Thursday, November 22, 2018

Sparrow Furniture Recycles old Laundry Facility

Used to be a laundry
Though it's been online for a few days, in today's paper there's a very nice piece on Sparrow Furniture and the people, new arrivals to Salem, who are training and working there.

Front page for Thanksgiving
Almost certainly the history of immigrant labor here at this site is much longer and richer, and the building itself might have interesting stories. Across multiple ownership groups and multiple eras, there's a nexus of site, building, and immigrant history.

For before it was the furniture factory, it had a long history as a laundry.

Without even being a sketch, here's a few notes. Maybe there will be more to say another time if more turns up.

An older, wood-framed building, early 1900s
(Willamette University, Paulus Collection)

More or less the current building, circa 1930
Capital City Laundry: Oregon State Library
Note the Oregon Electric lines and tracks on Broadway
I could not easily find when a laundry business started, but a trail clearly starts in 1906. Other laundries had advertised that they used "white only" help, and it seems likely that the "ungrateful help" was coded racist animus towards immigrant workers.

"Ungrateful help" - December 25th, 1906
Ads for the Steam Laundry downtown from 15 years earlier showed ways that the race of the "help" might matter.

This ad centers race in the laundry business
January 15th, 1891
At this time there was a wood-framed building here on Broadway. The image above is undated, but captioned as circa 1918. I believe it's a little older than that.

Here's an ad from after the sale in early 1907 - and with a Thanksgiving-themed ad right next to it!

"We are a new firm" - November 28th, 1907
The laundry business, even as a service, was significant enough to be listed in 1912 as an important manufacturer. The Steam Laundry on Liberty was about twice its size. Still, many other kinds of manufacturers - those that made things - were higher-value business.

Laundry not high value, but still significant
July 11th, 1912

February 26th, 1914
There was another ownership change in 1914, and without looking too closely, it looks like the business changed hands fairly often. It did not seem very stable, probably because it was a low margin enterprise. But this transition got a longer article.

They talk about remodeling and modernizing. The assessors office dates the current building to 1920.

A subsequent ad from 1918 says  "We now have one of the most modern plants in the Willamette Valley," talks about "scientific management," and about the size of their investment. All this suggests the building, or a good part of it, does date from between 1914 and 1918.

In style, however, some elements of the building seem more like something from the 1930s.

But all in all, this is evidence that at least part of the current facility dates from the late 19-teens.

May 30th, 1918
Laundry and drycleaning continued through the 20th century, and Aramark seems to have been the last laundry operator.

Just down the street, of course, is The Hub, and one more block down it is interesting to remember that the old grocery store that Christo's is in used to be a furniture factory also. The Hub, Barrel & Keg, and Christo's all use old grocery stores. These old streetcar era boxes have proved very useful as low-cost space for start-ups. So it's great to see the laundry building also find a use.

See previously:

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