McElwain, W. H. Shoe Manufacturing Company

31 Perkins Ave

1898

Architectural Style

Not researched

Significance

Architecture, Industry

Use Type

Other Manufacturing, Shoe Factory

Neighborhood

Bridgewater Industrial/Transportation Corridor

Massachusetts Historical Commission Report

Architectural Significance

Originally built to house the William H. McElwain Co. shoe factory, this large 4-story frame building is one of several late 19th early 20th c. factory complexes bordering the Old Colony Railroad tracks along Perkins Ave, Broad and Spring Streets near Bridgewater Center. Covered with modern shingle siding and closed by a flat roof, this utilitarian structure's walls are pierced by long horizontal band windows.

Historical Significance

This factory building has significant historical associations with Bridgewater's shoe manufacturing industry. As early as 1837 Bridgewater had a seasonal shoe industry. During the Civil War the town's shoe business expanded to meet the needs of the Union army and involved the increased use of modern machinery.

William H. McElwain (1867-1908) started the McElwain Co. in October, 1894, with an investment of $1,500. Originally located in a small plant on Hale St., McElwain employed 40-50 people. The present Perkins Ave. building was constructed in 1898 to replace this fire destroyed Hale St. plant. McElwain shoe was known for instituting year round employment, simplified production and the two-dollar shoe. The 1901 Sanborn Insurance Atlas for Bridgewater indicates that the long, rectangular Perkins Ave. building housed storage facilities, engine room (2 story brick segment on southwest wall), a water tank, office and sole leather cutting on the first floor. The second floor housed finishing, packing and empty cases. ''Bottoming" was conducted on the third floor. Cutting and stitching was conducted on the fourth floor. Labor difficulties forced the plant to close in 1915. The McElwain Co. subsequently moved to Manchester, N.H. and eventually became the Thom McAn Shoe Company. John E. Lucey Co. began manufacturing shoes at 31 Perkins St. in December, 1941 in the old McElwain plant. During World War II, they provided shoes for the U.S. military, branching out into fine lines of dress and work shoes. Since 1966 this facility has housed John E. Lucey Division of the George E. Keith Co. and employed 410 people in 1976.