The Bigelow-Cooper Company is a former hardwood flooring manufacturer at 700 Marquette Avenue in Bay City, Michigan.
D. M. Kneeland and Charles A. Bigelow formed the Kneeland-Bigelow Company, a small mill with limited timber holdings, in 1901. 3 It was located along the Saginaw River at 19th and Water streets in Bay City.
Kneeland-Bigelow, “impelled by confidence in the future of Michigan hardwoods,” 4 acquired the saw mill and timberlands of the Wylie-Buel Company in 1905 and reorganized the company as the Kneeland, Lunden & Bigelow Company. 3 The company was again reorganized in 1915 as the Bigelow-Cooper Company by Bigelow, Kneeland and James Cooper with $150,000 in capital stock to manufacture lumber and wood products. 2 It acquired 60 acres at the former F. W. Wheeler & Company shipyard on Marquette Avenue 1 for its new factory, which included a flooring plant, planing mill and power plant. 2 The new location included 16 dry kilns with a capacity of 700,000 feet and a 700-foot dock along the Saginaw. 3
Prior to the lumber company locating along Marquette Avenue, the site was home to a ship yard begun by Frank W. Wheeler in 1875. 5 In 1879, Wheeler partnered with Albert A. Crane to form Wheeler & Crane, constructing and repairing ships. After Crane departed the partnership, the business went under the name of F. W. Wheeler & Company, incorporating in 1889. 6 The business was sold to the American Ship Building Company in 1900, at which point it was renamed West Bay City Shipbuilding and then American Shipbuilding West Bay City. It closed in 1908 but the site was soon taken over by the Defoe Boat and Motor Works until 1915.
Bigelow-Cooper was reorganized as the Kneeland-Bigelow Company in 1923, 4 eventually growing to own six mills in Michigan and Wisconsin. 1
Gradually, the hardwood flooring and lumber industry waned as virgin timber stands dwindled in the state. 4 By World War II, the Kneeland-Bigelow factory in Bay City was abandoned. The property was sold to Richard H. Fletcher, Jr. for Fletcher Oil’s fuel distribution operations in 1948. 1 Fletcher had started Fletcher Oil in 1924.
Most of the Bigelow-Cooper complex was vacated in 1990. 1 In February 1998, the property was cited for deterioration of its roof and other violations. The company was ordered by the city to repair the issues but subsequent inspections found that no work had been completed.
After partially collapsing in 2010, Fletcher Oil was ordered to repair the building or have it demolished. 1 The company refuted the efforts until January 2017 when a public hearing was held which resulted in the City Commission ordering Fletcher Oil to demolish the collapsing building within 60 days. Work to tear down the complex began in early February.