In 1856 the company began as a business merger between William Carr, from New York state, and W.M. Austin, an experienced woodworker. The principal investors in the company were William Wyatt Carr and John Taylor ADAMS. 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. (1) Ready access to rafts of timber on the MISSISSIPPI RIVER profited the company which was one of the region's first consumers of pine. Also important to the business’ survival was its proximity to the lumberyards and the ILLINOIS CENTRAL RAILROAD. Early catalogs 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. (2)
The core building was designed by architects Keenan and Hyde and was built between 1881 and 1882 at a cost of $35,000. By the end of 1882, the company facilities were considered one of the most extensive planing mills and sash and door factories in the west, and the company’s market area was rapidly expanding. Newspapers reported large shipments as far distant as Texas and Mexico. By the end of 1894 the company was one of the largest millwork firms in this country, devoted to the manufacture of sash, doors, and blinds. With 300 employees, the company had its own water and electric plants.
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 using the letters of its immediate predecessor. (3) At one time, the company had a network of branch plants and subsidiaries across the country and employed nearly one thousand people. Most of these operations had been sold by 1962. (4)
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.
Gronen Properties gave the former factory building new life. 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 2014 offered 72 residential units on the second and third floors. The 35,000 square feet of commercial and retail space on the main level included Dubuque’s first food co-op and 20,000 square-feet of space dedicated to foster the arts and non-profit activities. Work on the renovation led to 450 construction-related jobs to complete the 186,000 square-foot, $28.3 million rehabilitation project. The rehabilitation included exposing and gently cleaning original masonry. Beams, columns, and woodwork were restored and historic openings were reintroduced. New wooded windows were added to match the original. Modern residential amenities include a community room, courtyard space, outdoor decks and fitness rooms. The rehabilitation project followed universal design and LEED standards.
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.
1. "Farley and Loetscher to Close," Telegraph Herald, January 12, 1962, p. 2
"11th Annual Ken Kringle Historic Preservation Awards Announced," Dubuque, IA-Official Website. Online: http://www.cityofdubuque.org/List.aspx?MID=2704
Jacobson, Ben. "Windows of Opportunity," Telegraph Herald, July 14, 2013, p. 1a and 8a