New life, old charm

Nestled beside modern day businesses like Auto Zone, Captain D’s and East of Chicago, the original Becker Lumber and Manufacturing Company building still stands tall in between Pike and Greene streets as part of the Marietta Mills apartment complex.

The 64-by-112 foot, four-story brick building was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1987 for its architecture and unique place in the industrial history of Marietta.

From a booming lumber company that was established in 1888 to a modern-day apartment building brimming with residents, the building’s preservation can be credited to the concept of some serious repurposing.

Debra Muntz, manager of Marietta Mills apartments, said the building holds 26 one and two-bedroom apartments with some 50-plus residents, and though it may look much different than it did as a factory, it still has much of its exterior history.

“It still has some of the original architecture, as the fourth floors still have the original drop ceilings from the top roof,” she said. “And the bottom floor has some of the original ceiling beams, and the exposed brick on the inside is all original.”

The original plant was located on Front Street when it was established by Marietta resident John K. Becker, and was moved to its current location in 1901.

“Throughout the entire history of the plant, Mr. Becker had been a potent factor, ever aiding in its development, ever willing to devote his talents and time to its advancement,” wrote Seymour J. Hathaway in the History of Marietta and Washington County, Ohio, and Representative Citizens. “He is regarded as one of Marietta’s most useful and progressive citizens.”

City councilman Harley Noland said the last time the building was used for its original purpose was decades ago.

“The last real use was Croy Lumber company,” he said. “It had a slow death, and the company was getting smaller and smaller.”

Known officially as Croy-Marietta Hardwoods, Inc., the company specialized in selling local hardwoods to make furniture.

“It was definitely a valuable resource to the area, but it’s gone now,” Noland said.

Croy-Marietta Hardwoods officially folded in 1994 from declining business, shortly before new investors decided to repurpose the building into apartments.

“It’s outside the historical district, but the owner wanted to invest a bunch a money to turn it into apartments, so he pushed to get it put on (the register) to get the tax credits,” Noland said.

Properties listed on the NRHP receive special tax breaks because of their historical status, with some requirements.

“The windows and outside are also very old, because we’re required to keep the exterior the same as part of the historical aspect,” Muntz said.

In article in The Marietta Times dated March 5, 1935, discussed the forced sale of Becker’s lumber company.

“The Becker firm was one of the oldest Marietta industries that had flourished in this city,” the article said. “It has been idle during the depression years, and the deterioration and depreciation of the equipment, resulting from further enforced idleness, caused the decision to sell it.”

Where there was once heavy equipment is now carpeted hallways and lounges.

“I’m really glad that they were able to turn it into apartments, because Marietta truly needs housing,” Muntz said.

Noland said the transition is another sign of how much the industry in the area has changed.

“It went through several generations, but less and less people are doing fine wood working,” Noland said. “But it’s quite the big piece of property as you’re driving down the road.”