Sunday, October 30, 2011

From Preston Agricultural Works to Shantz Foundry

This is a piece of one of the old stone buildings that housed Shantz Foundry, at Fountain St. & Shantz Hill Rd. in Preston, Ontario Canada.

In 1883, the frame buildings of the Preston Agricultural Works were destroyed by fire. P.E. Shantz bought out Abram Detweiler and continued to operate as P.E. Shantz Preston Agricultural Works. New stone buildings were built to house the business. The name Preston Agricultural Works was discontinued, probably by the mid-1890s and the business carried on under the name P.E. Shantz Manufacturer.

By 1909, P.E. Shantz letterhead claimed "Our Specialty is Trucks". P.E. Shantz catalogues featured a variety of trucks (heavy duty warehouse wagons) manufactured for the factory and other commercial trade. Around 1913, P.E. Shantz further diversified into the manufacture of the Howard warm air furnace, company letterhead now stating "Our Specialty is Trucks [and] Warm Air Furnaces. The Howard furnace was another American product for which P.E. Shantz had Canadian manufacturing rights. The company continued to manufacture warm air furnaces for many years. The last dated piece in the P.E. Shantz fonds regarding the Howard furnace is 1941. In addition to trucks and furnaces, P.E. Shantz also made children's hand sleighs, garden benches, garden vases and lawn swings in the years after 1900. These were probably made from waste by-products of agricultural machinery construction. A price list issued by the Shantz Foundry in 1966 gave prices for its line of industrial and commercial trucks, by which time the only product line left.

In the twentieth century, the company name evolved to P.E. Shantz Foundry and finally to Shantz Foundry Ltd. In 1969 Shantz Foundry Ltd. went out of business. The property was purchased by a developer, with plans to build a large apartment unit on the site. The stone buildings were demolished, but the developer's plans did not materialize and in 2002 the site is an overgrown empty lot.

(Information comes courtesy of Robin Shantz, grandson of P.E. Shantz, via Waterloo Regional Museum)

This site is five minutes from my home. I used to wonder what it was when I would avoid all the slag down a hill coming out of a local ravine. Last night, I scoured the internet for the answer. Now that I have it, and I've seen historical photos, I wonder how the "end" of our ravine became so pitched when in the Foundry's day, it was flat.

Nothing as intriguing as local history.

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