Cleveland's Halle Building
Talk about impressive names! Between them, the original Halle Brothers — Samuel Horatio Halle and Salmon Portland Chase Halle, had more than their share. These siblings founded The Halle Brothers Company — Cleveland’s premier upscale department store for almost a century — in February, 1891, just a few blocks from Public Square.
After several early decades of growth and relocation, The Halle Brothers Company in 1910 opened a new $5 million building between Huron and Prospect Roads in the city’s vibrant Playhouse Square district. By the late 1920s, the retail emporium had broadened its reach to include much of northern Ohio, as well as parts of New York, Indiana and Pennsylvania, and was considered on a par with such great commercial enterprises as Marshall Field’s and Lord & Taylor.
The Halle Brothers Company survived the Depression and continued to thrive through America’s Post-War period. However, the 1960s saw a change in the chain’s fortunes. With increased competition from such Public Square department stores as The May Co. and Higbee’s (both readily accessible to a much wider regional customer pool via light-rail transit), faltering traffic at Playhouse Square, and continued city-wide suburbanization, Halle’s flagship store suffered, dragging the chain down with it. From 1970 through 1982, the company’s assets passed through several new owners, before being eventually liquidated. Its flagship store was acquired by Forest City Enterprises in 1986 and converted to office use.
In the early 2000s, as the City of Cleveland contemplated its Euclid Corridor transportation and revitalization project, Forest City Enterprises undertook a substantial renovation of The Halle Building’s lobby and lower level food court. Theatrical theming and décor were stripped, restrooms and food court renovated, sleek new surfaces and finishes installed, lighting revamped, casual lobby seating added, and original mural art commissioned. Today the Halle Building’s lobby displays perhaps the nation’s largest original installed watercolor — a dramatic scene of the Cleveland cityscape from West Side Market to Cleveland State University, conceived by ZZ Design and painted by renowned watercolorist David Rankin.
The building also served as the fictional site of Drew Carey’s place of employment in his eponymous television comedy, while the department store company itself was the inspiration for the naming of Cleveland-born actress Halle Berry.
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