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.

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

 

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.

Cleveland’s Lovely Little Life Savers

 

An advertisement for Lifesavers.

 

We have all had a Life Savers candy at some point in our life. (Love the cherry flavored Life Savers. And wintergreen.) But I suspect that not a lot of people know that Life Savers were created in Cleveland. It’s true. Cleveland millionaire chocolatier Clarence A. Crane introduced the Life Savers candy in 1912. Just a short year later, Crane sold the Life Savers trademark to a New York businessman. Anyway, Crane was inspired to create the candy because he was looking for a “summer candy” – a confection that would not melt during the summer, as his chocolate often would during the dog days of summer. He thought the candy looked similar to “life preservers” often found on boats, thus the name Life Savers. The first Life Savers flavor, by the by, was Pep-O-Mint (still a fan favorite). The candies were originally placed in little cardboard tubes, not the foil wrap used today (the New York businessman who acquired the brand invented the wrapper a few years later).

Interesting side note:  Clarence A. Crane is the father of noted Cleveland poet – Hart Crane, whose famous collection The Bridge was published in 1931. Hart Crane leapt to his death while sailing across the Atlantic on a return trip to the United States; ironically never reaching the life saver that was cast his way while overboard.