While the old saying about “wearing your heart on your sleeve” doesn’t quite apply, when the Hart House Hotel became the Newell Shirt Factory in 1918, Mr. Hart may very well have been wearing the shirts – including sleeves – made there.
The Hart House 1876 - 1918
Located at 113 West Center Street in Medina, the 145-year-old, ivy-covered, red brick, three-story building was built around 1876 by Jacob Gorton. Originally known as the Gorton House, it was soon bought by banker, congressman and philanthropist Elizur Kirke Hart, and the name changed to Hart House Hotel. It operated as a first-class hotel until 1918 when it changed owners once again.
The Shirt Factory 1918 - 2004
The building then became home to Robert H. Newell & Company, manufacturers of custom-tailored shirts whose clientele included Bob Hope, Warren G. Harding and Winston Churchill. Newell & Company remained in business for the next 86 years.
From a brochure published by the company, courtesy of Frank Berger:
The R.H. Newell Company has been addressing the tailoring needs of successful men since 1900 – proudly providing the finest fabrics, the best workmanship, and the broadest selection of styling options demanded by a very particular clientele.
Wearing a Newell shirt is like belonging to an exclusive club, the give-away is the monogram, a horizontal button hole for the lower button shirt fronts, two-holed buttons rather than four, and the codes stitched into the shirts.
The Newell club roster has in the past included many well-connected men including: President Warren Harding, Prime Minister Winston Churchill, former CIA Director John McCole, J. Willard Marriott, John Jacob Astor, George H. Weyerhauser, and Peter Doubleday. More recent clients of note are Dustin Hoffman, Tony Randall, Bennett Cerf, Bob Hope, Nick Nolte, and 1985 Mr. Universe, Dale Ruplinge (53” chest, 20-1/2” biceps, and a 36” waist). The Olympic riding team goes wild over Newell Western and English riding shirts.
Each customer has their own pattern – not block patterns which are then graded. Each customer pattern is kept on file. The customer may request the preferred fit – snug, medium, or loose. The customer designs his own shirt style which may include epaulets, box-pleat back, collar, pocket, and cuff style. Fit is determined in 1/8” tolerance in neck sizes, unlike ready-made shirts which only vary by 1/2” and 1/4” increments in sleeve length. Each piece is cut separately with a hand knife in the manner of Old World craftsmen. The twenty-four pieces are then sewn on single-needle lockstitch machines. It gives the shirt an exceptionally strong seam (approximately thirty-two stitches to the inch) that won’t unravel. No double-needle sewing is found on a Newell shirt.
Every R.H. Newell detail, from linings to thread to buttons, is carefully selected for function and distinctive quality. Monogramming often identifies our customer tailoring. Some are perfected by stitching cams, but many are still done by hand. There is no extra charge for a monogram at R.H. Newell, up to four letters. The customer designs his shirt and we fit it properly. The pattern is on file and orders can be made at any time with adjustments.
The Hart House Hotel Returns 2005 - Today
Today, the building is owned by Andrew Meier, a Medina-native and lawyer with a passion for architectural restoration. The site has been completely renovated and once again houses the Hart House Hotel, a law firm (WSM Elder Law) and a meadery (810 Meadworks), plus a cafe and cocktail bar (Shirt Factory).