Filed Under Businesses

Taylor Building

The history of the Taylor Building highlights the rise and fall of Cleveland's downtown department stores as well as the recent revitalization of Euclid Avenue. It was part of the wave of department store closings that signaled the beginning of downtown's economic woes.

The Taylor Department Store began with the partnership of William Taylor and Thomas Kilpatrick, both Scottish immigrants. Together they opened the first dry-goods store on Euclid Avenue–a one-room shop–in 1870. Taylor, a devout Presbyterian, drew curtains to hide the store's display windows on Sundays and refrained from placing Sunday ads in the daily newspapers. In 1885, William Taylor's son, John, joined the company. When Kilpartick left Cleveland the following year, the company was renamed William Taylor Son & Co. Sadly, both father and son succumbed to tuberculosis five years apart, in 1887 and 1892. After John's passing, his wife Sophie became president of the company and ran the store until her death in 1936.

Sophie Strong Taylor oversaw the continued expansion of the company. In 1907, she moved the family store to a new five-story building at 630 Euclid Ave, known as the Taylor Building. Six years later, four more stories were added to Taylor's. In the 1930s, the company acquired the adjacent Taylor Arcade and thoroughly modernized the store. After Sophie Taylor died, the May Co., Cleveland's largest department store (located at Public Square and Ontario Street) acquired a substantial interest in Taylor's, which continued to maintain both its name and autonomous operation.

The postwar years saw Taylor's chase the same suburban dreams as other retailers. In 1958, the store opened a branch at the Southgate Shopping Center in Maple Heights. The changing retailing economy spurred by suburbanization eventually led the May Co. to close Taylor's downtown location in 1961 and rename the Southgate branch. The closure of the original Taylor's concerned nearby retailers, who worried about slipping sales. Then, in 1964, Albert A. Levin, a local developer, stepped in and purchased the defunct store, which he remodeled into an office building called the 666 Euclid Building, which housed a Gray Drug store and Lerner clothing shop at street level. The address change, from 630 to 666, was likely intended to sound catchy, but in time it come to be seen as a liability. In the meantime, however, the future seemed bright. Levin, whose efforts to build downtown's first new apartment tower further out Euclid had been stymied by the city's strict adherence to the Erieview downtown renewal plan, said of his latest investment, "It is terribly important that someone take the lead in revitalizing Euclid Avenue. The action should be taken by private investors in contrast to the socialization shown in urban renewal projects such as Erieview."

The 666 Euclid Building held its own as an office building but gradually became more difficult to lease. In the early 1980s the building changed hands, getting a remodeling and a new name: Atrium Office Plaza. But by 1986, the owners reclassified the property's address as 668 after the previous address's "devilish stigma" were, they argued, dissuading would-be lessees. In 1995 and again in 1998 the Atrium Office Plaza was sold. Each time the new investors hoped to turn the corner, only to be frustrated as more and more tenants departed. By 2007 the onetime Taylor Building stood empty.

The decided turning point--the first since Levin's early 1960s purchase--finally came in 2008, when another investor took possession and K&D, a rising presence in downtown residential conversions, took advantage of historic preservation tax credits to remake the former department store-turned-office plaza into upscale apartments. Called the Residences at 668, the latest repurposing of the Taylor Building coincided with other efforts to revitalize Cleveland's economy and reinvent downtown. Since the catalytic $197 million Euclid Corridor Transportation Project, completed that same year, investors have spent more than a billion dollars on other downtown projects. More than most downtown buildings, the Taylor Building has epitomized the three eras in Cleveland's downtown, transforming from a department store to an office building to luxury apartments.

Images

Taylor's Dept. Store, 1934 At the time this photograph was taken in 1934, the interior of the William Taylor Son & Co. department store had just undergone a $500,000 renovation. The company built the five-story building at 630 Euclid Avenue in 1907 and six years later added four stories to it. The store continued to grow despite the Great Depression, taking over the adjacent Clarence Building and Taylor Arcade in another series of expansions. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Original Taylor Store The William Taylor Son & Co. dry goods store initially was located on the southeast corner of Public Square in a building known as the Cushing Block. It opened on the ground floor there in 1870, with John D. Rockefeller's Standard Oil Company and the Cleveland Water Works Department occupying the upper floors. Taylor's eventually took over the whole building and then moved further up Euclid Avenue in 1907 with the construction of its new store at 630 Euclid Avenue. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
War Bonds, 1942 During World War II, Taylor's created a special stand in its Euclid Avenue facing front window from which it sold war stamps and war bonds to people wishing to support the war effort. Here, Bishop James A. McFadden purchases a war bond as people standing on Euclid Avenue look on. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Taylor Arcade, ca. 1910 The Taylor Arcade opened in 1907 in conjunction with the opening of the new Taylor store at 630 Euclid Avenue. The arcade, which ran between Euclid and Prospect Avenues, sat just to the west of the new store and just to the east of the Euclid and Colonial arcades. While the department store always owned the arcade, at first it rented out retail space in it to over 40 different shop owners. In the 1930s, however, the store expanded and took over the space for its own use. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Taylor Arcade, 1945 The Taylor Arcade was remodeled in the 1930s as part of Taylor's modernization program. Some of the details remain, such as the detailing above and below the windows, but the iron and glass sky-lit roof has been replaced by a more traditional looking ceiling. The arcade was demolished in the mid 1960s when Albert A. Levin converted the empty Taylor Building into office space. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Shuttle Bus, ca. 1955 This free shuttle bus carried shoppers back and forth between the rapid station at the Terminal Tower and the Taylor Department Store. Streetcars stopped running in Cleveland in 1954, and proposals for a subway underneath Euclid Avenue never came to fruition, making it difficult for potential shoppers to get downtown. Taylor's built a 1,500 car parking lot on Prospect Avenue in 1951 to serve those who drove to the store. In the 1950s people changed how they shopped with the building of interstates and suburban shopping centers, and downtown stores took steps to accommodate these changes. In addition, in 1958 Taylor's opened a store at the Southgate Shopping Center in Maple Heights, acknowledging the fact that fewer people were coming downtown to shop. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
New Facade, 1966 After Taylor's closed in 1961, the store was converted into an office building. In this photograph, a modern-looking yellow and black facade is being installed over the original exterior. Image Courtesy of Cleveland State University. Michael Schwartz Library. Special Collections.
Residences at 668, 2011 A developer purchased the empty Taylor Building and several adjoining properties in 2008 to create the Residences at 668. Part of the renovations involved with the project included the removal of the facade added in the 1960s, returning the exterior of the building somewhat to its original look. In the foreground of this photograph is a station for the RTA's Euclid Avenue Healthline which began operating in 2008, playing a large part in the revitalization of the street. Image Courtesy of the Center for Public History + Digital Humanities.

Location

668 Euclid Ave, Cleveland, OH 44114

Metadata

Sarah Kasper, “Taylor Building,” Cleveland Historical, accessed September 27, 2022, https://clevelandhistorical.org/items/show/242.