Richmond Businesses
This large industrial complex on North E between 13th and 15th Streets became the home of the American Seeding Machine Company in 1903. Prior to that time it was the Hoosier Drill Works, a company that had started in Milton, Indiana and moved to this location in Richmond in 1878. John M. Westcott was the president, and he surrounded himself with his three sons-in-law as officers. At least in 1899, it could claim to be the largest factory in the world devoted entirely to the manufacture of seeding machines. In 1920, it became the Richmond Unit of the International Harvester Company, which closed in 1957.
Beginning as the Wayne Agricultural Works in Dublin, Indiana in 1837, Wayne Works moved to Richmond in 1876. By the 1890s it was specializing in carriages and horse-drawn “kid-hacks,” or early school busses. From 1906-1916 Wayne Works manufactured the “Richmond” automobile, but in 1914 it built its first school bus, and for most of the rest of the century, it was a major producer of busses. When the company threatened to leave in 1964, the community launched a drive to build a new plant, which was opened in 1966 and was a $5 million, state-of-the-art facility. Wayne Works stayed in Richmond, but by 1993 it could no longer compete in the market and closed.
The Gaar, Scott and Company complex, located on the bluff just to the east of the East Fork of the Whitewater River, was one of Richmond’s largest employers during the 19th Century. It originated in 1836 as the Spring Foundry, and in 1849, Jonas Gaar, his sons, Abraham and John, and his son-in-law, William Scott bought the company. The company produced threshing machines and traction engines, as well as other farm equipment, and their products were shipped to all parts of the world. In December 1911, the M. Rumely Co. of LaPorte, Indiana, bought out the local company, then went bankrupt itself only a few years later. All of the buildings of the complex are gone, except the administration building that now is home to the offices of the Richmond Baking Company.
Francis W. Robinson founded this company in 1842, and early in its history it produced farm implements like tractors, silage cutters, and bailing pressers. His son-in-law, Samuel Swayne, joined the firm, and in 1915 the company became the Swayne, Robinson and Co. When competition for farm machinery grew too intense the company discontinued that line and specialized in foundry work for the rest of its existence. It was family-owned until the end, which came in 1997. Two years later, the building on the northwest corner of Third and Main Streets burned down, and the site is now occupied by the new Wayne County Correction Center, which opened in 2004.
The Starr Piano Company began as the Trayser Piano Company in 1872 and was reorganized as the Chase Piano Company in 1878. James M. Starr and his brother Benjamin were both involved in the early years, and when it was incorporated in 1893, it became the Starr Piano Company. In 1884 the company bought 23 acres in the Whitewater Valley gorge and constructed a six-story, river-powered factory. This factory grew into a sprawling complex of buildings and lumberyards and became one of the largest employers in Richmond. In 1915 the Starrs also began producing phonographs and the records to go with them. The Gennett Record Division made some of the earliest recordings of such musical genres as jazz, country, and blues
George H. Knollenberg opened a one-room retail dry goods store in a small frame building on Main Street. He was successful enough that, in 1877, he built the three-story building seen to the right in this postcard, followed by the rest of the pictured building in 1888. In 1896, he built “the Annex,” another three-story structure adjoining these to the rear and facing Eighth Street. Knollenberg’s Department Store was a Richmond institution until the 1990s when competition from large chain stores drove it out of business. It closed in 1995.
This company began in 1877 when Adam Bartel founded his wholesale business. The main building located at North E Street between Ninth and Tenth was built in 1891. The warehouse is located just south of the main building and has been renovated into artist studios and a coffee bar. The Bartel Company also produced a line of work clothing it called “Perfection Brand.” This was manufactured in the factory at South Eighth and B, which is now a senior apartment facility.
The First National Bank received United States Charter No. 17 on June 30, 1863. Legend has it that the only reason it did not get No. 1 was because its first president, James E. Reeves, was traveling on a train that was held up for an hour by Mosby's Raiders, the famous Confederate guerilla unit that was then operating in Maryland. The building pictured above was built in 1873. It was replaced in 1915, with a new building that was further renovated in 1923, 1959, and 1972-1974.
The Second National Bank was chartered on May 28, 1872. This building, standing on the northwest corner of Eighth and Main Streets, was constructed in 1910-1911. In 1956, it expanded and moved into the space across the street that had been occupied by Dickinson Trust.