Thursday, May 7, 2015
Resident Asks City To Recognize Keating Wheel Company As Builder Of Factory
The building is owned by the city, which uses it to lease spaces to small businesses, including Stubborn Beauty Brewing. The Remington Rand Corporation was the last major user of the building before the city's acquisition. During Remington Rand's ownership of the building, historic events of national importance took place, including the year-long strike in the middle of the Great Depression.
However, the building was significant long before Remington took ownership. It was built in 1896/97 for a company that was the marvel of its era, the Keating Wheel Company. The company manufactured the premier bicycles of its time, and went on to make motorcycles and electric cars. Keating Wheel Company took its name from its founder, Robert M. Keating, a remarkable tinkerer and holder of many patents. Keating moved his company from Holyoke to our city (see excerpt from Wheel Man).
City resident Gary Keating, no relation to Robert M. Keating, came to the EDC to ask for some kind of formal recognition that the building was built by the Keating Wheel Company. Gary Keating's brother, Robert K. Keating, has written a detailed biography of Robert M. Keating.
Gary Keating recounted the history of the Keating factory in our city. Now bordered by the dump, Keating explained that the factory was placed on a site where there was a horse track. Keating wanted "something real special", and built one of the first factories to be powered solely by electricity. It was entirely self-powered, with its own generators (the building again gets its own electricity, through solar panels).
Gary Keating said that he understood that residents might always refer to the building as the "Remington Rand" building, but he hoped that the city could find a way to honor Robert M. Keating, "We would like Middletown to recognize its history."
The chair of the EDC, Gerry Daley, was very receptive to Keating's suggestion. He suggested that Tom Marano, the Economic Development Specialist in the city, consult with other staff and with the director of the Middlesex Historical Society, Deborah Shapiro, about the best way to honor the Keating Wheel Company's Middletown factory.
Note: Beth Emery called for recognition of the Keating Wheel Company over 5 years ago in an Eye opinion piece.