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FBG Project U-079
• Source: Yost
Factory for Heywood Brothers & Wakefield Co
- Gardner, MA
- Contract: Jun 1907
Construction: Oct 1907 into 1908
- Architects: Lee & Hewitt (NYC)
- Probably demolished, date unknown
This was in many ways just another late factory project, very much FBG's bread-and-butter work, but is of special interest in that it was the first job in which Frank Gilbreth attempted to put Frederick Taylor's ideas to work. While the attempt to implement piecework rates for the bricklayers was firmly rejected, a failure, it is the first full step Gilbreth took from construction to efficiency and management consulting.
The project is described as two buildings, a 4-story plus basement factory of 60×425-440 feet, and a 4-story plus basement office building of 60×60 feet, all of brick and iron construction. From a photo of the office located by a local archive, it was located on Center Street. No factory structures remain on this street and none of the nearby standing buildings resemble this configuration, so it can be assumed they were demolished.
Heywood & Wakefield was one of the largest makers of furniture in its day, originally making rattan and rush-seated furniture and expanding into nearly every other wooden good including toy baby carriages and tricycles. Their later wooden furniture is avidly appreciated and collected.
The Taylor Experiment at Gardner
Despite considerable attention to this project and the attempted implementation of a part of the Taylor System to the job, details are frustratingly sketchy. It seems that Frank Gilbreth's goal was to prove (as much to himself as Taylor and everyone else) that Taylor's system could be adapted from factory and warehouse work to the construction field.
His approach, with Taylor associates Sanford Thompson and Horace K. Hathaway supervising, was to implement a piecework pay rate for the bricklayers. By adopting his proven methods and taking pay based on productivity rather than a simply hourly rate (of about 60 cents), the bricklayers involved almost certainly would have made more money. However, the unions and workers strenuously rejected the already-disliked “stopwatch system” and the attempt failed.
It is also notable that this may have been the first time Lillian Gilbreth was actively involved in Frank's work; it is reported that she, while in late pregnancy, helped devise and write up the motion-saving methods the bricklayers were to use.
Frank Gilbreth would try again, successfully, with the Atwood-McManus plant in Chelsea, not quite a year later. He would then have union troubles, and what he referred to as his first strike, on the paper mill project in Québec when he tried to implement similar pay alternatives.
- Extensively documented.
- Yost pp.158-160. Yost talks about events at this and the later Chelsea job as being just weeks apart; they were separated by several month to almost a year.
- Probably demolished. The Heywood & Wakefield plant in Gardner was described as “the largest furniture factory in the world” at its peak, and a huge block of buildings still stands, adapted into residential and other uses. A photo and identification of location on Center Street cannot be matched to any existing buidings.
- Google aerial view — the Heywood-Wakefield complex today.
- Real Estate Review & Building Guide, 8 Jun 1907:
- Wooden Willow Ware Trade Review, 13 Jun 1907:
- Electric Traction Weekly, 20 Jun 1907:
- Building Age, July 1907:
- Boston Globe, 14 Oct 1907:
- The office building, probably shortly after construction. The larger building attached and/or in the background is likely the warehouse built by FBG as well. (Photo courtesy of the Levi Heywood Memorial Library, Gardner MA):
- https://www.google.com/books/edition/Special_Bulletin/oCg0AQAAMAAJ — 1921 NY Dept of Labor report on seating posture with content from both Frank Gilbreth and Heywood & Wakefield, along with other significant companies.