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.

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Bailey’s Department Store

I have always been fascinated by the lore – the myth and legend – of the fabulous shopping that once graced the street level space along Euclid Avenue. The names alone – Higbee’s, Halle’s, May, Bond, Richman, Taylor & Sons, Sterling-Linder – conjure the thought of quality and sophisticated style. And all made their home in Cleveland. One department store in Cleveland, that was quite famous during the day, unfortunately does not inspire the same sentiment but clearly it should. It was a majestic building – almost a castle. Welcome to Bailey’s Department Stores.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Bailey Department Stores (officially incorporated as Bailey Company) opened originally as a small goods store on the corner of Ontario and Prospect in 1881. It had grown to 11 employees by 1899 and expanded its retail selections to include home furnishings and clothing. The company focused on customer service and a ever widening selection of goods and by 1903 – Bailey Company built a seven story structure (again on the corner of Ontario and Prospect) and in 1910 added a 10-story addition.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

I find the above photo fascinating as it shows the Bailey Department Store and the May Company buildings (both on Ontario) before the construction of the Terminal Tower complex and the Republic Steel Building. You can see the Midland Bank Building in the upper left portion of the photo. This building has since been torn down and is now the BP Building. The photo was taken from the banks of the Cuyahoga River. In my mind it shows a new, glistening city literally rising from its industrial base. A striking photo.

Bailey was one of the first department stores to invest in additional brach stores. In 1929, Bailey Department Stores opened an east side store at 10007 Euclid Avenue and in 1930 opened a store in Lakewood. The Lakewood Bailey store was located on Warren Rd and Detroit Avenue – and was a welcomed addition to the growing Lakewood downtown. (In fact, this building still exists and is under going a significant renovation. It is great to see old buildings being given new life.)

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

I love old school retail. I can almost feel myself walking through these aisles picking up a new shirt and tie. Who wouldn’t love to shop at this?

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

Expansion continued for Bailey’s Department Stores with the opening of the City of Euclid store in 1951 and the Mayfield Heights store in 1960. Around this time the chain was sold to Century Food Market Company (I not making this up) and – surprise – the sales of the stores started to stumble. The first Bailey’s store was closed in 1961. The Lakewood store closed in 1965 (although it was part of the Nevilles Department Store chain for a period of time). And by 1968 the entire chain met its demise.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.

The downtown store, in particular, was a dynamic building and rested regally as mentioned on the corners of Ontario and Prospect. Unfortunately, the structure was torn down and made into a parking garage (what is it with Cleveland and parking garages). The retail level of the new garage for a time was a service station for cars but was eventually built out to be the Fat Fish Blue restaurant. But when Cleveland was king – Bailey’s was part of the royal family.

Photo provided courtesy of the Cleveland Press Archives.