Think you’ve seen everything and been everywhere in Columbus?
Think again! Columbus Landmarks invites you to experience the historic Seagrave Building at 2050 South High Street on Thursday, July 19 as we celebrate the rebirth of this landmark in the revitalizing South Side neighborhood. This year’s Buildings Reborn is your ticket to an exclusive, first-look tour of the authentic industrial space juxtaposed with transformative interiors reimagined by new, up and coming creative tenants (see roster below). The event will showcase how a forgotten place gets a second life – see it now before everyone else is talking about it later!
Seagrave: What’s In a Name?
The Seagrave name is synonymous with safety and security — the Seagrave Corporation remains the largest manufacturer of fire-fighting equipment in the country. It builds a complete fire engine, including the motor. Seagrave began operations in Detroit in the late 1800’s where it originally made ladders for apple-picking. Those same ladders began to sell to fire companies and more and more items were added to the stock. Seagrave moved to Columbus in 1898 because our city was deemed a better location for marketing the finished product — it was also home to the company owner.
Calling the South Side Home
After a brief stint on West Lane Avenue at the C&O tracks, Seagrave moved to its South Side home — then just outside the city limits but also with railroad access. This move, typical of many made at that time, was made to avoid the city’s tax and zoning structure. Land was plentiful in 1900 and a building and necessary capital were also obtainable. The company remained there until 1963 when it was purchased and moved all operations to Wisconsin, where it remains today. A small portion of the building was reused for another industry until recently.
Then and Now
The Seagrave Corporation was typical of the independent, specialized plant that was common to the older Columbus industrial community. It represented local inventiveness, initiative and capital successfully at work. Now, more than 100 years later, that same spirit that drove the Seagrave company then is giving the McAllister Family it’s pioneering edge now. The McAllisters family-owned business, Fortner Upholstering, Inc., is located at the 210,000 square foot Seagrave site. Fortner designs, builds and re-imagines custom furniture for individual clients and well-known corporations like L Brands, Nationwide and Brew Dog. The collection of businesses that make up the entire Fortner portfolio are the anchor tenants. Justin McAllister, President, expects to grow his 89-year old Columbus-based company’s earnings by 50% within the walls of the Seagrave site due in part to on-site advantages of increased space (allowing for agile workflow), ideal logistical scenarios and available workforce. The best part? Fortner has returned to its roots on the South Side!
The McAllisters purchased the entire site for $1.1M in (June ‘17). They plan to invest $1.2 back into the site by 2019.
More Than Just a Building: It’s Vital to the Whole Neighborhood
As the leading catalyst of revitalization on our city’s important South Side, Seagrave’s redevelopment gives neighboring businesses and residents reason to celebrate, too. The ripple effect Fortner is creating in the redevelopment of the South Side is undeniable. The McAllister Family has purchased the adjacent building to the south which houses Topper Supply Company for future redevelopment. To the north, across the South High overpass, lie Dan’s Drive-In and Lois Mann’s Restaurant, South Side favorites that draw food adventurers seeking authenticity.. To the Northeast, the Reeb Avenue Center has already established itself as invaluable community resource.
In addition to the Fortner headquarters and its three brand companies (Fortner Upholstering, Fortner Commercial Services & Fortner Fine Living), the Seagrave site boasts a roster of over a dozen other creative, entrepreneurial tenants. Combined, they make up a workforce of over 29 individuals — including 3 women business owners. Businesses that now call Seagrave home are: Upright Press, MMJ Events/Aiden & Grace, Posy Florals, Ghost River Furniture, Actors’ Theatre, Society Robotic, Columbus Navigator, Social Club, Menges Design, Dotson-Cooke Furniture, Flimsee, Beakerloo Furniture and Roof Tool and Die.