In 1856 the company began as a business merger between William Carr, from New York state, and W.M. Austin, an experienced woodworker. The Carr and Austin Company quickly grew from a two-man operation on South Main between Jones and Railroad Avenue into a thriving enterprise employing twenty-five skilled carriage and cabinet makers. Ready access to rafts of timber on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER profited the company which was one of the region's first consumers of pine. Early catalogues advertised dozens of products including doors, brackets, blinds, window and door frames, flooring and specialty work.
The company suffered disastrous FIRES in 1871 and 1879. Eight years after the last fire, a new partnership was formed and a firm known as Carr, Ryder and Wheeler Company was founded. The company moved into new headquarters at Jackson Street between Ninth and Tenth STREETS.
By 1895 the company's quality craftsmanship was on display as far from Iowa as the courthouse in Fort Worth, Texas. As wood supplied along the Mississippi dwindled, the position of the company on the Illinois Central Railroad maintained its access to raw material and new consumers. Over the years, the company was known by many different names. It was successively known as Carr Ryder and Engler Company (1890); Carr, Ryder and Adams (1897); and CARR, ADAMS AND COLLIER COMPANY(1938). The name Caradco was adopted in 1958 from the letters of its immediate predecessor.
In July 1960, the FARLEY AND LOETSCHER MANUFACTURING COMPANY announced that it would sell its plastic sheet manufacturing facilities to Durel, Inc., a subsidiary of Caradco. The facilities included the buildings bordered by Eighth, White and Ninth streets. Durel also rented ten thousand square feet of floor space in an adjacent building.
By 1966 Caradco covered one million feet of floor space, twenty times the size of the original Carr and Austin plant. While the company name had changed over the years, the ownership remained principally within the families of John Taylor ADAMS, who joined the firm in 1881, and James Currie COLLIER who entered the business in 1895.
In 1968 Caradco was purchased by Scovill Manufacturing Company. Scovill announced in 1976 that the window-manufacturing production would be moved from Dubuque to Rantoul, Illinois, due to the obsolete condition of the Dubuque plant. In 1997 Caradco became part of JELD-WEN.
In 2010 the Iowa Department of Economic Development announced that it had awarded $5.9 million to help fund the construction of 72 residential units at the Caradco Building, 900 Jackson St. Plans called for 44 two-bedroom and 28 one-bedroom apartments with commercial space occupying the ground floor. Construction was to begin in the spring of 2011 with a completion date of two years. Rents were expected to range from $650 to $850 per month. Total cost of the project was estimated to be $28.3 million.
In March, 2012 it was announced that fifty-seven people were on the inquiry list to potentially rent one of the one-and-two bedroom apartments on the second and third floors that would be available on August 1, 2012. The one-bedroom units were to rent for $650 per month plus utilities. The two-bedroom units were priced at $850 to $950 per month. Many of the units were priced to meet what federal guidelines considered workforce housing, targeting those making about $36,000 per year locally. A local foods co-op was committed to first-floor commercial space and plans were being made for an attorney's office and a variety of nonprofit and other retail/commercial tenants.
In 2013 the Caradco Building had been transformed into the Schmid Innovation Center, a mixed-use, anchor property for the MILLWORK DISTRICT REVITALIZATION. The building, the first project of the revitalization program, included "high-end work-force and market-rate apartments, commercial and retail space and space for the arts. Among the first tenants were Eagle Point Solar, Pilates Fundamentals, and Zazou's Bridal Boutique. The 72-apartment complex called the Caradco Lofts occupied the upper two levels of the building. Large support beams throughout the building, original brick walls, and salvaged doors, signs, and millwork equipment were placed as decorative pieces.
Jacobson, Ben. "Windows of Opportunity," Telegraph Herald, July 14, 2013, p. 1a and 8a