Friday, August 17, 2012

Buildings Then & Now: Schreiber

One of the goals around here is to locate photos of buildings in the Chariton Main Street District as they appeared when built, compare them to the current look and then live long enough to take another photo after they've been renewed. So that's what I plug along at, with side trips into newspaper files and visits to other sources to find some of the stories that lie behind brick walls.

The old photo here is the Schreiber Building, located at the intersection of North Grand Street and Roland Avenue, across Roland south of First United Methodist Church. It was taken not long after construction and that apparently is the Schreiber crew standing in front.

The signs across the front of the building, perhaps not all legible even in the enlarged version because of the resolution its saved at, read, "Wm Schreiber. Wagon & Carriage Factory" (north storefront); "Carriage Painting: (above the center door leading to stairs to the second floor); and "Binders, Mowers & Twine" (south storefront). The sign on the second floor reads, "The Connecticut Fire Ins. Co. of America."

This photo is the Schreiber Building as it looks today from roughly the same angle, and you can see part of what has happened to it over the years --- many of the windows have been bricked up, openings on the north side have been altered and the first floor display front, recreated in brick that doesn't quite match at some point to create large display windows, now boarded up and painted colors that must have seemed like a good idea at the time.  Parts of the building still are in use, parts are vacant, but it's still a building with great potential.

Construction of this building began during August of 1888 on the site of William Schreiber's blacksmith shop and construction was nearly complete by December, when The Chariton Democrat reported on the 27th that "Mr. Wm. Schreiber has about completed his two story brick blacksmith and wagon shop. It presents a double room, 40 foot front by about 100 deep, and is, we venture to say, the finest building of its kind in southern Iowa."

According to a brief mention in Lucas County's 1978 history, the Schreiber Carriage Manufacturing Co. was started in 1881 by Schreiber and at its peak, employed 21 men. The blacksmithing end of the operation included four forges and there were separate woodworking, paint and leather deparments. In addition to wagons and buggies, the company also manufactured the hook and ladder wagons essential for any fire department. Later on, the business also sold Ford, Brush and Chevrolet automobiles. The last wagon was manufactured in 1934. It also was at various times Chariton's largest manufacturing firm.

During 1895, Schreiber was advertising weekly in the Chariton newspapers --- "Carriages, phaetons, buggies and wagons. Constructed in Chariton."

During 1903, when the firm incorporated and expanded, the north half of the building's ground floor included the show room; the north room upstairs, the paint shop; and the south room upstairs, the trim shop.

Although we have copies of the Schreiber catalog at the museum, I've not seen a buggy, carriage or wagon that can be attributed to the firm --- but there must be some out there.

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