About Me

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Park Owners and Potters Were Traction Magnates

According to the publication, Glass & Pottery World, Volumes 11-12, Rock Springs Park owner C.A. Smith and his brother W.L. Smith of the Taylor Smith and Taylor and McNicol potteries were also “developing rapidly into traction magnates.” In August 1903, the Smith Brothers were granted a franchise by the court at New Cumberland to add a second electric railway line to the one which connected Rock Springs Park to East Liverpool via the Chester Bridge. “The Smith syndicate has announced that it will begin operations forthwith, and states that they expect to have cars running before the year closes."

To the west, potters Joseph G. Lee and W.E. Wells of Newell, West Virginia, along with a grant from the U.S. government, were planning to construct a bridge across the Ohio River (The Newell Bridge) and running their own electric railway line from East Liverpool to their, then secret, industry site in Newell. “The Plans of the Lee syndicate have not been made public, but there is little doubt they have something interesting up their sleeves, as the Newell site has no equal now along the Ohio valley, and would be simply perfect for the location of an immense steel plant, and it is freely rumored that something good in the industrial line is practically assured to Newell.” The “immense plant” would not be for steel but rather the world’s largest pottery plant ever constructed, The Homer Laughlin China Company. Looking to expand and finding no available land in East Liverpool W.E. Wells and Homer Laughlin chose to build Plant 2 across the Ohio River in what is now Newell, West Virginia. The company’s history claims, “The proposed site was farm land, about three miles in length, lying about 50 to 100 feet above the Ohio River.” The location would have access to the railroad, abundant fuel, and improving river navigation. In order to develop the land into a usable industrial site, the Laughlin company created the North American Manufacturing Company to undertake such tasks as building a water system, laying out streets, and selling lots. In 1901 the only way to cross from East Liverpool to Newell was by ferry, but in June 1904 work began on a new metal suspension bridge. On July 4, 1905, the first traffic used the bridge, and to this day the company’s toll bridge serves the people on both sides of the river. The population of Newell grew rapidly.

Connected with Plant 2 was a 100-acre recreational park. It was situated in the valley just south of the plant and included a spring-fed brook, a lake, a zoo, a formal garden, and an outdoor theater where vaudeville players appeared and silent movies were shown. This park was the conception of George Washington Clarke, perhaps the greatest salesman in the history of dinnerware. His work in the Middle West was largely responsible for the expansion of the company, and he devoted much of his income to beautifying the company’s park. Tragically, he did not live long after the park was built, succumbing to an apparent heart attack in 1911. Laurel Hollow Park has been recently reclaimed. Check out their website at http://www.laurelhollowpark.net/.

Completed in 1905, the Newell Bridge is historically important as one of the first all-steel suspension bridges.


JOHN said...

Very nice article! Loved the park. Attended for many years. It was a sad day when it closed.

John Haney

Joseph A. Comm said...

John, are you related to Mike Haney? I have a photograph of him as a ride operator in Rock Springs Park.