The May Company, Cleveland, Ohio
The May Company central downtown department store building, facing the southeastern quadrant of Cleveland’s Public Square has for nearly a century presented a unique façade within the city skyline. The structure’s white terra cotta facing is finely articulated into a decorated Neo-classical composition, one that clearly expresses the primary skeletal frame while incorporating generous windows that harken from the Chicago School.
Designed by the architectural firm of Daniel Burnham & Company, the building was originally constructed of six stories, opening in 1914. Situated just a few doors east of the competing Higbee Company of the Terminal Tower complex, it was intended to secure The May Company’s position as a dominant department store in Cleveland. An additional two floors arrived in 1931, in response to continuing store competition among Higbee’s, May’s and the Halle Brothers Company. The structure’s eventual 17 acres of retail floor space enabled The May Company to lay claim to the title of ‘Ohio’s Largest Store’.
David May had originally founded his May Department Stores Company in 1877 in Leadville, Colorado, to take advantage of the area’s early Gold Rush. The company grew and expanded, shifting its headquarters from Leadville to Denver in 1889, then to St. Louis in 1905. Along the way, the company had acquired the E.R. Hull & Dutton Co. of Cleveland, and renamed it The May Company of Cleveland. Within the following decades, the company planned and erected its Public Square store.
The May Department Stores Company had a long life as one of America’s premier retailers. Through growth and expansion — as well as the acquisition of such competing enterprises as Kaufmann’s, Hecht’s, Loehmann’s, Lord & Taylor, Caldor, Foley’s, Filene’s, Strawbridge’s, and Marshall Fields — it became a giant among department stores. Its stature was further enhanced by its merger in 2005 with Federated Department Stores, and the resulting company’s reemergence under the Macy’s name.
After being vacated by the retailer in 1993, The May Company Building transitioned to leased office space, and then emerged yet again as the Public Square Tech Center.
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