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The company was founded by Charles C. Showers in 1868 and was a driving influence on Bloomington history continuously until 1955 when it was sold to Storkline.

District History

When the Near West Side National Register nomination was written, the role of the Showers Brothers' Furniture Factory in the development of the west side became apparent.

The presence of this business catalyzed not only the construction of residential neighborhoods, but also influenced the demographics of the west side area and its landmarks. African Americans were some of the first families to live in the area.

The four buildings proposed for designation are part of the story of ethnic migration to the west side that also includes construction of the Bethel AME Church, Second Baptist Church, and Banneker School.

This group of buildings is more significant in that, as a collection, they illustrate a highly influential industry that is linked with the development of several other historic districts in town; including North Washington, where the Showers brothers, William and James, developed residences for their family and friends; the Near West side, where associated worker housing was developed; and Prospect Hill, where William and James Showers subdivided land for residential development.

National trends brought the Showers Company to prominence. At the turn of the century there was a national upsurge in interest for household furnishings. The need was catalyzed by urban migration, population increases, and a cultural shift toward homeownership. As markets became national, catalogue sales were popular. The selection of furniture was managed by several prominent mail order companies located in the Midwest. Indiana was listed as one of the top ten states for manufacturing until 1920, when the state employed 10% of the nation's furniture workers. Often the Showers brand was simply identified as "Hoosier" furniture. Other trends in the company's favor were increasing efficiency in production and distribution, cheaper finish work through veneers, and the availability of local timber. Sanford Teter is widely credited with developing laminate veneer, which made furniture finishing less expensive.

The company also pioneered many social welfare programs for its employees, including a bank, homeownership savings programs, a grocery, and sports teams. It was one of a few industries in Bloomington that hired African Americans, although they generally stayed in low paying positions. Many who had rented on the east side of town, benefitted enough to purchase their own homes in the West Side.

One of the more entertaining local stories is the migration of the "U.S. Center of Population Stone" - which has done a wide circuit of Monroe County through the years. In 1911 city fathers placed the "U.S. Center of Population Stone" at the seventeenth window opening of Plant #1. Less well known was its initial location on a farm northeast of town. The original data located the center of population at a spot in a timbered, "rattlesnake infested" ravine about half a mile away from any railroad access. Since the remote site had little commercial potential, a rechecking of the data ensued. Two scientists came up with exactly the same computation which placed it, more fortunately this time, in front of the limestone office of Showers at 320 West 8th Street. When improvements were made to Plant #1 in 1923, it was moved again. In 1960, the stone was removed by Fred Seward and placed on the courthouse lawn where it remains today.