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The May Company building in Cleveland, built in 1915, recently reopened as an upscale apartment building. 

The May Company building in Cleveland, built in 1915, recently reopened as an upscale apartment building. 

Credit: Bedrock LLC

CityLab
Design

Downtown Department Stores Get a Residential Revival

The giant flagships of 20th century retail chains like the May Company are finding new uses as high-end apartment buildings.

When it opened in 1915, the May Company building in downtown Cleveland was billed as the largest department store in Ohio and the third largest in the United States. Designed by noted architect and urban planner Daniel Burnham at the height of the City Beautiful movement and famed for its gleaming white terra cotta façade, the eight-story Beaux Arts edifice drew people from around Northern Ohio — and not just to shop, either.

During World Series games in the late 1930s, passersby could follow the action on an animated scoreboard affixed to the building’s exterior. In the 1960s, Major League Baseball Hall of Famer Jimmie Foxx sold sporting goods on the second floor after his playing career ended (it was a time when retired ballplayers were most assuredly not set for life).