Wisconsin Chair Company
The Wisconsin Chair Company was a large factory that for over half a century was the main backbone of Port Washington, Wisconsin. It was destroyed twice: the first time by a huge, devastating fire in 1899 and the second time by demolition in 1959.
The company was organized in 1889 by John Bostwick, a local jeweler and son-in-law of Barnum Blake. He was one of the largest investors and eventually owned most of the shares and became president of the company. The first plant built by the Wisconsin Chair Co. became the largest employer in the area, providing work for one-sixth of the Ozaukee County work force. Its presence was most likely the chief reason that the city's Port Washington population increased from 1,659 in 1890 to more than 3,000 by 1900.
Wisconsin Chair Company created and ran Paramount Records
Surviving its first financially difficult years, the Chair company suffered its worst blow in 1899 when it was totally leveled by fire. The fire engulfed much of downtown Port Washington and engines from Sheboygan and Milwaukee were called in to help contain the blaze. The glow from the fire could be seen as far away as Whitefish Bay.
The company showed its resiliency by immediately rebuilding, and for many years remained the backbone of Port Washington's economy. The incredible success story eventually ended as sales and profits became smaller and production slowed down.
By 1959, the company had closed its doors and its sprawling but inefficient 1900 plant, which, like the 1889 plant, was located behind and east of the N. Franklin Street business district, partially encircling the city's inner harbor, has now been completely demolished.
Today there is a historic plaque in the area where the plant once stood detailing the 1899 fire.
- Wisconsin Historical Society - Historical Marker