Templar Motor Company

One of the great and unexpected joys of writing the Cool History of Cleveland blog is the occasionally connection you make with a reader. A few weeks past I received an email from a David Buehler who owns essentially the final set of Templar Motor Cars in the world. Truth is I didn’t know what Templar Motor Company was all about and while it is cool he owns the cars what was the Cleveland connection? Turns out Templar Motors was Lakewood, OH’s only automobile manufacturer. It is one of those cool great stories about Cleveland (and its neighbors) that I worry is slowly disappearing from us.

The stylish and fast Templar motor vehicle.

During the seven year existence of Templar Motor Company only produced 6,000 cars of which only 30 are believed to exist today. The Company was formed in 1916 by a group of Cleveland investors. By early 1917 – a new factory was erected at Halstead and Plover Streets in Lakewood, OH at a significant cost of $2.5 million. The plant was constructed with an annual car capacity of 5,000 units – but never in the company’s best year did it hit a third of that capacity. Templar’s first car was completed and displayed in 1917. However, the United States entered WWI that year and the factory, fulfilling its patriotic duty,  began to produce 155 mm shells. At this point nearly 1,000 individuals were employed at the plant.

Templar Motors - "Lakewood's Only Auto Manufacturer"

The adopted slogan of Templar Motor Company was, “The Superfine Small Car.” While the company was noted for its two-passenger sport roadster it also offered a fiver-passenger and four-passenger “sportette” model. All of which were moderately priced though much higher than the very successful Model T by Ford Motor Company. The company achieved modest success in 1918 and 1919 and under the tutelage of President M. F. Bramley had streamlined operations and added five new buildings for production at a cost of $1,000,000.

The perfect car for a summer ride.

Fun fact. In the summer of 1919, famous racing car driver – E. G. “Cannonball” Baker set a new world’s record in driving from New York to Chicago in a modified Templar vehicle. His record time of 26 hours and fifty minutes was an astounding six hours and ten minutes faster than the previous record.

Unfortunately, disaster struck Templar on December 31st, 1921 when the original three building plant burnt to the ground. The company successfully maintained production but never hit the 1918 and 1919 levels of car output and was in serious financial straits. Templar continued to plod along until the fall of 1924 when beset by poor financial conditions and shareholder lawsuits it finally closed its doors. More than 20,000 investors lost more than $6 million dollars (which would translate to more than $42 million today). But the cars were quite stunning and for a brief period of time captured the imagination of the U.S. with its built for speed reputation.

Businesses That Fade Away – Now Found

Last Sunday ther Plain Dealer printed a wonderful article entitled “Signs of Lost Times” by Marcia Pledger (one of my favs at the PD). I had the honor as author of “Lost Cleveland” of offering a little quote. Pretty cool. The article details the hundreds upon hundreds of signs that pay homage to Cleveland companies that no longer exist. I really enjoyed the read. A lot of my favorite signs were included in the photos section. To see the fabulous photos by Plain Dealer photographer – Thomas Ondrey click HERE.

One of the great outcomes of the article was an email I received from John TePas, the patriarch and genealogist of the TePas family, whose great grandfather came to Cleveland from Holland to found the Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Company. The Company just happened to be included in one of the many photos by Thomas Ondrey.

John’s email is below:

This one gave me goose bumps. Today’s Plain Dealer feature story in the Business Section has a story about businesses that have faded away, but the buildings and the identifying signs are still visible.  On the front page,  is the CLEVELAND CO-OPERATIVE STOVE CO.  where he made his living. I have searched fruitlessly for years trying to get a lock on this site and here it is

Now quoting directly from his obit in a 1903 Plain Dealer ” Deceased was a native of Holland and came to Cleveland in 1848.  He was one of the incorporators of the Cleveland Co-Operative Stove Company and for years was on its board of directors”. This helps explain his 1893 (??)  will wherein he left two houses and three lots to his sons John, Theodore, and Albert.

The sites listed below get you on the article and then further into it and lastly to the building.  

http://www.cleveland.com/business/index.ssf/2011/04/signs_of_lost_times_northeast.html

http://photos.cleveland.com/4501/gallery/signs_of_history/index.html

http://photos.cleveland.com/plain-dealer/2011/04/clevelandcooperativejpg.html

For even m0re fun, go onto one of the satellite map sites,  maps.live.com or maps.google.ca/  and enter the address 2323 East 67, Cleveland, OH.  If you know your way around the Google site, you can see photos of the bldg from front and north side as well as close ups.It’s on the SE corner of Central & E 67with the Pennsylvania RR line on the rear.  I’m sure when Dad traveled to Washington as he did many times he took the Penn rr from the E 55 station and went right by his grandfather’s business, hopefully knowingly.  

-John

Thanks John for sharing your excitement and joy. I really appreciate it. The story, and John’s email, reminds me that Cleveland has so many stories to tell about its past and many mysteries to offer and for us to solve. Enjoy the links, Cleveland.

League Park

It is wonderful to see the Indians off to a spectacular start for the 2011 season. Baseball has a sacred does of nostalgia does it not? The Indians have a great tradition and long history in Cleveland. Every time  I walk into “Progressive Field” (or any other major league baseball stadium) I sense that I have just walked into a beautiful cathedral of green. There is a great sense of nostalgia that stirs when an old ballpark closes – such as Yankee Stadium two years. But I have a suspicion that League Park – which holds significant history for baseball and Cleveland – never got its due. League Park was one of the great “neighborhood parks” that were built in all the grand cities at the time – Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, Shibe Park in Philidelphia and Wrigley Field in Chicago. Fact is part of League Park still exists on E. 66th and Lexington to this day! This is a great shot of the ticket area on Lexington Avenue back in the day.

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives"

And this is practically the same photo but shows the condition of the Park today.

But in its heyday – League Park was a beauty!

"Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives."

The Park was built in 1891 for the Cleveland Spiders by the owner of the team Frank Robison. (Built on E. 66th because Robison owned a trolley car line and E. 66th happened to by a major part of that line.) The first game in the Park was May 1, 1891 and the Spiders starting pitcher that day was Cy Young. The original capacity of the Park was 9,000 with a picnic area for those in the neighborhood to watch batting practice. Seating capacity was improved to 27,000 in 1909. The 1920 World Series offered a number of fascinating historical events as the Brooklyn Dodgers played against the now Cleveland Indians, managed by Tris Speaker. For example, the first and only unassisted triple play in a World Series occured in the 1920 series, as did the first grand slam in World Series play. The photo below shows Lexington Avenue near the Park during the 1920 World Series. I have to say it is so striking to see a photo of a crowd like this on a Cleveland street. It just would not happen anymore in the City. (Not to mention that Lexington and E. 66th are located in a very distressed area today.)

"Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives."

Another fun historical fact about League Park is that Babe Ruth hit his 500th home run on August 11th, 1929. It is said that his “towering shot” cleared a fence taller than the famed “Green Monster” in Fenway Park and landed on Lexington Avenue. Please note obligatory photo of the Babe (this photo was actually taken at League Park).

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

Not a lot of people remember that League Park was also home to a historic and very successful Negro League team the Cleveland Buckeyes who claimed the 1945 Negro League World Series and two Negro League championships. The Park was also home to other sports teams including the Cleveland Rams who made League Park their home in the 1940′s. During the summer, the Park also hosted some unusual but fun events – including boxing!

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

Here is a great shot of League Park’s scoreboard.

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

And a neat photo of the locker room.

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

Unusual photo – a big teepee in center field.

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

Even the ushers displayed great haberdashery (note “Cleveland” on thier hats).

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

After the completion of Municipal Stadium in 1931 the Indians began to play more and more of their games at the new stadium, but would still play a few series each year at League Park (mostly to improve the team’s batting average as Municipal Stadium was not a hitters’ friendly park). The last game at League Park pitted the hometown Indians against the Detroit Tigers on September 21st, 1946. The Park then became the Cleveland Browns practice field until 1951 and the grandstands were torn-down soon thereafter.

"Photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives."

There is a slim hope that part of the facility could be rejuvenated. I did find League Park Society whose mission is to preserve and restore the Park. You find their website here:  www.leaguepark.org. If you get a chance please drive down E. 66th and stop at League Park it really is fascinating to see what remains of this historic venue.

A Fellow History Buff Book Tour

During my early years in Cleveland (remember I am not from Cleveland; moved here in 1994), I started to read the great stories of Cleveland past by John Stark Bellamy. His books on Cleveland’s history are fascinating. Do yourself a favor and search Amazon and start buying a few copies. Anyway my good friends at Gray & Co – a Cleveland, OH-based book publisher, asked me to help publicize the tour a bit. John is the real deal. You will enjoy his conversations about Cleveland’s crazy past.

John returns to town April 4-16, 2011 for a series of talks based on his new book, “The Last Days of Cleveland.”Bellamy will share stories about some of the gruesome crimes and scandalous events from Cleveland’s past including: the suicide of two West Park girls (ages 10 and 11) who died after eating rat poison in their grandmother’s basement; the wild prophecies of the Rowenites who announced the apocalypse would take place at midnight on February 6, 1925 then gathered on rooftops in Garfield Heights to wait for the end; and the murder of George Saxton, playboy brother of President William McKinley whose sensational death and the murder trial of his mistress riveted an entire nation.

He is the author of six story collections and two anthologies and the former history specialist for the Cuyahoga County Library system, John Stark Bellamy retired to Vermont in 2004. He visits Cleveland periodically to speak about his work. For an online schedule of Bellamy’s upcoming library talks, visit: http://www.grayco.com/events/index.shtml#Bellamy

 

Campus Sweater Company – “One Damn Fine Mural”

All right Cleveland, do me a favor and check this photo out!

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Is this not the most spectacular sports mural you have ever seen? This was a Kenneth Bates mural created specifically for the lobby of the new Campus Sweater Company building at 3955 Euclid Avenue. Campus Sweater Company was launched in 1922 by entreprenuers Samuel Kaufmann and Loren Weber originally in the Warehouse District. The Company specialized in casual clothes, sportswear and sweaters. At one time it was the largest manufacturer of men’s clothing in the U.S. (Wasn’t everything in Cleveland once the “largest in the U.S.?) The Company was eventually acquired by Interco in 1968 and enjoyed good fortune in Cleveland until 1982 when the plant was closed ending any presence of Campus Sweater in Cleveland. The building became an office for the county.

What I find fascinating about the mural (outside of its gorgeous look) was that it was placed in front of a large “picture window” on Euclid Avenue so that everyone walking along the street could see this magnificant piece of art. Kenneth Bates, too, was a world renown artist who was based out of the Cleveland Institute of Art. The building this piece was a part of, I believe, is now gone – but I would love to know what happened to this great piece of art. Does anyone have any ideas? Please, please, please let me know.

 

The Allerton Hotel

As many of you know I am simply enamoured by the history of the various hotels that once graced Cleveland – The Hollenden, The Statler, The Winton. Another hotel that gets very little attention is the Allerton Hotel (or I should say the Allerton Apartments, now) located on the corner of E. 13th and Chester. The Allerton Hotel is a stunning building built in 1926 by the Allerton Company of New York. The architects were the Morgantroyd and Ogden Company. The Allerton Company owned at one time eight hotels including hotels in Detroit and Chicago (the Chicago Allerton still operates as hotel along the Magnificent Mile on Michigan Avenue). No doubt the building today is a bit rough – it offers low-income housing. Recently the building went through some modest redevelopment. But back in the day it was a stunning structure. Check this photo out!

This photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives.

This photo makes the Allerton look like one hell of a time. The hotel offered 550 rooms, an air-conditioned dining room, a coffee shop, a famous cocktail lounge and a swimming pool. I know I could had have a few good evenings at the Allerton.

This photo provided courtesy of Cleveland Press Archives.

Cool stuff. And dig this postcard!

This photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

Wow! What a beautiful place. I can only dream of spending a night in this very cool and hip hotel. Those days are past, my friends. It is a shame the condition the building is today, but once upon a time it really was a place for royalty.

The Bond Store

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Is the building above not the coolest thing you have ever seen? Do you know where this building used to be in Downtown Cleveland? It was one of the last art moderne buildings to reside in the City – it is the home of the Bond Clothing Company. And it was located on the northwest corner of East Ninth and Euclid Avenue (think National City Tower today). The Bond Clothing Company was started in the Hickcox Building on the same corner in the 1920′s. Charles Bond founded the firm and it quickly became the largest retail chain for men’s clothing in the United States and was well known for its two piece suit collection for men. Anyway, the Bond Company decided to tear down the Hickox building in 1946 and erected this beautiful monument soon thereafter.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Many stories have been told about the majestic interior including an open terrace and illuminated mirrored columns that extended from the first floor up to the third floor. There was a large curved staircase that allowed patrons to casually walk through the department store and get a great feel about all four floors and the merchandise offered to patrons. I believe that Walker & Weeks was the architect of record.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The above photo offers a great view from East Ninth looking west down Euclid Avenue towards Public Square. I love how this street used to look. Unfortunately, the store was torn down in 1978 to make way for the National City Tower. This is brilliant architecture. Seems a shame to have lost this to a bland commercial tower.

 

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

 

 

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