Site of the Mason Shoe Factory

Photographed September 27, 2014
Erected by Chippewa County Historical Society
Chippewa Falls, Chippewa County, Wisconsin
44° 56.327′ N, 91° 23.51′ W

Chippewa Falls was born with the logging era and with it came support industries such as shoe factories. One of the most important tools for the loggers was strong boots. In 1869, Colliche Vinette was the first shoemaker to come to town. The area soon began to draw many boot makers and by 1893 at least 25 were located in Chippewa Falls.

By 1902 as the vast stands of white timber were becoming depleted, several local businessmen including J.B. Kehl became concerned about the business climate of the area. They formed a group called "The Progressive League" to encourage businesses to move to Chippewa Falls. They quickly arranged for the purchase of half the stock of the Harshman Shoe Company of Ohio and immediately broke ground on this site for the construction of a modern 3-story shoe factory. August Mason was one of the investors.

This site originally held the 1870's Hiram S. Allen grist mill. The mill was torn down and its foundation rock used to build the foundation of the new shoe factory. A dam with a long spillway was built just below the Columbia Street Bridge to provide mechanical power to run a line shaft. The line shaft was a system of pulleys and belts used to power the individual boot and shoe sewing machines. The new Harshman Shoe Company opened in December of 1902. From 1904 to 1912 the C. Gotzian Shoe Company of St. Paul leased the building.

In 1904, the Mason Shoe Manufacturing Company was started when Bert Mason with the financial help of his father August Mason and August Kuhrasach, purchased another local shoe business called the Independent Handmade Shoe Company. Ten years later Mason Shoe purchased the Harshman factory building and moved to this site.

Mason Shoe has grown and prospered over the years. In 1968 the company moved into a new shoe factory complex in the northeast industrial park of Chippewa Falls and currently operates out of several buildings within the city. The old shoe factory was torn down in 1978. A portion of the first floor wall remains in place to help retain the bank along Duncan Creek. The Mason Picnic Area was dedicated here by the company and the Earlyrisers Kiwanis Club in 1995. The regional bike trail was added in 2003.
The marker is located at The Mason Picnic Area on nortbound Rushman Drive / Wisconsin Highway 124, at its intersection with eastbound East Columbia Street, near 301 Rushman Street, Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin 54729.

NOTE: There is no parking at the marker location. There is plenty of parking across Rushman Drive on westbound East Columbia Street.

Mason Companies, Inc.

Mason Companies, Inc.: Our Company: History

This marker is No. 16 in a series of historical markers erected by the Chippewa County Historical Society.

View of the marker from where I parked on westbound East Columbia Street.

The marker is easy to find; there's just no nearby parking.

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