CLEVELAND - East 55th Street is one of the busiest streets in Cleveland, with hundreds of cars traveling the thoroughfare daily. Few realize they are driving past history.
Today, the abandoned Richman Brothers Factory at 1600 East 55th is a hulking mass of broken windows and overgrown grass behind a chain link fence.
But it’s also a monument to the past. The Richman Brothers Company was once the largest garment manufacturer in the United States. It’s one of one of 65 lost landmarks covered in the new book “Lost Cleveland” (Pavilion Books).
The complex on East 55th Street opened in 1916, on 17 acres on the edge of the garment district. The enormous U-shaped building had large windows on every wall to let in natural light for working, 15-foot high ceilings, and 60-foot cutting tables. It was an employee-focused factory that continued to grow as the company flourished. Richman Brothers was a progressive company, one of the first in the nation to give paid vacation and maternity leave.
At its busiest, the East 55th factory had 3,000 workers. But as times changed, men’s fashions did, too, Richman Brothers fell on hard times.
After making acquisitions of several smaller businesses, Richman merged with the F.W. Woolworth Co. in 1969. The company continued on for a few more decades, but revenue sharply declined. In 1992, Woolworth shut the door on the Richman Brothers.
The building on East 55th has sat empty since then, as plans to build a prison, apartments and even a boxing facility with Don King came and went. Current owner Derek Ng is still hoping to restore the building, though there are no plans in the works.
Another lost Cleveland landmark has faced a happier fate.
League Park, the first home to the Cleveland Indians, was mostly demolished in 1951. But it lives on in local memories – and a Baseball Heritage Museum on the site. With the Indians looking to be World Series contenders again, the location of their 1920 Game Seven World Series win is in the spotlight once more.
This was just one of many victorious moments at the stadium built at the corner of East 66th Street and Lexington Avenue in the Hough area. Crowds at League Park saw Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run in 1929, and the Cleveland Buckeyes win the Negro League World Series in 1945. The park opened in 1891 with an appearance on the mound by none other than Cy Young.
Originally a small field that sat 9,000, it was built by Cleveland City Cable Railway Company owner Frank De Haas Robison to host his Cleveland Spiders National League team. The Spiders played in the park from until 1899. The Indians played there through 1946, mostly weekday games after Municipal Stadium opened in 1932.
The final baseball game in League Park, which never added lighting for night games, was September 21, 1946. The Indians lost 5 – 3 to the Detroit Tigers in front of just 2,772 fans.
League Park was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1979.
EDITOR'S NOTE: These are two of 65 lost landmarks covered in “Lost Cleveland.” Published Aug. 1, on Pavilion Books, “Lost Cleveland” explores the rise and the fall and the spirit of a gritty city that clawed its way back. Over the course of 144 pages and with more than 200 photos, the book chronicles 65 beloved institutions and iconic places that were consigned to history yet continue to shape the identity of the city.
Author Laura DeMarco will be talking “Lost Cleveland” and showing vintage photos at the Happy Dog, 5801 Detroit Ave., at 7:30 Thursday, Sept. 21, along with John Skrtic, Director of Public Services at the Cleveland Public Library.
She will present a “Lost Cleveland” talk on the Richman Brothers Company and garment industry at the Made in Cleveland vintage knitwear shop, 1782 Coventry Road, Cleveland Heights, at 5 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. More info: www.facebook.com/lostcleveland.
For more on League Park and their upcoming events, including “Pleibol,” a weekend focusing on “Latinos and African-Americans Breaking the Color Barrier in America’s Favorite Pastime,” September 22 – 24: baseballheritagemuseum.org.
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