Living in Jackson

News Flash!

December 16, 2020

“A Phoenix-like immense structure has taken the place of the burned Collins Mfg. Co. Building.” Jackson Daily Citizen, August 3, 1895.” (This newspaper is currently called the Jackson Citizen Patriot.)

Following is the actual story found on the Newsbank website of the American Antiquarian Society, 2004.

“A mammoth monument to the enterprise, perseverance and pluck of the Smith Bros., expense a secondary consideration, in the erection of the New Building, which is a most substantially constructed and conveniently arranged plant for the manufacture of Buggies and Cutters.

Jackson challenges the country to produce the superiors of D.S. and H.H. Smith, Jr., as enterprising, progressive, and indefatigable businessmen. These gentlemen compose a firm – Collins Mfg. Co. – which every Jacksonian can refer to with pride and unstinted admiration.

Several years since, (the) Smith Bros placed in operation in Jackson a streetcar system, horses being the motive power. After operating the line a few years, the people awoke one morning to find the old track torn up and men laying Trails and a broad-gauge track. Then one of the best electric streetcar lines in the United States, the size of the city considered, was placed in operation. It was also one of the first electric lines constructed in Michigan. This famous and finely equipped and excellently managed line has gone far and wide.

The American Wheel Co., a few years since, began to bear down on the Collins Mfg. Co. (The) Smith Bros said nothing, but soon a large building was erected near the Collins Mfg. Co.'s plant and is now known as the National Wheel Works, an institution employing many men the year-round, and turning out the best quality of wheels.

A few weeks since, the large and fine buildings of the Collins Mfg. Co. was burned, entailing a loss to the Smith Bros. of about $200,000. Fortunately, the works were insured partially. This most severe loss, one which would have disheartened ordinary mortals, had no appreciable effect upon (the) Smith Bros., who before the ruins became cool, had architects engaged in the work of drawing plans for a new, larger, and more complete and convenient manufacturing plant. As soon as the debris caused by the disastrous fire had cooled, men were set at work clearing up the wreckage.

Here is another instance of the rare enterprise and energy of the firm. In six weeks' time a factory, second to none in size, in the solidity of construction and in matters of utility and convenience, in the United States, has taken the place of the burned buildings. On an average, 200 men were employed daily in erecting the immense structure which stands as a mammoth monument to the enterprise and business abilities of the Smith Bros.

The Citizen takes a great deal of pleasure in presenting to the view of its thousands of readers a picture of the magnificent new building, which faces E. Main and Horton streets. The main building, facing Horton street, is 232 feet in length, 60 feet wide, with three stories and (a) basement. The south wing is 227 feet and 8 inches long, and 0 feet in width. It is also three stories in height, with a roomy basement. The north wing is 233 feet long, is 0 feet in width, and consists of three stories and a basement. At the northwest corner is the main entrance. Here a massive tower rises to a great height. Connecting the south and north wings is a large bridge, and an immense shipping dock 18 the foot in width and 287 feet long. At this dock are loaded cars of all the railroads which radiate from Jackson, like the spokes of a wheel, the Collins Mfg Co's plant taking the place of the hub. The walls of the building are 16 inches in thickness. The timbers used in the basement are 16 X 14 inches in size, and throughout the building 12 inches square. Iron and steel are used to a great extent in fastening the gigantic beams together in a solid mass. The flooring in every part of the buildings is four inches in thickness – three-inch matched planks of Norway pine, covered with maple plank one inch in thickness. Between each department are firewalls of brick and stone, which extend from the basement to the roof, which is made of iron. The few passageways between the departments which exist, are furnished with large iron doors. The entire factory is as nearly fire-proof as it is possible to make it. The buildings are lighted by 458 large windows, and there are nearly 200,000 square feet of floor space.

South of the works is the lumber yards, with sidetracks extending to all parts of it. From the yard the lumber is taken to a seasoning kiln, 30 feet wide, 60 feet long and 15 feet high. Distant from the kiln is a building of about the same dimensions in which are appliances for bending wood in any desired shape. Separate from the buildings are the engine house and boiler rooms. The engine is of the Chandler & Taylor (Indianapolis) manufacture. This is an elegant and ponderous piece of machinery, steam for which is generated by three great steel boilers. In the engine room is also located a large fire pump, which works in connection with the automatic fire extinguishing apparatus. This appliance alone cost Smith Bros a great amount of money, but it was the determination of the company to have the best possible fire extinguishing machinery in their plant, therefore it was purchased.

Extending from the dry kilns to the southeast corner of the south wing of the main building is a bridge over which lumber is taken on cars to the woodworking machinery, through which it passes with clockwork regularity. The first floor of the south wing is the woodworking department, and directly underneath, in the large basement area, in a long line, the blacksmiths' forges, steam hammers, etc.

On the north side of this room the gearing is put together and on the south side the woodwork is attached to the iron. Then the gearing is raised on a great elevator to the priming and painting rooms on the second and third floors, from which they are taken on cars over a bridge to the north wing where they are fitted with wheels.

In the basement of the main building is the iron room where there is constantly on hand a great supply of steel and iron used in the manufacture of buggies and cutters. Here, also, are machines for bending iron and steel and cutting the bar's desired lengths. The first floor of the main building is the body room, where the buggy and cutter bodies are made. Machinery is necessary to expedite work is stationed here. Above, on the second and third floors, are the rooms in which bodies are primed and painted. In the northwest corner of the first floor of the main building is the stock room, 40 feet square, where a bewildering assortment of materials used in manufacturing vehicles are stored. The stock room is presided over by a corps of clerks.

In the west end of the north wing is the main entrance, adjoining which, extending easterly, in the order named, are the business office, the superintendent's office, directors' rooms, stenographers' and typewriters' room, bookkeepers' room, and an enormous fire-proof vault. Adjoining these rooms on the south is a large, finely lighted apartment, in which samples of the elegant work manufactured by the company are displayed. This is called the 'showroom'. Leading eastward from the showroom, through a firewall, is the shipping and crating rooms, while on the third and second floors are the trimming and setting-up rooms. In this latter room the bodies, which come from one department or another, making a complete journey through the building, are introduced to the wheels, poles, thrills and gearing, which come across the bridge from the gearing department. In the basement of this wing is located machinery especially devised for making the crating in which the finished product is packed. This crating is taken to the packing room at the eastern extremity of the north wing, where it is placed about buggy or cutter, wheeled on trucks to the immense dock, from which it is placed carefully on cars for shipment to all parts of the United States and Canada.

Steam and electricity will heat and light the works in the winter months.

Large freight elevators are in the main building and north wing.

Every piece of machinery in the plant is duplicated, so that should a mishap occur to one, its 'double' could be used pending repairs to the disabled machine.

Last Monday morning a large force of men began work preparing lumber and building cutters. At present there are 187 men employed, but the Citizen was informed 300 men would be working inside of 10 days.

Smith Bros., in erecting so magnificent and substantial a structure in so short a period, has accomplished an unheard-of feat. That they have every faith in the city of Jackson, and every confidence in its future, is evidenced by the tremendous outlay necessitated by the rebuilding of their burned works. With all their enterprise and generosity, they are modest gentlemen – so much so, in fact they did not care to have much said in relation to their great accomplishments, and as to publishing a cut of the gigantic works, well, they would not listen to it, but as will be seen The Citizen secured the engraving and presents it to the admiring gaze of its readers at home and abroad.

The Collins Mfg. Co.'s. work is an establishment in which every citizen takes great pride, as it is a lasting ornament to the industrial interests of the city. Smith Bros receive the commendation of all for their enterprise, and every loyal citizen of Jackson profoundly hopes that the prosperity which the company merit will be theirs.

The product of the factory is first class in every respect and is very popular with jobbers in all sections of the country.” The End

Note 1: Over the past 126 years the building built by the Smith Bros. has had many monikers: The Collins Mfg Co., The Jackson Automobile Co., The Sparks Withington Co, The Sparton Corporation., and for the past 61 years, the Commercial Exchange.

Note 2: If the Smith Bros could surmount adversity, so can we.