The Old ArtCraft Building

Today is a free day in Meet the Maker March challenge, so we wanted to share a bit more about the building we make our studio in. Located on Superior avenue between East 25 Street and East 26 Street is a stately 1910 brick warehouse and former garment factory. In fact all of the buildings from East 20th to the I90 bridge were once a beehive of clothing production. Our building is 7 stories, and has 4 elevators, all manually operated during business hours. These days the old factor is home of photography studios, painter’s studios, at least 2 design studios, a world class furniture restorer, a guitair builder/restorer, a spine clinic and a slathering of artists of every type. The ceilings are high, and the windows are original (and a bit leaky). But the heat is robust in the winter, sometimes to the point of opening windows to chill down just a bit.

There is a historic overlay map of Cleveland which is always a treasure trove of information if you have the patience to look through the various layers of detail for different time periods. The map of 1898 showed that there were 5 residential plots located where the current building is located. and most of the neighborhood was housing. The map i posted is for 1927, by then a 17 year old ArtCraft building fills the entire space from East 25th Street (Known as Minnesota Avenue) to East 26th Street (known as Alabama Avenue). Loving looking at old map “platts” because we can learn that the property was owned by Jessie C Sayler. A curious side note for those who live in Parma/Seven Hills area is the neighbor property across East 26th street at that time – St Collumbkill Roman Catholic Church was then located next door to ArtCraft. As you can see the map with the current street overlay, I90 was build, taking out that property.

Information and documentation about the building is not strong. The map platt does give some detail, but not much more. We do know that until the late 1960s the building was still being used for manufacturing of women’s dresses and coats. As the changing economic conditions moved clothing manufacturing offshore buildings like this sat, or were vacant. Artists began leasing space in the building because it was edgy, rent was low, and the space was graciously . If the walls could talk i am certain there a re a lot of interesting stories because the garment district of Cleveland employed 7-10% of the work force during the years of 1910-1950. Workers – seamstresses, garment laborers often were recent immigrants from Europe with sewing skills. In some spaces in the building there is evidence that there were once rows of sewing machines and other garment production equipment. There are moments when i sit in our studio and try to picture what my space once was used for. Or think of the big wide front stairwell at shift change, filled with a mass of workers coming or going. And the smells of homemade lunches, with variety of ethnic eats. Or sitting and trying to imagine how many languages were quietly spoken by workers. I also included a photo of the hand operated freight elevator, which still works and we rely upon to move our supplies in, and stock out.

We also have a wonderful view of Lake Erie, which is only blocks away. Burke Lakefront Airport is just beyond that tall building in the picture above. I love watching out the windows to see what is happening out on the lake, or what is flying in or out. And those sunsets are so beautiful. But it is the labor day weekend Cleveland Air Show that puts us in a front row to see the main stage. The fighter jets us the water tower on our building as their marker for flying the show, and there is an adrenalin rush when they rumble low over our building and out to the lake. Such a cleveland classic thing!!!!