History Midwest Steel & Iron Works, Denver Colorado
During the first twenty years of operation the Jackson-Richter Iron Works produced a variety of structural and ornamental architectural components. Among the items advertised in the company's early catalogs were cast iron store fronts, art metal ceilings, sidewalk grates, office grills, railings, letter and wire signs, fire escapes, stairs, fire doors, elevator cars and enclosures, and wrought iron and steel vault fronts. The majority of these components were fabricated from standard stock shapes shipped directly from eastern foundries to the Jackson-Richter complex by rail.
In 1910 Albert G. Fish acquired control of the Jackson-Richter Iron Works from James B, Jackson, thus establishing a family association with the company which continues to the present. Albert G. Fish brought to the Jackson-Richter Iron Works extensive experience in the metal fabricating field. Prior to migrating to Colorado in 1910, Fish had been associated with two major fabricators in his home-town, St. Louis. Fish began his career with the Koken Iron Works, a subsidiary of the American Bridge Company, where he rose to the position of vice-president and general manager. In 1904 Fish and three former Koken Works employees organized the Banner Iron Works. The Banner Iron Works, under the direction of Fish as president and general manager, was responsible for the fabrication of the structural system of the St. Louis Flat Iron Building, the first building in that city to employ a steel structural frame.
A year after acquiring control of the Jackson-Richter Iron Works, Albert G. Fish was elected president and general manager by the company's Board of Directors. Fish served in this position until his death in 1947. The Jackson-Richter Iron Works continued to prosper under Albert Fish's direction. By January, 1914, the company again moved to larger facilities at 3221 Blake Street, and in 1917 the Board of Directors authorized the purchase of the inventory and equipment of the Brown Iron Works Company.
As the advantages of structural steel systems were recognized and applied to the design of commercial and public buildings, an increased demand for structural steel fabrication and erection was created. The Jackson-Richter Iron Works capitalized on this demand by specializing in structural steel fabrication and erection. As a result, the fabrication of steel structural systems became the company's primary service.
World War I and the accompanying anti-German national climate prompted Jackson-Richter's Board of Directors to rename the company. In October, 1919, the Iron Works officially adopted Midwest Steel & Iron Works Company as the concern's new trade name.
By 1922 the Midwest Steel & Iron Works Company had outgrown its Blake Street complex. In January, 1923, the Larimer Street site of the Brown Iron Works Company was purchased by Midwest to accommodate the company's increased spatial requirements. The Larimer Street site included ninety-nine feet fronting First Street and extended north towards the Colfax-Larimer Viaduct, Adjoining property was subsequently purchased by Midwest until the company had consolidated a parcel incorporating lots 40 through 43 of Bakers Villa, an area of approximately 5.2 acres.
The former Brown Iron Works site on Larimer Street included an office building constructed in 1906 and a shop built in 1911. Midwest initiated a capital improvements campaign shortly after purchasing the property which included the expansion and refitting of the existing shop complex. Midwest moved the company's offices and fabricating operation to the Larimer Street complex in the fall of 1923.
In 1926 Midwest's Board of Directors authorized the construction of a Pueblo, Colorado, plant specializing in light steel fabrication. The Pueblo location was selected for its proximity to the Colorado Fuel and Iron Works Company's Pueblo steel mill which had become a major supplier of standard steel shapes for Midwest, Midwest's Pueblo plant was subsequently expanded in 1928 to accommodate a full range of fabricating services.
Major projects undertaken by Midwest in the Denver area during the 1920's included the fabrication and erection of the steel structural systems for the Mountain States Telephone and Telegraph Company Office Building, the Continential Oil Building, East Denver High School, the Cathedral of Colorado Consistory A&A Scottish Rite, the Denver Orpheum Theatre, St. Dominic's Church and the Denver City and County Building. In addition, the company also supplied steel structural components for the Moffat Tunnel, James Peak, Colorado and the Royal Gorge Suspension Bridge near Canon City.
A major addition to the Larimer Street office building was constructed in 1930. This addition, a two-story, brick structure measuring approximately thirty-five feet by seventy-two feet, was appended to the east elevation of the existing two story, brick office. This substantial addition serves as the principal entrance and main structural block of the Midwest office. In contrast to the Commercial Vernacular design of the 1906 office, the 1930 addition was designed in the then-popular Art Deco style by Denver architect, Roland L. Linder. The office addition utilized an unusual "battleship deck" structural system. This system, composed of steel plates connected by a light steel structural frame, was first introduced in ship building to increase the lateral strength of ocean-going vessels.
As the number of major building projects declined with the economic depression of the 1930's. Midwest concentrated its efforts on bridge fabrication. During this period the company was among the three most prolific bridge fabricators operating in Colorado, The majority of the bridges fabricated by the company during the decade were seventy-five to eighty-foot Pony and Deck Trusses. Field research conducted in conjunction with the Colorado Department of Highways' Historic Bridge Inventory has uncovered approximately thirty such structures on the Colorado county road system which can be credited to Midwest.
During the Second World War Midwest was awarded construction contracts for a number of regional military installations. During the war years projects were completed for Fort Francis E. Warren (Wyoming), Fort Logan (Denver), Lowry Air Force Base (Denver), Buckley Field (Denver), and Camp Carson (Colorado Springs). In addition, Midwest was among several Denver steel fabricators engaged in the first dry land ship building project for the United States Navy. Under this project hull sections for aircraft carriers and landing craft tanks were fabricated in Denver and then shipped to the Mare Island Navy Yard in California by flatbed railroad cars. Final assembly of the vessels was completed at the Mare Island installation. In recognition of Midwest's participation in this program, the U.S. Navy awarded the company the Navy "E" for Excellence on January 23, 1944.
In June, 1947, Albert G. Fish died. Midwest's Board of Directors elected Burton W. Melcher company president later that year. Under Melcher's direction a third Midwest plant was established in 1950 on 48th Street in Denver. The 48th Street plant specialized in the fabrication of large steel systems for which the company was becoming increasingly well known.
Although a series of additions were made to the Larimer Street complex between 1952 and 1967, the physical capabilities of the site imposed restrictions on the range of products manufactured there. The successive additions to the industrial buildings had resulted in an inflexible and inefficient design. As a result, Midwest's fabricating operation was gradually moved to the more adaptable 48th Street site.
In 1957, Burton Melcher resigned his position as president of Midwest Steel. Frederick G. Fish, then serving as vice-president, was elected company president, a position which he holds to the present (1983).
By the early 1980's the Larimer Street complex was confined to the fabrication of the company's smallest projects. The company offices were still housed on the complex. In the fall of 1983, Midwest consolidated its operation at the 48th Street complex to include the operations formerly conducted on Larimer Street. Substantial improvements were made to the 48th Street plant to facilitate this consolidation. These improvements included the construction of a contemporary office building.