Hope Manufacturing had a short existence owing to financial troubles and closed in January 1892. At the time of closing Hope employed 200 hands some of who were owed up to 5 weeks' wages. G.G. Green and other wealthy citizens aided the distressed workmen, but some refused to accept charity (Distress at Woodbury, 1892). G.G. Green purchased the building at Sheriff's sale and in June of 1892 and then sold it to A. Seigel of Philadelphia who announced a paper manufactory. Instead, Seigal sold the building to Blasius later in July of the same year. "Blasius & Sons of Philadelphia was established in about 1855, and they built exceptionally well made, expensive pianos until the Great Depression era. In 1887, Blasius took control of the Charles Albrecht Piano Company, one of the oldest piano manufacturers in America. Along with the Albrecht name, Blasius & Sons also built pianos under the "Regent" brand name as an affordable alternative to the costlier Blasius brand... Because of their high cost when new, Blasius pianos were never built on a huge scale like many other American piano manufacturers. Sadly, they are not very common today." ("Blasius & sons") According to a vintage Blasius trade card "the World's Greatest Acoustician, THOS. A. EDISON says: "My experiments prefer the 'BLASIUS' in Tone, Finish, Workmanship and Construction" The BLASIUS PIANO surpasses all others."
|*** These guys...|
|... in here...|
|... made this!|
|Blasius building in back w/ steam train.|
Charles Blasius died in his Philadelphia home March 16th, 1894. Eventually, on September 20th, 1919, Blasius filed a certificate of dissolution in the state of New Jersey. I believe they may have continued operations in Philadelphia until around 1925 when they completely folded. Around 1916 Philip Wuest, organist for the Kemble Church and friend Preston F. Rice, former Blasius superintendent, began leasing space in the building and continued the manufacture of Pianos and also sold various phonographs (see ad) under the name of Rice-Wuest Piano Company. Philip Wuest was also previously involved with Blasius in some capacity as he was named assignor to a musical instrument patent for Blasius in 1909. In 1917 it was announced that the Philadelphia Wood Art Company would be renting the first floor of the Blasius building in the manufacture of gun stock for the war effort and employed about 50 men. ("To manufacture gun," 1917) Later in 1918 the third and fourth floor were rented and used by the U.S. Ordnance Department where "several thousand empty shells are stored, under a guard of Uncle Sam's soldier boys." ("Blasius building sold," 1919) ("Blasius building for," 1918) It was reported in early 1918 that the U.S. Government was interested in leasing the entire building and most likely would have taken steps in this direction had the Great War not ended later that year. Eventually, Rice-Wuest moved to the Old Castor Work building near the Woodbury Creek and the Wood Art Company was evicted for non-payment of their rent. Early in 1919, Philadelphia firm, Belber Trunk Company purchased the building to operate their manufacturing of quality travel bags and wardrobe steamer trunks. Belber employed around 200 hands. In 1949, following a union dispute, Belber removed to Altoona, PA.
The threat of fire to this extraordinarily large building was always a concern. As early as 1899 Blasius upgraded their fire extinguisher system to address this concern. The new system included automatic alarms and an overhead sprinkler supplied from three 30,000 gallon tanks from the City water service, several hundred feet of hose, and a force pump; a fire prevention system that was surely revolutionary at the time. By 1970, Maurlee Co. Inc., manufacturer of heating and air conditioning ducts, occupied the building and on a Monday night in March a fire alarm was pulled outside the building. The Woodbury Fire Department responded quickly, however the building's fire extinguishing system had been shut off by the arsonist involved, a disgruntled Maurlee employee (Shryock, 2010). The Friendship Fire Company website describes the scene: "The fire burned going from window to window, floor to floor like someone was turning on light switches in each room. Fire companies from Gloucester and Camden Counties contained the blaze. The Woodbury water reservoir was dropped 13-ft. (about 7.8 million gallons) and the Woodbury lake system was lowered 4-ft (estimated at about 2.5 million gallons). The next day, the only thing left was the stair towers which were knocked down for safety. The basement although filled with water still contained the contents of a four story building and the pile that was left of the building smoldered until Saturday" (Garter, 2011). It is still to this day referred to the worst fire in Gloucester County. For more details on the blaze please visit Friendship Fire Company's history page HERE.
|Image: Friendship Fire Co. #1 |
West side of Blasius building March 9-10, 1970
Another beautiful Woodbury Victorian structure lost to fire.
|Side glueing department, Blasius & Sons piano factory, Woodbury, NJ, ca. 1895|
|Office and cashier, Blasius & Sons piano factory, Woodbury, NJ, ca. 1895|
(1890). Encyclopaedia of contemporary biography, of Pennsylvania . (Vol. II, p. 213). New York: Atlantic publishing & engraving company. Retrieved from http://books.google.com/books?id=h68bAQAAMAAJ&pg=RA4-PA213&lpg=RA4-PA213&dq="hope manufacturing company" woodbury&source=bl&ots=FrOZuROeKa&sig=KGiauuO7Ruh8CJykJccOxer5nDQ&hl=en&sa=X&ei=d0nKUKjkB5Tk8gS25oDwAw&ved=0CDkQ6AEwAw
Blasius & sons. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.antiquepianoshop.com/online-museum/blasius-sons/
Blasius building for U.S. warehouse. (1918, Mar 23). Woodbury daily times, p. 1.
Blasius building sold. (1919, Jan 28). Woodbury daily times, p. 1.
Dillon, J. L. (Photographer). (1895). Charles Blasius & sons piano factory . [Print Photos]. Retrieved from http://www.hagley.lib.de.us/libimages/Blasius.html
Distress at Woodbury. (1892, Jan. 22). Philadelphia Inquirer
Gartner, D. (2011, Jul 3). Belber trunk fire. Retrieved from http://home.comcast.net/~dwaynegartner/FireStuff.html
Hexamer, E. (1890, Feb 3). Hope manufacturing co: Hexamer general surveys, volume 24, plate 2331. Retrieved from http://libwww.freelibrary.org/diglib/ecw.cfm?ItemID=MHGSAY00064
Shryock, B. (2010, March 21). Back in 1970, a blaze ignited that was so immense it changed the face of Woodbury. Gloucester County Times.
Struck plant starts up in new location. (1949, Oct 17). Altoona mirror.
To manufacture gun stocks in Blasius building. (1917, Apr 23). Woodbury daily times, p. 1.
Will Go to Woodbury. (1892, Jul 8). Philadelphia Inquirer.