Close-up of an Abandoned Optics Factory

Witnessing the decrepit state of the former Warner & Swasey Company factory complex, it is difficult to imagine that it once supplied cutting-edge equipment for observatories across the US and overseas. After a hundred years of business, the plant shut its doors and became another of Cleveland's many abandoned industrial spaces.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

From the fascinating ruins of Victoreen Instrument Company, I made my way to Carnegie Avenue, the final resting place of several of Cleveland's former industrial powerhouses.

The old Warner & Swasey complex consists of a rusting sawtooth-roofed structure partially surrounded by an eerie five-story brick building.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Surprisingly, there are no fences or signs to deter explorers. During my short visit, I encountered several small groups of people walking casually as though they were strolling through a public park.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Much of the structure has been gutted, the combined result of asbestos abatement work and scrappers.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Corridors once filled with machinery and the chaotic sounds of industry now stretch empty except for the occasional echo of footsteps.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Rusty stairways and deadly elevator shafts connect the yawning levels of the old factory.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Tiny stalactites of mineral deposits hang from ceilings and disused pipes. Graffiti adorns the walls--sometimes a mural carefully drawn by an artistic hand, sometimes a hastily sprayed existential question answered with a witty reply.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

The rooftop affords views of distant skyscrapers as well as the decaying factory below.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Crumbling rooftop structures bear some of the most colorful graffiti.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Sadly, the property has become a dumping ground for trash and old tires. One of the basement rooms contained evidence that someone had been spending nights there: a sleeping pad, duffel bags full of clothes, discarded soda cans and food wrappers. 

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

It is strange to think that this dark, haunting place was once alive with industry, providing the livelihood for hundreds of workers and their families.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Nearly a century and a half ago, Worcester Reed Warner and Ambrose Swasey met as apprentices at Exeter Machine Works in New Hampshire. The two men became close friends, both skilled mechanical engineers with a shared interest in astronomy. Several years later, they both left Exeter and took jobs at Pratt & Whitney in Hartford, Connecticut.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

In 1880 the two men resigned from Pratt & Whitney and moved to Cleveland to found their own business.

In the early years they focused on producing lathes, milling machines, and telescopes, which were used in Observatories across the US as well as Canada, Argentina, and Lebanon.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

For the first 20 years of business, they lacked a formal corporate agreement. After years of growth and success, they finally adopted a corporate structure and officially became The Warner & Swasey Company in 1900.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Warner and Swasey remained good friends and even built homes next door to each other on "Millionaire's Row" in Cleveland.

The Warner & Swasey Company developed a reputation as one of the major producers of turret lathes. The company also took on military instrument contracts during the Spanish-American War and both world wars, producing gun sights, binoculars, and other optical equipment.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

In 1946, Warner & Swasey began manufacturing hydraulic construction equipment, which quickly became a major driver of business growth.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

In the 1970s, competition from Japan and Taiwan ate away at the company's profitability and in 1980, Warner & Swasey was acquired by Bendix Corporation. Bendix was later bought by Cross & Trecker, which closed the Carnegie Avenue plant in 1985.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Many different plans for redeveloping the industrial complex were proposed over the years. Cayahoga County explored the idea of using the space for its Health and Human Services Department as well as a jail annex, but plans fell through. The City of Cleveland later considered using it as a municipal center. Then in 2010, Hemingway Development planned to transform the complex into a technology center for biotech and health care companies. Due to ballooning costs the project was abandoned.

Since its closure, the building has remained vacant for nearly thirty years. Its future remains uncertain.

Abandoned Warner & Swasey Company factory in Cleveland Ohio

Thank you for checking out this article. If you enjoyed it, please share it on Facebook.

And be sure to come back next time when I will explore Warner & Swasey's incredible abandoned observatory.

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7 comments :

  1. Always look forward to seeing your next adventure - - - share them with a lot of my E-mail friends.

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for sharing them with your friends!

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  2. I love wandering around in here, but I've yet to run into other explorers. Odd, because everyone seems to bump into others while here! Interesting history, and yes it's among some other (former) mighty industries. The views from the roof are well worth the climb. Nicely done!

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    Replies
    1. Thank you, Greg! It is a neat place. I wish there were more artifacts left behind, but it's beautiful even without them.

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  3. I was impressed after I read all your Arizona trip posts and wrote you. I'm equally impressed after reading all your Rust Belt trip posts, so....! Your pics are great and your research and comments on the different locations are equally great. Planning my own trip to SE Arizona (Chiricahua Mountains) in April so will try and visit a few of the places you wrote about. Can't wait til your next entry. Charles G.

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