Renovation & Restoration Making the Grade Menlo Park Academy transforms former garment factory into K-8 charter school By Doug Bardwell | Photos by Harry Dempsey (AutoHaus Image) & Lauren Pacini (Artography) H ere, nestled on the near west side of Cleveland, radically innovative thinking blossomed more than 100 years ago, and continues to flourish today at the same site. The Joseph & Feiss Co. started its west side campus with a small one-story shop at 2149 W. 53rd St. (then known as Swiss Street). Today, the historic structure has been renovated and is being used by the gifted students of Menlo Park Academy, one of the highest ranked K-8 schools in Ohio. It was here that the 40-hour, five-day work week was instituted – a radical concept at the time and well before it was adopted by Ford Motors. Other ame-nities for employees included a kitchen and dining room, swimming pool, locker rooms, 1,200-seat auditorium, handball court, and checkers and reading rooms. A library and a school provided edu-cation for new employees, as well as instruction in citizenship and classes in English for immigrants. The company’s 2,500 employees also enjoyed extensive health and recreation facilities. On the second f loor, an air duct remains that was the first place in America where fresh air was introduced for employee comfort. Orthopedic chairs were designed for employees and special tables were designed to enable sewing with as little movement as possible, preventing stress and fatigue for its pre-dominantly female assembly line. Started as a single-story business in 1900, it was enlarged with a two-story addition in 1905, which eventually served as the administrative building. In 1907, a 300-foot by 420-foot, two-story factory with a saw-toothed roof was built. Unique to the factory was a five-story, brick water tower that provided water for the fire-suppression system. Last to be built, the 80-by 200-foot, four-story warehouse housed giant boilers www.propertiesmag.com 59 On this seven-acre campus, the 81,300-square-foot, four-story former factory has undergone a $13 million renovation and opened this fall to serve the constantly growing enrollment of Menlo Park Academy (MPA). Vestiges of the former factory are intentionally still visible, paying homage to the forward-thinking founders of Joseph & Feiss Co. Unheard of amenities for their workers Back at the turn of the century, when many factories could be aptly described as “sweat shops,” Cleveland’s west side was home to arguably the most innova-tive factory in America: the Joseph & Feiss Company, maker of men’s suits.