polo club college station Looking back at ‘The Shoe’
When in 1996 Cummings Properties bought “The Shoe,” the building complex in Beverly that housed the United Shoe Machinery Corp. from 1899 to 1976, they made it over as gleaming, modern office buildings.
But Cummings saved several reminders of the site’s industrial past, including photographs and other memorabilia, to display throughout its several buildings. In addition to housing more than 500 businesses in 2 million square feet, the center today contains vivid links to its own history.
The Shoe was at one point the largest concrete structure in the world, and 5,000 people worked there building machinery that was used to manufacture shoes at factories all over the world. government and broken up, the complex had a series of owners and gradually decayed.
As Cummings Properties celebrates the 15th anniversary of its revitalization of The Shoe property, The Salem News spoke with David Delorey of Beverly, a former employee of The Shoe and informal historian of the site, about how things once were.
When did you work at The Shoe?
I went in in 1959 and worked until about 1987.
What did you do at USMC?
I went in as a third class machine operator out of trade school, so I worked on parts for their equipment as a milling machine operator. I worked my way up through to a research machinist.
There was a large R D (research and development) department; I worked as a machinist in that department. Then I went on a drawing board as a draftsman, making developmental drawings for various machines. They did provide reimbursement for schooling. It was a wonderful place to work.
How much of the steel that they made machines from did they buy, and ship in?
They had a variety of different materials that would come in as rough stock. The other avenue is they would actually cast and mold the frames for their equipment. They had a very large foundry that they could cast iron and other metals.
Did USMC contribute to the war effort in any way?
I believe during World War I and World War II, as far as I know, they manufactured some parts for a 20 millimeter gun.
Where did you go to trade school?
Lynn Trade. But one of the big pluses for USMC was they had their own cooperative trade school right on the property.
Those days are long gone.
Yes, and the pictures to prove it are throughout the Cummings property now. They’re fairly well distributed, and they do show employees in what was the former foundry buildings. There was a fairly large picture taken in front of the USMC clubhouse. It’s a 1927 picture of people who had worked for the company for 25 years. That was called The Quarter Century Club. They were recognized annually for their achievement.
Where can you see other historical items at the Cummings Center?
Cummings has provided a map of the property. It designates where they can view different articles and memorabilia from The Shoe, plus all the pictures they’ve accumulated. The map is available at the central office, and at the security building right off Elliott Street. They do have pieces of memorabilia in nicely displayed cases.
What sorts of memorabilia?
An inventor’s lathe would be one of them. . It was just a lathe that the inventor would have used to create some models. They have a very large master time clock that was used to control all the other employee time clocks throughout the facility.
Have any records or other documents been preserved in an archive?
There are some archives and documents with the Beverly Historical Society.
I understand there’s a historical tour you can take around the Shoe Pond.
That is a shoreline access, and it does have a prepared walkway for people who want to walk around the very scenic United Shoe abutment ponds. There are about 20 plaques that denote various events that had happened over the years.
What did the place look like before Cummings bought it?
It was kind of a rusted and decayed complex. There was a buyout by Black Decker, and the property itself had a property manager, but they were only about 10 percent full. Around 1993, they took the stack down, the large chimney, with a demolition.