AUSTIN CO. - The Encyclopedia of Cleveland History
AUSTIN CO., a firm of consultants, designers, architects, engineers, and constructors located in CLEVELAND HEIGHTS, was one of the most important innovators in the construction industry. Among its noteworthy achievements are the Austin Method of "undivided responsibility," the standardization of factory construction, and the development of the controlled-conditions plant. The company was founded by SAMUEL AUSTIN† (1850-1936), who emigrated from England to the U.S. in 1872 and settled in Cleveland. In 1881 he began building and designing commercial, residential, and factory buildings, especially in the Broadway district. By 1900 the Austin Method was evolving, whereby the client contracted with one organization that handled all the activities of design, engineering, and construction. Ensuring speed, efficiency, economy, and unity of engineering and architectural design, the company's first major achievement was NELA PARK, begun in 1911. In 1914 Samuel's son, WILBERT J. AUSTIN†, conceived of the standardization of factory design. During World War I, Austin built the Curtiss aircraft plant, covering 28 acres in Buffalo. In 1929 Austin erected the first all-welded steel frame building at 10465 Carnegie Ave. in Cleveland. As part of the Soviet attempt to industrialize rapidly under Stalin, in 1929-30 the company designed and built a giant automobile plant and an entire workers' city at Nizhni Novgorod in Russia. The company's prefabricated porcelain enamel service stations probably created its most visible impact across the country in the 1930s. On the eve of World War II, Austin built the first windowless, completely "controlled-conditions" factory for the Simonds Saw & Steel Co. (1938). In the postwar period, the Austin Co. became an international corporation with subsidiaries offering the same "undivided" services in 40 offices in 10 countries. The company's recent work in the Cleveland area includes the PLAIN DEALER production plant in BROOKLYN, LINCOLN ELECTRIC CO. world headquarters in EUCLID, and the SOCIETY CORP. (KeyCorp)'s Operation Center in the old May Co. building (see KAUFMANN'S, A DIVISION OF THE MAY DEPARTMENT STORES CO.).
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