Far back and down an old, empty avenue; lined with the cracked remains of 1930’s gaslight street lamps, sits Painesville’s Industrial Rayon Corporation. The cooling towers overlook sections of remaining factory roof tops, while gusts of wind bury themselves into and out of a large section exposed to the elements.
As we walked down the crumbling road leading to the entrance, we passed by the former offices and security booth which sat across the lot where former employees would park their vehicles before beginning a day of work. Finally reaching the entrance, we slipped inside to find ourselves surrounded by cracked tile walls, dilapidated ceilings, and a green glow of nature pushing up towards sun rays peaking through areas void of a ceiling.
I turned to the right and continued my stroll, while my eyes wandered the foundation crumbling around me. From across the room, I had spotted a doorway, glowing bright with sunlight from inside, and I could see that the room was coated with a bright green chroma. I needed to see this room, so I dropped what I was doing to quickly rush over. Upon my entrance I found myself wrapped into a beautiful forest of nature’s own reclamation. Brilliant greens bouncing the bright sunlight to the glossy, tan tiled walls.
On the opposite side of this enormous factory, a flutter of birds scatters the space above inside a massive control room, surrounding us with the sound of birdsong layered atop a vast silence gripping the forgotten room. It’s almost as if you can see for miles past railings and moss, coating the tiled floor. Moss binds to tiles, as they crumble up the wall in a jagged, displaced manner; as nature wishes, it pushes them off one by one, letting them fall to a collective pile at the walls base.
The Painesville rayon plant was built in 1938, just in time to provide reinforcing fabric needed for tires and other automotive products in World War II. The factory cost between $7,500,000 and $10,000,000 to build and had an annual output of about 12,500,000 pounds of rayon, about 1,000,000 pounds greater than the rayon plant in Covington. This synthetic fiber, created from a wood product called viscose, was heralded as “synthetic silk” in early Cleveland Press articles. This fiber was also the world’s first of its kind.
Even during the depression, the rayon plant provided employment seven days a week due to the large demand for rayon by the textile industry.
However, with an increasing production rate, noxious fumes were also thrown into the cities air. This lead to months worth of meetings, chemical, research and public hearings, along with city property damage and health problems from fumes.
Through World War II and after, synthetic fibers such as nylon and other polymers provided competition in the market place. Shortly after the war, Industrial Rayon Corporation was purchased by Midland-Ross Co., another Cleveland company supporting the automotive industry.
Sometimes I sit and think to myself ‘did they ever wonder what their investments would look like to people in the future, or even what would become of it all?’
This lead the rain manufacturing division to be known as IRC Fibers, which then became a division of American Cyanamid of New Jersey in 1969
August 6, 1980, the day everyone lost their jobs when plant management announced the closure of their 43-year-old company.
Due to a large drop in demand for polyester tire yarn used in tire manufacturing, the 630 acre site was put up for sale, displacing 350 hourly and salaried workers.
The Rayon Corporation was the second largest employer in Lake County during the 1950s with 2500 workers.