Sunday, August 19, 2012

Schreiber Carriage Manufacturing Building

William Schreiber, a native of Germany, arrived in Chariton during 1879 and married Bertha Ann McKlveen in 1882. A blacksmith by trade, his shop was located at this intersection --- North Main Street and Roland Avenue, across the street south of the Methodist Episcopal Church (at that time an earlier brick building). Schreiber soon developed a sideline building wagons, and that became his major line of work.

Schreiber began construction of this fine two-story brick building, Chariton's earliest surviving factory building, during August of 1888. The Chariton Herald of August 16, that year, reported: "We understand that Mr. Wm. Schreiber will soon begin the erection of a new two story brick building on the site of his present blacksmith and wagon shop, in order to accommodate his constantly increasing business."

The building essentially was complete by December, 1888, when The Chariton Herald reported in its Dec. 27 edition: "Mr. Wm. Schreiber has about completed his two story brick blacksmith and wagon shop. It presents a double room, 40 foot front by about 100 deep, and is, we venture to say, the finest building of its kind in southern Iowa."

Unlike most buildings of this type in Chariton, in which the second floor was used for offices and living quarters, the Schreiber Building apparently always was used entirely for manufacturing. In 1903, for example, the south side of the upstairs was the trim shop and the north side, the paint shop.

This photo, donated to the Lucas County Historical Society in 1969 by William Schreiber's daughter, Ruth Schreiber Peterson, was dated by her to approximately 1896.

The Schreiber Carriage Manufacturing Co., which advertised itself primarily as a source for "carriages, phaetons, buggies, and wagons," all "constructed in Chriton," had expanded by 1903 to the point that Schreiber decided to incorporate, take on partners and expand. At some point after that, the innovative manufacturing annex that now houses Pierschbacher Funeral Home was added across the alley to the east.

According to a brief mention in Lucas County's 1978 history, Schreiber at its peak employed 21 men. The blacksmithing end of the operation included four forges and there were separate woodworking, paint and leather deparments. In addition to wagons and buggies, the company also manufactured  hook and ladder wagons essential for any fire department and sold farm implements.

Later on, the business also sold Ford, Brush and Chevrolet automobiles. The last wagon was manufactured in 1934. In its time, Schreiber was Chariton's largest manufacturing firm.

As years passed and electric lighting became available, most of the building's windows were bricked up. The facade also was altered substantially to provide for large plate glass display windows, now boarded over.

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