Date of Construction: 1879 with additions to 1918.
Architectural Style: Italianate.
In 1879 this site was known as the Novelty Manufacturing Company, a general machine shop that serviced the manufacturing plants in De Pere. In 1917 the site became known as Lawton Manufacturing Company, an iron casting plant that expanded the complex on the property offering many jobs to city residents. By the 1990’s the city assisted in relocating the iron casting plant into a city industrial park and the building was targeted for demolition. In 1992, the building was saved and renovated into the apartment complex that you see today. This became the first apartment complex in the city that provided affordable housing to De Pere residents.
The Lawton Foundry is the location where pictures of employees, with names were taken. This was not a common practice so names of some of the local workers were preserved.
There are some interesting features that are still visible in the complex. On the Broadway side the painted sign for the Lawton Foundry is still visible. This is referred to as a “ghost sign” that is painted directly onto the brick facade. This was a common form of signage used prior to the Great Depression which lasted from 1929-1939.
Other unique features are a sawtooth roof, visible from the rear of the complex, and large windows. Many of the apartment units have interior exposed walls and ceilings where the original structures can be seen.
There were two additions to the factory complex in 1906 and in 1918.
Today the site is still used as an apartment complex that is named, ‘The Historic Lawton Foundry Townhomes.’
One of the first items manufactured by Novelty Manufacturing Company was a patented machine called the “Bran Dresser,” which separated bran from flour after it was ground. It was quite successful, but only for a year or two until 1881 when a new milling process, Steven’s Roller Mill, revolutionized flour milling.
De Pere, Wisconsin 54115
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