Monday, December 22, 2014

World's Largest Indoor Christmas Tree - Sterling & Welch Company Building - Cleveland, Ohio

   Sterling & Welch began in 1845 when Thos. S. and Wm. Beckwith opened a dry goods store on Superior St. In 1857 the store replaced its dry goods line with floor coverings and curtains. Both Frederick A. Sterling and Geo. P. Welch joined the company in its early years and by 1889 they had control of the partnership which was incorporated in 1902 as the Sterling & Welch Co. In 1909 the firm moved from its location on lower Euclid Avenue to 1215-1225 Euclid Ave., where it built one of the largest and finest home furnishing stores in the area. In 1927 Sterling & Welch began the tradition of installing the nation's largest indoor Christmas tree in its atrium.


STERLING & WELCH BUILDING 1215 EUCLID AVENUE CLEVELAND, OHIO
J. Milton Dyer, Architect 

"it is undoubtedly the finest, most commodious and handsomest store building in the world, it being unsurpassed by any in Chicago, New York or the metropolitan centers of Europe. It is strictly modern in every sense, with magnificent interior furnishings and every facility to promote the beauty and substantiality of the structure." A History of Cleveland, Ohio: Biographical By Samuel Peter Orth


MARQUISE, STORE FRONT AND BRONZE ENTRANCE, THE STERLING WELCH CO.
W. S. TYLER COMPANY 

In front of the Sterling and Welch Store, circa 1940's.

INNER COURT OF THE NEW STORE OF THE STERLING & WELCH CO.
CLEVELAND, OHIO
INNER COURT OF THE STORE OF THE STERLING & WELCH CO.
CLEVELAND, OHIO

A live, 50-60 ft. tree, festooned with 60 lbs. of 'icicles', 1000 yds. of tinsel, 1500 ornaments, and because fire regulations prohibited the practice of placing lights in the trees, was illuminated by 6 banks of 750 candle-watt spotlights. It required 650 man-power hours to trim by swinging stages suspended from the skylight.


1933 CHRISTMAS TREE
   
   Legend has it the tree grew a foot while inside the store.


1936 CHRISTMAS TREE

1940 CHRISTMAS TREE

1952 CHRISTMAS TREE

1954 CHRISTMAS TREE

1955 CHRISTMAS TREE

1958 CHRISTMAS TREE
1959 CHRISTMAS TREE
1959 CHRISTMAS TREE

1960 CHRISTMAS TREE
1962 CHRISTMAS TREE
1966 CHRISTMAS TREE

1966 CHRISTMAS TREE

Their "Santaland" included a device where you could insert a coin and receive a gift that came down a slide, a train, and an enchanted forest display.
1967 CHRISTMAS TREE -THE LAST ONE

    
    The STERLING-LINDNER CO. was a combination of 3 smaller stores--the Sterling & Welch Co., the W.B. Davis Co., and the Lindner Co.--each of which was a leader retailer in its own specialty. 

   The W.B. Davis Co., a pioneer menswear store in Cleveland, began in Jan. 1879 as a custom-shirt factory operated by Wm. B. Davis and Edwin Parsons at Superior and Bank (W. 6th) streets. By 1880 Davis had changed the business to a retail men's furnishing store, which was incorporated in May 1888. In 1917 Davis moved from an earlier location on Euclid Ave. to its newly acquired Davis Bldg. at 325 Euclid.

   The Lindner Co., once the largest women's specialty store in Cleveland, was begun by Max Lindner, Max Hellman, and Morris Black in 1908 on E. 9th St., and by 1915 Lindner had built and occupied a larger store at 1331 Euclid AveThe following year, the 2 companies were merged into the Sterling-Lindner-Davis Co. 


LINDNER BUILDING
Built 1915, Robert D. Kohn, architect. 

Looking West at the corner of E. 12th Street and Euclid Avenue, late 1950,s -  Hotel Statler(now the Statler Arms Apartments)Union Club and  Sterling-Linder-Davis department store on right.

  
1255 EUCLID AVENUE
Modernization underway for the opening of Lindner-Davis store in the former Higbee building, circa 1949. 

   In 1947 one of the nation's largest operators of department stores, the Allied Stores Corp. of New York, acquired Lindner & Davis. Two years later, it purchased Sterling & Welch. In 1949 the Lindner-Davis general department store opened in the remodeled Higbee building at Euclid Ave. and E. 13th St., adjacent to the Sterling & Welch store. Davis was dropped from the name in 1958. In the early 1960s, the firm felt that it was in a prime location downtown and decided not to establish suburban branch stores. Allied Stores then realized that without outlying stores, Sterling-Lindner was not profitable. The store closed in 1968 and the building was demolished.


Euclid Ave and E 13th view of Sterling Welch building in Cleveland, Ohio, shortly before it was razed. The two store gray building on the NE corner of 13th/Euclid was the Cowell and Hubbard Jewelrs building. This intersection was the epicenter for Cleveland's carriage trade stores.
Note the SWC frieze.
The beautiful atrium was demolished to make way for an office building that never materialized. The steel pilings for the atrium were cut off and remain in the ground.
   
    At their peak, Cleveland's downtown department stores anchored a lower Euclid Avenue that ranked among the largest retail districts in the United States and was compared to New York's stylish Fifth Avenue.

   After World War II, the growth of suburbs and shopping malls started to draw business away from downtown and Euclid Avenue. The department stores tried to compete, opening up suburban branches, but by the turn of the 21st century most of these local companies had been bought out by national chains, with their flagship downtown locations converted to other uses. 


HIGBEE BUILDING 1255 EUCLID AVENUE
Later a fifth floor was added and the matching top trim eliminated. 
Now known as the Sterling Building
   
   Founded in 1860 by Edwin Higbee and John Hower, Higbees was a simple two-man dry goods store originally known as Hower and Higbees. Following Howers death in 1897, the store incorporated as the Higbee Company.


    Originally located downtown, in 1931 the Higbee Company was in the midst of constructing a new store on Public Square. The move would return the Higbee Company back to downtown after nearly a quarter-century stint next to Sterling Welch on Playhouse Square. When completed, the new store stood as an anchor to the new Cleveland Union Terminal Complex, which became the hub of the city's rapid transit system.  

Higbee's became enshrined as a scene in the holiday film "A Christmas Story".

   The Van Sweringen brothers’ massive Cleveland Union Terminal project was the ultimate impetus for Higbee’s returning to Public Square in 1931. As a hub for both train travel and their Shaker Rapid Transit system, the brothers wanted to capitalize on the captive traffic by incorporating a department store into the project. When the pair failed to lure any department stores, they solved their dilemma by simply buying Higbee’s and moving it there themselves.
   
   Higbee's was purchased in 1992 by Arkansas-based Dillard's and closed its Terminal Tower store in 2002. In 2012 the Higbee building became home to the Horseshoe Casino.

The home of Amasa and Julia Stone, 1255 Euclid Avenue, was completed in 1857.
   
   In 1857, Amasa Stone, a successful railroad entrepreneur and bridge designer, erected a 6,500-square-foot Italianate villa mansion. Eighteen years later, Stone planned and constructed a bridge spanning the Ashtabula Gorge, ignoring advice from his own engineers, who considered the design unsafe. The bridge ultimately collapsed in a windstorm, killing 151 train passengers unfortunate enough to be crossing at the time of its collapse.

   The despondent Stone, attempting to cope with the bridge disaster, failing health, the accidental drowning of his only son and a financial panic that ruined three companies he controlled, fired a bullet through his heart while sitting in a bathtub in his Euclid Avenue mansion. Samuel Mather and his wife, Flora Stone Mather (one of Amasa's daughters), lived in the home until Flora died in 1909. At the time of her death, Flora had nearly completed her participation in the design of what would have been her next residence, the plush Mather mansion still standing on the Cleveland State University campus. After the Stone residences demolition in 1910, the  Sterling Welch building was built joined by the new Higbee Company building. 

6 comments:

  1. Wonderful Christmas set! Thanks for sharing it-

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a great series of Christmas tree displays in an equally fantastic retail emporium. they surely don't build them like this anymore. Equally sad to see in the demolition photo are that the elaborate triple wall sconces mounted on the first level columns were not removed and are being destroyed along with that wonderful atrium. How short-sighted, careless and wasteful we are as a society.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Mid-60's Christmas trees exactly as those in my home. EXACTLY. Dad must have seen some advertising. We lived in Houston across from NASA. Trees of my best memories, and never seen again since those days. Wish dad were alive to send him the link.

    Loved the architecture here.

    Garden & Be Well, XO T

    ReplyDelete
  4. Interesting. The store's central court reminds me in its effect more than a little of the hotel lobby-ish hall at Shadow Lawn

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was researching some pictures of Higbees for my blog and happened upon your page, I had totally forgotten Sterling's. Thanks for the memories.

    ReplyDelete
  6. hard to believe my great grandfather was the one who created the sterling linder tree up until 68 I believe and then was demolished in 69

    ReplyDelete