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The History of The Factory

by Jacqueline Ringler

You know that factory building off Broadway and 11th? Or better known as “The Factory” now? It is known for its many businesses located inside that one building including names like Cheryl Bonin Businesses Services, Chesterton Brewery, Fit Body Bootcamp, Bringing Balance, Gilbert’s Candy and Confections, and more! But it wasn’t always this way.

Originally, “The Factory” was an expansion of Hillstrom Organ Co. Hillstrom was first founded in Chicago, IL in 1869 by two brothers C.O. and August Hillstrom. Hillstrom moved part of its company out to Chesterton in 1880 to expand. It is believed that the company had about 125 men working for them in its peak period. While here in Chesterton, Hillstrom used their generators to supply electricity before the Chesterton area had access to this in 1910. Hillstrom was able to create about 1 organ a day at the beginning and 4 organs a day near the end.

However, the popularity of the organ did start to die down as the piano was becoming popular. Many were starting to make piano purchases instead of organs. In 1898, the Chesterton part of Hillstrom was sold to a company called Leeds and Harper before Hillstrom moved to Ft. Wayne, Texas before its eventual close in 1912. In 1899, Russel Lane Piano Co moved a portion of its company from Chicago into the factory. While it’s unclear how long Russel Lane occupied this building, it is known that it was their smart decision their pianos became widely popular. Even a simple Google search shows all the photos of these beautiful pianos sitting in people’s homes.

Eventually, Russel-Lane would move its portion of the company out of Chesterton and into a Glass Factory. The Chicago Flint & Lime Glass Company was located at this location and in 1922 The American China Co. later named the Fraunfelter China Co, moved in. Both companies worked next to each other with a slight overlap around 1920. Then in 1925, the China factory would move out of this location. In 1927, the factory was reportedly destroyed in a fire.

It is unclear when reconstruction occurred but in 1935, President Franklin Roosevelt created the WPA or Works Progress Administration as a part of his “New Deal” after the Great Depression. This would come to Chesterton in 1936 where canning classes were held in this factory building. Later in 1939, John Collyn Saidla would buy and move his company Atlas Manufacturing into this

spot. For some time, it also housed a roller hockey rink! Saidla would stay here until 1942 when their son was killed. In 1947, Pressco Castings and Manufacturing Co would move to the front wing of 1050 along with Par-A-Mount Tool and Manufacturing and in the back wing would be E.J. Basler Co. E.J. would move out of this location to Schiller Park, IL in 1958.

While it’s unclear when these businesses would move out of this location and the building would reportedly remain empty and unheard of for a while.

Places like Hooligan’s moved in and out before we reached what we have today. Today in 2022, at “The Factory” there are reportedly 24 businesses in this very spot. These names include Chesterton Brewery CO, Duneland Eliquid, Duneland Station Deli, Mission Escape, Cheryl Bonin Realtor Services, Chesterton Fit Body Boot Camp, Jessica Byrd Hair Studio, Gilbert’s Candy & Confections, U-Haul Neighborhood Dealer, and many more. Each of these businesses has cycled in and has been in operation for different numbers of years. It becomes hard to tell how long each business has been in operation due to COVID-19 as well. Overall, it’s amazing to see this location running for this many years and we are so glad to still have it there.

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