A sizable old building stands on the north side of Ludington's Whittier Street stretching all the way between Rowe and Harrison Street. Long abandoned, the building has a rich history stretching all the way back to the 1800s, currently it has little to identify that past other than a modest "Change Parts Inc." placard on the east entrance door.
Older residents will sometimes call it the Wolverine Building, being that it was occupied by Wolverine Sportswear Company just after World War 2 and for much of the rest of the century before it was purchased by the current owner. A certain few may recall that it housed a local chapter of Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps through his years as president. Yet, many who know of its past will still refer to the building by the product its incredibly creative owner put out over 100 years ago, the Haskelite Building.
Nineteen year old Henry L. Haskell (pictured left) moved to Ludington in 1882 from Olivet, Michigan in order to work in the booming lumber industry. He would quickly show his entrepreneurial skills in establishing Ludington's first basket factory within a year.
In 1893, Haskell would create his most lasting legacy when he devised a new kind of game made mostly out of wood in order to keep young boys out of pool halls and getting used to bad habits. The Carrom Board has became a uniquely Ludington product and remains in production today in the home town of its creator, who patented the board in 1892-- he would also marry the Latin teacher at Ludington High School that year.
Haskell started mass producing the game in 1893, but he would not be using the building that would eventually house his manufacturing concerns. Some sources say that the building was originally erected by the Mendelson Manufacturing Company in 1892 for making pianos. But fire insurance maps made at the time seem to tell a different story of this origin. The structure was built between 1890 and 1895 according to them and by 1895 it was noted as a building that was formerly a pants factory (note Whittier Street at that point was an extension of Quevilon Street to the west, and Rowe Street was not yet made):
Five years later, insurance maps would show that 'A.E. Cartier's Pants Factory' was still closed, leading one to believe that rather than making pianos, the factory was making pants.
The Tubbs Manufacturing Company occupied and expanded the building from 1904 to 1911. A rail line was installed to the north along with a lot of storage space for lumber and finished lumber products. Tubbs manufactured wooden furniture and other wooden products.
Henry Haskell who had operated little more than a cottage industry to that point, took a keen enough interest in the factory and its equipment to move into the building in order to make his own wooden novelties, calling it The Carrom Company; the fire insurance maps of 1916 showed that he shared the building with a maker of cigars:
In 1916, he formed the Haskell Manufacturing Company to manufacture plywood after inventing a waterproof glue in 2013 that worked well in making plywood. This plywood would then be formed into boats and canoes. The unusually designed watercraft were made out of one piece of plywood, molded and pressed to make a truly sturdy and impressive product.
The multi-layered veneer wood panels were called Haskelite. The thinner three-layered plywood could be molded into any shape desired. It was also used in the construction of trucks, buses, automobiles, and airplanes. The first plane made with moldable plywood was constructed with Haskelite, and was the Curtiss two-place fighter "Whistling Bill" used in World War 1.
Henry L Haskell would continue making plywood based products at the building until about 1934 when the CCC took control over it. His Carrom Company would continue making boards at other locations in Ludington nearly 80 years after his death in 1940, his brand of plywood still branding the name of the building he vacated six years before that.
The future of the Haskelite Building looks to be a lot better than it has been. A developer has purchased and is looking at converting it from its manufacturing history into a residential future. As we look at the details of that transition, let us not forget the rich, uniquely-Ludington tradition therein.
Thanks for the history lesson X, and a very interesting one at that. It never entered my mind what stories lay hidden there, even after driving by this building for years. There is always something to learn even when it comes in the form of brick and mortar.
I was in the same boat until I was researching the address and uncovered that the building had its own Wikipedia page. The research branched out from there and hopefully one of these days we can get one or more of the local historians to contribute further to our knowledge since I'm still not sure whether the building was first made to make pants or pianos.
Copy of his patent and process. Used blood as the primary adhesive.
That’s amazing shinblind. Who knows what he would be doing if he was alive today. Rumor has it that he was a vampire and needed some way to use the extra blood.
Very interesting history. The patent of using blood for glue is interesting also. Never heard of that before. Maybe thats why the canoe pictured above has a reddish tint? LOL