The original H-plan building on this site stretched from the edge of Pleasant Street to Franklin Street.
Only the west section of the original building survived. At least part of this building, the
remaining section of one of several shoe factories built or operated by S.H. Howe in the latter part
of the nineteenth century, incorporates the oldest part of that facility, the 1861-2 factory building
of Frank A. Howe. One of the many shoe-manufacturers who began business in the West Village in the
1850's, F.A. Howe started in 1858 in the house of John Allen on Elm Street. After moving briefly to
another location farther west on Elm, he constructed a large factory here at this location, where he
operated for several years.|
S. Herbert Howe (1835-1911), who eventually became the largest of the shoe-manufacturers in the
West Village, began making shoes in 1855 in his father's cooper shop at the southeast comer of
Pleasant and Elm Streets. Over the years, while operating alone and with various partners, his
company grew to become one of the largest in Marlborough, with facilities at several locations in the
West Village. The largest of the buildings, the "home shop", was located at the northwest corner of
Pleasant and Elm Streets.
In 1878 Mr. Howe purchased this property, with the shoe factory of James Tucker & Co. on it, for the
manufacture of a finer grade of goods than he had formerly produced. He doubled the size of the
building by adding two large wings extending to Pleasant Street and is also said to have moved his
father's old cooper's shop down beside it.
In 1887-88 S.H. Howe took his son, Louis P. Howe, into the management of the business, and
incorporated it as the S.H. Howe Shoe Company. The new company eventually expanded to include
four factories in the West Village. This one was renamed the "Diamond F", and the home factory
became the "Diamond M." In 1889 the S.H. Howe company also acquired the factory of C.L. and
L.T. Frye at the comer of Lincoln and Howland, which became their "Diamond 0", and in 1894
bought out the Coolidge Shoe Company at 55 Howland Street, which was renamed the "Diamond A."
Louis P. Howe carried the company into the twentieth century. Although at the turn of the century
S.H. Howe was still making 2.5 million pairs of shoes per year, it never fully recovered from reverses
experienced from the shoeworkers' strike of 1898-99, and in 1911, (the year of S.H. Howe's death,)
it was acquired by B.A. Corbin & Son.
Corbin was a large concern that by the late 1930's had become America's oldest continually
operating shoe company. It was founded by Benjamin A. Corbin in 1837 in Webster, and grew to
include a factory in Hudson, the Corbin Holmes Plant, as well. During World War I the Corbin
company made more shoes for the armies of the United States and her allies than any other U.S.
manufacturer. It operated here until its demise in 1971.
BIBLIOGRAPHY and/or REFERENCES,
Maps and atlases: Walling, 1871; Beers, 1875; Walker, 1889; Sanborn Maps.
Bigelow, Ella. Historical Reminiscences of the Early Times in Marlborough. 1910.
Marlborough directories .: Hurd, D. Hamilton. History of Middlesex County. 1890.
Conklin. Middlesex County and its People. 1927.
Moineau, Hector. "History of the Shoe Industry in Marlborough." N.D.
Three Hundred Years of Shoe and Leathermaking. Boston: Gilt Publications, 1930.