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Industrial strength

September 16, 2007|by PAT SCHOOLEY

This look at Foltz Mfg. & Industrial Supply Co. isthe 166th in a series of articles about the historical and architectural treasures of Washington County




The commercial building at the corner of East Washington and Locust streets covers the entire 240-foot-by-40-foot lot, ending at Matthew Avenue on the south. Its three-story front block faces Washington with four bays and an entrance that angles across the corner. Sashes have single panes of glass set in openings topped by limestone lintels. Large letters above the top row of windows reads, "H.C. Foltz," and the first-floor display windows exhibit various pieces of hardware dominated by the Pipe Man, a clever figure made from pipe parts. The long rear section has four doors large enough to admit massive engines and machinery that come for repair and refitting interspersed with ten large windows filled with rectangular panes of wired glass covered with corrugated polycarbonate.

The interior of the storefront on Washington Street looks like an old-fashioned hardware store. The ceiling is high, covered in pressed tin; the floor is dark, unfinished wood; a tall counter separates customers from staff and office. Tall ranks of shelves hold pressure gauges, grinding wheels, wrenches, winch-hoists, hammer drills, pipe stands, epoxy putty and all the usual tools that might be expected at a hardware store. But the look is different: some of the crowbars are over 5 feet long, the choice of pullers ranges from modest to massive, sets of hex wrenches have handles.

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Henry Calvin Foltz, born in Smithsburg in 1846, decided against farming as an occupation and apprenticed at the Frick Co. machine shop in Waynesboro. At the age of 20, he moved to Hagerstown to work as a machinist for Garver, Flanegan & Bickel, which later became Hagerstown Steam Engine and Machine Co.

In 1877, H.C. Foltz went into partnership with Daniel and Cyrus Garver to purchase Dayhoff Foundry and Machine Works in Rock Forge, Md. Four years later, when Agricultural Implement Manufacturing Company moved their business to Akron, Ohio, the partners of Garver, Foltz & Co. purchased that company's vacated property at the corner of East Washington and Locust Streets.

A story-and-a-half stone building with metal roof and corbelled chimney stood at the corner of this lot. A pent roof crossed the gable end below a date stone reading 1780-something, (the final digit was indecipherable) between its first floor and attic. This stone structure attached to the building next door on Washington Street, a two-story, recently built commercial structure with a corbelled cornice. The first two bays of this building were part of the Agricultural Implement Manufacturing Co. as well. A one-story stone wing extended to the rear of the stone house where it attached to a taller, gable-roofed brick barn with two cupolas extending above the roof. These had movable vents that opened and closed by cranking them with a long pole from the floor below to relieve heat and smoke in the shop. An assortment of random structures filled the space to Matthew Avenue.

The partners moved their equipment from Rock Forge, combined it with that in their new quarters and worked at repairing agricultural tools and performing custom machine work. Cyrus Garver died shortly after this purchase and Daniel followed in 1888.

Henry Foltz purchased the business, renaming it H.C. Foltz Company, and two years later bought out his former employer, the Hagerstown Steam Engine & Machine Company with all their patterns. He could now manufacture and repair all the machinery that this company had produced including "Empire" traction, portable and stationary steam engines, threshers, clover hullers, grain drills, saw mills and corn crushers. With the addition of these steam engines, Foltz Company began to carry pipe, pipe-fittings, brass goods, rubber and leather strapping, roller chain, valve packing and other kinds of machinist's supplies.

Hagerstown was a hub for railroads during the 19th century, served by several companies' lines. In addition, it was a center for agriculture. Both these enterprises were markets for Foltz Company. They manufactured and repaired farm equipment and made or rebuilt parts for railroads. In addition to stocking supplies, H.C. Foltz Co. manufactured products designed and patented by Henry Foltz, including a hog scalder, a malleable lifting jack used by railroads and the rounded steel stock trough still seen at farms around the county. At the time, water troughs were often made of wood, and in the winter the water froze, forcing the joints of the troughs apart, ruining them. The rounded design of the Foltz trough allowed ice to lift out as it froze rather than deforming the trough.

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