The landscape at the former Simonds Industries off Heller Drive in Newcomerstown will soon be changing.
The manager of a partnership that formed to purchase Simonds, Tom Woosnam of Akron said they will be having an auction to eliminate some of the materials, as well as remove two items that made the facility distinctly Simonds.
"The auction will be to sell the remaining machinery, pipes and other scrap, along with the boiler house and the large white tank on the north end of the property. With those huge items gone, it is going to make a dramatic change in the view of the south end of town," Woosnam said.
The history of Simonds, formerly known as Heller Bros., is quite long in and of itself.
In 1906, a small file manufactory was opened in Newcomerstown -- the Rex File & Saw Co. This business grew over the next 10 years to become a prominent player in the file market. But disaster struck on April 11, 1917, when a huge fire totally destroyed the Rex complex. Seizing an opportunity, Elias Heller, in need of more land and cheaper labor than Newark, N.J., made an offer and bought the Rex site -- set about rebuilding the file factory and hiring the workers.
Over the course of the next 30 years or so, more and more of the Heller business was moved from Newark, N.J., to Newcomerstown. By 1950, the Newcomerstown facility occupied over 250,000 square feet and Heller was one of the top three file brands in the world (along with Nicholson and Simonds). By 1953, Heller closed down its Newark, N.J., factories and moved fully to Newcomerstown.
By the early 1950s, most of the third generation Hellers had passed and the fourth generation was not as interested in running the family business. Soon, they were approached by Simonds to be acquired, and on July 1, 1955, Simonds acquired Heller Bros.
The combined file businesses of Simonds and Heller were now No. 2 in the world, second only to Nicholson. Simonds continued to produce files in Fitchburg, Mass., until 1960, when all file manufacturing was consolidated in Newcomerstown.
In its heyday, some 1,400 workers were employed at the site during World War II, Woosnam was told by one of the facility's former employees.
"I was also told that the boiler house was a Civil Defense shelter for the town," he said. As a way for residents to protect themselves from any air raids, they could seek shelter in the basement.
One of the items up for bids will be the demolition of the boiler house, Woosnam said. Legend has it that a water tank sat next to the boiler house and someone -- who claimed to know or be an expert in dynamite -- said they could demolish the water tank instead of tearing it down. So, legend has it that it was "imploded" that's why the boiler house has two different types/styles of metal sheeting.
The group of developers/partners originally purchased the former Simonds location back in September 2007 and closed the next February once the Ohio EPA officially cleared the site. Woosnam said most of the supplies and machines went to the Simonds plant in Columbia, South America. However, what they did leave behind was a large mess and much to clean up.
A Simonds office is maintained in Gnadenhutten with one employee traveling from Tuscarawas County to Columbia every couple of weeks.
Woosnam said there are 41 total buildings -- 19-23 of which will be torn down after the auction. He said the overall state of the facility was one of uncleanliness and in need of repair. But, he said that is his plan ... to make the building(s) or have someone lease the building for businesses to develop in that location. Woosnam, along with his other business partners, believe that they could rent the space for businesses to use and have cheaper rent than that of the industrial park. Either the partners will upgrade and remodel a building or section of the building or the company coming in could.
The auction next week, which is under the direction of auctioneer Jason L. Miller of Dave Kaufman Realty Inc., will be Wednesday, April 15 at 11 a.m.
However, the plant will be open for inspection on Monday, April 13 and Tuesday, April 14 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.
For a complete list of items being sold, visit their Web site, www.kaufmanrealty.com.
Woosnam expects a large crowd to be in attendance at the auction. He predicts that those interested in the scrap metal will be on-hand as well as those that once worked at the factory will be present as a way to re-live and say good-bye to Simonds.
"When finished, we want it to be a source of pride to the area residents," Woosnam said.
(Information on the history of Heller Bros. and Simonds International was obtained at www.simondsinternational.com.)