close

Reader’s Question:

I’d love to know what Beach & Arthur, Inc. was, which was located in an industrial building at 2906 Columbia Avenue.  ~ Jeff C., Indianapolis

HI’s Answer:

The deserted looking building at 2906 Columbia Avenue belies the many years of productive service the property provided to the community in years past.  The structure, which is nearly a city block long and backs up to the Monon Trail, was the site of a number of different businesses for nearly a century.

Signage from two companies that formerly occupied 2906 Cornell Avenue remain over the entry to the office (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Signage from two companies that formerly occupied 2906 Cornell Avenue remains over the entry to the office building      (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

From about 1910 to about 1923, W. S. Bennett & Company operated a storage and hauling business on the unimproved land.  The proprietor’s ads advertised its proximity to the Lake Erie & Western Railroad (known in later years as the Nickel Plate RR and the Monon RR).  A small structure on the property housed a blacksmith and wagon shop, but otherwise the site was a large open yard in which materials were stored while awaiting a train to transport them elsewhere or a horse-drawn wagon to deliver them locally.

1910 Indianapolis City Directory lists W. S. Bennett Co. at the location that would eventually be known as 2906 Columbia Avenue (scan courtesy of Ancestry.com)

The 1910 Indianapolis City Directory lists W. S. Bennett & Co. at the location that would eventually be known as 2906 Columbia Avenue         

In 1923, owner William S. Bennett moved his company twelve blocks north to another spot along the L E & W R R tracks at 52nd and Winthrop Avenue.  The Spickelmier Company took over the Columbia Avenue site in the late 1920s, initially following Bennett’s lead of providing storage and hauling.  Spickelmeier then transitioned into fuel and later into cement block production, changing its name to Spickelmier Fuel and Supply Co.  It too then moved north to 52nd Street at the Monon Railroad, making the vacant land in the 2900 block of Columbia Avenue ripe for development.

The industrial complex at 2906 Columbia Avenue backs up to the popular Monon Trail (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The industrial facility at 2906 Columbia Avenue backs up to the Monon Trail east of Fall Creek and just south of 30th Street    (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

Soon thereafter, Beach & Arthur, Inc., a company founded in 1926 in Paperville, Pennsylvania, decided to build a facility in Indianapolis.  For nearly three years the manufacturing firm had been operating in rented quarters in the McCoy-Garten Building at 221 West South Street.  Their initial site was in the city block where Lucas Oil Stadium is located today.

Beach & Arthur was located at 221 West South Street, prior to building the facility at 2906 Columbia Avenue (1929 Baist map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)

Beach & Arthur, Inc. was located at 221 West South Street prior to 2906 Columbia Avenue    (1929 Baist map courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)             CLICK TO ENLARGE

The Chester County, Pennsylvania town in which Beach & Arthur, Inc. originated, Paperville, was first named Modeville after William Mode, who founded the town in 1813.  When a railroad station was built in Modeville in the 1880s, and a post office was established in it, the name of the town was changed to Modena.  By the time Beach & Arthur, Inc., was incorporated in 1926, the paper mill industry was so pervasive that the townspeople decided to rename the town Paperville.  Today, the town is once again known as Modena.  At the time of the 2010 Census, the population of Modena was about 500.

1930 article in The Indianapolis News announced the construction of the Beach & Arthur Printing Company building (image courtesy of newspapers.com)

1930 Indianapolis News article announced the construction of the new factory and offices of Beach & Arthur, Inc.      CLICK TO ENLARGE

The two partners in Beach & Arthur, Inc. were Richard White Beach (1896-1981) and William Hamilton Arthur (1894-1947).  It is not known why the company was founded in the State of Pennsylvania, since both men had Indiana roots, and both owners resided in Indianapolis and physically operated the Indianapolis plant.  Richard Beach was born in New Castle, Indiana, and married Mary Willitts in Indianapolis.  William Arthur was born in Nashville, Tennessee, but grew up in New Castle, Indiana, and married Lois Ballenger in Indianapolis.  Both women were Hoosiers, as well.

Richard and Mary Beach lived first at 420 East Fall Creek Boulevard (now Parkway) and later at a rural address in Hamilton County.  William and Lois Arthur lived in apartments at 3707 North Meridian Street and 320 East Maple Road (aka 38th Street) and then in homes at 5501 North Pennsylvania Street and 5154 North Capitol Avenue.

The paper products Beach & Arthur, Inc. manufactured in its Indianapolis paper factory were primarily associated with the food industry.  They produced colorful paper plates, cups, napkins, and tablecloths for holidays and special events, as well as disposable cups and boxes for carry-out food.

A Beach & Arthur Halloween paper plate from the 1930s (image courtesy of sexywitch.wordpress.com2011)

A Beach & Arthur Hallowe’en paper plate from the 1930s (plate image courtesy of sexywitch.wordpress.com2011)    CLICK TO ENLARGE

Beach and Arthur applied for patents on several of the products the company manufactured, including the display package for paper napkins and the paper food container shown below.

[ CLICK TO ENLARGE ]

[ CLICK TO ENLARGE ]

.

[ CLICK TO ENLARGE ]

[ CLICK TO ENLARGE ]

Early in 1938, William and Lois Arthur and their children, Joan and William Jr., moved to an estate in or near Paperville/Modena, Pennsylvania.  Within weeks of their settling into their new home, Mrs. Arthur took her own life.  Reportedly the slump in the stock market drove her to despair.

1938.04.04.Lois.Arthur.masthead

(courtesy of newspapers.com)

(image courtesy of Ancestry.com)

(image courtesy of Ancestry.com)

By the time of the 1940 Census two years later, neither William Arthur nor his son, William Arthur Jr., who would have been 15 years old in 1940, can be found.  Daughter Joan Arthur, age 18, appeared on the 1940 Census as a lodger in a residence in Westchester County, New York.  Richard and Mary Beach resided on a farm near Noblesville, Indiana.

The office of the manufacturing facility at 2906 Columbia Avenue is in a brick building separate from the industrial areas (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The office of the manufacturing facility at 2906 Columbia Avenue is in a brick building separate from the industrial areas (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

By 1941,  only a decade after completing their new building, Beach & Arthur, Inc. ceased operations in Indianapolis.  Neither Richard Beach nor William Arthur can be found in subsequent Indianapolis City Directories during the remainder of their lives.

1941 Baist Atlas map still shows Beach & Arthur at 2906 Columbia Avenue, although it had ceased operation by that year (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives) (CLICK TO ENLARGE)

1941 Baist Atlas map still shows Beach & Arthur at 2906 Columbia Avenue, although it had ceased operation by that year (courtesy of IUPUI Digital Archives)                                         CLICK TO ENLARGE

The new owner of the property in the 2900 block of Columbia was farmer, businessman, politician Homer Earl Capehart (1897-1979).  After a few years working at Holcomb and Hoke, manufacturers of popcorn and peanut machines, Capehart resigned to start his own company to produce radios and phonographs.  He cultivated a relationship with the Rudolph Wurlitzer Manufacturing Company, where he had once been a salesman.  Capehart either developed or bought the rights to various devices that improved the jukebox, like the automatic record changer and the push-button wallbox, selling the devices to Wurlitzer. His innovations earned him the title, “father of the jukebox industry.”

1930s model of the Play-Mor wall box

1930s model of the Packard Play-Mor wall box

Within a few months after Packard Manufacturing started the production of radios, televisions, phonographs, and coin-operated jukeboxes at 2906 Columbia Avenue, the United States entered World War II.  Capehart converted the plant from the manufacture of entertainment equipment to the production of war materials.  Within a year, Packard was making slip rings for tank and bomber turrets, cartridge slides for M-1 thirty-caliber carbines, and tank battery boxes.

1943 "SALUTE" newsletter of the Packard Manufacturing Co. highlighted mployees' war effort (scan courtesy of the Indiana State Library)

1943 “SALUTE” newsletter of the Packard Mfg. Co. highlighted the employees’ war efforts  (scan courtesy of the Indiana State Library)                    CLICK TO ENLARGE

After the war ended in Spring of 1945, the company returned to the manufacture of its originally intended products.  In 1949, Packard moved to new quarters at 113 North Noble Street (now College Avenue).  As Homer had been elected U.S. Senator from Indiana in 1944, he turned over the running of the company to his son Thomas Capehart.  The younger Capehart was president of Packard Manufacturing until his untimely death in a plane crash in Jamaica on January 21, 1960.  His wife Nancy was also killed in the accident.

1946 Packard Pla-Mor Manhattan Jukebox (photo courtesy of antiquehelper.com)

1946 Packard Pla-Mor Manhattan Jukebox (photo courtesy of antiquehelper.com)

Cornell-Dubilier Electric Corp., a leading manufacturer of capacitors, rented the Columbia Avenue building from Capehart from 1949 to 1960.  In the 1951 city directory, Harold G. Palin was plant manager, William C. Otto was chief engineer, and George W. Duke was purchasing agent.  The city directory listed the company as manufacturers of power conversion equipment, vibrator power supplies, and electrical components.

Cornell-Dubilier inverter grade electrolytic capacitor (image courtesy of the electrostore.com)

Cornell-Dubilier inverter grade electrolytic capacitor (image courtesy of the electrostore.com)

Homer Capehart continued to own the property after Cornell-Dubilier moved on.  Kelly-Springfield Tire Company leased the building as a warehouse from 1962 to 1964.  In 1963, the managers were William S. Jones and John Mitchell.

Kelly Springfield Tires logo (courtesy of artfactory.com)

1960s Kelly Springfield Tires logo (courtesy of artfactory.com)

The property was deeded to City Plating Co. Inc. in 1967, which owned the building until 2007.  City Plating manufactured bumpers, guards, and grills.  In 1968, the family-owned and operated business included Howard D. Phillips, president, H. D. Philips II, vice president and Catherine E. Phillips, secretary-treasurer.

Present owner William Shank has used the Martindale-Brightwood industrial building for storage in recent years but has decided it’s time to pass it on to a new owner.   The property is currently under contract to be sold.  Preservationists will be pleased to know that the buyer is a developer with a track record of creating unique spaces out of age-challenged buildings.  He has plans for an exciting alternative reuse of the 84-year-old structure that will contribute to the ever-growing economic vitality of the Monon corridor.

Building at 2906 Columbia Avenue as it appears today (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

The building at 2906 Columbia Avenue as it appeared in April of 2014                  (photo by Sharon Butsch Freeland)

If you have any memories of this building or the companies that have occupied it over the years, please leave a comment below.

 

5 responses to “HI Mailbag: Beach & Arthur, Inc.”

  1. Ron Pearson says:

    My Grandfather, H E Capehart owned this building until his death in 1979. I remember they called it the sunbeam building. I thought the Sunbeam corporation was renting it, but I’m probably mistaken. Ron Capehart Pearson

  2. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    Thank you for commenting, Ron. I think you may be confusing the building discussed in this article with another building your grandfather owned. The building at 2906 Columbia is east of Fall Creek and south of 30th Street. According to property tax records, it was sold to City Plating Co. in 1967. Packard Manufacturing vacated 2906 Columbia Avenue in 1949 and moved downtown to what was then 113 N. Noble Street, but is today known as 113 N. College Avenue. The later Packard building is on the northeast corner of E. Market and N. College Ave. Sunbeam Corporation was located in a one-story building at 705 E. Market Street, which is on the southeast corner of Market and College. The two buildings are across the street from one another. Perhaps your grandfather owned the building Sunbeam occupied on the southeast corner, as well as the building Packard occupied on the northeast corner. I could find no record of Sunbeam Corporation having ever been located at 2906 Columbia Avenue.

  3. Walter Beach says:

    Thank you for the history lesson. My grandfather, M.E. Beach, worked with his cousin in Kalamazoo, MI at Beach Products. Also a paper product company. M.E. was also from New Castle, IN, which I find very interesting. Guess I’ll be talking to some older relatives.

  4. Sharon Butsch Freeland says:

    I think you have just supplied the answer as to why neither Richard W. Beach nor William H. Arthur could be found in Indianapolis in the years after their plant at 2906 Columbia Avenue closed. It would appear the two men went their separate ways — Richard to Michigan and William to Pennsylvania. I just looked at several Kalamazoo City Directories in the 1940s and 1950s, and sure enough, Beach Products, Inc., was listed. The president of the company was none other than Richard W. Beach. I also found residential listings for persons named Beach who worked for the company. Since you provided the initials of M. E., I’m guessing your grandparents were Melvin Elias Beach and Audrey Mast Beach.

  5. Amy Smith says:

    Hi. My great-grandfather was William Hamilton Arthur. Lois was my great-grandmother. Their daughter Joan “Joanne” was my grandmother. William moved to Cincinnati after Lois’s death and my grandmother to business school in New York. Her brother, William Arthur (age 12 at the time of her death), was sent to live with Lois’s mother (his Grandmother Eva Ballenger) in Milroy, Indiana. Thank you so much for your website. I enjoyed the history immensely and will look forward to visiting my great-grandfather’s building in the future.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *