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5 things to know about historic soap factory fire

Many Daytonians have memories of the smell of soap wafting from the Hewitt Soap Factory at 333 Linden Ave. The factory caught fire Thursday night more than a decade after the company closed.

1. The factory was one of the largest in the world

The factory was the second-largest specialty soap maker. It was founded in 1884 and its products included small bars of soap for hotels. The factory at 333 Linden Ave. was owned by Irish brothers George and Archibald Hewitt, according to Dayton History Books Online.

Second Annual picnic of the Hewitt Brothers Soap Company at Triangle Park, July 27, 1927. The photo is from William 'Bill' Smith of Dayton. His mother worked at Hewitt Soap, at the corner of Linden Ave and Davis. (Handout)

2.  The factory closed in 2004

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Hewitt Soap Co. was purchased by Bradford Soap International from American Safety Razor Co. in 2003 and began layoffs of 171 employees in 2004. The property went up for auction in 2005. In 2008, the Dayton Daily News reported Hewitt Soap was one of 30 Dayton companies whose workers received Trade Adjustment Assistance because workers lost their jobs at least in part because of global competition.

3/8/04 -- 0309hewitt-p --The Hewitt Soap Company, Inc. has been sold to Bradford Soap International of Rhode Island. Office jobs are now being cut back. (JAN UNDERWOOD)

 

3. The Hewitt family gave a $4 million gift to Children’s

In 1991, the widow of the founder of the Hewitt Soap Co., Gladys D. Hewitt, bequeathed the Dayton Children’s Hospital $4 million. At that time, the gift was the largest the hospital had received in its history. Hewitt, of Oakwood, died in 1989. Her husband, James M. Hewitt died in 1963.

4. The company experienced layoffs in the mid-1990s

About 200 workers at the soap factory went on strike in April 1996. The International Union of Electrical Workers Local 686 and American Safety Razor Co. had difficulty coming to agreement on a labor contract.

5. Soap remained in the building when it caught fire

Dayton fire officials tell us “several tons” of soap remained in the building last night. The officials said the soap is located on the second floor, causing some concern about its weight.


 

Share your memories of the Hewitt Soap Co.

Do you have memories of the Hewitt Soap Co.? Email us at will.garbe@coxinc.com.

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