his large late-Victorian brick structure was built in 1898 to house the Woodard furniture factory after a huge fire destroyed the original Woodard factory (and several other downtown buildings) on W. Main Street, on the site occupied today by Owosso City Hall. The decision to relocate to Elm Street was probably dictated by the presence of Woodard’s casket factory, which had been constructed on W. Elm Street in 1885 and then promptly rebuilt when it burned in 1888. Woodard’s also erected apartment housing for their workers, which stand today just to the north of the Casket Company building. Both buildings were heavily damaged in the 1911 cyclone but were quickly repaired.Woodard’s is Owosso’s oldest manufacturing business, having been founded in 1866 as a planing mill. Their products included wood furniture as well as building materials such as windows, doors, and sashes. Their casket company was, for a time, the largest casket company in the United States; two U.S. presidents were buried in Woodard caskets. Changing their product line in the 1930’s, Woodard’s began producing high-quality, hand-forged wrought iron furniture. Their elegant designs have graced the White House Rose Garden, the U.S. embassy in London, and Mackinac Island’s Grand Hotel, and are now collected by museums like the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York.
Woodard’s built a new factory in 1995 in Owosso’s Industrial Park, when this nearly century-old facility became obsolete for manufacturing. Having sat empty for several years, developer Scott Bosgraaf of Holland, Michigan, purchased the building and in 2004 announced an exciting plan to redevelop the site into a mix of retails spaces and modern loft apartments. Retailers include The Wrought Iron Grill, Eye Care Associates, Hairpeace Salon, Happy, Healthy, Whole (holistic medicine), a rehabilitation facility for Memorial Hospital, and Guido’s Coffee Shop. Baker College has established dormitory rooms in some of the upper spaces.
(Please enter on the North side of the building at Guido’s Coffee Shop where you will find directions to the lofts on tour today.)