E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company - Table of Contents

History - E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company
"The Cooperage"
59 Chicago Street, Old First Ward, Buffalo NY 14204



Known additions:

Ca. 1910-12; 1913


Ca. 1850s-1900s - Unknown
Ca. 1910-12 additions - Colson-Hudson Architects
1913 addition - Lansing, Bley and Lyman

Edward and Britain Holmes

Photos: Vintage Machinery (online April 2015)
National Register Nomination, Section 8, Page 7

Sons of the Reverend Benjamin and Susannah Holmes from Stratford-on-Avon, England, Edward was born in July of 1818 in England prior to his family’s emigration. Britain was born on March 13, 1823 in Madrid, NY (St. Lawrence County).

The family moved between Massachusetts, Vermont and other areas in New England before relocating to Lancaster, NY near Buffalo in 1840. In this year, the two brothers established what would become a life-long business partnership, founding a lumber yard and planing mill.

The brothers relocated their business in 1852, moving to Buffalo where they shared a residence at 65 South Division. The brothers seem to have had a close relationship, and in spite of their company’s increasing success the brothers shared a residence for several decades.

Even upon the marriage of Edward and Clara Keeney and the subsequent births of their children Edward Britain and Susan Bishop Holmes and Britain’s marriage to Eleanor Child Harrison, both Holmes families resided at 71 East Swan Street.

Both brothers were active in the Central Presbyterian Church in Buffalo, with Edward serving as a deacon and Britain serving as a trustee and president of the Board. Both men were prominent local figures during the nineteenth century, and Britain Holmes also served as a member of the board of the park commissioners and was a member of the Merchants’ Exchange for many years.

Both Holmes brothers were known to be successful businessmen and were noted for their intelligence and inventive natures. It is no great surprise, given the close personal and professional lives of Edward and Britain Holmes that Britain died in 1905, followed by Edward in 1906.

Son of Edward and Clara Holmes, Edward Britain Holmes was born in Buffalo on February 3, 1872.

He attended local public schools before attending Cornell University, and upon graduation he joined his family’s business, working at E. & B. Holmes Company. After the deaths of his father and uncle, Edward B. Holmes became the company’s president.

On February 1, 1911, he married Maud Gordon of Rochester.

Like his father and uncle, Edward B. was also a prominent local citizen. He was a member of the Buffalo Club, the Pytonga Fish and Game organization and the Wanakah Country Club. During World War I he also led a division in Liberty Loan drives. He also worked to manage similar drives at the University of Buffalo. Besides serving as head of the E. & B. Holmes Company, Edward B. also served as director of Claude-Neon Displays, Inc., Marine Safe Deposit Company and the Simonds-Hite Tool Company of Toledo, Ohio. In 1927, Edward B. Holmes was elected a director of Pratt & Lambert, Inc.

Edward and Maud Holmes resided in the Lakeview area of Hamburg, south of Buffalo for many years, moving into the city each winter.

Edward B. Holmes died at age 62 after a brief bout of pneumonia at his home at 577 West Ferry Street on April 13, 1934.

See also:  Edward B. Holmes House, 44 Lincoln Pkwy

In a time when men dominated the majority of leadership roles in manufacturing and industrial businesses, Maud Holmes proved to be a successful president of the E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company.

Born and educated in Rochester, NY, Maud Gordon came to Buffalo in 1893. She married Edward Britain Holmes in 1911.

Mrs. Holmes likely served in some role in her husband’s manufacturing company, the E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company, since she succeeded him as president of the operation following his death in 1934. Mrs. Holmes apparently did not take her role in the company lightly, as reports noted that “each day she is at her desk in her company’s plant at 59 Chicago Street.” It was under her leadership that the products of the Holmes company shifted away from the diminishing cooperage industry to the more profitable wood-working and industrial machinery arenas.

Mrs. Holmes also had an interest in gardening and was an active member and president of the Derby Garden Club and The Garden Center Institute of Buffalo and won numerous awards for her gardens and her service.

Having no children to pass the family business along to, Mrs. Holmes sold the E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company to long-time employees Fred Henry and Martin Elskamp in 1950. Maud Gordon Holmes died in February of 1964.

See also:  Edward B. Holmes House, 44 Lincoln Pkwy

E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company

National Register Nomination, Section 8, Page 8

Little information about the company is available following the 1895 assignment, but the E. & B. Holmes Company machinery business managed to survive.

Following the deaths of Edward and Britain Holmes, Edward Britain Holmes (son of Edward) continued the E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company, becoming president of the operation in 1906.

Upon the death of Edward B. in 1934, his widow Maud became president of the company. This was likely an unusual occurrence during the 1930s, that a woman should become president of a machinery company; however Mrs. E.B. Holmes was noted to be a shrewd and intelligent woman. As the demand for wood barrels waned following the invention of metal and plastic storage technologies, Maud Holmes transformed the Holmes Company, turning to the manufacturing of a variety of wood working and specialty machinery.

In January 1950, Maud Holmes and her business partner George Talamo sold the Holmes Company to Fred Henry and Martin Elskamp, thus ending nearly 100 years of family ownership in the E. & B. Holmes Machinery Company. Despite this change in ownership, business continued in much the same manner, even following the sale of the Holmes Company in October 1971. Purchased by Andrew S. Krafchak, president and treasurer of company and his wife Elinor who was vice president, it was reputedly the oldest business operating in the same location and under the same name in Buffalo until its downsizing and relocation in 2002.

Today, although the E. & B. Holmes Manufacturing Company is no longer in business, replacement parts for their machinery can still be purchased through the Jentsch Company in Buffalo.

Across Chicago Street from the Holmes Company was the historic Harbor Inn and tavern which housed numerous raucous guests and visitors, catering to the bustling waterfront area.

During the mid to late nineteenth-century, Buffalo’s First Ward was a dicey place where men after a long day toiling in the factories and waterfront shipping industries could meet for a drink and entertainment. During the mid-late-nineteenth- century, Buffalo’s waterfront area was known as a lawless- often dangerous- area of the city filled with bars, brothels, gambling and young women were warned to stay far away in order to protect their virtue. The Harbor Inn was an especially notorious bar in the area. Like numerous nineteenth-century remnants in the Old First Ward the building was torn down in 2003.

Another nearby tavern, McBride’s Tavern, which was located at 115 Chicago Street just up the road from the Holmes Company, was rumored to be the site where the infamous invasion of Canada, Fenian’s Raid, was planned in 1866.3 After suffering from a partial collapse, it too was demolished in 2008.
- National Register Nomination, Section 8, Page 2

Illustrations supplied by Clinton Brown Company Architecture/Rebuild

1872 map


December 2009

Page by Chuck LaChiusa in 2009
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