Gertenslager Carriage and Wagon Company, Wooster Ohio

Date added: July 01, 2022 Categories: Ohio Industrial Auto Companies
South facade of factory (1981)

Built in 1908 as the Gertenslager Carriage and Wagon Co., it served this purpose through 1925 when the business had become simply the Gertenslager Co. Progressing with the times, the Gertenslager Co. manufactured carriage and truck bodies. Henry Gertenslager also began manufacturing automobile tops and trimmings in the same building. The Gertenslager business was so successful that by 1930 the company had moved to an even larger complex where it continued to expand through 1945. Subsequently, the factory building has contained such diverse businesses as a farm implement dealership, a general store which specialized in used false teeth, a paint shop, and a moving and storage company.

The Gertenslager family founded this successful local business and managed and expanded it to meet community and economic needs through 1930. Family members were active in the local community and well respected. George Gertenslager, the president of the Gertenslager Co. served as director of the Wooster Board of Trade In 1909.

Development of the area in which the factory stands occurred largely after 1905. The factory was conveniently located to railroad lines, but there were relatively few other large commercial complexes nearby when it was built. This changed some with the passage of time, but the area never contained the large concentrated complexes found elsewhere in Wooster, and in the area to which the Gertenslager Co. moved at a later date.

Wooster's industrial development was slow compared to its larger neighbors to the north and east, Akron and Canton. Wooster's strategic location along major roads and rail lines and its role as the seat of government for a large prosperous county would lead one to expect a larger size community, yet it is slightly smaller than the nearby towns of Ashland and Medina, both of which were founded later than Wooster. Nevertheless, it has an active, varied and successful economy.

In its early history, Wooster was largely a rural farming community. In 1876, the manufacturing interests included harness makers, saddlers, buggy trimmers, shoemakers, blacksmiths, and cabinetmakers, basically the types of enterprises designed to serve the town and surrounding areas of an agricultural based economy. The Wooster Brush Company is the town's oldest business and dates from the Civil War era. Agricultural needs were met by Curtis, Barret and Company, a company which made steam engines in Wooster in the mid to late 19th century, and McDonald and Company, which manufactured threshing machines to be sold over a wide area and which, In 1873, was the town's largest employer, having "hundreds of hands" at its factory. Wooster failed to receive the types of major businesses such as steel production, oil refining, and rubber production which transformed many Ohio cities. Instead, its industrial heritage has been marked by the steady growth of small industries; the Wooster Preserving Co., Buckeye Aluminum Co., various building material manufacturers, Bauer Manufacturing Co. (which manufactured ladders), and The Toycraft Co., to name a few which were flourishing in the early decades of the twentieth century. A state experimental farm was also located near Wooster.

The Gertenslager Co. factory building is the only large industrial complex to survive in nearly original condition. The Minglewood Ice Factory building also represents turn-of-the-century industrial architecture in Wooster, but has suffered major alterations and additions and is much smaller in scale. Intact examples of nineteenth and twentieth century industrial architecture are rare in Wooster. The extant Wooster Brush Works building at 135-151 S. Market was built ca. 1881 in a High Victorian Italianate style and is a more detailed industrial building than the Gertenslager Co. building, but represents another period of development. Annat's Annex, located in the 100 block of S. Walnut In Wooster, is another example of a "practical" and plain brick warehouse built ca. 1900 in a style similar to that of the Gertenslager Co. building.