Alva Bradley commissioned Cleveland architectural firm of Cudell-Richardson (circa 1883) to design the Bradley building. Mr. Bradley died in 1885, leaving the uncompleted building to his eldest son, Morris. After the building was completed circa 1886, it was used to house Morris Bradley’s transit companies and real estate firms.
After the decline of Mr. Morris Bradley's empire, the building was used by the garment industry and later as a printing and typography center until the late 1960’s.
In 1979, the preservation community created a flurry of activity designed to save the district’s the Bradley Building from demolition and restore its historic architecture. By 1983, the Bradley Building reflected a healthy occupancy of artists who were looking to combine their working and living environments.
In 1984, the Bradley associates acquired the building with the objective of saving it and creating an anchor for a community of residential, commercial, and retail tenants within the Warehouse District.
The Bradley Building now represents an eclectic fabric of tenants that make 1220 West 6th Street a prominent address in Cleveland, Ohio.
The structure represents an intermediate stage of development of the 19th century commercial buildings. The combination of masonry bearing walls, metal posts, and wooden mill construction epitomizes the transitional nature of American architecture in the 1880’s.
Alva Bradley was born in Ellington, Conn., and in 1823 moved with his family to Brownhelm in Lorain County, where his father, Leonard, was a farmer. Bradley left his father’s farm when he was 19 to sign on as a sailor on the Liberty, a 50-ton schooner that sailed the Great Lakes.
By 1839 he has risen to captain and in 1841 he and a partner, Ahira Cobb, built the 104-ton merchant schooner South America on the Vermillion River for $3,200. The shipyards of Bradley & Cobb were formally founded in 1853, in Vermillion.
Bradley & Cobb moved to Cleveland in 1859. Between 1868 and 1882 Bradley and Cobb amassed a fleet of 18 ships on the lakes.
Bradley helped incorporate Case Institute of Technology, and in the late 1880s served with John D. Rockefeller on the local advisory committee of a group seeking to prohibit the sale of liquor in Ohio. He also invested in real estate, a business continued by his only son, Morris.
The Bradley Building was the first adaptive re-use (i.e. loft spaces) for a mixed use occupancy between New York City's Soho District and Chicago's Printers Row.
The extreme width of the window bays in relation to the slender brick piers is to achieve lightness of structure and increased spaces.
At his death, Alva Bradley was reported to be the largest individual ship owner in the Great Lakes.