1906: Winchester’s remarkable year
Published 12:09 pm Friday, December 23, 2016
The coming of the railroads wrought profound changes in Winchester. The town was fortunate to attract three major lines: Elizabethtown, Lexington & Big Sandy (later C&O) in 1872; Kentucky Central (later L&N) in 1883; and Lexington & Eastern (later L&N) in 1889. The town became a destination for mountain residents and a jumping off place for drummers plying their trade in Eastern Kentucky. This earned Winchester the cognomen of “Gateway City to the Mountains.” The tracks were soon lined with a series of railway warehouses, where proprietors could purchase and store local products and ship them off to distant markets.
The railroads likely propelled Winchester’s transformation from rural county seat to fourth-class city, which the Kentucky General Assembly approved in 1882. This resulted in a change in governance from town trustees to an elected mayor and city council. Other changes followed in rapid succession: a gas plant and electric generating plant in 1887, and telephone service in 1890.
Lucien Beckner, then publisher and editor of the Winchester Sun-Sentinel (forerunner of the Sun), authored a 16-page pamphlet entitled, “Winchester, Its Remarkable Growth During The Past Twelve Months And A Few Reasons Therefor.” In the introductory paragraph, Beckner stated, “The year 1906 will be counted by the future historian of this community the most remarkable one for growth that Winchester has known” He added that growth “has lunged forward by leaps and bounds that have startled the most optimistic prophets.” To prove his point, Beckner went on to describe each of the year’s new additions.
“The first thing a traveler to Winchester over the Louisville & Nashville or Chesapeake & Ohio railways sees is the new Union Passenger Depot put up by these two roads.” The “modern” new facility replaced the old depot which residents had complained about for years. It served eight passenger trains a day on the L&N and 10 a day on the C&O, remarkable numbers in themselves.
Street Railway System
The city granted a franchise to Central Kentucky Traction Company to operate the streetcar line that ran from the railroad station down Main Street all the way to the fairgrounds. The company removed the wooden rails, laid two miles of steel track and replaced the old mule-drawn cars with electric trolleys.
“The Brown-Proctoria, the largest and best equipped and furnished hotel in Kentucky outside of Louisville, was opened January 1.” The hotel had two elevators and one hundred rooms “with electric light, gas and telephone service in every room.”
The old college building was destroyed by a spectacular fire in February 1905. Its replacement, opened in April 1906, contained 21 rooms, a chapel, chemistry and physics laboratories, a gymnasium and baths.
“On January 19, 1906, the Central Kentucky Natural Gas Company turned on natural gas, piping it from Menifee county, about thirty miles away.” The company later became Columbia Gas of Kentucky. Customers paid 25 cents per thousand cubic feet. Natural gas service resulted in four new plumbing establishments in Winchester.
The Winchester Water Works Company “added to the dam at the old reservoir…and built a new reservoir.” The improvements increased storage capacity from 50 million gallons to 210 million gallons. WMU still operates a reservoir at that location.
Dental Burr Factory
“The Northrop Dental Burr factory is one of only two [in the country] that make a machine finished burr.” Northrop’s machines produced dental drill bits with a precision of one ten thousandth of an inch.
“The D. B. Young Manufacturing Company, a $10,000 corporation, came here the past spring and are now turning out about 150 dozen pairs of overalls a day, which they will increase to 300 dozen shortly.” Their factory was on East Broadway at Church Alley.
“The Hagan Gas Engine Company…added a three-story brick building, 60 by 125 feet in size” that “will double their output of thirty engines a month.” The factory was on East Washington Street, just east of the railroad. The company made gas and gasoline engines that are prized as collector’s items today.
The creamery “opened July 1 by Mr. B. A. Ogden & Son has a dairy in connection, in which they milk about fifty cows. The fresh milk comes into town, is aerated, bottle or separated, then sold or stored or churned.”
“R. C. Mansfield & Son opened their new steam flouring mill on March 12 and are now making one hundred barrels of Best Patent, Mountain Lily and Good Luck flour and about 500 bushels of meal a day.” The 4-story brick mill stood on Pendleton Street, just north of the L&E Railroad.
“Mr. David S. Gay has during the past year added a new grass seed cleaning plant to his large warehouse business that will clean 1,000 bushels a day” of bluegrass seed. Gay’s warehouse was at the intersection of Main Street and Winn Avenue.
“The Baer-Douglas Imperial Steam Bakery began business last May and…has a capacity of 5,000 loaves a day and a growing wholesale business throughout Central Kentucky.” The bakery was located at 102 N. Main St.
“The Winchester Lumber and Manufacturing Company, incorporated for $15,000, which opened here last March is already shipping its products from Philadelphia to Dacotah.” The business was situated between Main and Maple Streets, just south of the L&N Railroad. The two mills at Ford and three in Winchester made Clark County one of the leaders in the lumber industry in Kentucky.
Granite Brick Plant
The Winchester Granite Brick Company began operation in 1906 and “they are now turning out about 18,000 a day of the prettiest and best brick made in the United States.” The plant also turned out builder’s sand, “which on account of its fine grade, they are selling as far East as New Jersey.” The First Christian Church on Hickman Street is faced with their white granite brick.
People’s State Bank
“Last but not least amongst the new enterprises is the People’s State Bank with a capital stock of $100,000, established in the new Brown-Proctoria building” with Joe L. Brown, president, Laban Cockrell, vice president, and John M. Hodgkin, cashier.
Beckner concluded by listing “our most important manufactories besides those already mentioned.” These included “two large mills at Ford; three large dressed lumber plants in this city; the flouring mills of McEldowney, Matlack & Woolcott (formerly S. P. Kerr); Wainscott’s Pop and Candy Factory; the Winchester Novelty Manufacturing Company, makers of the King Lunch Box; and the Scobee-Williams Spoke Factory.”
A number of the businesses Beckner wrote about are still with us today.
Merry Christmas to all!