Silk Mill on Birkbeck St.

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History of Freeland, Pa.

What's on this page:
  • Information being collected about Freeland's factories
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PLEASE NOTE: This is an old page, and I hope to update it in the not too distant future.


[Thanks to Jeremiah Abrams, Merlin Smith, Jack Polachak, Kelly Norman, Ed Merrick, Pat Ferko Miller, Jerry_____, for additions and corrections. Photos of buildings, ads and postcards by Chuck and Steve Tancin.]

This information is in need of updating, and I'll try to get to that soon. Meanwhile, if you have any information or photos that you'd like to share, please let me know!

Freeland Shirt Co. Annex, 1929 Ambra Manufacturing Company - 911 Centre St. (From Ed Merrick: Manufacturers of Fine Sportswear - Irving G. Abrams, Simon M. Abrams, proprietors) ('51 Minamek)  (Information from another source said it was managed by Irving and Phillip Abrams.) See also the Freeland Shirt Co. Annex, further below. Thank you to Colleen Tatar for the photo, which is a detail cropped from a larger one.

Bell miniature sewing machine Bell Manufacturing Company - I. J. Morrit Corp - E. South St. (1952 phone book) (Bell Portable Sewing Machines, '53 Minamek, from Ed Merrick) (From Kelly Norman: I've been trying to find out some information on a wee little sewing machine, called the Bell Sewing Machine. It has a sticker on it that says "Manufactured by Bell Manufacturing Corp. Freeland, PA" The machine also has an old store tag hanging on it with the date of purchase written May, 1954. Would you know anything about this company or the items they manufactured. The machine is a tiny machine, leading me to wonder if it was a novelty item more than a serious machine. But it does sew, quite nicely, much better than I would expect a 60 year old novelty to work!) (From Jerry ____: I'm looking for information regarding a sewing machine that I recently found. It was made by Bell Manufacturing in Freeland Pa. I was wondering if this sounds familiar to you. I can't find any info on the company. It is a model 101 and it is foot pedal driven. Has a European plug (replaced though) and on the bottom it says manufactured by Bell Manufacturing Corp. Freeland, PA. Saw a similar one that claimed to be from France.)

Bressler's cigar box Bressler's cigar box Bressler Cigar Factory - 1106 Cunnius St. (Miles C. Bressler, proprietor) I don't have the dates of operation of this factory yet, but I see in the 1937 phone directory that Miles' widow Florence is listed as living on Walnut Street. The factory is listed in the 1921-1922 city directory, but not in the one for 1900-1901. An undated ad clipped from a newspaper promoted El Rector cigars @ 10 cents - "Here's a real smoke that is helping to boost Freeland" Another note in my file refers to "Morris Bressler."

Discon Steel - South St., near Public Park (now the Garland site?)

Freeland Bobbin Works - S. Washington St., below Carbon St. (Charlie Reczkowski recalled playing in the area of this factory as a child and finding discarded large wooden or metal bobbins - the bobbins were made for textile factories.)
(July 1923 newspaper clipping excerpts: "Freeland's latest and most promising industry is the Freeland Bobbin Works, located on South Washington street. At the present time this industry is crowded with orders, and is giving employment to 25 skilled hands. Three years ago the company was organized with local capital and located on Birkbeck street, employing 10 men.
The plant ran steadily for a period of 1 year, when it was visited by a disastrous fire which destroyed most of the machinery, entailing a $5,000 loss and rendering the plant idle for a period of 6 weeks. Additional money was raised by the stockholders and the plant was removed to South Washington street where they enjoy a building twice the size of the old structure, and at the same time doubled the employment force. At the present time the plant is enjoying a prosperous business year and gives promise of doublig their capacity before the present year comes to a close.
The mechanical supervision is in charge of Ernest Schuster, formerly of the Carbondale Bobbin Co., while the business end of the enterprise is looked after by Asa Rute, of Freeland.
The directors and officers of the company are as follows: President, Asa Rute; vice president, C. A. Welsh; treasurer, S. S. Hess; secretary, C. A. Welsh; directors, Asa Rute, S. S. Hess, C. A. Welsh, Ernest Schuster, Joseph Saricks, Geo. Welch and B. F. Davis.")
(Jan. 20, 1928 newspaper clipping excerpt: "The Freeland Bobbin Works on South Washington street, which has been making rapid progress since it was taken over some time ago by Joseph Neale of Upper Lehigh, is now employing 42 men. This plant is an invaluable aid to the town and residents and business men of Freeland should do everything possible to make it grow and Freeland will thereby be benefited.  The Freeland Business Men's Association has pledged itself to help the Bobbin Works, the Overall Factory, the Bressler Cigar Factory, ..." [the remainder of this article is missing from my copy] )

Freeland Cigar Factory - 818 Front St. (1952 phone book)

Freeland Dress Company Freeland Dress Company - 721 Birkbeck St. (Samuel Kimmelman, Henry Landy, proprietors - '51 Minamek, from Ed Merrick) (This building was formerly Freeland Silk Mill, also known as the Silk Throwing Mill, see photo at top left of page. After it ceased operation as a silk mill, it was idle for years before being taken over by Freeland Dress. Later it was the Falon Group Building; it burned to the ground in 1983.)
Freeland Manufacturing Company - 156 Ridge St., below Carbon St. (formerly Freeland Overall, so see also that listing, below; Irving Abrams bought this factory from the Oberanders, managed it in the 1960s?) Freeland Manufacturing Company, cutting annex (Manufacturers of quality work uniforms, work clothes, sportswear. Established 1896 ('51 Minamek)) (PenJac, Inc. outerwear made here from early 1983, for Penfield Sports. The newspaper article said "A major factor in locating the business in Freeland is the pool of skilled people in the needle industry here." Standard-Speaker 3-19-1983)

Freeland Mfg. Co. [temporary cutting department] - South St., between Centre & Ridge Streets (behind Nocchi's, formerly Rialto Theatre, a temporary cutting department by an account of Freeland Mfg. Co. was operating in the 1980s in the Rialto building, South St.; overseen by John McGarey?). Torn down for Nocchi's new construction.

Freeland Overall Mfg. Co. Freeland overalls ad, 1924 Freeland Overall Manufacturing Company - first located at Foster and Cunnius Streets, later at 156 Ridge St. (see also Freeland Manufacturing Company, above). Original building erected in 1896; headed by Stanley Oberrender, in partnership with W. H. Butz and Philip Blass, under the name Blass Overall Company. After many changes of partners, the firm was run by 4 Oberrender brothers. Business grew steadily, and in 1906 they opened a branch factory in Dubois. Since the original building was at the extreme northern portion of the borough, that location became increasingly inconvenient, because of the distance from all railroad Freeland Overall Company Freeland Overall Company depots. As noted in the newspapers of the day, "In 1913 the firm purchased from the Lehigh Valley Railroad Company a large plot in close proximity to the Freeland depot, and built a large, fireproof, building of steel, brick and cement of 40,000 sq. ft. of floor space and the most modern machinery installed, together with every comfort for the employee." At its peak this business employed 350 employees, of which 300 manufactured garments, and there were also sales representatives stationed in 17 cities in 11 states. Freeland Overall Factory metal sign Freeland Overall Factory plaque This building was sold in recent years. Steve Yaskewich shares these images of a metal/porcelain sign, and the plaque that he and wife Cathy made by affixing it to a wooden board and adding an image of the factory.

Freeland Mills, Inc. - Ridge & South Sts., and also Ridge & Luzerne Sts. (1952 phone book) (I remember hearing that the building at Ridge and Luzerne had been an opera house (documented on maps, see also the Entertainment page), then a silk mill, before being renovated for apartments for senior citizens.)

Freeland Shirt Company - 1015 Dewey St., across from Freeland High School (Started in 1919 by Philip Abrams and Charles Crawford. Later owned and managed by Phillip and Simon Abrams; later managed by Joe Berta? Closed in 1981. At its peak it employed 450 people.) (From Merlin Smith: I am trying to find more information on a business from the early 1900's called the Freeland Shirt Factory. My great grandfather, Charles Crawford, was a business partner to Phillip Abrams and they owned the factory.)

Freeland Shirt Co. Annex, 1929 Freeland Shirt Company Annex - 911 Centre St.
(Excerpts from a newspaper article dated 11-6-1931: "$60,000 Damage as Factory in Freeland Burns")
-- "A stubborn blaze which defied the efforts of Freeland fire fighters for almost two hours early last evening, gutted the interior of Freeland Shirt Company annex, 911 Centre street, Freeland, damaging the buildig and causing enormous damage to large stocks of shirts ready for shipment."
-- Fire started in a chimney and spread between the inner and outer walls; tons of water used to fight the fire completed the damage to the stocked merchandise.  The annex housed the storage and cutting departments of the company. 
-- President Philip Abrams estimated damage at $60,000 in stock, fixtures and equipment, and the loss of potential business will run into many more thousands.  At the height of the Christmas season, the store house was packed to its limit with finished goods ready for shipment.  [details in article]
-- The Dewey street mill of the company will be crippled by loss of the materials and Christmas season business of the organization will be greatly hampered.
-- "The building is an old Freeland landmark and was built 42 years ago by Emmanuel Berger, Freeland contractor, for a religious sect known as the "Burger Church."  Later it was sold to the Bethel Baptist congregation but left by this church many years ago when the congregation erected its present building.
-- It was the first factory to be operated by the Freeland Shirt Co., but was abandoned a number of years ago, when the new Dewey street mill was completed.  Almost two yeras ago it was remodeled and converted into a cutting department and storage house by the company and has bene used for this purpose ever since."  [more details about fire in article])

(Photo from Colleen Tatar, building identified by Cal Herring)

Freeland Silk-Mill - 721 Birkbeck St. (see postcard at top left of this page; still in operation in 1914; later the site of the Freeland Dress Company) (Summarizing a newspaper clipping dated 7-7-1906: Deed was recorded in the court house by the Freeland Electric Light, Heat & Power Co., to the Freeland Silk Mill Co., for a lot on the east side of Birkbeck street, containing about 9,159 square feet, together with a brick office guilding and other structures. ... On the same day, a deed was recorded by the Freeland Silk Mill Co. to the Luzerne Silk Throwing Co. of Hazleton for the same property, together with several properties ... Thus the Luzerne Silk Throwing Co. assumed the payment of the Freeland Silk Mill Co.'s $25,000 mortgage.)

Freeland Sportswear factory building Freeland Sportswear Company Inc. - 246 Centre St. ('51 Minamek) (John and Mabel Pavlick, later also Steve Pavlick, Mickey Pavlick, and their sisters Mary and Helen were involved - this factory made jackets and shirts for MacGregor and London Fog)

Garland Commercial Industries - 185 South St. (in Freeland for more than 30 years, closing on July 1, 2010) Garland was originally the trade name of a line of wood stoves produced by the Michigan Stove Company (founded in 1864) for small inns and overnight lodgings of the 19th century. In the 1920s, Michigan Stove merged with the Detroit Stove Works to make the Detroit-Michigan Stove Company, then the largest stove company in the world. Additional mergers and developments eventually led to the creation of Garland Commercial Industries, which in 1974 relocated to a more modern plant in Freeland because the area afforded a rich labor market and excellent shipping facilities to all major U.S. markets.  The Freeland facility entered the picture when a representative from Garland toured the then-empty Nautilus-Tappan plant.

Halpin ad, 1890a Halpin Manufacturing Company - corner of Pine & Walnut Streets (Here was a thriving industry in its last years before trucks and automobiles changed the playing field.)
(From a newspaper article dated 12-15-1908:
"The Halpin Manufacturing Company, of Freeland, shipped three large brewery trucks to the Schuylkill region yesterday, consigned to the Columbia Brewing Co., of Shenandoah.  These wagons, which are of a different type and much larger and more substantially constructed than anything hitherto attempted, were built on a special order and from designs furnished by the Columbia Co.  Built exclusively from the best quality of soft steel and all wrought forge throughout ,  with no wood work except the wheels and part of the doors, they usher in a new era in wagon building.  They are equipped with the famous ballbearing axles, and hitching for two, three or four horses is arranged.  The carrying capacity of each truck is 12,000 pounds.
That the Freeland plant is a growing industry can be gleaned from the fact that this makes fifteen heavy wagons shipped to the Columbia Co. since April 1, with 12 more orders from the same concern still on the books.")

Major Shirt Factory help wanted ad, 1954 Major Shirt Corp. - 1106 Cunnius St. (1952 phone book) (building was previously Bressler's cigar factory) (ad thanks to Steve Yaskewich)

Meadows Silks Mills - Ridge St. (1932 newspaper clippings)

Nautilus-Tappan - South St., near Public Park (now the Garland site)

Salmon Iron Works - near Birkbeck and Johnson streets, now torn down - see page

Schwab Factory - Dewey and Walnut and Alvin Streets?  (From Pat Ferko Miller: machine factory or woodworking factory or somethjing of that nature. Dewey and Walnut and Alvin Streets. Next to the Freeland Shirt Factory  across from Freeland High School. The train used to deliver supplies to them.)

Washington Silk Company - 951 Ridge St., between Luzerne & South Streets (1912, old address numbering)
(Excerpts from a newspaper article dated 8-10-34:
-- This is the "old plant of the Washington company on Ridge street, near Luzerne."
-- The mill was badly damaged in 1926 when mine settlings took place in the old Woodside mine after the water had been pumped out to prepare for operations to be resumed.  The building sagged in several places but after being strengthened by supports, operations were resumed.
-- Later after the Washington Company suspended operations, the plant was run by the Meadow Brothers before they moved to the Danko property at Ridge and South streets.)

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