Historic Structures

Baker Motor Vehicle Company - Rauch and Lang Carriage Company Cleveland Ohio

Date added: November 5, 2015 Categories: Ohio Auto Companies Industrial

The Baker Motor Vehicle Company and The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company have a long and related history. Rauch and Lang was the oldest company in Cleveland's automobile industry, while Baker was the oldest electric automobile manufacturer in the nation. When the two companies merged, they became the largest producer of electric vehicles in the world.

The history of the Rauch and Lang Carriage Company begins with Jacob Rauch, a German blacksmith who operated a wagon repair shop on pearl Street (W. 25th Street) in Cleveland. At the time of its founding in 1853, Rauch's company provided repair work for coaches on the Cleveland-Cincinnati stage line. Jacob's son, Charles Rauch, joined the firm in 1860, becoming expert in the making and repairing of expensive carriages. By 1878, The Rauch Carriage Company dominated the high-priced wagon and carriage business in Ohio.

On January 8, 1878, Charles E.J. Lang joined the Rauch company. Born in Cleveland and originally a real-estate promoter, Lang bought a 1/4 interest in the firm, causing its name to change to the Rauch and Lang Carriage Company in 1884. In 1888, Charles Rauch and Charles Lang organized a stock company with a $100,000 capitalization.

The following year, the company built its first permanent factory. It hired Cleveland architect, Andrew Mitermiler to design a four-story factory with offices and a showroom facing Pearl Street, The 32 foot by 64 foot building cost $5,400. Its four floors stood 65 feet tall. The structure had packed wooden floors, timber beams and columns, wooden double-hung windows, brick bearing walls, and large groundfloor show windows set between brick and stone piers. Those piers contained forced-air heating ducts connected to a fan unit in the basement. The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company later extended the building to a depth of 112 feet and constructed a nearly identical structure across an adjacent alley, A tunnel connected the two buildings.

In 1900, Rauch and Lang built a large, four-story body and wood-working factory south of the existing buildings. That structure, with Charles Rauch's name and the completion date inscribed in the parapet, employed the same mill construction and brick bearing wall system. Because it functioned as a factory, the 1900 building had less ornament on its facade and larger window areas on its upper floors.

Rauch and Lang may have had automobile manufacture in mind when constructing the new factory, for the company began producing electric cars in 1904. The company had good reason for choosing electric automobile production. In 1904, electric cars outsold steam and gasoline automobiles. High society also favored electric cars, raising the hopes of the Rauch and Lang company that Its expensive carriage customers would switch to its expensive automobiles. The idea worked. In 1905, The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company made 50 electric cars. In 1907, the company expanded its capital stock from $75,000 to-$250,000, and bought The Hertner Electric Company to supply its electric motors.

The year 1907 also marked the beginning of a major building program. Along W. 26th Street, directly behind its existing factory, Rauch and Lang built a new four-story, 112 foot by 64 foot plant. Designed by The Osborne Engineering Company, the building differed from the earlier factory only in its use of 15-inch steel girders to support the floors. A three-story elevated bridge connected the structure to the rest of the plant. In 1907, The Osborne Engineering Company also built an adjoining two-story power plant and machine shop. Similar in its construction to the new four-story factory, this structure had a five-bay facade and a central gabled skylight, A tunnel connected the power plant to the older buildings across a 16 foot alley.

These two additions increased Rauch and Lang's production capacity to 500 vehicles per year in 1908. Yet, demand continued to outpace the supply. For every 500 cars produced, the company received 800 orders.

That situation brought more changes in 1909, when the company increased its authorized capitalization to $1,000,000. The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company also doubled its production capacity to 1000 cars with the completion of more buildings, Osborne engineers matched the four-story 1907 addition with an identical 112 foot by 64 foot structure, connected to the earlier plant by two, three-story elevated bridges. In 1909, Osborne also designed an extension to the two-story machine shop, adding three bays to the south. This extension had three saw-tooth skylights supported by timber trusses.

Despite this expansion, the buildings as well as the manufacturing methods of The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company had changed little from its wagon-building days. As late as 1910, the company still called its workers "artisans," refusing to "sacrifice (its) former standard of style and efficiency" in the face of mass production. That standard of efficiency required 90 days for the completion of each car, including hand-rubbing the bodies and covering them with 24 coats of paint. That standard also kept Rauch and Lang primarily a body building firm, contracting with suppliers for its engines, tires, and most of its machined parts. The new buildings reflected that carriage building tradition. Except for their use of steel girders to accommodate the heavier loads of the automobiles themselves, the two assembly buildings constructed in 1907 and 1909 had the same mill construction, the same floor area and ceiling height, even the same architectural treatment as the company's carriage plant.

The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company remained conservative in its merchandising as well as in its manufacturing methods and facilities. In 1912, when the industry had moved toward the large-scale production of medium-priced gasoline automobiles, Rauch and Lang decreased the number and increased the cost of its electric limousines, "the Car of Social Prestige." The company could afford to take that approach because it was not immediately affected by the shrinking electric automobile market. Its sales continued to grow, and so did its plant.

In 1911, The Osborne Engineering Company added a 90 foot by 30 foot, four-story extension to its factory at a cost of $6,500, In 1913, another engineering firm, George S. Rider and Company, added a much larger addition to the north of the existing plant. This four-story structure, 134 feet long and 111 feet wide, had the same mill construction, steel girders, and brick bearing wall treatment as the earlier buildings. It differed only in its configuration, with two set-backs enclosing single-story spaces with sawtooth and gabled skylights.

The company must have been optimistic about its future. Its 1913 addition had an end elevator shaft and knock-out brick panels to accommodate further construction to the north. Yet, that construction never came, for in June, 1915, The Rauch and Lang Carriage Company merged with its major competitor in the electric automobile field, The Baker Motor Vehicle Company.