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Wester, Kevin J. (ed.) / Consumed by fire : a collection of writings about the famous Wisconsin Chair Company fire, Port Washington, Wisconsin, February 19, 1899
([1997])

A brief history of the Wisconsin Chair Company Port Washington, Wisconsin,   pp. 1-10


Page 9

By April of 1899, the people of Port Washington were again afforded hope for
their city's future. It was officially announced that Fred A. Dennett and his investors
would rebuild the Wisconsin Chair Company in Port Washington. John M. Bostwick, an
original investor and major stockholder in the Chair Company, must be credited in
securing this decision. For through his influence he convinced Dennett not to move the
plant to Sheboygan as Dennett had intended to do immediately after the fire.
The rebuilding plan was contingent on the fact that the citizens of Port
Washington were to raise a $25,000 bonus to assist the project and that the Northwestern
Railroad agree to build a spur track from the main line to the harbor area where the
factory would once again be located. Within days these contingencies were met.
Excavation of the ruins from the fire began, and the rebuilding of an even larger scale
factory commenced. The Joe Ubbink Construction Company of Port Washington was
given the contract to rebuild the plant and the Guenther Brick Yard, also of Port
Washington, worked around the clock to keep furnishing the bricks for this huge project.
Amazingly, the new factory was completed and back in operation only ten months
after the fire. Manufacturing was expanded, jobs were increased, and the Wisconsin
Chair Company once again assumed its premiere position as the industrial leader of Port
Washington. In the decades that followed, thousands of Port Washington area residents
found employment at the Wisconsin Chair Company. By 1910, the company's market
had expanded not only to other parts of the United States, but to Canada, Mexico and
other countries as well.  The company's plant continued to grow with the addition of
new production buildings and warehouses in Port Washington and in nearby Grafton.
A postcard advertisement for the Chair Company from this era, offers the
following statistics about the Chair Company:
Capacity 475,000 chairs per year, or 2.6 chairs every minute; floor
space, exclusive of warehouses, 12 acres; floor space in
warehouses, 3 acres; ground covered by entire plant, 10 acres;
lumber carried in yards, 1 1/2 million feet; railroad trackage
required, 3 miles; dockage, 4,000 feet and excellent harbor;
machine shop for special labor-saving machinery to reduce the cost
of Wisconsin chairs occupies two floors, varnish plant in
connection makes all stains and varnishes used; best of modem
machinery, latest labor-saving devices, and special elevators
throughout; many conveniences provided for employees.
A second major fire at the Chair Company occurred on Tuesday, April 14, 1914.
This fire began in a large warehouse located across the street from the main plant. While
seeming to pose a threat to the main plant for a period of time, fortunately the fire was
confined to the warehouse building. In the end, the large warehouse, some company
barns, and a substantial amount of lumber stock were destroyed. The loss from this
second fire totaled over $40,000. Yet once again, production flourished.
Fred A. Dennett died on May 11, 1920, in Grafton, Wisconsin. John R. Dennett
died on December 1, 1924, in Port Washington. Following Fred Dennett's death, John M.
Bostwick became president of the Chair Company. Otto Moeser, who had been


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