“Our carriage makers, E. S. Tripp, and Doland & Thomas, both have a large stock of carriages and wagons ready for the Spring trade. The latter firm, sometime since, enlarged their ware-room by connecting it with their wood shop. They also partitioned off a room in front, making a convenient office” (The Wellington Enterprise, 3-14-1878, pg. 3).
File this under the category of “buildings I have looked at hundreds of times, but never really seen.” I have always found the above illustration from History of Lorain County, Ohio (1879) striking, and often wondered at how large and imposing a structure the Timothy Doland Carriage Factory must have been in nineteenth-century Wellington. When I recently learned where it had been located and went to look at the spot, I was astonished to realize that the building is still standing.
Timothy Doland was born in Ireland in 1834. He emigrated to the United States and by the time he was 21 years old, he was living in Wellington and working in the town’s first substantive manufacturing business, the carriage, wagon and sleigh factory founded ca. 1845 by Edward S. Tripp. Tripp’s business was located on Mechanics Street, now called East Herrick Avenue, and two of its buildings are said to remain there today. According to Robert Walden, “Prior to the Civil War, the Tripp wagon factory was Wellington’s principal industry, employing about forty men” (Robert Walden Notebook, #A70).
Doland learned his craft at the Tripp works for thirteen years and in 1868, he partnered with David Hoke to establish his own business. Their first facilities were wood-frame construction. “Mr. J. W. Wilbur has sold his building formerly occupied by Lang & Wilbur, on North Main St., to Messrs. T. Dolan [sic] and D. Hoke, who intend starting a carriage shop,” The Lorain County News reported on August 6, 1868. Within six months the firm had expanded to include another man, and was known as Doland, Smith & Hoke.
In 1878, Doland erected the impressive brick structure that is today 215 North Main Street. The factory was considered state-of-the-art, and had a steam-powered elevator to “furnish means of communication between the different stories” (The Wellington Enterprise, 10-31-1878, pg. 3).
The plant began by producing farm implements like wagons and buggies. It also maintained a stock of “second hand” vehicles for sale. Gradually, Doland moved into competition with Tripp by adding finer carriages and sleighs to his inventory. Tripp had been very successful in this line, selling even to foreign countries as far away as South America; the Union Army had also been his customer during the Civil War. Doland’s products were respected for their quality and craftsmanship, but were not as ornate as the ones that Tripp’s factory was capable of creating. Walden writes, “When the Civil War had ended and former employees had returned to their job at the Tripp factory, Mr. Tripp turned his attention to the manufacture of very fine carriages, some of them selling for as much as $1,000 each.” Archibald Willard, the local artist whom I mentioned in one of my first posts, famously began his painting career decorating carriages for Tripp. Even so, Doland’s company prospered and at its peak, more than a thousand vehicles rolled out the doors of his shop annually.
The scale of the building is most apparent from its northwest facade and gives a sense of the size of the operation it must have contained. Timothy Doland retired in the fall of 1900 due to ill health and died in January 1901; he and his wife Sarah are buried in Greenwood Cemetery. The building has changed hands several times since his death and was used as automobile display rooms in the 1940s and as Parsons’ Dairy in the 1950s and 60s. The small wooden structure now filling the northern corner of the lot, currently an insurance agency, was erected at the turn of the twentieth century and was for many years the Queen Restaurant.
215 North Main Street is in a sadly dilapidated condition at present. Its gaping window frames and peeling paint give no hint of the bustle of activity it once held. Across Depot Street, old mill buildings and the former train depot have not fared much better. It is hard to remember that this was a hub of the town not long ago. Lots adjacent to the tracks were prime real estate in the nineteenth century; now activity is centered around streets traveled by automobiles. A new railroad underpass is being constructed this year; when it opens, it will be the first time in 165 years that traffic on North Main Street will run without interference from trains. But the new pattern will leave this section of Wellington more isolated, as though time were a tide receding and leaving it behind.