ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin

       Also part of History of Watertown Fire Dept


Village Blacksmith Co. To Rebuild

After Fire Rakes Plant on 07 25 1952


WDT 07 26 1952


Officials of the Village Blacksmith Company, manufacturers of cutlery and garden tools, announced here today they plan to rebuild as soon as possible the forge unit of their plant which was swept by a $50,000 fire last night.  They said 90 men are employed at the plant.  They hope to be in full operation at the earliest possible time.


The fire, which broke out sometime before 9:30 p.m., was reported by telephone to the City Hall by Mrs. Joseph Stacy, 615 South Washington Street who told the Police Department that the building was on fire, that there was a lot of noise in the place and she could “hear” the fire.  The message was relayed to the Fire Department immediately and all available equipment was sent to the plant on Frederick Street, near the banks of Rock River.  Firemen fought the blaze until 2:30 a.m.  It was the worst fire in the city since the $50,000 Savoy theatre building blaze on June 6, 1950.


Blast Suspected


The fire is believed to have started in a minor heating unit of some of the equipment in the forge shop.  The blaze set off the automatic sprinkler system.  The forge shop is located in the newest part of the plant, erected some years ago directly to the rear of the company offices.  A blast of some kind is suspected.


Fire Chief Al Linde put in a call for help to Oconomowoc, Ixonia and Lebanon Fire Department, all of which responded with one truck each.


The fire reddened the sky and it could be seen for miles.  The smell of smoke filled the air over the city and it was noticeable as far as three miles away near the northeastern limits of the city.


The fire attracted one of the largest crowds at any here in years.  Not only did Watertown residents rush to the spot, but people from surrounding farm areas and nearby localities were attracted by the blaze.  There were many people from Oconomowoc in the crowds that milled about.


Chief Linde said he wanted to commend the Police Department for the way it handled the crowd.  The crowds were kept pretty well back on the whole so as not to interfere too much with the fire fighters.  All available police helpers were called out and all volunteer firemen also were on hand to augment the regular department members.


Fireman Injured


On fire fighter, Francis Pirkel, 38, was injured.  He suffered severe hand lacerations.  He lives at 602 Lafayette Street.


The estimate of damage was made by Chief Linde who said it was entirely unofficial.  Officers of the company would place no definite estimate on the possible loss, but said it will be heavy.  However, they announced that several large presses used in the forge department appeared undamaged and Fire Department officials said they believed the ovens also escaped major damage.


Damage to much of the plant is great.  There was much damage by water and smoke, in addition to the actual blaze damage.  Firemen said that the fire would have been a major disaster if the blaze had reached the paint and chemical supplies used in the plant.


No One on Duty


There was no one working in the place at the time of the fire.  It has no regular night watchman but is served by the Merchant Police.  Everything appeared in order when the last check was made. The fire -probably started suddenly, if it was a blast of any kind that set it off, as appears likely.


The company was founded in Milwaukee in the 1890’s and operated there for some 12 or 15 years before it relocated, moving to Watertown about 1908.  It was brought here largely through the efforts of the Watertown Advancement Association, which was then active in the city’s industrial development.


In its early years the company made a product known as Household Knives.  The output in the early years was only ten to 15 dozen per day.  The knives were sold to retail stores in Wisconsin.


The company, as it expanded, added knives of all kinds to its products.  Clevers, grass hooks, corn and hedge knives, screw drivers, chisels, punches, shaves and other tools were among products that were manufactured at various times.


In recent years the company has turned out a widely known line of fine cutlery and garden tools.


By 1921 the company was turning out between 700,000 and 1,000,000 individual pieces annually.  Its products were sold by more than 3,000 hardware stores as well as in restaurant and butcher supply stores throughout the United States.


In addition to its present products, the company also does some small contract order work and it has also been doing some work under defense contracts.


During its years in Watertown two of the men here who played a large part in developing the concern were the late G. H. Lehrkind, who was for many years its president, and the late H. E. Volk-mann, its secretary and treasurer. The late Charles Reichenbaum of Milwaukee was for many years its vice president.


Current officers of the company are R. M. Henry, president; Joseph Roti, vice president; Joseph Calderini, secretary.


For many years the concern was known as the Village Blacksmith Folk, but in recent years the name was changed to the Village Blacksmith Company.


Call to Armory


Earlier last evening firemen responded to a call from the Armory building after someone there reported smelling smoke in the building.  Firemen found, however, that the smoke had entered the building through a window at the rear of the building and was caused by a rubbish fire there.


Demolition at Blacksmith Co. To Start Here

WDT 07 27 1952


Demolition and salvage work at the fire-swept plant of the Village Blacksmith Company will begin tomorrow or Wednesday, C. M. Towne of the company told the Times this morning.  He said an insurance check is still being made and when that is completed work on clearing away the debris and paving the way for rebuilding and repairs will be undertaken.  Mr. Towne said the plant carried full insurance.




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin