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Wisconsin National Register of Historic Places

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View of production facility

Historic view of factory complex

Modern view of factory complex

Kissel Motor Car Industrial District
STH 83, Hartford, Washington County
Dates of construction: 1905-1920

The Kissel Motor Car Factory consists of 15 interconnected buildings, constructed between 1905 and 1920. These utilitarian wooden structures are faced with brick and stone. Most of the buildings are three stories high with multiple windows, designed to maximize light and ventilation.

The first buildings in this district were constructed for the production of the Kissel Gasoline Engine. In 1906 the decision was made to begin producing automobiles and an additional building, measuring 112 feet by 160 feet, was constructed. This building had a saw-toothed roof line, allowing for natural lighting through a series of windows at the roof. Almost yearly through 1920, new buildings were constructed and existing buildings were expanded to accommodate the growing business. In early 1920s, the company employed over 1200 people. Largely as a result of the success of the Kissel business, the city┐s population nearly tripled between 1900 and 1920 and the city grew from small agricultural support community to a large manufacturing center. The two most famous automobiles produced at the plant were the 1919 Goldbug Speedster and the 1927 White Eagle.

After production peaked in 1920, the company began a slow decline and within 10 years was a victim of the Great Depression. Automobile manufacturing at the plant ceased in 1931; however, the buildings remained in use in the manufacture of marine products. The complex continues to be used as a production facility.

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