The Diary of Industrial Giants
The opportunity to photograph an significant industrial site in danger of being demolished is quite infrequent, as most sites are inaccessible for reasons of security, reluctant owners or property managers, or liability. But collected into a corner at Lisbon and Evins streets in Cleveland, Ohio, at the junction of the Cleveland & Pittsburg Railroad and the New York, Chicago & St. Louis Railroad (Nickel Plate), was a sundry of businesses that made an impact on Cleveland’s history, growth and influence.
It is unknown what industry first located in the area, but an 1898 Sanborn Map overlaid on a 2006 aerial photograph revealed that the earliest industries were the Cleveland Rubber Company, the Peerless Manufacturing Company and the Glidden Varnish Company.
A 1912 Sanborn Map revealed a slightly different makeup and additional buildings.
The Cleveland Rubber Company was founded in 1877 at Ellsworth and Lundy streets, and manufactured belts, hoses, rubber clothing and rings. It became part of the Mechanical Rubber Company in 1893 and acquired the Sawyer Belting Company at a later date – only for the whole enterprise to be taken in by the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company.
The Sawyer Belting Company was formed in 1892 by H. M. Sawyer, a manufacturer of oil clothing, in Cambridge Massachusetts. In its early years, the company manufactured 600 feet of canvas stitched belting per day, and the growth was so potent that Sawyer relocated to double the space in a new factory on Lisbon Street on January 1, 1906. Production expanded to the point that more than six miles of belt was being produced per day.
Below: An early view of the Sawyer Belting Company.
The Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company was incorporated in 1899 in New Jersey, and produced rubber automobile tires, bicycle tires, hoses and belting. One-third of the company, in stock, was owned by the United States Rubber Company.
The United States Rubber Company was incorporated in 1892 in New Jersey, and manufactured rubber boots and shoes. Through numerous acquisitions, United States Rubber had become the largest consumer of crude rubber.
In July 1905, the company acquired a controlling interest in the Rubber Goods Manufacturing Company and owned a 90% of the stock by the end of 1906, eventually taking all interest.. At the end, the United States Rubber Company listed as its subsidiaries in the Mechanical Goods division: Sawyer Belting Company, Indiana Rubber, Eureka Fire Hose Manufacturing, Peerless Rubber Manufacturing, Revere Rubber, Mechanical Rubber of Chicago and the above mentioned Mechanical Rubber of Cleveland. Today, the United States Rubber Company is known as Uniroyal and is a part of the Michelin Group.
Another important industry was the Glidden Varnish Company. Founded by Francis Glidden, the company manufactured thousands of gallons of varnish per week to streetcars and railcar operators. It relocated to Lisbon Road after it purchased the Forst City Paint & Varnish Company in 1875 – then known as Glidden & Joy, and expanded in 1882 with the completion of a warehouse, boiler house and office, all designed by local architect George Hammond. In 1888, Glidden built a second factory at the corner of Madison and Berea avenues, also designed by Hammond. It was eventually renamed back to the Glidden Varnish Company.
Below: An 1882 view of the Glidden & Joy Varnish Company.
Due to explosive growth, Glidden relocated its facilities to Madison and Berea in 1906. Today, Glidden is one of the largest paint manufacturers in the United States.
Another listed plant was the Peerless Motor Car Company. Established in 1889 as the Peerless Wringer & Manufacturing Company, it was known for its washing machine wringers and then bicycles. In 1895, Peerless relocated to Lisbon Road and entered the automobile market in 1901. It initially produced De Dion-Bouton vehicles under license from the French company but later became known for its premium automobiles and was part of the “Three-P’s of Motordom,” alongside Packard and Pierce-Arrow.
In 1904, Peerless announced that it had purchased 5.5 acres of land at 9400 Quincy Avenue and had already started construction of a two-story, 258-feet by 50-feet long machine shop. It was to be followed with a foundry, an erecting shop and a painting and upholstering shop. The company was expecting to double its automobile output over the next year and that its present location was insufficient in size to expand. The new Peerless plant opened in 1906.
But its conservatively-styled vehicles, long lag time between new car introductions and the Great Depression led its sales to slow during the 1920s. The last car was manufactured in 1931 and Peerless then reused the former automobile plant to bottle beer under the Carling Brewing Company in 1933.
After United States Rubber closed its Lisbon Road location, the buildings were split to form an early industrial park. Several buildings were sold in 1933 to the Gerson-Stewart Corporation that manufactured cleaning compounds, sanitation chemicals and floor preservatives. It lasted until 1966 when the Lisbon site was closed.
Another was sold to the Strong & Cobb Company, which grew into one of the largest custom formulator of pharmaceuticals in the nation. It relocated from its site along the Central Viaduct to Lisbon Road in 1932, and closed its operations in 1972 when it moved to Cincinnati.
Other tenants included the Ohio Confection Company, Pennsylvania Refining Company, Western Machine & Dye Company, the Western Biscuit Company, the H.J. Heinz Company and the Loose-Wiles Biscuit Company.
Below: A 1952 Sanborn Map.
Below: An interior of one of the standing buildings that was used by the Ohio Confection Company.
Most of the site has since been demolished or is abandoned. The remaining buildings will be demolished for Opportunity Corridor, a four- to six-lane roadway that will connect Interstate 490 to the Cleveland Clinic complex.