Olds Wagon Works flourished briefly

from the archives of The News-Sentinel

The Olds Wagon Works was a major early Fort Wayne industry which flourished briefly then fell victim to progress.

Incorporated in 1882 with $200,000 in capital, the company produced horse-drawn wagons that were the common method of transportation in the late 1800s. The plant, located at Clinton and Murray streets, is still standing, but is now host to the General Tire outlet in Fort Wayne.

Even though it is relatively run-down, the building remains one of the most remarkable examples of 19th century industrial architecture standing in Fort Wayne.

There is little historical information available about the wagon works. But is seems safe to say the automobile was responsible for the company's demise. The Olds Wagon Works disappeared from city directories in 1910 or so, although the Olds family remained active in Summit City commerce, through the Jenny Electric Co., the Economy Glove company, and the Olds Coal Yard and storage company.

After the wagon works folded, the Clinton Street plant was taken over by the Fort Wayne Corrogated Paper Co., which was begun in 1908 and had become a national industry by the 1930s. The company, which manufactured boxes and other paper products, had 210 employees and capital of $1 million by 1913.

The company operated from the old Olds building until 1924 or so, when it built a new plant in Hartford City. But the wagon works facility is still here, to remind us of a time when Olds wagons - not horseless carriages - ruled the roads.

--April 24, 1982