Tuesday, August 5, 2014

We used to make things in this country. #160: Port Hope Sanitary Manufacturing Co. Ltd., Port Hope, Ontario

I recently came across a copy of the "Plumbers' Pocket Book of Roughing-In Dimensions for Plumbing Fixtures" published in the early 1950's as "a consolidated service by":

Back then, they still used words like "lavatory" and "water closet."
The model names were also very British:

Below, some of their offerings:

I wonder what Bell telephone thought of this name?
Let's face it:  this would have been as close to sitting at Oxford as most people got.

Ah, Urinor:  the communal urinal, where gossip was shared.   Today it's the coffee machine.

Beginning in the 19th Century, cast iron items were enameled for greater water resistance and attractiveness. Initially, all such items were imported from Europe. The first plants to carry out enamelling were built around 1867 in the US and 1893 in Canada. 

Hiram Thomas Bush, born in Prescott, became President & General Manager of the Ideal Manufacturing Co in Detroit, making sanitary products.  He left this position and in 1902 established the Standard Ideal Company in Port Hope.  Amalgamation came to Canada in the early 1900's, with 41 industrial amalgmations involving 196 companies taking place between 1909 and 1911.  Standard Ideal was part of this movement:  in 1909, the company amalgamated with the Amherst Foundry Company of Amherst, Nova Scotia, the only other firm in Canada making cast iron porcelain enamel products.  By 1911, the company had grown to 15 acres on Port Hope's Central Pier and had become the town's largest employer, with a work force of 600 men. 

Port Hope History.com

In 1916, the company defaulted on a 1911 mortgage and was forced into bankruptcy.  It was sold by auction later the same year and reorganized as the Port Hope Sanitary Manufacturing Company.  In 1930, it was acquired by Crane Limited, a Canadian subsidiary of the US firm that had been founded in 1855 by Richard Teller Crane who made the following resolution:

"I am resolved to conduct my business in the strictest honesty and fairness; to avoid all deception and trickery; to deal fairly with both customers and competitors; to be liberal and just towards employees; and to put my whole mind upon the business."

Crane had previously acquired Canadian Potteries of St. John's Quebec in 1920.  With the purchase of Standard Ideal, it became known as "The Grand Old Name in Heating" in Canada.  Under Crane's control, a new warehouse was constructed in Port Hope in 1958. It was destined to be the last new building before the plant closed. Crane established AllianceWare in Vancouver in 1947, which specialized in porcelain-steel plumbing fixtures, steel signs and architectural panels.  By 1959, the combined companies were producing 50,000 different products.  A new enameled steel plant was opened in Stratford, Ontario in 1961, the same year that the parent company became Crane Canada Limited.  In 1967, the Port Hope plant was closed.

Beginning in the middle of the last century, all-porcelain products began to replace enameled cast iron.  This contributed to the decline of the Port Hope facility, most of which was demolished in 1971.  Other buildings had been used to store low-level radioactive waste, and were demolished in the 1990's. In 2008, Crane merged with American Standard and Eljer to form American Standards Brands. Crane continues to operate a pottery plant in Trenton and an acrylic products factory in Stratford, Ontario.   

Below, the remaining buildings as they are today:

There is a local movement afoot to try to preserve them as probably the last survivor of a 19th and 20th century commercial port on Lake Ontario.  One advocate insists:

"If plans for demolition are pursued, Port Hope will look like every other harbour that has surrendered its individual character to a planner’s model. But Port Hope is not a typical Ontario town. In 1980, amidst bitter controversy, the council of the day decided to tear down the fire hall that had stood on Walton Street for more than a century. Residents then declared: “Never again!” From that time began the restoration and renovation of the downtown core that has made it a Heritage Conservation District, and the transformation of residences that bring visitors from far away to join annual house tours."

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