Hoyt Shoe Company Factory, Manchester New Hampshire

Date added: July 12, 2022 Categories: New Hampshire Industrial
Looking northwest at the south facade of Factory 1, office annex in the right foreground (1985)

Until the mid-1880s shoemaking in Manchester was a cottage industry, and textiles dominated the local economy. Though textiles remained the primary industry through the Depression, within the space of a decade, shoe manufacturing rose to prominence. By 1900 seven companies employed 2,000 people. Ten years later, with over 7,700 people working in the industry the city claimed a national rank of fourth in shoe production; by mid-century, Manchester justly called itself "Shoe City". Following the collapse of the textile Industry during the Depression, many of the shoe companies moved into the vacant mills in the Amoskeag millyard.

The first Hoyt factory building was erected in 1892 by the Queen City Land and Building Association headed by James F. Briggs, a Manchester lawyer and politically active citizen. In a combined effort with the Board of Trade and the City Council, Briggs wooed Francis M. Hoyt from Raymond to lease the new building and produce men's shoes. The city's enticement was ten years of tax exemption, illustrating its strong commitment to encourage diversification of Manchester's economic base, then controlled by the textile conglomerate, the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company.

Hoyt (1842-1903) was a New Hampshire native who had left the family farm in Danville to apprentice in the shoe industry in Haverhill, Massachusetts. After gaining experience in each department within the industry, Hoyt opened his own stitching room where he took in shoes under contract. By 1880 he waS manufacturing slippers, but was burned out in Haverhill's disastrous fire of 1882. Hoyt relocated in Raymond, N.H. where he built a new shoe factory in 1884. That building, too, was destroyed by fire eight years later. Manchester's entry into shoe manufacturing a few years earlier, coupled with the city's strong promotional efforts, lured Hoyt to Manchester.

Hoyt's company, known as the F.M. Hoyt Company, immediately became the city's largest shoe manufacturer, a distinction it enjoyed for twenty years until the McElwain. Shoe Company arrived. At the outset, four hundred people were employed by Hoyt, producing 2,400 pairs of McKay shoes daily. In three years, the company doubled its workforce by constructing a second factory across Silver Street. Hoyt initially sold his shoes wholesale, but in 1902 he commenced an innovative and successful program selling directly to retail stores through traveling salesmen. Two years later, the company Switched from manufacturing McKay shoes, in which the shoes were stitched to the uppers, to Goodyear welt shoes. The company also expanded into the production of 'little gents' shoes, on the assumption that loyalty to a quality shoe could be nurtured at an early age. The brandname 'Beacon Shoes' was adopted, and an extensive advertising campaign undertaken.

The success of Hoyt's company was mirrored in its continued physical growth, Clustered around the Lincoln/Silver Street intersection. The former Kimball Carriage Company building, which stood across Lincoln Street, was bought and connected to Factory #1 by a two-story elevated Walkway. Factory #1 was expanded by several major additions to the north. With the erection of a new Administration Building in 1919, the company totaled some 239,000 square feet of space. It was the second largest shoe factory in Manchester and the third largest industry after the McElwain Shoe Company, the largest shoe company in New Hampshire, and the Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, the largest textile company in the world. At its height, the Hoyt Company produced 9,600 pairs of shoes per day, employed 1,400 workers and grossed over $4 million in sales per year.

Hoyt died suddenly at the age of 61 in 1903. The business passed to his son-in-law Hovey E. Slayton, who remained its president for several decades. Following World War I and the reintroduction of English imports, all of Manchester's shoe companies experienced a major slack in demand and production. The Manchester Shoe and Leather Continuation School opened, offering training programs in an attempt to improve the skills of the local labor market. The Hoyt Company responded to the crisis by closing its recently acquired Haverhill plant and consolidating operations in Manchester. Kidder, Peabody and Company was commissioned to analysis its operations; the recommendations followed included reorganizing the company's officers, modernizing the plant's equipment, expanding production to include women's shoes, and restructuring the workforce to allow more diversity in its tasks. Under its new president, Charles W. Tobey (later governor of New Hampshire) and treasurer/manager, John D. Murphy, the company enjoyed a brief recovery before the Depression struck.

Although the Hoyt Company survived the 1930s, it never regained its previous prosperity. Factory #1 was shared with several other shoe business, including the Evangeline Shoe Company which ultimately purchased the building and continued to produce shoes there until 1971. Factories #2 and #3 were occupied variously by box companies, bedding manufacturers, and by the McElwain Shoe Company. The Administration Building was taken over by the federal government in 1929 for use as a WPA regional office and later as an armed forces induction center. The Hoyt Company's demise reflected the fate of shoe manufacturing in Manchester at large. Of the four major shoe factories surviving in 1955, today none remains in the city and only one is still in business. A few newer shoe companies have located in the city, but the industry remains in serious decline throughout New England.


The two Hoyt factory buildings are the most distinguished of Manchester's shoe factories, as well as being superb examples of late nineteenth century industrial architecture. When the first Hoyt Shoe Company building was constructed in 1892, it was the largest shoe factory in the State of New Hampshire. Measuring 220x43 feet, the building was designed by Augustus G. Stevens (1829-1901), a prominent northern New England mill architect. For much of his life, Stevens was the architect/civil engineer for the Manchester Print Works in the Amoskeag millyard. At the time of his death, he had just completed designs for their new mill south of Granite Street, one of the largest single mill buildings in the country. In addition to his work for the Manchester mills, Stevens designed mill buildings throughout the city, as well as in Franklin (NH), Andover and Haverhill (Mass.). Stevens' father, Phineas Stevens, had been the millwright and wheelwright for the first Amoskeag Manufacturing Company buildings in the 1830s, and his brother George W. was the architect/civil engineer for the company in the mid-late nineteenth century.

In 1895 Hoyt expanded his production by constructing a second factory directly across the street from and of identical design to the first. Each building featured a centrally positioned, five-story projecting tower with recessed arched window bays, and a steep slate hip roof capped with cresting. The design of each building was similar to the other shoe factories of the period; four-story, flush brick walls, arched window openings with multi-pane sash, and nearly flat, overhanging roofs. Between 1901 and 1912, two long wings were added to the north wall of Factory #1, nearly tripling the floor Space. Despite the twenty year time span between the original building and its wings, the design remained uniform.

The Hoyt Shoe Factory was built by the locally distinguished contractors Head & Dowst who built Manchester's other late nineteenth century brick shoe factories as well. In addition to mill construction, Head & Dowst built many of Manchester's public buildings, including the Highland, Straw, Beech Street, Wilson, Hallsville and Central High Schools. Other works of theirs included the original building for Saint Anselm's College, the courthouse in Laconia, and the Hillsborough County Almshouse and Prison in Goffstown. The firm's shoe factories were predictably similar; flushed brick walls, a slightly pitched roof with exposed rafters, multi-pane sash set between arched masonry heads and granite sills, and a five-story stair tower of varying design, but generally employing full-height recessed bays and a steep hip roof clad with slate. The Hoyt Factory's appearance, though faithful to the standard design, was particularly distinctive for its immense size and the twin building across the street.

The establishment of the Hoyt Shoe Company on Lincoln Street had a direct effect on the development of the surrounding area. Prior to its erection, the area was described in contemporary newspapers as "barren, covered only with scrub pine". To the-north and east of the Hoyt building, in the vicinity of the Kimball Brothers Shoe Factory, the area was slowly developing. With the Hoyt Factory, soon followed by nearly a dozen additional shoe and related industries, Hallsville underwent a building boom. By 1900, hundreds of new houses had been constructed, and a horse car line had been laid along Valley Street.

The location of the non-textile industries in the city's outskirts was directly related to the dominating Amoskeag Manufacturing Company, who jealously protected the city's labor force. Amoskeag owned much of the land adjacent to the Merrimack River and inland, but refused to sell it to competing industries. By locating some distance from the city center, the new shoe companies were able to draw upon a labor pool settling in newly developing section of the city.