Heritage: Pennsylvania Railroad
CT 1000, 1945: Eastern Region, Eastern Pennsylvania Division, Middle Division, Main Line
Middle Division ETT, 1954: Eastern Region, Middle Division, Main Line
Newport was originally known as Ryder's Ferry, as it was the site of an early ferry on the Juniata River. It was later renamed Newport after the canal came through.
Newport was the eastern end of the Newport and Shermans Valley Railroad. There was a freight yard where railcars and cargo could be transferred to standard gauge for the Pennsylvania Railroad.
Newport once had a large tannery that operated from the second half of the 19th century until the early part of the 20th. The town playground and youth baseball fields now occupy the site.
The completion of the Duncannon to Lewistown portion of the Pennsylvania Railroad along Third Street in 1849 increased the commercial importance of the town. Additional industries located in and around Newport, including a furnace, a forge, a brick works, an additional tannery, three planing mills, two hosiery mills, a shirt factory, a dress factory, a glass works, an ice plant, and a gun smithy. With a large and productive agricultural hinterland, Newport contained a prosperous commercial district in the latter half of the nineteenth century.
The early twentieth century brought changes to Newport. The canal, which had been damaged in the 1889 flood, closed in 1899. In 1903, the Pennsylvania Railroad, owners of the canal since 1857, relocated their main tracks to Front Street. The canal was filled, and an embankment raised to permit the railroad to pass over the highway, allowing for increased speed and safety. A new railroad station was constructed in 1905, extant on S Front Street.
By 1920, the forge ceased operation, and in 1937 the last tannery burned. Planing and garment mills continued to the middle of the twentieth century before closing. One garment mill, outside of the District, continues to operate.
Commerce in Newport began with grain and lumber shipping. The products of the rich forest and farm hinterland were processed and shipped from Newport. Gristmills, sawmills, and warehouses provided the facilities for the commerce. Throughout the nineteenth century, continuing to the present, Newport has shipped grain and grain products. The available transportation, which grew increasingly sophisticated over time, permitted the movement of goods to market. Forest and farm products dominated the commerce of Newport into the latter third of the nineteenth century. Four resources remain extant that contributed to the grain and lumber commerce, the circa 1817 Jones Warehouse (25 N Front Street), the circa 1884 Fickes Warehouse (100 N Fourth Street), the 1910 Fickes Mill (N Third Street), and the 1940 H. R. Wentzel & Sons Feed Mill (S Fourth Street and Bloomfield Avenue, original structure at the site was built in 1878).
Industry began in Newport with English's original gristmill, beginning circa 1765. Although English's mill is no longer extant, two mills continue to operate, the 1910 Fickes Mill (N Third Street), and the 1940 H. R. Wentzel & Sons Feed Mill (S Fourth Street and Bloomfield Avenue, original structure at the site was built in 1878). Both mills retain much of their historic fabric despite their continuing use.
The iron industry provided additional employment and capital to Newport. Forges and furnaces had been built in the area prior to the incorporation of the town in 1840. Marshall Furnace, in East Newport, was built in 1871. The first iron works within the Newport Historic District was built by J.C. Frank in 1876. This building, the Beatty Livery Stable (along Penn Alley off Front Street), originally housed a wagon and sleigh works, utilizing both the forest products of the hinterland and iron from the nearby furnace. The Stable featured a large elevator to raise and lower wagons and sleighs from the first to second floors. Later in the early twentieth century, when demand for wagons and sleighs declined, the Stable became a livery stable, with horses quartered on the first floor, and wagons and carriages lifted to the second. By 1917, the Stable became an automobile dealership, with the automobile showroom located on the second floor, still utilizing the large elevator to lift them there.
The second iron works became the Newport Foundry and Manufacturing Company, built in 1888. The Company manufactured stoves and, later, telegraph pole pins. It burned in 1902, and the burned-out walls were utilized by the Newport Ice Company (S Third Street and Bloomfield Avenue). Photographs show the foundry prior to its destruction and immediately following the fire. The size and layout of the building appears to be the same, with the exception a second story on the main structure. The Newport Ice Company has remained active since 1902.
The third iron works located within the Historic District is the Forged Steel Products Company (133 S Fifth Street). Built by the Newport Board of Trade in 1902, the building originally housed the Romberger Hosiery Mill. The mill operated until 1920, when the building became vacant. Two years later, in 1922, the Forged Steel Products Company, originally from Newark, New Jersey, moved into the building. Some additional parts of the complex were built in the period 1922-1925. In 1937, Forged Steel Products Company merged with Snap-On Tools of Kenosha, Wisconsin. The forge continued to operate until 1955, when it closed. The building has been utilized as office space, various retail stores, and a health club until the present. Locally called the Plier Factory, it retains much of the original layout and construction of the 1902 and 1922-1925. Both buildings strongly invoke their industrial beginnings.
Additional industries developed, including a tannery in 1837. The tannery also reflected Newport's position as a processing center for the local area. Planing mills operated in Newport in the latter half of the nineteenth and first half of the twentieth centuries. However, neither tanneries nor planing mills remain extant.
1925 Sanborn Maps
Distance from Harrisburg...
H. R. Wentzel & Sons (MP 27.1)
According to millpictures.com, the business at this location began in 1878 when W. H. F. Garber constructed a three story frame warehouse for the storage of grain and the sale of feed. In 1890 the business was sold to Theophilus Butturf, who operated a bottling works next door to the mill. It is unsure what type of business Butturf operated in the mill.
In 1925, Maurice Miles took over the building after the death of Butturf. Miles' main business was selling coal. He also sold cement, sand, and some feed. On Sept. 29, 1930 the property was purchased by Henry R. Wentzel & sons, George and Miles. They immediately added bucket elevators and 6 grain bins.
At this time the Wentzels already operated a successful feed business in Bridgeport, Perry Co. They decided to manufacture feed, do custom grinding, and handle grain and feed ingredients. Their first hammer mill was a 40 horsepower Jaybee belt-driven mill. They installed a Puritan Blender; since, molasses was becoming an important ingredient in feed.
The reason the Wentzels purchased a mill at this site was because of the availability to buy grain by rail. The business was so good that additional machinery had to be installed. Dairy, poultry, and hog feed were all manufactured here. Later on an Anglo-American pellet mill was purchased. In less than two years a second mill was added. At this time both of the Wentzel mills had a manufacturing capacity of one to one and one-half tons/hour.
H.R. Wentzel's Hardware & Farm Supplies retail outlet. Features of which include coal, bulk & bag; mushroom soil & mulch; animal feeds; and the usual variety of farm tools, stock medicines, etc.
A large part of the mill was destroyed by a fire on May 1, 1957. Rebuilding started right after clean up. This time metal bins were purchased. The new plant was put into operation on May 1, 1958. A new farm supply and hardware store was built in early 1978 across the street from the mill. Since 1930, the operation has grown from two men to between 24-28 men by 1978. The mill is still operating today which marks about 129 years of continually producing grain and feed.
A. C. Schill (MP 27.1)
An obituary for Alvin Charles Schill, of Newport, appeared in the Duncannon Record on January 11, 1951, citing he was a prominent businessman and director of the newly organized Newport Products Corporation.
F. M. Snyder & Co. (MP 27.3)
Accoring to millpictures.com, Gibson Fickes started the milling business in this mill c. 1886. Local grain was brought to the warehouse where it would be shipped out from either by canal or rail.
G. Fickes died in 1902, whereupon B. F. Horting and F. M. Snyder took the helm successively. Later, Gibson's son, Stanley Fickes, joined forces with Lawrence Wolf. Together, they operated the mill until Stanley died in 1942.
The mill sold in 1945 to Gard Smith, the owner of another mill in Blain. Smith died suddenly in 1950, and Frank & Robert Smith, sons, operated both mills, utilizing electricity to power elevators, mixers and a hammer mill.
The Smiths also handled coal, cement, and building materials through 1976 and possibly beyond. Today, the structures are used for storage by D & D Garage Doors. GPS: Longitude 77' 08.08W, Latitude 40' 28.79N
Station (MP 27.4)
Freight Station (MP 27.6)
Atlantic Refining Co. No. 1 and J. F. Fickes (MP 27.7)
Fickes was a mill, according to the preceding text per https://www.livingplaces.com/PA/Perry_County/Newport_Borough/Newport_Historic_District.html.
|Joe Henry Kline photo.|