Oliver LogoPlowmaker


Oliver Plow Works
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Postcard rendering of the former Oliver Chilled Plow works.

"In the 1868 James Oliver organized the South Bend Iron Works, (also known as the Oliver Chilled Plow Company and several other names over the years.) It started in the West Race but by 1876 had become so large that it needed more space and located on Chapin Street between Indiana Avenue and Sample Street. (Part of the reason that he needed more space was because he bought all of the scrap iron columns from the buildings that had burned in the great Chicago Fire of 1871. He brought them all to South Bend, melted them down and recast them as the iron parts for the Singer sewing machine cabinets.) His industry quickly grew and he needed many immigrant workers to make plows. Most of the workers were Polish, Belgian and Swedish. After many years of steady sales, increased competition and outdated factory buildings began to cause financial problems and the company was bought out by White Farm Equipment. The company closed in the 1970's.

It has been said that the demand for labor in South Bend in the early days was so intense that Oliver and Studebaker would send men abroad to tell people of the opportunities for work in South Bend. They would sign the workers up, help them get to the United States, and in some cases even have trains waiting for them in New York when they came off the ships.

Both Studebaker and Oliver would provide houses for their workers, near their factories, roughly in the area between Walnut Street and Fellows Street, and Indiana Avenue and Sample Street, thus creating German and Polish communities. There were a number of Swedes who lived in the area around Lafayette Street to Michigan Street, and Sample Street to Ewing Avenue. Some Hungarians also lived here. -Courtsey St. Joseph County Library -

Aerial Photograph Of The Factory Complex

Oliver Plow Works, circa September 2002, awaiting the wrecking ball. Warehouse Building (Built 1909), looking southwest from the Conrail tracks along the northside of the plant. On closer inspection, one can note the company name is still visible. At one time a large illuminated sign was attached to the four smaller structures on the roof of this building.




Straight on view of the Warehouse Building gives a slightly better view of what is left of the company name and other advertising, weathered with time.





Boiler House (Built 1920), Smoke Stack and Power House (built 1901) and Cut Punch Maintenance (built 1914) building. Taken from Chapin Street looking to the northwest. Several old company buildings, Administration (built 1968), Experimental Engineering (built 1948) and a Warehouse (built 1907), have already been removed.





View of Boiler House, Cut Punch Maintenance and part of the Forge Shop (built 1948) taken from south of the plant.






Close up of Cut Punch Maintenance Building and part of the Forge Shop. This area, as of October 9, 2002, was the next scheduled for demolition.





Another look at the Forge Shop. Looking towards the northwest. In the background, on the left side of the picture is the other Forge Shop (1908).






Forge Shop (1908). This building sits east of Arnold Street, the west boundry of the Oliver Plow works. According to published reports, this structure is one two that will be spared the wrecking ball. The Boiler House being the other.


Warehouse Building, west and south sides. Picture is looking east. To the right of the picture was the Assembly Building (built 1910).





Assembly Building, west side. Picture is looking southeast, towards Sample Street.






Pictured are the roofs of another Warehouse (built 1909) and Stock Room (built 1880). Picture was taken from the Conrail tracks looking south.





Pictured is the roofs of the Maintenance Building (built 1880). Picture was taken from the Conrail tracks.





Another shot of the Cut Punch Maintenance Building.






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