O'Brien Varnish Company

O'Brien Varnish Co., June 8, 1935, from the corner of W. Washington and Johnson Street looking northwest.  This was before the city of South Bend allowed O'Brien's to close off that block of Johnson and expand operations to the east. Liquid Velvet first appeared in 1906.  It was one of the first ready-to-use interior flat wall paints, so that the layman could buy it, rather than having a professional painter mix it at the site.  Liquid Velvet was still a staple of the company in 1975.  Thermolyzed Tung Oil was invented in 1933 by Floyd M. Reece who was then operations manager.  It was made from tung nuts, grown in China.  It had to be discontinued because it was so tough and durable it would blister under heavy moisture conditions, that is, it did not breathe. - Thomas R. Reece Photo courtesy of T. Dennis Reece -

O'Brien Company, circa 2003. Picture of south side of the plant, taken from the Conrail Railroad tracks, looking north along former South Shore railroad spur line into the plant.

The O'Brien Corporation started in South Bend in 1875 in a small shop on what now is Lincolnway West. Founded by Patrick O'Brien, who had worked at the Studebaker Wagon Company, he developed a revolutionary new quick-drying primer for the carriages and wagons of that era.






Left: Closer look at the south side of the plant off Washington. Building pictured are the oldest of the complex. Right: Same area, looking inside the plant toward the south. Old tracks of the South Shore Railroad are clearly visable. There was once a water tank on top of the building on the right side of the picture. It resembled a can of O'Brien paint. It was torn down, however, I am not sure exactly when it was removed.



Left: O'Brien Company looking towards the west. Picture was taken at Washington Street and College. Shows the east side of the plant. Right: View of the north side of the plant, taken from Colfax and (coincidently) O'Brien Street.

After fire destroyed his original factory on Lincolnway, O'Brien selected a site on on West Washington Avenue to rebuild the factory. Between 1882-85, several buildings were constructed on South Bend's west side and in 1893, the corporate name was changed to the O'Brien Varnish Company, which remained until 1948 when the company became the O'Brien Corporation. Fuller - O'Brien came into being in 1967. Uniroyal Adhesives and Sealants bought out part of the Fuller-O'Brien company and still operates on West Washington Avenue in South Bend.


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