Factory Buildings

Bird's Eye View of Oliver Chilled Plow WorksBird's Eye View of Oliver Chilled Plow Works

The Oliver Factory on the St. Joseph River was the first factory of the Oliver Chilled Plow Works, then Oliver & Little, Co. James Oliver and Harvey Little purchased one half of the share of a foundry owned by Ira Fox and Emsley Lamb in 1855, and with their success were eventually able to purchase Lamb’s remaining half interest, renaming the business the South Bend Iron Company. From this humble beginning, Oliver expanded the business in 1876 when he purchased the Perkins Farm on the southwest edge of South Bend for $30,000. This complex had five buildings with a total area of 200,000 square feet and was powered by a new, 600 horsepower Harris Steam Engine which employed 400 men who could cast 50 tons of metal into 300 plows daily.

Oliver Power HouseOliver Power House

With the need to power not only the factory machinery but also the Oliver Hotel and Oliver Opera House, the Oliver Chilled Plow Works Company purchased property along the West Race in 1903 to build the Oliver Power Plant. Construction of the power plant cost more than $250,000 and on June 6, 1905 the water wheels of the power plant turned for the first time and by July the power plant was supplying electricity to Hotel and Opera House as well as the factory through underground cables. 

 


Bibliography

Danielson, Kay Marnon. Images of America: South Bend, Indiana. Chicago, IL: Arcadia Publishers, 2001.

Palmer, John. South Bend, Crossroads of Commerce, The Making of America Series. Charleston, SC: Arcadia Publishers, 2003.

Romine, Joan. Copshaholm: The Oliver Story. South Bend, IN: Northern Indiana Historical Society, Inc., 1978