Keystone Color Works, a Historic Structure that goes back to 1873 and the Empire Car Works
In the early 1870s business was booming for the Empire Car Works, one of two major railcar manufacturing firms within the City of York. Empire had outgrown their cramped factory on the east side of North Beaver Street. The proprietor of the Empire Car Works, Michael Schall, expanded by building a large new factory on the west side of North Beaver Street. This new factory was completed in 1873.
One building within the 1873 Empire Car Works factory is today the former Keystone Color Works. In the 140 years of existence for this historic industrial structure, the three principal businesses that have occupied this structure have been:
- Empire Car Works (from its construction in 1873)
- Keystone Farm Machine Company (beginning about 1894)
- Keystone Color Works (beginning about 1919)
This post provides an early history of the Keystone Color Works and also attempts to explain background associated with the pointing hand on the south side of the building. The following posts delve into the history of earlier occupants of the building; the Empire Car Works and the Keystone Farm Machine Company.
- Two Railcar Manufacturers were in the City of York during the Civil War; plus Origins of the Empire Car Works
- Michael Schall’s Empire Car Works; plus his Family
- Lafean and York Fair of 100-Years-Ago
- #29 Keystone Farm Machine Company in York; in the Factory Buildings that formerly housed the Empire Car Works
The Keystone Farm Machine Company buildings in early 1900s are shown on a Keystone Farm Machine Company Letterhead. I’ve used yellow shading to point out the building within this factory complex that becomes the Keystone Color Works. I also point to the south side of the building (along West Gay Avenue) and the west side of the building (along the railroad tracks).
A history of the Keystone Color Works is included on page 159 of The Story of a Dynamic Community, York, Pennsylvania, published in 1946 by the York Chamber of Commerce:
Founded on April 29, 1919, by Daniel F. Lafean and John S. McCoy, the Keystone Color Works, Inc., manufactured wallpaper colors and mica. Later, the production of mica was discontinued, and the manufacture of paint became a large factor in the business. In June, 1935, the paint department was closed and the manufacture of wallpaper colors became the major business of the company.
On March 16, 1936, the company was reorganized and the new officers include: H. E. Bruce, president and general manager; W. E. Baab, vice-president; H. R. Euler, the principal shareholder, secretary and treasurer; and E. H. Senft, C.P.A., assistant secretary. Under the new management the company specializes in the manufacture of chemical pigment colors for the wallpaper and surface coating industries, and its capacity has more than doubled.
During the war quite a sizable tonnage of chemical colors was made for the Navy, the Maritime Commission and Land-Lease.
The business is national, and chemical pigment colors are sold to most of the wallpaper factories in the United States. Special colors are also sold to industries in South American countries.
What is the background associated with the pointing hand on the south side of the Keystone Color Works building?
This is my stab at an explanation. The Empire Car Works and Keystone Farm Machine Company had their offices along North Beaver Street; therefore I believe this sign is from the Keystone Color Works era. In my following photo, the yellow arrow points to the location of the sign on the south side of the former Keystone Color Works building.
In the photo of the pointed hand, at the beginning of this post, look closely to the right; the faint remnants of part of a Keystone Color Works painted sign can be seen. I believe, at one time, this Keystone Color Works sign extended under a window at this location. When the door was cut-in at this location, people must have incorrectly thought, oh, a shortcut to the office. As a result, the Office Pointed Hand sign was painted to correctly direct people to the office on the other end of the building.
Why do I believe the office was at the other end of the building? That was a stupid question; the hand points in that direction. The office entrance was probably nearer the center of the south side with stairs to the offices on the second or third floor.
From the outside, the newer windows shown in these comparison photos of the west side of the building make that location a leading possibility for the location of the offices. Take a look at all the newer brickwork and newer windows on the second and third floors in the 2013 west side view of the building. The 1946 photo shows the peaked roof and window spacing characteristic of the factory drawing of the circa 1900 Keystone Farm Machine Company; and most probably like the original building built for the Empire Car Works in 1873. As a guess, I’d say this brickwork renovation and installation of a new and flatter roof was done in the 1950s or 1960s.Reading the Headlines: A Quick Index to All YorksPast Posts