Sunday, May 2, 2004

Stearns & Foster employed many in Lockland



By Steve Kemme
The Cincinnati Enquirer

LOCKLAND - The massive red-brick Stearns & Foster complex has been a crucial part of the village's history for more than 100 years.

At its peak, the company was among the nation's leading manufacturers of mattresses, box springs and insulation and employed as many as 1,200.

"We've had generations of Lockland residents work there from the time they got out of high school until the time they retired," said Mayor Jim Brown, whose father worked there for 20 years.

Brown himself worked at Stearns & Foster for a year after graduating from high school.

Founded in Cincinnati in 1846, the company moved to Lockland in the 1880s because of the canal that ran through the village. In fact, Lockland derived its name from the locks at the canal.

Stearns & Foster kept expanding until their buildings spread over a 15-acre site.

Ten years ago, another company bought the mattress division, leaving only about 200 workers in the facility for the manufacturing of fiber-fill and insulation for cars.

Last year, with only a skeleton crew working at the Lockland plant, Leggett and Platt bought the business and moved it to Mason.

Earlier this year, the Stearns & Foster Lockland complex was sold at auction for $350,000 to a group of investors headed by John Moeller.

Lockland officials have been working to redevelop the site. In 1997, the complex was considered one of four "brownfield" sites in the village.

The village has since secured a $350,000 grant to determine whether there are toxic chemicals in the soil.

If the site requires a cleanup, the village will apply for funding from an Ohio program designed to clean up and redevelop abandoned industrial sites.

Brown said Saturday's fire will not be a serious setback for redevelopment plans because the fire damaged only a portion of the complex.

Although village officials hope some historic parts of the structure will be preserved, it was uncertain even before Saturday's fire whether any of the complex would be saved, he said.

E-mail skemme@enquirer.com




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