In celebration of south Wood County’s rich history, Vintage Venues — a Daily Tribune weekly feature — puts the spotlight on the past and the story behind some of the most historically significant local sites.

Oberbeck building, 800 Fremont Street

Built: 1891

History: Businesses start for any number of reasons. Some from a need, others from an idea, and some from business people who want to make use of available resources. The furniture factory that was established here in 1891 came from a need and to make use of available resources. At that time, Grand Rapids was considered by many to be a manufacturing center.

J.D. Witter, John Daly and Henry Sampson established Oberbeck Brothers Manufacturing Co. in an effort to bring more industry to town and provide a use for the lumber marketed by Daly and Sampson. The factory was located on Tenth Avenue North near the railroad tracks.

The three men went to Chicago and negotiated with Ernest, Fred and Louis Oberbeck. The brothers, who were making inexpensive bedroom furniture, were offered the opportunity to grow their business in Grand Rapids.

Several of the families moved north along with the machinery and the factory grew into a large institution. It also moved from-low priced furniture into beautiful, quality furniture shipped by rail to large stores around the country including Marshall Field & Co. The plant was one of the great industrial enterprises of the city.

The buildings used by the company included the three-story factory, a large warehouse, dry kiln, boiler and engine house and other smaller buildings. The buildings were located on 12 acres and the floor space would cover an area of two-and-a-half acres.

When times changed, Oberbeck Brothers Manufacturing Company changed hands and was taken over by the Ahdawagam Furniture Company with Frank Walsh as office manager. Walsh then became president of the Ahdawagam Paper Products Company later named Paperboard Products Division of Consolidated Papers, Inc

The merger with Ahdawagam Paper Products Company in 1948 expanded Consolidated’s product line to include paperboard containers and cartons. The building is now owned and used by Corenso of North America. The company makes cores and tubes and is a recycling center.

Interesting fact: Descendants of the Oberbeck families live in the south Wood County area.

Contact Nancy Quick at 715-423-8170 or redquick@wctc.net with ideas for Vintage Venues.