The factory was built between 1883 and 1919 by the Lycoming Rubber Company, a subsidiary of the U.S. Rubber Company—one of the largest manufacturers of rubber goods in the U.S. The Lycoming division made tennis shoes, KEDS sneakers, gym and yachting shoes, as well as some miscellaneous rubber-related products.
After 1932, the Rubber Company moved out due to a drastic decline in product demand and, until 1979, various companies utilized the space including pajama, underwear, and shoe manufacturers. The Weldon Pajama Company leased space in the building beginning in 1934 and purchased the entire complex in 1951. It became the largest pajama factory in the world. In fact, the factory was scouted and used as a model for the 1950s Broadway musical (and later the movie), “The Pajama Game,” starring Doris Day.
In December of 2011, one of our tenants, Valerie Beggs, invited a group of the “Weldon Girls” for a reunion lunch. After lunch, they toured some of the studios, met a few Pajama Factory tenants, and even rode the elevator up to the 4th floor where they had all once spent their days making pajamas. The Weldon Girls continue to hold reunions at the Pajama Factory to this day.
KEY DATES IN THE BUILDING’S HISTORY
- The Present
Construction started in 1883 and ended in 1919
- Built by Lycoming Rubber Company, a subsidiary of the U.S. Rubber Company, one of the largest manufacturers of all kinds of rubber goods in the United States.
- The Lycoming division made tennis shoes, KEDS sneakers, gym and yachting shoes as well as some miscellaneous “rubber-related products”.
Factory closed in 1910 during a downturn in the economy.
World War I
The factory reopened and expanded in response to the end of World War I and an upturn in the economy. It turned out more than 12,000 pairs of rubber footwear a day.
With the advent of The Great Depression, local manufacturing moved to U.S. Rubber’s plant in Naugutuck, Connecticut
Weldon Pajama Company began leasing a small amount of space in the complex.
The Pajama Factory
On January 26th, Weldon Pajama Company (owned by the Harwood Company), purchased the complex for $350,000, and spent $100,000 in renovations.
Weldon’s was the largest pajama factory in the world. (They also made sports shorts.)
- The Lucille Footwear Company was also housed in the complex during this time.
- The factory experienced international fame in connection with the Broadway musical (and later the movie), The Pajama Game, starring Doris Day. Noted Broadway producer, George Abbott, sent representatives to get a feel for the factory to help guide the creation of the musical, and set designers took pictures for backdrops and borrowed items from the factory to use as props in the film.
Weldon’s continued to operate a factory outlet store for a number of years.
Cobbler’s Shoes Manufacturers opened the store, Cobblers Ladies Shoe Outlet—a tenant until October 2011.
1985 – 2008
The complex was purchased by Ray Smith and renamed “Raytown”. Over the years it housed restaurants, a nightclub, and a country line dancing venue—amongst other things.
Current tenant, Equinox Ltd—a manufacturer of outdoor gear, apparel, and equipment for backpacking, hiking and camping—started leasing space.
An Arts Community
After 1979 the buildings sat mostly vacant, until 2008 when Mark and Suzanne Winkelman purchased the complex with the idea of establishing a vibrant and diverse creative community. They renamed the complex “Pajama Factory” to acknowledge the rich history of the buildings.
Today, the Pajama Factory is attracting an eclectic mix of established and emerging artists, businesses, entrepreneurs, craftspeople, community groups and dreamers; drawing from the Williamsport area as well as from other parts of the country and the world at large.