Lee L. Woodard and Sons
by Helen Harrelson, City Historian
Lee L. Woodard and Sons, subsidiary of Wickes Corporation, is firmly rooted in the history of Owosso. The story of the company goes directly back to the heart of the city--the location of our City Hall.
In 1856 Erastus, Wellington, and Philetus White, three brothers from Massachusetts, started a planing mill on the site of the present City Hall.
Ten years later the White brothers sold their mill to William, Henry, and Warren Woodard who came to Owosso from Steuben County, New York. The Woodard brothers were soon joined by their brother Lyman E. Woodard who had actually planned just an overnight visit in Owosso on his way to Grand Rapids. Eventually, Lyman's brothers dropped out and Lyman carried on the business, at first making mostly bedroom furniture.
In 1882 Lyman Wooodard started, on a small scale, making caskets. In 1885 he built a large plant (The Owosso Casket Factory) on South Elm Street. And the same year he erected a two-story addition to the planing mill so that he could greatly expand the line of furniture he had been building.
Lyman's business thrived. His lumberyard stretched from Shiawassee Street to Michigan Avenue, from Main Street to Clinton.
In 1898 the planing mill and furniture factory on Main Street by the river were destroyed. Woodard then built in 1902 at Cass and Elm Streets, adjoining the Owosso Casket Company. The furniture company was badly damaged in the cyclone of 1911, but was reconstructed. For many years the whistles of these busy plants joined with those of Owosso's other factories to mark the time of day for Owosso citizens.
Lyman died in 1904 and his sons Fred, Frank, and Lee carried on. Owosso was unusually hard hit by the Depression, and there was a reorganization of the company.
It was Lyman's son Lee who started making handcrafted metal furniture in the 1930's, but it was Lee's three sons Joe, Russell, and Lyman who were responsible for making their lines nationally and then internationally known.
Once again the Woodard name is famous--not for caskets this time, but for the lively patterns (Chantilly Rose, the Orleans Collection, etc.) of their wrought iron of superior quality for both outdoor and indoor use. Each item of their line is made with the same old-fashioned skill and workmanship that made the Woodard name well known so many years ago. There are two plants in North Carolina, but most of the special handwork is still done here. Owosso is proud to be represented by the products of its oldest industry at the White House and many other outstanding buildings such as museums and embassies throughout the United States of America and even overseas.
copyright 1979 Helen Harrelson. Used by permission.
Lee L. Woodard and Sons, Inc. was sold to the Wickes Corporation in 1969. In 1984 they announced the sale of the Woodard line to Crown Home Furnishings, Inc. The name Crown Leisure was never able to replace Woodard, so in 1996 their parent company, CC Industries, announced that they would be officially known as Woodard Furniture.
In 1995 Woodard Furniture moved from their S. Elm Street location to a new factory located on South Delaney Road in Owosso Township. More information on the present company can be found on their website.
Braun, Lilian Jackson. "A Little Bit of Owosso Everywhere." Detroit Free Press: November 22, 1972, p. 1B.
Brown, Bill & Gail Brown. "129 Years and Growing at Woodard of Owosso." Supplement to The Argus-Press: December 17, 1995, p. 3.
"City Now Owns Former Woodard Plant Property." The Argus-Press: July 9, 1997, p. 1..
"Former Woodard Plant to be Turned Over to Textile Company." The Sunday Argus-Press: November 30, 1997, p. 1.
Grnak, Robert J. "City of Owosso Focuses on Retail, Industrial Concerns." The Argus-Press: December 31, 1994, p. E-1.
"New Plant for Woodard in Owosso Next Year." The Argus-Press: December 31, 1994, p. E-2.
"Owosso by Timely Liberality, Secures an Important Manufacturing Establishment." The Owosso Weekly Press: February 1, 1882, p. 1.
"Woodard Move Complete." The Argus-Press: December 9, 1995.