The Haunting Presence of Joseph & Feiss

The abandoned skeleton of Joseph & Feiss looms over the motorists along Interstate 90 in Cleveland, Ohio, a derelict that has only been a little more than a decade in the making.

Towering over the motorists along Interstate 90 in Cleveland, Ohio, the abandoned skeleton of the former Joseph & Feiss factory stands as a haunting reminder of the city’s industrial past. Defaced by graffiti, devoid of windows and doors, this derelict structure is a testament to the inexorable march of time, a relic that has withstood the ravages of neglect for little more than a decade, yet its resilience begs the question: why has this once-mighty edifice not been consigned to the annals of history?

The Joseph & Feiss Company, the oldest manufacturer of tailored apparel for men in the United States, boasts a history as fascinating as it is storied. Founded as a humble tailoring outfit in Meadville, Pennsylvania, the company relocated to Cleveland, where it underwent a series of ownership changes before adopting its present-day moniker in 1907. It was then that the firm embarked on a path of growth, opting to internalize its manufacturing operations and absorb its erstwhile outsourced partners.

With its ascent, Joseph & Feiss sought grander accommodations, erecting what was then the largest clothing factory in the nation in 1920-21 on West 53rd Street. Spanning a staggering seven acres, this behemoth centralized the cutting, trimming, sewing, and pressing departments, streamlining the company’s operations under one colossal roof.

It was during this period that Joseph & Feiss embraced the principles of scientific management, a revolutionary concept pioneered by Frederick Winslow Taylor. The firm demonstrated the applicability of these principles to the labor-intensive production of suits, adopting semi-automatic machinery driven by electric power and subdividing the production process into as many as 189 discrete steps. These repetitive tasks were often delegated to female employees, who specialized in a single operation, such as sewing on pockets, collars, or sleeves, while their male counterparts focused on cutting and tailoring. This scientific approach enabled the company to harness the power of high-volume production techniques for its standardized lineup, with the process undergoing quarterly reviews and readjustments.

In a bid to foster contentment among its workforce, Joseph & Feiss constructed an array of amenities on-site, including an auditorium, swimming pool, handball court, library, and an extensive cafeteria. However, changing management and the advent of unionization ultimately sounded the death knell for the scientific management model.

In the wake of World War II, Joseph & Feiss endured a series of acquisitions, passing through the hands of Samuel Spitz, Phillips-Van Heusen, and ultimately, Hugo Boss AG. Faced with the twin challenges of lower-priced imports and rising costs, compounded by an aging industrial complex, Hugo Boss made the strategic decision to relocate its manufacturing operations to a facility on Tiedeman Road.

In 1998, Ameri-Con Homes acquired the former Joseph & Feiss facility on 53rd Street, announcing ambitious plans to convert the complex into 150 condominiums and townhomes. After a protracted delay, Ameri-Con initiated demolition of the factory’s center to accommodate the construction of new townhomes and parking, while retaining the two largest buildings for conversion into condominiums. However, confronted with a sluggish housing market, Ameri-Con abandoned the project in 2006.

Urban Housing Limited subsequently acquired the vacant factory at a sheriff’s sale, and in 2011, the State of Ohio’s Department of Development awarded $1 million in Ohio Historic Preservation Tax Credits towards the renovation of the remaining Joseph & Feiss buildings. While no work has commenced on this rehabilitation project, the plans remain in the pipeline, a glimmer of hope amidst the specter of decay.

As one gazes upon the haunting presence of Joseph & Feiss, a profound sense of longing emerges – a yearning for these storied walls to be salvaged, repurposed, and resurrected, that others may admire and revel in the rich tapestry of history woven into their very fabric.


Add Yours →

There are plans to convert the remaining buildings into a campus for a school for the gifted. Funding for this project was granted in June of 2016

I enjoyed your many posts about abandoned buildings in Ohio, Pensylvania, and Kentucky. May I suggest an article about the Arcade in downtown Dayton, Ohio.

Sincerely ,

Mogan Wheeler

Leave your comment!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Discover more from Abandoned

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading