Melville Shoe Corporation Warehouse and Office
(Chess King Building)
38-44 Hammond Street
The Melville Shoe Corporation Warehouse was designed by architect George E. Strehan and built between the years of 1928 and 1930 for the Melville Shoe Corporation, a company originated in Brooklyn, New York, and its offices. Sited on a sloping two-acre lot on Hammond Street, the 182,000 square foot, four-story building is constructed of concrete and brick.
The Art Deco style office entrance to the building is located on the eastern end of Hammond Street, at the base of a seven-story tower containing elevators and a 40,000 gallon water tank. The stepped tower has corner pilasters and tall rectangular windows that are important contributors to the Art Deco style of the building. A bronzed doorway is surrounded by fluted limestone pilasters and capped by a mosaic panel depicting figures admiring their shoes. Beneath this panel in a frieze over the door is a profile bust (presumably) of Frank Melville, Jr. the company founder. Officially opened on November 11, 1930, the annual Melville Shoe Company Report of that year called this warehouse “the most efficient of its kind in the world.” Alterations made to the building include an elevator added to the north side and partial window replacements.
The Melville Shoe Company revolutionized the mass manufacturing and marketing of affordable footwear in 1922 when they introduced the Thom McAn Shoe line. This building was erected to serve as the principal warehouse and distribution center for the Thom McAn Company. These low cost, good quality shoes made the Melville Shoe Company the largest integrated shoe manufacturing and retailing organization in the United States, with 641 stores across the country. This warehouse supplied 653 stores in 395 cities. In the early 1990s the Melville Corporation moved into diversified retailing. Its eleven divisions included Marshalls, Linens N’ Things, Kay Bee Toys, and CVS Drugstores. The Thom McAn Company sold its remaining stores and warehouse inventories in 1996, after the parent company went through a major restructuring and began concentrating on their core business, CVS. Thom McAn closed the following year.
The Melville Shoe Company Building is vacant and was included on Preservation Worcester’s Most Endangered Structures List in 2013 and 2014.