The Old Bag Factory in Goshen, Indiana was originally the Cosmo Buttermilk Soap Company. In June 1896, J.J. Burns from Ohio opened the Cosmo Buttermilk Soap Company in Goshen. The building took up nearly 80,000 square feet of space. They company manufactured bathing and laundry soap and also toilet paper. The factory along with the new electric railway got its energy from the power plant that was located on site. A railroad track ran directly into the plant grounds.Goods were shipped from the plant monthly to New York and other distant places.
The Chase Bag Factory
In 1910, the plant was renovated and purchased by The Chicago-Detroit Bag Company. A 1924 merger put the building under the control of the Chase Bag Factory, and the factory became part of a giant enterprise. The range of bags extended from waterproof burlap sacks to the fine, sheer paper used in Hershey’s Kiss wrappers.
After successful bag production for many years the building became outdated and the Chase Bag Factory closed its doors in 1982.
On a personal note I had several relatives who have long since passed away that worked for the Chase Bag Factory. I have a postcard, which I purchased, from The Old Bag Factory that has a photo of many of the women in their 1920’s garb standing in front of the building. I like to think that Aunt Edith and Aunt Lydia are in that photo.
The Old Bag Factory
1100 N Chicago Ave # 10
Goshen, IN 46528
Larion and Nancy Swartzendruber purchased the abandoned factory in 1984. They worked tirelessly to renovate this old tired and abandoned structure. They turned this old abandoned, vermin and bird inhabited structure into a beauty that invited local artisans to fill its rooms. The floors were sanded and varnished to a beautiful glow.
The railway still runs between the buildings. You can feel the memories of the many years when the workers bustled to work. You can feel the railroad train as it hurries with its wares all over the country.
The building now houses many artists as well as an eating establishment called The Trolley. It has an atmosphere all of it’s own. The food is delicious and they run lunch specials. You can plan parties for receptions and birthdays at The Trolley. They are famous for their homemade pies, muffins and other mouth-watering foods. They have since added an outdoor area for eating. You may prefer the Gourmet in the lower level, which overs a more elegant menu.
There are elevators to the second floor if you have difficulty walking. You can use the beautiful stairway if you want to walk. This structure of wood and brick exudes history. I will list a couple of must-sees if you visit the Old Bag Factory.
The Swartzendruber Furniture Store has handmade furniture made by the Swartzendruber family. It is gorgeous and very pricey because it is top of the line. You cannot find furniture that is better built than here. You can observe the wood workers through an observation deck.
Lehman’s Pottery is owned and operated by Dick Lehman. Through genealogy we have discussed the probability that we are related through the Amish somewhere down the line. Dick Lehman is a very serious and artistic potter. His pottery is sold worldwide and he has other potters that work with him. He is also an award-winning artist. He has won many awards in the Midwest Museum located in Elkhart, Indiana. Dick’s pottery is exquisite as well as much of his pottery is functional.
Gamzee Neer is a delightful, eccentric lady from Turkey. I fell in love with her warmth and personality the first time I met her. She has beautiful Turkish fabrics and novelties. I have purchased much jewelry from her. She has vintage Turkish rings, and jewelry. She is known for her blue eye jewelry. The Turks believe that the blue eye protects one from evil. She is a plethora of information and stories about Turkey and her home. She has invited me to go to Turkey with her. I will have to be a lot braver than I am now to go there. She is one of the warmest, kindest ,most honest people I have ever met. I have visited with her for hours. Her shop is a must see.
The Sycamore Gallery is upstairs. Diane Overmyer owns and operates it. It has expanded on the upper floor and has gorgeous artwork from local artists and others from several surrounding states. Diane herself is a phenomenal artist. She paints mostly in oils and her paintings are breathtaking. She is a plein air painter. Her paintings glow with light. She is also an award-winning artist.
John MIshler’s Sculpure I have to tell you about John Mishler who is a metal sculptor. You can see his work all over the country. He is part of the Old Bag Factory but is in a separate building. He is a commissioned artist and also award-winning.
Quilt Designs is located on the property of the Old Bag Factory. You will find some of the most beautiful, artistic quilts in the country here. Local Mennonite women, hand-stitched and pieced these quilts. They are very expensive but well worth the price. You are not allowed to take photos in this gallery. There are handmade life-sized grandma and grandpa dolls that are watching you. My grandson is creeped out by them. They are works of arts too.
I will include some of these web site addresses for you to see what is available at the Old Bag Factory.
If you are visiting the area you will want to visit the Old Bag Factory. I visit several times a year and I live here. It is one of the most unique gift, art and historic places in Northern Indiana. It is friendly, beautiful and charming.
I have not included all the shops here. You can visit them on the web site of the Old Bag Factory. There are too many to name in one article.
If you cannot visit the Old Bag Factory you can still visit online and buy products from their online web sites. It is well worth a visit.