotta beltcourse distinguishes the "crown" of the building from the floors below.

Floors three, four, and five display large triple windows, with the central window sash of a slightly larger size than the two flanking windows. Windows on the sixth floor begin a transition to the top two floors through smaller windows with separating piers.

The ground floors of the building, containing the storefronts and building entrances, are also faced in terra cotta. The second floor is intact, with dentilled cornice and frieze displaying fleur-de-lis. The first floor, which also includes a mezzanine level on the interior, is defined by a slightly projecting cornice with large storefront openings between Ionic pilasters. These elements were removed on the north storefront facade, but remain intact in the south six bays of the east elevation.

As originally designed, the north storefront facade contained three bays with entry to the department store in the middle bay. A second storefront entrance in the west bay was added about 1925, when a majority of the ground floor was converted to banking use. Today, the north storefront facade is altered with new materials, although the three-bay divisions are still evident on both the ground floor and mezzanine levels. The new design extends around the corner to include the first bay of the east elevation.

The east side storefront elevation retains its original cornice and pilasters in bays two through seven. The last three bays, in the location of the building's elevators and stairs, contain smaller display windows and an intact side building entry with entablature cornice and classically-inspired details.

The interior of the Ideal Building reflects its use as a department store and offices. The rear, east side entry opens to a stair and elevator lobby which remains intact. Much of the remainder of the ground floor was altered through its conversion to banking use. The large bank vault from c. 1925 remains in place. Ceiling, floor and wall surfaces have been covered with modern materials. On the mezzanine level, Original features remain exposed, including casement windows overlooking the floor below and a row of paired cast iron columns with decorative capitals.

The upper floors of the building each consist of an expansive open space with structural piers and large window areas. The department store use is evident in the second, third and fourth floors, which have wood floors and no evidence of partitions. The only exception is the third floor where a lady's comfort room was provided in the southeast corner. On the office floors, there is evidence of partitions that were located off of a central hallway but have been removed.

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Looking southwest (1930)
Looking southwest (1930)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Looking southwest (1992)
Looking southwest (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Looking southwest (1992)
Looking southwest (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Looking northwest (1992)
Looking northwest (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio East elevation (1992)
East elevation (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio East elevation entrance (1992)
East elevation entrance (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio East elevation (1992)
East elevation (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Lincoln Way streetscape looking east (1992)
Lincoln Way streetscape looking east (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Lincoln Way streetscape from First Street looking east (1992)
Lincoln Way streetscape from First Street looking east (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Lincoln Way streetscape looking southeast (1992)
Lincoln Way streetscape looking southeast (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio First floor elevator lobby (1992)
First floor elevator lobby (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Former bank lobby on first floor (1992)
Former bank lobby on first floor (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Mezzanine level (1992)
Mezzanine level (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Second floor (1992)
Second floor (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Third floor ladies lounge (1992)
Third floor ladies lounge (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Fourth floor (1992)
Fourth floor (1992)

Ideal Department Store Building, Massillon Ohio Seventh floor (1992)
Seventh floor (1992)