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January 31, 2012 > History: Ames-Victory-Schuckl-Am Chem

History: Ames-Victory-Schuckl-Am Chem

Manufacturing in Niles

Ames Manufacturing Company was incorporated in San Jose and built a plant in Niles in 1908. The Township Register reported in 1910 that they were "one of the leading industries of Niles." They manufactured hydraulic pumps and machinery for irrigating and any service where deep-water pumps were needed. Ames pumps were sent all over the United States and around the world. They employed from 25 to 30 men at the Niles plant; some of them had been in the company's employ for 18 years. The company was credited with helping to make Niles an industrial point.

Victory Motor Company was also incorporated in San Jose and by 1916, had installed a number of pumping plants in the Santa the Clara Valley. They purchased the Ames Niles property in 1916 and invited residents to their new factory. Demand for the company's engines increased and the next year, they added marine work which forced them to hire more men including a night shift. The headlines read, "Victory Co. Has War Order Rush." The only drawbacks to the enterprise were the scarcity of materials and skilled workmen.

The 1920 Sanborn map detailed the machine shop, foundry and other buildings. A 1923 Chamber of Commerce booklet noted that Victory was one of the largest industries in Niles; two main buildings, 60 feet x 200 feet, covered over four acres. The foundry was "one of the finest equipped on the Pacific Coast," capable of casting 10 tons of iron, aluminum, brass or steel per day. The average number of men employed during the past year was 140, but the plant was now operating at 50% of capacity with promises of additional orders.

Niles residents were offered an opportunity to buy stock in the Victory Manufacturing Company in 1922. Many people took advantage of the opportunity, helping to make the organization "a Niles concern."

The company sponsored a baseball team that entered the league as the "dark-horse" Eastlake Club. They became the Niles Victory Motors and proved to be one of the best clubs in the California Division.

Victory Motor Company closed their foundry in 1927 and the next year, fire destroyed the empty building originally built by Ames.

Schuckl and Company bought property from Ellsworth Packing Company in 1918 and opened their first Niles plant. Both Victory Motor Company and Schuckl Cannery were featured in a 1923 booklet issued by the Niles Chamber of Commerce.

Canned goods put up by Schuckl in 1923 were distributed around the world. Local fruits and vegetables were processed with the latest equipment, and thousands of cases of fruits, jams and salads were shipped. The cannery provided summer employment to several hundred people. In 1928, the cannery employed up to 500 women with a payroll of $135,000. Although canned goods were distributed around the world, the Chamber of Commerce was pleased that the money made by workers stayed in Niles.

The 1947 Sesquicentennial special edition published by the Washington News carried a photo of the Schuckl & Co., Inc. Canning Plant NO.1. The building was described as "a wonderful fire-proof structure" that gave "much employment." Cherry processing began the second week in May for a few weeks followed by a large quantity of peaches. Writers of the second edition of the History of Washington Township noted only that the Ames pump works and its successor, Victory Motors, were among the industries that had come and gone.

A Fremont tour guide book developed by the Celebrate Fremont Heritage Team in 2006 notes that the cannery processed cherries and introduced peach canning. It also gives credit to architect William Wurster for planning the plant remodeling in 1945. Henkel Corporation owned the Schuckl Cannery building at this time.

American Chemical Point Paint Company is listed for this site in the fifties and Amchem Products, Inc. in the sixties. Amchem manufactured chemicals including a component of the defoliant Agent Orange.

Henkel Corporation, a German firm that made home care and adhesive products and maintained locations in more than 75 countries around the world, purchased the buildings. According to reports, a water tank and pumphouse were built on the site in 1976 and another warehouse the next year. The City of Fremont determined in 2002 that they did not meet California earthquake safety standards and the company, reportedly, vacated the property. In 2008, Fremont Fire Department crews fought a blaze at the site for nearly two hours; the former office building was gutted.

It was decided that the remains were a public danger and too expensive to remediate and construction crews tore down the abandoned buildings in 2009. After the building remains were removed, crews spent several weeks decontaminating the soil to make the site available for future development.

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