Coil Factory History Unfolded by Local Librarian


Civil war veteran, Gus Wasmuth, built the central portion of the building in 1900. It initially housed a farm implement store and showroom for Overland automobiles. The building was the northern anchor of Wasmuth Enterprises, which extend all the way to the corner of Main and Second Streets. The complex also included a bank, hardware store, grain elevator, and lumberyard.

From 1936 to 1967, the building was enlarged and utilized as a factory for manufacturing components that require the winding of coils. Thus, it was nicknamed “The Coil Factory”. Some of the products included transformers, ignition coils, magnetic coils, etc. The parts were either machine or hand-wound depending on the nature and extent of the job. All of the parts were designed by the company to meet the customer’s specifications.

During World War II, the government considered the factory such a critical asset for war production that they fenced in the entire facility, closing off East Third Street in the process. It is rumored that the building was actually on Hitler’s hit list. As you can see, additions were then made to the building and East Third Street was never re-opened. The Coil Factory was the largest employer in town averaging 200 employees and at its peak employed over 400 people. A majority of the employees were women and high school students.

Following the closure of the Coil Factory in 1967, two other manufacturers, Hunckler Products and Nelson Manufacturing utilized the building until 2001 when it was purchased by American Specialty also known as Arete Development Company which is owned by Pete, Alice, and Tim Eshelman. Inside in the Roanoke Public Library, you can see an aerial photo of what the building looked like in 1949 and a newspaper picture of it in 1963. Besides now housing the Roanoke Public Library, there is Crestwood’s Frame Shop and Gallery, Reusser Design, Clear Elevation, Lawyer Luke Thompson, 3RiverDev-Donation Spring (technology engineer), a fitness area, conference center, kitchenette, billiards area, and possibly others upstairs that I don’t know about.

Celia Bandelier