Friday, April 9, 2010

Porch Swings and Coat Hangers and Civic Pride, on Railroad Street

April 9, 1910 headline in the Ypsilanti Press:


"In the Lewis Geer Manufacturing Co., Ypsilanti has an institution which promises to grow to large proportions. The company recently purchased property on Railroad Street and built thereon a cement factory building 80 x 144 feet, one story and basement.

"The company in the seven weeks in which they have been occupying their new building have shipped 2,100 [?--hard to read] porch and lawn swings and say they are way behind on their orders and that their present capacity is being taxed, and the business shows that enlargement will be necessary if the prosperity of this young industry continues to grow in the future as it has in the past.

"The machines used in the factory are all driven by individual motors and are of the very latest type.

"The products of this factory all bear the name of the Manufacturers and the name of our beautiful city, giving it no small amount of advertising as the company's product is shipped as far east as Connecticut, south as far as Tennessee and west as far as Arizona.

"At the present time the company is employing 80 men besides the representatives on the road.

"In the finishing of the swings and seats there are used one barrel of [tlons? lions?] The company recently put varnish from one to three barrels of naptha and from two to three hundred pounds of paint each week.

"Besides the five styles of swings the firm manufactures they turn out a fine line of porch and lawn seats, sleds, and wagons, and coat hangers."

Dusty D is charmed and a little saddened by this story of the little porch furniture company.

The story reflects so much pride in the little company, whose porch swings will carry the name of "our beautiful city" over several states, which the reporter took pains to check: Connecticut, Tennessee, Arizona. Perhaps there's still an Ypsilanti-made porch swing, swinging with a tiny creak or two, on the porch of some foreclosed home on an Arizona back road. Swaying just a bit in the dry wind, symbol of an largely vanished era of industrious hometown Ypsilanti manufacturing.


cmadler said...

Why "a cement factory building" for porch and lawn swings? Am I missing something - you wouldn't make a porch or lawn swing from concrete or cement?

Dusty D said...

That totally threw me too. I was picturing this massive concrete porch swing..."who in the heck could hang that from a porch joist...?!"

But I believe they mean a factory built of cement blocks. I'm dying to know if it's that old gray bus garage on Railroad. Seems about the right size...but when I checked the 1915 plat map didn't see it marked on the map. Hmm...

Russ said...

It actually is a Poured Concrete building. I grew up next door to it. I never knew it was a manufacturing place for anything other than wagons. Very interesting. During the 50's when I was little you could just make out a faded sign on the front of the building of a wagon and the name of the company, which I don't recall. This is the building that is now where school buses are parked. It was empty for years when I was young and then rented out as a warehouse for some years, but under utilized for it's size. Then the school system acquired it in the 60's and did a total re-vamp of the building and grounds. Thanks for a Great article! Russ

Dusty D said...

Russ, that is so cool to learn! So that old bus garage is the old Lewis-Geer factory, and a poured concrete building, not blocks. Thank you very much for the information!

I envy you growing up on Railroad. I would love to live that close to the tracks. Very neat!

Dusty D said...

Oops, double-take--it **seems** like a likely candidate for the Lewis-Geer factory, but I guess I can't say that it is. Hmm. I'll have to see if I can find a pic of the Lewis-Geer factory in the archives. Thanks to Russ for the great tip, though!