Tag: Factories

  • Birthplace of the Modern Battery: Hipwell Mfg. Co., Allegheny West

    Hipco Batteries ghost sign

    Is there a household in America that does not keep a stock of AA batteries? Or AAA, C, D? These are reliable power sources that we just drop into electrically powered devices without a moment’s thought.

    You owe that convenience to the Hipwell Manufacturing Company of North Avenue. It was Hipwell that invented the unit-cell battery (see this ad-laden page and this PDF history), thus taming the demon electricity and even giving him a goofy smile.

    Hipwell Mfg Co.

    Until a few years ago, this building still had old advertising posters in the windows, which luckily Father Pitt recorded before they disappeared.

    Hipco Light Where You Need It
    Hipco Dry Cell Batteries
    Hipco Flashlights for Safety
    Hipco Industrial, Commercial, Residential
    831 West North Avenue

    This buff-brick building also belonged to the Hipwell Manufacturing Co, and it was featured as the Hipwell factory in company advertising—but in a form we can only call fictionalized.

    Illustration of the Hipwell factory
    Reproduced in the Allegheny City Society Reporter Dispatch (PDF).

    The distinctive alternating round and flattened arches are there, but there are twice as many of them. The building was never this size, nor was there ever a railroad siding where boxcars were stuffed with Hipco flashlights and batteries.

    View along the front of the building
    Sony Alpha 3000.

    The old Hipwell factory kept turning out flashlights until 2005, which accounts for its fortunate state of preservation. It is now an event venue called Hip at the Flashlight Factory.

  • C. S. Hixson Candy Co., Manchester

    C. S. Hixson Candy Co.

    Old Pa Pitt knew absolutely nothing earlier this morning about the C. S. Hixson Candy Company, but neither does the rest of the Internet. This article, therefore, immediately becomes the Internet’s leading and only source of information on the subject.

    The building was put up in 1917, to judge by listings in the American Contractor. Excavations had begun by April 28:

    Factory: $25,000. 4 sty. 59×96. Adams & Fulton sts, Priv. plans. Owner C. S. Hixson Candy Co., 1024 Vickroy st. Gen. Contr. C. E. Murphy & Sons, 516 Federal st. Carp. & conc. work by gen, contr. Brk. mas, to C. B. Lovatt, 1203 Federal st. Plmg, to Walter Gangloff, 2471 Perrysvilie av. Excav.

    Brick work had started by June 9.

    The company, however, did not prosper long. Its charter as a Delaware corporation was repealed in 1921 for failure to pay taxes. In 1926, The International Confectioner reported that “There will be a meeting of the stockholders of the C. S. Hixson Candy Co., Pittsburgh, Pa., Jan. 17, to consider the question of selling or leasing the business, or to liquidate it and close up.”

    And there you have everything Father Pitt was able to find out in twenty minutes, which is twenty minutes more than anyone else on the Internet has ever devoted to the subject.

    This old industrial building is tumbling to bits, and if the neighborhood were more valuable it would have been gone years ago. It is not a work of outstanding architecture; the construction listings specified “private plans,” which probably means “We can do without an architect.” The borders of the Manchester Historic District were carefully drawn to exclude it while including the modest Italianate houses next to it. The work going on at the top may be part of a demolition; at any rate, the cornice was intact a few years ago. But it is an interesting little bit of history, and it preserves a record of its original owner on the eastern face of the building.

    Ghost sign

    The old painted sign is still visible, and nearly legible with the help of some heavy manipulation. This is what it appears to say:

    C. S. HIXSON

    From Adams Street
    Kodak EasyShare Z981.
  • Carnegie Steel Company Gatehouse, Stowe Township

    Carnegie Steel Company office and gatehouse

    The Pressed Steel Car Company had a huge plant in Stowe Township, just across the line from the McKees Rocks Bottoms. That company had a very cozy deal with the Carnegie Steel Company: Carnegie would not make railroad cars, and Pressed Steel Car would buy all its steel from Carnegie. Right next to the car works was the Carnegie Steel Company’s Schoen Rolled Steel Wheel Works, devoted to making wheels and axles. This elegant little building was the gatehouse and office for that plant.

    Front view
    Standard Forged Products gatehouse

    That plant is still in the same business, now under the name Standard Forged Products, still supplying railroad-car makers with “freight car, passenger car, subway or locomotive axles.”

  • Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios, West End

    Pittsburgh Stained Glass Studios

    It is a remarkable thing that this stained-glass studio, originally the Pittsburgh Art Glass Co., has been here on a forgotten back street in the West End since 1909. This tidy Arts-and-Crafts building has enormous windows on the first floor to suck in all the natural light available.

    Oblique view
  • Ripley & Co. Glass Works, South Side

    Ripley & Co. Glass Works

    These buildings were put up in the 1880s, with additions in the 1890s; they later became part of the United States Glass Co. More recently the South Side was associated with steel, but in 1872, when the Birminghams, South Pittsburgh, and Ormsby were taken into the city, glass was at least as important. Just looking at the 1872 map, we find—

    Knox Kim & Co. Glass Works
    Est. of Wm. McCully Glass Works
    Pittsburgh Glass Works
    Bakewell, Pears & Co. Glass Works
    Whitehouse Flint Glass Works
    Doyle & Co. Glass Works
    Adams & Co. Glass Works
    Tremont Glass Works
    C. Ihmsen & Sons Glass Works
    McKee & Bro. Glass Works
    Bryce, Walker & Co. Glass Works
    Sl. McKee & Co. Glass Works
    A. King Glass Works

    We have probably missed a few, but the list is quite enough to show us that glass was a big deal on the South Side. Of all the old glass factories, this is probably the only one left in such a splendidly original state, if any of the others remain at all.

  • Reymer Brothers Candy Factory, Uptown

    Reymer Brothers

    Charles Bickel designed this Romanesque industrial building with considerable inspiration from H. H. Richardson’s Marshall Field’s Wholesale Store in Chicago, which set the pattern for Romanesque industrial buildings for a generation. Bickel’s design is simpler, and by placing the arches at the top he makes the building feel taller (in fact it is shorter by one storey than Richardson’s building was).

    Corner view

    The Reymer Brothers were in the candy business, but Pittsburghers remember them best for Reymers’ Blennd, or Lemon Blennd, the deliberately misspelled lemon-and-orange-flavored drink that cooled off generations of children in the summer. The Reymers’ Blennd brand was picked up by Heinz at some point; It seems to have vanished just this year with the demise of its last owner, Byrnes & Kiefer. It is certainly fondly remembered. Here is what claims to be the World’s #1 Lemon Blennd Site, and there are others if you go looking.

  • Duquesne Brewery, South Side

    Duquesne Brewery

    This started out as a fine Romanesque design for an industrial building; it sprouted more and more haphazard additions, and became something more like a European castle with its layers of contradictory history. Today, after an adventurous history of abandonment and adaptation, it is called “The Brew House” and is filled with lofts and artists’ studios.

    Brew House
    Duquesne Brewery
  • Armstrong Cork Factory in 2000

    Broken windows, graffiti, piles of rubbish, trees growing from the roof—this is how the Armstrong Cork Factory looked two decades ago, when architectural historians wondered whether it could be saved. It’s a fine piece of industrial architecture by Frederick Osterling, and it was turned into luxury riverfront apartments in 2007. The success of that venture proved that there was a market for loft apartments in vacant landmarks, with the result that dozens of substantial buildings in the city have been similarly adapted since then.

    This picture was taken with a Lomo Smena 8M.

  • Blowing Engine

    Blowing engine at Station Square

    This was the blast in a blast furnace: the machine that provided the air that rushed into the furnace to keep the chemical reactions going. Surprisingly, this one was not used in Pittsburgh: it was brought down from Sharpsville, a little steel town in Mercer County. But it was built by the Mesta Machine Company in West Homestead. Now it lives at Station Square, right in front of the Glasshouse apartments.

    Mesta blowing engine
    Blowing engine
  • B. M. Kramer & Co. Building

    Note that this picture is more than 13 megabytes if you enlarge it.

    Old Pa Pitt can only say this is not bad for a first try. He has always admired this little masterpiece of industrial architecture (which surprisingly still houses a pipe, valve, and fittings company), and set himself the task of getting a picture of the Sidney Street face, which covers the entire block between 20th Street and 21st Street on the South Side. The evening sun was not kind to him, so he may try again on a cloudy day; but this is still the only picture of the whole Sidney Street face on the entire Internet, so Father Pitt gives himself credit for that much. Below, a more conventional (and much easier) view from the corner of 20th and Sidney Streets, with the usual utility cables.