MASTER BUILDERS, a supplier of cement additives to the construction industry and a leader in cement technology, was founded in 1909 by Sylvester W. Flesheim, with a factory at 6511 Morgan Ave. The company smelted lead from old batteries to make a metallic floor hardener for improving wear resistance of cement floors. The company's importance, however, dates from its 1931 introduction of Possolith, a dispersing agent that promoted better hardening of concrete, which reduced the cost of concrete work. Sales of Possolith quadrupled during the 1940s, accounting for one-third of the firm's business. Master Builder's success attracted the American-Marietta Co., which acquired the company in 1950 as part of its efforts to enhance its line of construction materials. The new owner retained Master's Cleveland headquarters at 7016 Euclid, though it closed the Morgan plant in 1952. Master Builders maintained its identity and prospered throughout the 1950s, moving to Mayfield and Lee in CLEVELAND HTS. in 1960. After the consolidation of American Marietta and the Martin Co., Master was made the lead company in the Martin-Marietta Chemical Group. Cleveland became the main office of the group's North Central Region, and in 1977 a $10 million technical center was built at 23700 Chagrin Blvd. in BEACHWOOD for the analysis and testing of concrete. Although Martin-Marietta was weakened in 1982 by a takeover fight with Bendix and United Technologies and sold off most of its cement holdings, it reinforced its additives section by purchasing another local firm, Set Prods.
In 1994, Master Builders, working with students at the University of Alabama, was selected by NASA to provide a cement-mixing experiment for use on the space shuttle Endeavor. The experiment was designed, in part, to explore how to make cement in a microgravity environment for possible use in future construction of space colonies on the moon and Mars. Master Builders was sold in 1996 to SKW Trostberg AG of Germany for nearly $1.09 billion. SKW Trostberg merged with Degussa-Huls in 2001 to form Degussa AG. The new company's construction chemicals division--Degussa Construction Chemicals, Inc.--was based in Cleveland and included Master Builders, ChemRex, inc., Senergy, Watson-Bowman Acme, and MBT Latin America Group. In 2004, Master Builders, a division of Degussa Construction Chemicals, was headquartered at 23700 Chagrin Blvd.