Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

McCray Manufacturing Fire Reveals History

If you're in northeast Indiana, you probably heard of the fire at the old McCray factory in Kendallville, which took half a day to control and came closer than most people realize to taking out part of the city's historic downtown. The fire burned so hot that it was actually visible on local weather radars, and eighteen fire departments were called in to fight it. (For you big city folk, that would be about five alarms.) Over the course of the night, they extinguished two other roof fires and patrolled downwind as sparks and flying brands dropped over the whole city.

I guess what I'm saying is, it was a big fire. Here's the Noble County Sheriff Department drone video from the day after:

And here's a report on the fire from the Fort Wayne TV station, WPTA21 (That's the same station that interviewed me twice after book releases):

And here's the Kendallville News-Sun article on it:

The building was huge--much bigger than you could tell from driving down Main street--and mostly out of use for some years. That's too bad, too, because it was once a large part of the Kendallville economy, and manufactured refrigerators that went out across the world. Donations from the McCray family led to, among many other things, the local Lakeside Hospital being named after them, until it eventually became Parkview Noble Hospital. So, the company was obviously successful and influential for many years. All because of ... meat.

I got to thinking about it after the fire, and remembered the building was represented in our book Images of America: Albion and Noble County. Just for fun, instead of finding the photo I actually took a picture of the book page itself:

You can buy this book at, or on Amazon at, because: always be selling.

As you can see from the caption, the McCrays were simply selling their meat and poultry products, and got so successful at it that they were having trouble keeping their products fresh. So ... why not just invent a refrigerator of their own? They did that, getting a patent in 1882, and in 1890 founded the McCray Refrigeration Co. The result was over 300,000 square feet of manufacturing space.

McCray was for decades the biggest manufacturer of commercial refrigerators, anywhere, and its jobs supported a third of Kendallville's population. Founder Elmer McCray's daughter married an heir to the Coca-Cola fortune, and when Elmer McCray died in 1938 his body had a police escort, with thousands attending his funeral.

All gone, now. Although ... not quite. To this day, you can still buy a Howard-McCray commercial refrigerator.

Tags: fire, fire department, firefighting, fires, history, images of america: albion and noble coun, kendallville, mccray, noble county, non-fiction, writing

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