We Love Our Store's Historic Building

    It took a few days, but we’ve gone full Who Do You Think You Are? on this building and, just like it is on the show, it’s been kind of an emotional roller coaster!

     Our first step was to contact the Lambertville Historical Society to see what information they might have for us. Fred Eisinger sent us over the report on 6 Coryell Street from the Historic Structures Survey conducted by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission around 1980. The survey indicates that the building was originally home to The Lambertville Record and New Hope News newspapers, whose names are still visible on the south (Coryell-facing) façade today.

(The 6 Coryell St. page from the Historic Structures Survey conducted by the Delaware and Raritan Canal Commission around 1980.Thanks to Fred Eisinger of the Lambertville Historical Society for walking this over to us in the snow.) 

Eisinger also pointed us toward the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps of Lambertville for further information. The Sanborn maps were originally created to assess fire insurance liability in urbanized areas of the United States. They are celebrated for their attention to detail and widely used in preservation and restoration efforts. There are Sanborn maps of Lambertville going back as far as 1885, but the building at 6 Coryell first appears on the 1912 map, suggesting that the building’s construction occurred sometime between 1902 (the previous map year) and 1912.

 

(Coryell Street in 1912! Sheet 6. "Lambertville, NJ." 1912. Sanborn Maps of New Jersey: Lambertville.)

     Our building is the pink rectangle on the left, right above the drawbridge, and is identified as the J.W. Wooley Bakery! The bakery featured an industrial oven and electric mixer on the first floor, and storage on the second.[1]

     You know, we’d always suspected that our ancestors had an appreciation for the finer things in life, like bread and sugar, for example, but now we have straight up proof that our irresponsible consumption of carbohydrates is an immutable part of our cultural/genetic heritage and therefore out of our own control.Feeling much more strongly connected to our 6 Coryell forbears, we moved forward with our research. With a doughnut in hand and Google on our side, it seemed suddenly that anything was possible…

 

(Detail, east facade of 6 Coryell today.)

     …RECORD SCRATCH, this was the hardest part of our research! We were unable to find a shred of information on the apparently very mysterious J.W. Wooley. Frustrated, we remembered the King Midas logo on the Porkyard-facing (east) façade of our building. Along with the logo is the name J.N. Barber. A Google search led us to 1911’s Report of the Fourteenth Convention: National Association of Master Bakers. Jesse Neeld Barber attended the colorfully named association’s convention as a representative of the Thos. C. Hill & Sons Bakery in Trenton, NJ.[2] That year, Barber bought out his partner Edmund Hill (whose diary has been digitized by the Trenton Historical Society) to become owner of the bakery. Barber knew the business inside out, having worked for Thos. C. Hill & Sons for sixteen years prior to purchasing the establishment.

(A business card for Thomas C. Hill's Trenton bakery. Image via Restaurant-ting Through History)

He was best known for his ‘Barber’s bread,’ a 5¢ loaf that was marketed to busy housewives. Per the Trenton Evening Times: “When he entered the business for himself, his ambition was to produce the best loaf of bread made, in order that the housewife might be relieved of the trouble of baking and yet be supplied with the best product for her table that skill, combined with modern methods, cleanliness and the highest grades of flour could accomplish”.[1]

(A 1928 advertisement for Barber's Bread that appeared in the Trenton Evening Times. Image via Tom Glover's Hamilton Scrapbook)

In 1912, Barber purchased the J.W. Wooley bakery in Lambertville and quickly bought up three more bakeries (in Orange, Camden and Mt. Vernon, NY) after witnessing the fast growth of the Lambertville location.[2] He eventually established the J.N. Barber Baking Co. out of Camden.[3]

(A full view of the east facade.)

     Given this information, the east façade of our building becomes a little more legible. The King Midas Bread logo spans the length of the façade and is its most prominent feature. King Midas flour was originally a product of Millbourne Mills in PA and became available in the early 1900s. In 1912, the Shane brothers, who founded Millbourne Mills, moved their operation to Minnesota and continued to manufacture and sell King Midas flour from their newly established King Midas Mill. In an effort to increase sales, Fred and George Shane brothers set their sights on bakeries. The brothers created a new brand of bread, King Midas Bread, and allowed bakers who used King Midas flour to advertise King Midas Bread and even furnished them with special packaging for the product. However, King Midas Mills never publically claimed the bread, only the flour, which they famously advertised as “The Highest Priced Flour In America.” While the flour was high in price, the bread was not; bakers regularly advertised that their flour costs were $4,000 a year greater than they actually were. King Midas Mills hoped to exploit the housewife’s desire for high quality ingredients in order to drive bakery sales and thereby increase the baker’s demand King Midas flour. (Shades of Teapot Dome, am I right?). Further, King Midas Mills “enlisted children as an amateur sales force for the baker” by offering various prizes in exchange for King Midas Bread labels.[4] In 1916, Barber’s Mt. Vernon bakery, probably overestimating the cool-factor of rulers, offered them (“A Beautiful, Nicely Finished Ruler…a gift worth having”) to schoolchildren who presented the bakery with a single King Midas Bread label.[5] The bonneted bread bearer on the façade is in fact a version of a King Midas character that appeared on bread labels and on celluloid cut-outs distributed to children.[6] We can also observe that, although Barber was using the “highest priced” flour on the market, he was able to maintain the 5¢ price of his original Barber’s bread. ConAgra Inc. acquired King Midas Mills in 1983 and still sells King Midas flour, known today as King Midas Special flour.[1] Jim Hamilton, the building’s current owner, has the paint on this wall touched up every ten years or so.

(The Baber Baking Co. appeals to children with the quaint
promise of rulers, top of page. Image via Fulton History )

     What remains unclear is when and under what circumstances Barber’s bakery moved out of 6 Coryell. We know that the newspapers eventually moved in, but again, we don’t know when. The 1923 Sanborn map, which could be helpful to us here, has yet to be digitized. The Lambertville Record was founded in September of 1872 by Clark Pierson and according to 1881’s History of Hunderdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey, the paper’s office was “situated at the corner of Union and Coryell Streets.”[2] After consulting the 1885 Sanborn map of Lambertville, we couldn’t definitively locate the paper’s office (though the building on the SE corner of Union and Coryell did house a printing press on its second floor), and of course, our building had not yet been constructed (an office and lumber yard stand in its place). According to Mr. Hamilton, the building housed a combination of local papers until about 1930 and was referred to colloquially as “The Record Building.” During this time, the farthest back 10’x12’ section of the building (which is currently home to Dmitri Design), accommodated the printing press.

(The south facade today. Signage for The Lambertville Record
and New Hope News is still visible.)

     Mr. Hamilton was able to recall a series of operations housed by the building at 6 Coryell in the years following 1930. The building served variously as a golf ball factory; a sponge factory; and perhaps most interestingly, as a manufacturing site for Paul Evans, the Pennsylvania furniture designer, sculptor, and artist best known for his work for Directional Furniture.

     The 1980 D & R Commission’s report indentifies the building as a commercial space, which it remains today. The building is currently home to Blue Raccoon and Dmitri Design (separated by a partition wall) on the first floor and the Canal House Cooking studio on the second.

     If this were a real episode of Who Do You Think You Are?, we’d probably end by traveling as a staff to the gravesite of J.N. Barber to weep openly and eat cronuts in his memory. Due to a number of practical concerns (where is this man buried? can a worthy cronut be had outside of NYC?), we have yet to make this trip. For now, we are we happy to have this new understanding of our own history. If any of our readers has additional information on the building (or especially on J.W. Wooley, The Baker That Local History Forgot), please feel free to share with us in the comments below!

[1] Lambertville, New Jersey (map). 1912. “Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps, 1885-1923 – New Jersey”. Firestone Library, Princeton University. http://bit.ly/1fZbD07 (10 Feb. 2014).

[2] National Association of Master Bakers, Report of the Fourteenth Convention: National Association of Master Bakers. Philadelphia, PA: National Association of Master Bakers, 1911.

[3] “Trenton Man is Now Owner of Five Bakeries,” Trenton Evening Times, August 30, 1913, 2.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Secretary of State, comp. Corporations of New Jersey: List of Certificates Filed in the Department of State During the Year 1914, (Union Hill, NJ: Dispatch Printing Co., 1915) 54.

[6] Staff Writer. “Advertising Bread to Sell More Flour,” Printers Ink: A Journal for Advertisers 79, no. 1 (1912): 56-60.

[7] The Daily Argus (Mt. Vernon, NY), January 20, 1916, 8. (Fulton History).

[8] Staff Writer. “Advertising Bread,” 56-60.

[9] Roland Anderson, “A Short Note,” last modified November 6, 2013, http://bit.ly/1erHxQu

[10] James P. Snell, comp. History of Hunterdon and Somerset Counties, New Jersey (Philadelphia, PA: Everts and Peck, 1881), 237.