In 1890, a major Detroit-based chair manufacturer called Murphy, Wasey and Company arrived in a big way in North Omaha. Located at 3167-77 Spaulding Street along what was then called North 32nd (aka John A. Creighton Boulevard) and the Belt Line Railway, the company built a large factory and employed a hundred people. It was a five-story behemoth where they manufactured chairs and mattresses, and shipped them throughout the Midwest on the Belt Line. This is a history of the factory.
Murphy, Wasey and Company
By 1900, a report in the Omaha World-Herald said “The Omaha factory is now receiving a carload a day from the Detroit factory, and it working overtime but still is running behind on orders.” However, the same year the plant shut down and the business sold all the machinery within.
Beebe and Runyan Furniture Company
In 1901, Beebe and Runyan Furniture of Council Bluffs took over the building. Ordering new machinery, the plant began operations on February 1. Hiring more than 100 workers immediately, the company made “parlor furniture” including couches, sofas, and other upholstered furniture. They also made mattresses there. Their goods were shipped nationally through their warehouse on Grace Street, with sales coordinated through a storeroom at 1538 North 16th Street across from the Storz Brewery.
To honor the leasing of this factory, the Beebe and Runyan Furniture Company ordered a big train that had 50 fifty-five foot cars with the “single largest shipment ever sent by the manufacturer of one company in the West.” It had 60 cars with more than $70,000 in cargo, and was decorated with more than 800 American flags. The train was “over a half a mile in length” and was the largest train of its kind to ever leave the Mattoon Company of Sheboygan and arrived in Omaha.
Changes, Then Fire
By 1912, the M. E. Smith Furniture Company leased the building and was using it as a warehouse. Their main plant employed “600 girls” at 10th and Douglas, and they used the Belt Line to ship their goods in and out of Omaha. In December 1913, the furniture company sold the building to the Sherman and McConnell Drug Company for use as a warehouse.
On November 22, 1914 the Sherman and McConnell Drug Company warehouse suffered a massive fire with an unknown cause, losing about $60,000 in the process, or $1.5m in 2019 value. In the course of the fire, the building burned down along with 17 vehicles and the nearby Druid Hill Depot, valued at $2,000. The south end of the building, which is two and three stories and 35,000 square feet of floor space, was saved. The rest of the building burned to the ground.
The Overland Warehouse Company bought the remaining factory from Sherman and McConnell in 1916. The Union Packing Company moved into the part of the space and established a fruit and vegetable canning operation. Supposedly featuring a capacity of 60,000 cans of pork and beans daily, Omaha had high expectations for the food manufacturer. Ketchup, salad dressing and chili sauce were all made there. Their capacity in 1916 called for 25,000 bushels of tomatoes every 24 hours, and they employed “60 – 75 girls.” Greenhouses were built on 10 additional acres around the factory to grow tomato seeds.
In 1917, the Nebraska Tire and Rubber Company bought a part of the building for its plant. Plans were for the company to launch in May of 1918, with machinery to hire 75 people to manufacture tires. They made 500 tires and 400 tubes daily in 1919. Starting in 1925, the company ran into hard times though. Conducting seasonal shutdowns, the company started releasing workers in the summer time when sales diminished. By 1928, they were fighting off rumors that they’d closed entirely the previous summer. The next year, the company started selling tires from the factory direct to consumers. However, without notice otherwise, a bankruptcy auction was held in 1931. The rubber factory machinery, tire molds, vulcanizers, boilers, motors, hydraulic press, and other equipment were all put up for sale.
United Mineral Prospect Company
In 1934, the United Mineral Products Company remodeled the building, using the address at 3173 Spaulding Street even though it was the same building as before. A year later, the company incorporated. Its business focused on mining, oil prospecting, gasoline, grease, petroleum and natural gas. They were also in mining, transporting, grinding and selling chalk, limestone and other mineral products. That operation closed in 1952.
In the late 1950s, the Omaha Stove Company emerged at the address. In 1959, the Roberts Supply Company moved into the same address. Their business focused on plumbing supplies. Even though it was founded in 1866, the stove company only stayed in business through 1962. Roberts Supply went bankrupt in 1977. Two closed locations moved their inventory and equipment to the warehouse, and an auction was held.
The GDO (Garage Door Openers) Company operated there in the late 1960s.
In 1980 the building was for sale as a 100,000 square foot warehouse.
Today, part of the building is recorded as having 133,000 square feet, and it is home of Office Furniture Installers. Opened in 1993, it was moved to this facility in 2003 and has been there since.
You Might Like…
- A History of the Belt Line Railway in North Omaha
- A History of the intersection of 30th and Ames in North Omaha
- “Beebe and Runyan Furniture Company 1864-1990” by Darrell R. Eckardt
- Beebe and Runyan Condominiums official website (downtown location)
- Office Furniture Installers official website