Remember When - Wilmot Avenue 1949


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Wilmot Avenue buildings 1949

Remember When . . .

            Several industrial buildings, including the large Brass Works complex, lined the east side of Wilmot Avenue (now S. Pine Street) between Robert Street and Wainwright Avenue when this aerial photo was taken in the spring of 1949. The photo appeared in the April 12, 1949, Free Press published by Elmer Ebert. The Mary Street end of the Burlington High School (now Karcher Middle School) football field is seen at the lower left.

The square, white-walled building at the left near the Robert Street intersection housed the Burlington Sanitary Milk Company. The building was erected in 1935 by Andrew Adam, who moved the company from its former building on E. Water Street (near the Malt House). The company, which shipped milk to the Chicago area, also bottled milk for over-the-counter and local store sales until 1955. The company went out of business in 1968. The building’s current occupant is Jim’s Auto Body, which was moved to the building in 1986 by owner Jim Ratchek.

The Burlington Brass Works complex is set back from the road and extends along the railroad tracks from the large foundry building with the glass-windowed upper level to the small building with the tall smokestack in back of a parking lot. The company started in 1902 when inventor Ole O. Storle developed an industrial steam valve and, with Gustave C. Rasch and John Gill, built a small factory on the 5 acre tract. In 1905 an engine room and a moulding room were added. Charles B. and C. Roy McCanna bought the business in 1906, added products such as the “Kant-Leak” valve for sink faucets, and started plating and polishing departments. The large foundry building was put up in 1920, a one-story office building in 1931, and an addition for the assembly and shipping departments and for storage and loading in 1936. Besides plumbing supplies, the company also made bearings, hub caps, and other automobile parts. During World War II and the Korean War, it made shell casings, detonator parts, and engine bushings. The company was sold to a Connecticut firm in 1975, and the plant was closed in phases in 1979. Today, various businesses and portions of Love, Inc., occupy the former Brass Works buildings.

The square, white-sided, one-story building with the semi-circular driveway was built in 1923 by the Burlington Factory Advancement Co. to house a dish washing machine factory. When that proposition fell through, P. Clifton Holmquist bought the building and started a household woodenwares factory. He began manufacturing curtain stretchers in 1924 but, after his unexpected death in 1925, his widow sold the business to a Chicago firm. She retained ownership of the building and leased it to the Cunningham Buick Co. for automobile storage for a few years. In 1929 Gustave Rasch, James Malcolm, and George Weiler incorporated a company called the W. W. Sterling Co. to buy the waste of woolen and cotton mills, reprocess it, and sell it for manufacturing purposes. The company was not successful, and it went out of business in 1934.

In 1938 E. L. Rinehart bought the building and, with Walter and Richard Huening, started Standard Foods, Inc., a fast-freeze locker plant to handle home-killed and packer-killed meats and other products. Richard Huening leased the plant from Rinehart until 1940, when William Kares became manager. The business, licensed as a slaughter house and meat packer, was bought by Arthur and Blanche Lederer in 1945, and the name was changed to Burlington Foods, Inc. In 1964 the Lederers sold the business to Jack Donalds, who operated it as Donalds’ Foods for 2 years. Merkt’s Cheese leased the building in 1966 and James King and Robert and Norbert Merkt opened a sausage manufacturing plant, which closed in September 1967. Subsequent businesses in the building included Troy Plastics, ECM Motors, Burlington Photography Unlimited, Southern Lakes Photo Finishing, Amer-Econ Furniture Refinishers, Discount Flooring, Stan’s Glass, and Bob’s Pedal Pusher. Love, Inc., expanded into the building in 2012.

The twin rounded-roof buildings at the right, backed by the two-story building near the railroad tracks, housed the John J. Wolf sauerkraut and pickle factory from 1919 until 1949. Wolf bought the site of a former malting house that had burned in 1902, and put up one of the rounded-roof buildings for tank and storage purposes and the two-story building for a work room in 1919. He added the second rounded-roof building in 1923 and, in 1929, built a four-pump gasoline filling station in front of the factory. Wolf added a sorting shed in 1934. Sauerkraut production, which totaled about 725 tons in 1920, grew to about 2,000 tons a year (except for drought years) in the 1930s and 1940s. The kraut was shipped to canners around the country, with some sold under the “Burlington” label. After the sauerkraut plant closed in 1949, Lee Koch bought the property and moved his farm implement business there. A McCormick farm equipment store followed Koch in 1956. Today, segments of Love, Inc., occupy the buildings.

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Last modified: 10/14/2015