Melvin Rose, Designer
2008 LIFETIME ACHIEVEMENT AWARD FOR Design
Rose Iron Works began more than a century ago, and Melvin Rose has been involved with it for much of that time. In 1904, the Rose Iron Works complex started as the home and workshop of Melvin’s father, Martin Rose, and gradually evolved into a full-scale factory. Since the mid-1930s, Melvin Rose has worked in various capacities at Rose Iron Works, the oldest decorative metalwork company in the United States, which still operates from its original location on East 43rd Street in Cleveland.
As a boy, Rose took part in the manual activities of the shop; in the 1930s he became active as a designer and supervisor; in the 1940s, he took over as head of the firm, which he ran until the 1970s; and today, with the company operated by his children, he still supervises its decorative art projects.
Rose has worked on a wide variety of pieces in iron and other metals, often designing them himself and sometimes working with designers such as Viktor Schreckengost, who was Rose’s teacher at the Cleveland Institute of Art.
Many of his creations are or were local landmarks. They include: the lobby clock of the former Williamson Building on Public Square; the Signs of the Zodiac mural, designed by Schreckengost, over the former main entrance to Cleveland Hopkins International Airport; the outdoor mural depicting the Ohio’s state seal at the State Office Building in Cleveland; the mirrors for Beattie’s Jewelers private client viewing rooms; the entrance hall mural and the decorative metal gate for the herb garden at the Garden Center of Cleveland (now Cleveland Botanical Garden); the Church of the Covenant columbarium; the Union Club of Cleveland’s library chandeliers; dividing screens in the old Halle Department Store; and many other commissions, to say nothing of gates, indoor and outdoor railings, chandeliers, fireplace screens, drapery rods, door latches, entrance security panel covers and sconces for private residences.
The company’s work has received international acclaim and has been displayed in museums around the country, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Museum of Fine Arts Boston, and the Renwick Gallery of the Smithsonian Institution, among others. Works by Melvin Rose and Rose Iron Works have been featured in numerous publications, ranging from articles in The Plain Dealer to scholarly writing on decorative metal work in the United States. Rose Iron Works pieces are featured in major surveys of American art, such as Wayne Craven’s American Art and Culture, a Prentice-Hall textbook widely used in college classes.
Rose also remains very active within the Cleveland arts community, supporting the work of other Cleveland artists and the wider community. He has helped gather information for exhibitions mounted by organizations such as the Cleveland Artists Foundation. He also has actively worked to preserve and promote a Cleveland legacy by diligently maintaining his father’s collection of medieval European metalwork, the work of his father, and the documentation of the company.
In doing so, Melvin Rose has managed to conserve what may be one of the most important, intact archives of a metalwork workshop in American decorative arts.