Then and Now: Gaumer Manufacturing Complex


By Sheryl Virts - Champaign County Historical Society



The Warren and Gaumer Manufacturing Complex constructed carriages at what was then 20 W. Court St., Urbana, in the 1800s.


Submitted photos

The address now is 318 W. Court St. and the property changed from manufacturing to residential.


Submitted photos

The “Then” sketch of The Warren and Gaumer Manufacturing Complex at the then address of 20 W. Court St., Urbana, near the train depot, was a large operation. It began when Edward B. Gaumer came to Urbana with William Warren in 1854. They both had apprenticed as carriage makers, and by combining their small financial reserves, they were able to start their own manufacturing business, renting space in the east part of the growing city of Urbana. By 1860 they purchased land on West Court Street and built the two buildings in the sketch. The firm of Warren & Gaumer continued in business until William Warren’s death in 1890, at which time the firm of E. B. Gaumer & Sons was organized to continue their highly successful enterprise involving the manufacture of all varieties of light carriages, wagons, sleighs, and pony vehicles.

The factory had become well equipped over the years to handle customization, and its products were known to be of the highest degree of excellence, showing the best of workmanship and finish. They constantly employed about 25 workers and had a nice display of their vehicles in their showroom. In 1902 it was noted to be the oldest continuous manufacturing concern in Urbana, and its history was characterized by progressive methods and unfailing business integrity. The Gaumer family always gave close attention to this business. This glowing account was all according to the The 1902 Centennial Biographies of Champaign County and stated that the company has “not been denied a due measure of success nor the reward of public respect and good will.” Sons Augustus H. Gaumer and George E. Gaumer joined the enterprise previously established by their father and his associate nearly a half century ago.

The two buildings illustrated in the 1874 Champaign County Atlas are of considerable size and attractively designed. The factory appears to be well suited for its purpose of producing quality carriages and sleighs in an efficient manner. Notice the elevated walkway between the buildings for better efficiency of the workers’ mobility. The Champaign County Historical Society Museum has on display several items from this family and former company cataloged in their files and on display at the museum at 809 East Lawn Avenue. By 1926 the buggy business had run its course and Clem Trenor established an automobile dealership in the Gaumer & Sons buildings at the updated address of 310-318 West Court Street in March, and on April 19th fire destroyed the business and severely damaged adjacent houses located on the north side of West Court. The three story Gaumer Carriage factory building was destroyed according to Champaign County: Reflections of Its People, and Its Past 1917-1996 published by Main Graphics, Urbana, Ohio, and written by several local historians.

“Now” nothing is left to mark the successful factory that once stood where this modest building is now located at the address of 318 W. Court. The street no longer continues on uninterrupted and now ends on Russell, and begins again on the other side of the raised train tracks. Strange that in 1926, just as The Big Four Railroad was negotiating for property adjacent to this property, a fire destroyed the new automobile business just begun by Clem Trenor in the Gaumer Buildings that were no longer needed for carriage making since motorized vehicles were now dominating our transportation methods.

“Now” we are in the last block of the Court Street thoroughfare from the Anderson Drive on the east end of Urbana, before it stops on Russell Street. Did you ever wonder why the street temporarily stops because there is more to West Court Street? It was the 1926 elevation of the railroad tracks, that interrupt West Court, West Church and West Ward Streets among many other streets going east and west with the tons of soil brought in to create the necessary elevation for the train tracks to travel through Urbana more efficiently. Railroads were a very important means of transportation for companies to distribute their products “then.” Being close to railroad transportation was a plus for the Gaumer’s business. Incidentally, Trenor Motors “then”temporarily relocated around the corner at 406 Miami Street before establishing their business dealership at a building at 325 North Main for many years.

A footnote about the Gaumer family. There were two seemingly distinctly separate Gaumer families in Urbana, Ohio. The Edward Benjamin Gaumer family who was very successful in the carriage trade, and the Thomas Malancthon Gaumer family were successful publishers and journalists. The families no doubt were distantly related through the 40 Gaumer families who came to this country from Germany in 1720 into Pennsylvania. Both have a connection to Zanesville, Ohio. They came into Ohio at different times from different directions and lived in different houses, but both on West Court Street. Both have an extensive family history published, but neither family’s history mentions the other family as being related.

The Warren and Gaumer Manufacturing Complex constructed carriages at what was then 20 W. Court St., Urbana, in the 1800s.
http://urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_old-one.jpgThe Warren and Gaumer Manufacturing Complex constructed carriages at what was then 20 W. Court St., Urbana, in the 1800s. Submitted photos

The address now is 318 W. Court St. and the property changed from manufacturing to residential.
http://urbanacitizen.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/web1_new-one.jpgThe address now is 318 W. Court St. and the property changed from manufacturing to residential. Submitted photos

By Sheryl Virts

Champaign County Historical Society

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

Submitted by the Champaign County Historical Society.

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