TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (WTWO/WAWV) Most likely you’ve eaten a turkey or two baked in a roasting pan that was made on the north side of Terre Haute.

For more than 100 years, a factory stood on Beech Street. It pumped out special enameled coated cookware used all across the country.

Recently, the company closed and the building came down, but memories and some of their famous products remain. Columbian Home Products, also known as General Housewares, was once a big employer and considered “the” place to work in Terre Haute.

Among the thousands of employees, who made these products with the special hand dipped and then baked on enamel coating, was Larry Wilson.

“The company was like a big family,” said Larry Wilson. “If you knew anybody in Terre Haute, they probably knew somebody that worked at General Housewares.”

For nearly 30 years, he made sure items got shipped.

“Walmart became their biggest customer,” remembered Wilson. But long before there were Walmarts, the company sent canners and roasters to mom and pop stores across the country.

Back on January 2, 1902, the company opened its 15 acre facility on what historical accounts say had been a country club golf course. According to the Curator of the Vigo County History Center, Suzy Quik, the factory could only run from sun up to sun down.

“The only lighting they had was sunlight that was coming through the windows,” said Suzy Quick. Quick also said that in 1913 lights were installed at the factory and then shifts ran around the clock.

Among the most popular coatings produced was Hoosier Grey, but it was not nearly as colorful as the man who invented it.

“They had this eccentric chemist worker that developed the formula,” Quick added.

Legend has it, this “eccentric chemist” liked to take lots of time off. He would not tell anyone else the formula for Hoosier Grey as a form of job security.

“Unfortunately, when he passed the formula was lost,” Quick recounted.

Many other colors remained and according to Quick, that helped propel the company. In the early 1900’s, kitchens were turning into more than just a place with a pot belly stove for cooking. They became more fashionable and a spot for the family to hang out. People could now buy pots, pans and more to match the color of their decor.

“It was rustproof, lasted longer, easy to clean, non-stick,” Quick continued. “All of the things that were important in those days.”

Quick said in 1935 the factory was the site of a huge labor strike.

“It affected the entire community and surrounding communities,” Quick said. “People started to sympathize with the strikers and then other companies would strike as well.”

The event was so big, newspaper accounts said the National Guard was brought in to keep the peace and President Roosevelt was kept updated on the situation.

“Eventually martial law was declared in Terre Haute, so that took effect for six months,” stated Quick.

Once the strike was over, workers went back to their jobs. For decades more, they produced items every good kitchen needed, but as times changed, so did the market and competitors for the enameled products.

The company was sold a couple of times and the workforce reduced.

“I actually got downsized,” remembered Larry Wilson. “I was one of many.”

The business closed for good in 2020. Demolition began earlier this year.

“It was sort of sad,” recalled Wilson. “I went by in the middle of the process got me a couple of souvenir bricks.”

You can often tell if you have a Columbian Home Product or General Houseware item, by the distinct white specs that are baked into the enamel coating.