Category Archives: Ohio

Urbex locations in Ohio.

American Urbex E.13 – The Tyson Mansion

A mansion in a small rural Ohio community has a history of being occupied being occupied by less than reputable characters. One of those characters being former heavywith champion Mike Tyson.

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American Urbex E.12 – Richman Brothers

The Richman Brothers took great pride in both the quality of their product and the workplace in which it was manufactured. 

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Richman Brothers


Photo: The massive Richman factory was once the most advanced clothing factory in the US.

Over the past decade large American corporations have reported record breaking profits hand over fist annually. These astronomical profits, however, have not translated into more American jobs. In fact the trend is working in a counter-intuitive direction. Job security, retirement benefits, union representation, workers’ rights, vacation time, livable wage rates and other progressive workplace stalwarts are under heavy assault. One end of the current political narrative has demonized the working class as responsible for the economic downturn, while simultaneously supporting tax breaks for companies that create jobs… overseas. In its heyday, the Richman Brothers Company was not one of those businesses looking to maximize profits by putting the welfare of its workers at risk. The company’s greatest asset was not its bank account balance, but rather the people that showed up to earn an honest living.

.Richman Factory

Photo: The factory as it appeared after construction finished.

If you had a bit of pig iron or salt to trade in 1853 there was a young entrepreneur named Henry Richman that was willing to fit you with proper clothes. The payment-flexible Portsmouth, Ohio businessman moved his garment business to Cleveland in 1879. The founder’s three sons Nathan, Charles, and paternally named Henry breathed new life into the family business and ventured the company into new territory. Nathan began experimenting with selling suits directly to the customer via mail in 1903. Realizing the potential of direct-to-consumer sales, Richman was the first clothier to open their own branded retail outlet in 1907. The strategy proved to be winning formula and the company grew tremendously.

The burgeoning operation tapped the Christian, Scharzenberg and Gaede Company in 1915 to construct a state-of-the-art factory in the heart of Cleveland. The architecture of the factory borrows design innovations from Richman competitor Joseph & Feiss. The U-shape design provides ample floor space for operation and maximizes air-flow. Large windows on all sides cut energy costs by providing natural light throughout the day. The original Richman property occupied 17 acres, but expansions in 1924, 1927, and 1929 extended the property to 23 acres. Total factory floorspace amounted to a staggering 650,000 square feet.

The Richman Brothers Company

Photo: Employee earnings report left behind on the factory floor.

At its zenith the factory employed around 2500 workers, each of whom benefitted from the progressive business practices the three Richman brothers instituted. The Richman brothers placed a great emphasis on personal accountability to their employees. Executives would regularly stand at the door and greet every employee by name. Having to look your employees straight in the eye meant that the company took great lengths to insure employee welfare.

According to a 1939 Time Magazine article workers enjoyed corporate stock options, three weeks paid vacation, and a 36-hour work week. Female workers received 10 weeks off with a $10 stipend per week to nurture their newborn infants. Sick employees also received the stipend if they were unable to work while receiving medical treatment. The company regularly granted no-interest loans to financially solvent employees. Those in need were often granted outright in-kind donations. Punch-clocks were non-existent in the labor-friendly work environment at the factory.

As the economic turmoil of the Great Depression sent the economy into a downward spiral the multi-millionaire brothers took drastic action to insure the survival of their company. After 1931 the three brothers voluntarily took a pay cut. Although they still retained the duties and responsibilities of their positions, their names never again appeared on the payroll.


Photo: One of the many heavy doors throughout the factory.

During World War II and well into the 1950’s prosperity reigned at the factory. Cousin George Richman led the company to become the largest domestic clothing retailer with 119 stores. Richman fanned out across the country with a number of competitor acquisitions that continued well into the 1960s.

In 1969 the Richman Brothers Company was sold to the F.W. Woolworth Company. Under new management the Richman label continued to produce mens and boys clothing. Wooworth, however, did not have the business acumen to weather tough economic times as the Richman brothers had during the Great Depression. As part of a broad strategy to shed underperforming brands Woolworth decided to close 260 Richman retail stores in 1992. Operations at what was once known as the “World’s Greatest Clothing Factory” ceased operations immediately thereafter.

Royal Flush Pinball

Photo: The author of American Urbex enjoys a game of Royal Flush pinball.

For nearly two decades the dormant boarded-up factory loomed over the Cleveland residential neighborhood that surrounds it. During vacancy the property was briefly considered as a potential future prison site or office space, but plans never materialized. In September of 2009 the property was purchased by a Chinese investment group looking to establish an American presence. Owner Derek Ng is actively pitching the factory as a place for mixed use development.

There is not much left at the factory that once was a dominant player in the American clothing market. The factory is a labyrinth of concrete walls and nearly identical façades. It is a ghost of the glory days of American industrial might. It is an homage to the wonders of capitalism, which neatly packaged American jobs and sold it overseas to cut costs.

The Richman brothers valued their employees and modeled what a responsible company can do for the working class. The workplace benefits they pioneered were in place long before some of them became commonplace by federal law. Contemporary executives could learn a valuable lesson from the Richman brothers’ stewardship in both hard times and prosperity. Wealth does not necessarily corrupt a man, but few wealthy are as benevolent as a Richman.


Ben Savoca – CAD drawings of the building.

CGLI – Rendering of a revitalized factory.

Cleveland – List of buildings from architects Christian, Schwarzenburg and Gaede. – Firefighters respond to a fire in the factory. – A Chinese investment group now owns the factory.

Daily Screw – A corkscrew bearing the Richman name.

eBay – Richman Brothers clothes for sale.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland – Entry for the Richman Brothers company.

Encyclopedia of Cleveland – Entry for the history of the garment industry in the city.

Go Antiques – Company stock certificate with a picture of the factory on it.

Google Books – Mentions Nathan G. Richman receiving an award for philanthropy.

Google Books – Photo of the building by the architect.

Google Books – Company President Lewman knew his 2000 employees by name.

Google Books – News of Nathan G. Richman’s death.

New York Times – 1990 article on the promotion of Lee Sutherland to Chief Executive.

New York Times – 1992 article on Woolworth closing 260 Richman stores.

Ohio History (PDF) – National Register of Historic Places Registration Form that mentions the factory.

Scene – 1999 article that mentions the location being scouted for a possible prison.

Time – 1939 article about the progressive work atmosphere at Richman.

Trademarkia – Trademarks registered to Richman.

WKYC – Local news has video of owner Derek Ng and shots inside the building.


Mike Tyson Mansion

Team Tyson

Photo: The Tyson emblem on the basketball court on the property.

Southington, Ohio is one of those places where everything a small American community needs is on one corner. The US Post Office, fire department, county clerk, church and convenience store are all within plain view of each other. When I pulled into Southington with an out of state license plate, one of the locals came by to greet me. Doug and I struck up a conversation and he told me all about Southington’s history as I ate lunch. In the 1970’s he and others from the area tried to set a Guinness World Record by playing basketball for 60 hours continuously. Graduates from the high school each receive $5 from a trust fund set up in the early 1900’s. Mike Tyson once owned a mansion not far up the road, too. I only pretended to be surprised about that last bit of information that Doug shared with me. In reality, the mansion is what I set out to see in the first place. After a solid 20 minutes of small talk I told him I was going to hike around Southington and snap some pictures.


Photo: Staircase by the main entrance.

About a mile just north of the main intersection of the rural community is a large estate surrounded by overgrowth. An iron gate over the driveway bears the name of one of the most famous pugilists in history. Mike Tyson was a world champion boxer that electrified the sport. Within just three years of his professional debut at the age of 18 in 1985, Tyson’s career trajectory rocketed him to the top of the boxing world by 1988.

In 1980 Trumbull county commissioner Ted Vannelli helped himself to county funds to develop his home on an 50+ acre parcel of land in Southington. Authorities eventually caught wind of Vannelli’s impropriety and foreclosed on the mansion. Although the young boxer was flush with cash Tyson was able to purchase the Southington mansion for the rather thrifty sum of $300,000 at a sheriff auction. At the height of his boxing career, Tyson occupied the spacious home when training for fights at Don King’s facility in nearby Orwell.


Photo (source): The main living room of the gaudy mansion.

The luxurious mansion features five bedrooms, several spacious living quarters, seven and a half bathrooms, a full kitchen, a mini-kitchen/washroom, two attached garages, one external garage, full size pool and jacuzzi, tiger cages and basketball court. Tyson’s design choices included gold trim, zebra print carpet, and everything else you could imagine that was tacky for interior designs in 1989. Tyson would not enjoy his dwelling for too long before running afoul of the law.

Large sums of money, raw physical power, and a cast of shady characters surrounding the boxer may have been a corrupting influence. Tyson was taken into custody in 1991 on allegations of raping Desiree Washington in an Indianapolis hotel room. In 1992 a jury deliberated for ten hours before finding him guilty. The ruling committed Tyson to a six year prison sentence with four years of parole. In 1995 Tyson was granted parole and released from prison.

Tyson returned to the tranquil rural Southington community to find respite, but the media fanfare followed him. With his future boxing career in question and financial situation in dire straits Tyson puts the mansion on the real estate market. Four years later in 1999 a marketer named Paul Monea purchases the property for the sum of $1.3 million.

Mike Tyson Mansion

Photo: Living area next to the front door.

Monea isn’t a household name, but those who remember the Tae Bo fitness craze are familiar with his product. Undercover FBI agents set their sights on Monea when he tried sell the mansion along with the rare 43-carat yellow “Golden Eye” diamond in 2006. How Monea came into possession of the exquisitely rare diamond is not quite certain. What is certain, according to a Justice Department grand jury indictment filing, is that Monea and an accomplice conspired to conduct the transaction with drug dealers. Those drug dealers were in fact part of a cover story the FBI carefully crafted. For his crimes Monea was ordered to surrender the diamond, the mansion and $100,000. The Monea Family Trust tried to recover the diamond through legal means, but were subsequently denied in 2010. With all the other spurious ownership claims settled the government will auction off the exquisite Golden Eye diamond in September 2011.

Businessman Ron Hemelgarn placed the only bid when the mansion went up again in a sheriff auction on October 22, 2010. For $600,000 and $360,604.66 in back taxes Hemelgarn is now the legitimate owner of the former Tyson mansion. Because Hemelgarn originally held a $600,000 lien against the property at the time of sale, the money from the purchase price returns to him. The final figure means that Hemelgarn spent not much more than what Tyson did for the same property two decades earlier.

Have a Seat

Photo: One of the few remaining furniture pieces. This one is quite elegant.

Not long after Hemelgarn took ownership he hired someone to do work on the property. Local authorities used to being summoned to the location for reports of trespassing must have been surprised to discover someone there legally. Within that timeframe Hemelgarn had much of the ugly furniture, horrendous carpet, and other home fixtures removed. Exposed carpet nails, a few ancient appliances, and heavier objects are all that remain behind. The bathrooms reek of foulness trapped by the lack of running water. A few miscreant explorers have found it necessary to mark their presence with spray paint. A throng of algae thrives at the lowest point of the mostly empty pool.

News of the nary occupied mansion first broke on the internet a few years ago after Monea was captured by the feds. Information from the site Illicit Ohio and photos Mike Adam’s Flickr set spread rapidly through internet content sources. Comparing my photos to that of explorers past, it is clear Hemelgarn is intent on doing something positive with the property. He may have a difficult time, however, breaking the stigma attached to the history of the property. Just like the Willis Tower in Chicago will always be the Sears Tower in the minds of a certain segment of the population, so too will this mansion be indelibly marked as the Tyson mansion despite whoever owns it.


Photo: Diving board next to the massive indoor pool. Notice the green water.

There are few urbex locations that I visit that are actually rehabilitated after an extended dormant period. It is sad to see the Tyson mansion fall off the list of possible shooting locations for urban explorers. It is important though, that we appreciate a location for what it is in the time and space that it does exist.

When I set out to fundraise for this trip I set the Tyson mansion as a general goal in my head. I’m glad to report that the gamble to drive to a remote location with a minimal amount of location information was a success. Thanks again to all of you who made this possible. Thanks also, to the brave explorers in whose footsteps I travel.


CantonRep – Article about the Golden Eye diamond. – The Golden Eye diamond will go up for auction in September.

Clevescene – Article about Monea’s shady business dealings.

Danny Wills – Gallery #1 and #2 of the decor within the mansion in August 2008.

FindLaw – US v. Monea Family Trust ruling in the 6th Circuit Court.

Flickr – Mike Adams excellent set of the mansion.

Flickr – My Mike Tyson Mansion set of photos.

Galivantin’ in Ohio – Timeline of the mansion history.

Illicit Ohio – Details of one urbex photographer’s journey and research on the mansion.

People Magazine – 1995 article mentions the Southington mansion.

Property Pursuit – Lists the real estate details for potential buyers.

Time – 1999 article that mentions Paul Monea in unflattering terms.

Trib Today – Police catch three trespassers on the property.

Trib Today – Ownership transferred to Ron Hamelgarn in 2010.

US District Court (PDF) – Indictment of Paul Monea that mentions the manson.

Wikipedia – Entry for boxer Mike Tyson.

WKBN – Police respond to reports of trespassing.

Infiltration Summer

Bowling Lanes

Infiltration Summer was a massive success thanks to the support of American Urbex readers and donors. Without your help it would not have been possible. I was able to photograph a mansion, a church, two schools, and a handful of industrial locations. I also met two very skilled urban explorers who were willing to share their experiences with me.

American Urbex recognizes the following individuals for having a hand in making this dream a reality.

Mom – For soliciting additional funds without my knowledge.
Brandon Davis – For showing me the ropes around Cleveland and letting me crash on the couch.
Mike Adams – For sharing his insights and impeccable burrito taste with me.

Pierre Ramery, John Sagehorn, Dave Smith, Andrew West, Scott Langteau, Matthew Nicklas and all the donors who wish to remain anonymous. May your generosity be returned to you in the future tenfold. Expenses have been compiled into a spreadsheet for public review.

Thanks to you American Urbex has a wealth of content to work through. I’ll get cracking on editing the photos and research immediately. I want to share the intimate details about the trip so bad, but doing so would blow the cover on what is in store. Until those entries appear please keep an eye on our Facebook, Twitter, and Flickr Group!


Hudepohl Brewery

Photo: Corner door at the Hudepohl Brewery. Note the HB emblem above the door.

On the first night of the UW Whitewater Civil Rights Tour our bus pulled into Newport, KY, which is right across the Ohio River from Cincinnati, OH. The tour did not have anything scheduled for the evening so I decided to set about the downtown area in search of photo opportunities. I wandered until I came to a building with a smokestack I had seen on the way into town. On each side of the smokestack in giant letters was the name Hudepohl.

I will be back

Photo (Starbuck3733t): The smokestack of the Hudepohl Brewery is visible from the nearby highway.

The buildings on the location were constructed between 1859 and 1861 for industrial use. From 1935 to 1987 the buildings housed the Hudepohl Brewery, which was originally established in Cincinnati in 1885. Throngs of German immigrants in the area created a strong demand for lager style beers, which entrepreneur Ludwig Hudepohl II tapped into. During Prohibition the company produced NA beer, soft drinks, milk and ice cream. When World War II broke out the War Department parachuted Hudepohl beer to the troops.

Post World War II the company focused mainly on local markets. This strategy proved disastrous as national brands such as Pabst, Schlitz, Budweiser and others encroached upon their market share. In 1986 the company was sold to crosstown rival Schoenling Brewing. In 1987 the company closed the Hudepohl plant and consolidated all operations into the Schoenling facility.

Video: A Hudepohl television advertisement.

The company and its properties would change hands several times since the Hudepohl closing. Today only a select few brands of Hudepohl beers are still produced. Hudy Light, Burger Beer and Burger Light are produced by City Brewing in La Crosse, WI.

Because I was alone, ill-equipped and in an unfamiliar place I did not enter the abandoned brewery. There was a business operating next door and active security in the area. Parts of the structure appeared to have already undergone demolition. A sign posted on the outside mentioned plans to renovate the property into residential suites. An extensive examination of the industrial contaminants on the property has not been executed, thus stifling potential redevelopment. The ongoing depressed economic environment in the United States makes it unlikely that an investor will develop the property with in the near future.

Although I did not explore the internals of the building, discovering it by chance was thrilling enough. This brewery is going to disappear and had I not gotten away from the “tourist-friendly” parts of Cincinnati I would have never found it. The lesson here is that not all who wander are lost.

Interview with Brandon Davis

American Urbex put out the call for interviews and Brandon Davis answered. The Cleveland area amateur photographer has been urbexing for about three years now. Like other urbex photographers, he has become enraptured by the effects of decay.

Michigan Central Station (29)

AU: What is it about urbex that attracts you?

BD: Abandoned buildings, to me, are a part of history that is being lost little by little each day.  Each structure I step into is like a step back into time. Its interesting to stand and imagine where people sat or worked on that very floor. I enjoy documenting the way human and natural elements have caused each building to decay in such interesting ways. Urbex locations are all places that local cities have forgotten about, just left to rot into the ground. In some cases, this can be a very sad thing. Old buildings have beautiful and amazing architectural qualities. Its surprising that building owners and city officials could just leave them behind.

AU: What was the first urbex location you visited?

BD: The first urbex site I ever explored was the old U.S. Coast Guard Station in Cleveland, OH. This structure is right on Lake Erie and has a very unique design. I also knew some of the history about the building. It had been abandoned since the late 1980’s after the coast guard moved its operations to the other side of the city. The building was also converted into a restaurant for a short while after that. I knew that the inside would probably be just as interesting as the outside, so I was determined to go check it out. The exterior was full of NO TRESPASSING signs and boards, but me and my friend found a way in through an open window.

New Paint Job

Once we were inside the building, I got my first glimpse at the peeling paint and rotting floors that are typical for abandoned structures. It amazed me that such decay could happen in a building and it made me want capture it just as I saw it, with an interesting and artistic view. I have returned to the Coast Guard Station many times since my first visit. My photos of this location have gotten better and better each time.

AU: What is one of the most interesting items you have found urbexing?

BD: On one of those return visits [to the U.S. Coast Guard Station] I found an old menu for The Island, which is the name of the restaurant that occupied the building after the Coast Guard left. The paper menu was discolored and crumbling, much like the interior of the building. I liked finding this item because it showed firsthand the life and history this building had. It also gave the location a special character and made me appreciate it that much more.

The Island Menu

AU: What sort of gear do you bring with you when you go urbexing?

BD: When I go out to explore places, I bring my Sony A-100 and Sony A-300 along with a 2.8 aperture, 28 mm. Minolta lens, and a Sony 75-300 telephoto zoom lens. I enjoy these cameras because they perform great in low-light situations, which occur in most abandoned locations. I am also very familiar with the controls on Sony cameras, so I can have excellent control over what I want to capture.

Along with the camera gear, I also bring a flashlight or two, and a good pair of gloves. Typically I go out urbex shooting with a group of friends. I like to keep the crew number to three or four, which I’ve found is a great number of people to join me on a shoot. A larger group has the risk of causing a scene, or making too much noise.

AU: What is your worst urbex experience?

BD: My worst urbex experiences come when I try hard to gain access to a building but find that there is no way in.  In one particular case, I was trying to explore an office building in Cleveland with one of my friends. This office building was right next to an active news station, so we had to be very careful. I had been to this location before and this was a return visit. After successfully getting inside the fence, we checked all sides of the building and couldn’t find a single way in. The door I entered the first time was now locked.  We spend about 45 minutes trying to get in and ended up wasting all that time for nothing. Situations like these occur every once in a while for me, and they are always extremely frustrating.

Thanks to Brandon for answering some questions for American Urbex and being the interview guinea pig prototype. Getting a wide variety of urbex perspectives is essential for casting urbex in a positive light. If you would like to share your experiences, please answer the call.