By Stewart Grant
Since 1888, the Maxwell name has been a prominent part of St. Marys life. Today, Maxwell Street is a key avenue to accessing the PRC, Little Falls Public School, and the hundreds of new homes that have been built in St. Marys in recent decades. In the 1980’s, the Maxwell name was used for a new restaurant building which now houses Subway and Little Caesars. But the most lasting impression of the Maxwell name was that of The Maxwell Company, which operated from 1888 to 1964, bringing scores of new jobs and helping grow the town in the process.
The Maxwell Company arrived in St. Marys in 1888 when founder David Maxwell moved his operations here from Paris, Ontario. The company’s stone factory was located on James Street South (near where the skatepark is located today) and is shown in the photo below, courtesy of the St. Marys Museum. The photograph is taken on the loading dock of the factory, where goods were shipped and received by railway.
Initially, the company was a major producer of farm equipment and lawn mowers, but later switched to household appliances such as washing machines. During World War II, Maxwell’s helped with the Allied war effort by manufacturing 2.5 million grenades and other munitions from a company location at the corner of Tracy & Park Street (the building later known as the Friendship Centre).
Following the war, the company was unable to continue its decades-long success and ultimately closed in 1964, some 76 years after starting up in St. Marys.
The factory building on James Street was torn down in the 1980’s and the Friendship Centre building was demolished in 2014, but the importance of The Maxwell & Son’s Company in St. Marys will always be remembered