END OF THE LINE
Struthers Wells, a business that for more than a century was synonymous with Warren County, will close its doors in Warren and relocate the few remaining jobs here to Louisville, Ky., next Friday, April 12.
At its height Struthers, which was in business in Warren for 162 years, employed more than 1,000 people in Warren County and nearly 5,000 between shops in Titusville and Warren.
It currently has 16 people working in rented offices on Clark Street.
“We were offered employment in Kentucky,” said TEI Struthers Wells Chief Engineer Merl Rice. “I only believe one person voluntarily went there.”
Company officials within Babcock Power, which owns TEI Struthers Wells, would not return repeated calls from the Times Observer seeking information or comment.
However, job postings for five positions within TEI Struthers Wells in Louisville, K.Y. are available on the Babcock Power website and at least one other source has confirmed the company’s decision to leave Warren County.
In its heyday, Struthers Wells manufactured stainless steel and alloy metals for marine nuclear components and high-pressure vessels, heat exchangers and secondary oil-recovery systems.
Struthers Wells and its subsidiaries had built an international reputation for designing thermal fluid systems, a hydrocracking heat exchange process and heat recovery equipment.
Highlights of Struthers Wells’ history include:
1851 W.F. Kingsbury establishes the Warren Foundry and machine shop on the banks of the Allegheny River relying on water power, iron brought up river on flat boats and coal hauled from Dunkirk, N.Y., via Lake Erie. Business prospers with products such as plows, plow points, sleigh shoes and cast iron parts for flour and saw mills.
1854 Warren Foundry is renamed Kingbury & Brown.
W.F. Kingsbury retires and the company was taken over by Henry Brown and renamed Brown Brothers. Steam engines and saw mill machinery are added to the product lines.
1859 The Drake well in Titusville becomes first successful oil well in the world. Brown Brothers expands products with boilers, oil storage tanks, shell stills and gas engines.
1867 Thomas Struthers, Henry Brown and L.W. Arnett form the firm Brown, Arnett & Co., and the plant became known as The Allegheny Iron Works. Brick buildings are built and staff increased to over 200.
1868 Boilers, oil tanks and oil stills are added to the product lines, the genesis of the widely known Struthers Wells pressure vessels.
1875 Thomas Struthers, James C. Wells and Alex McKelvey purchase the company to form Struthers Wells. Product line is expanded again to include tubular, flue and locomotive boilers.
1882 Thomas Struther proposes to build a library, a public rental spaces and a public hall at his own expense that would see an opera house, a post office and a library built in his name.
1898 Struthers Wells produces the first Penstock on the American side of Niagara Falls. According to Wikipedia, a penstock is “a sluice or gate or intake structure that controls water flow, or an enclosed pipe that delivers water to hydraulic turbines and sewerage systems. It is a term that has been inherited from the technology of wooden watermills.”
1902 Struthers Wells in incorporated as Struthers Wells Company. Shortly after begins to manufacture of wood alcohol distillation equipment and becomes among the first to employ oxy-acetylene welding in 1907. Electric method welding is used shortly after.
1928 Titusville Iron Works Co., Titusville Forge Co., and Struthers Wells Co., merge to become Struthers Wells – Titusville Corporation. The three plant complex – one in Warren and two in Titusville continues for over 30 years.
1942 Name changed to Struthers Wells Corporation. During World War II Struthers Wells participates in defense programming fabricating hundreds of heat exchangers and condensers for Liberty Gun Ships and gun mounts.
1940-1965 Struthers Wells achieves worldwide recognition as a designer and fabricator of process and energy related equipment including the first forced circulation thermal fluid vaporizer; the first furnace used for thermal cracking of ethylene dichloride; designed and built the first Once Through Steam Generator for enhanced oil recovery; developed a convective-only titanium tetrachloride preheater, boiler and superheater utilizing metal tubes instead of quartz tubes.
1986 Company restructured and subsidiaries named Struthers Wells Industries. At the time of restructuring the company had a backlog of contracts for marine nuclear components and becomes the focus of the companies capacity. Struthers Wells is inactive for several years in soliciting industrial products for fabrication in the Warren site. Reductions in the national defense budget are followed by decreased defense contracts.
1993 The Warren plant is closed and Chapter 11 bankruptcy is filed.
1994 Machinery is auctioned off and shop buildings are sold. The intellectual property, assets and ongoing business of Struthers Wells are sold to Struthers Wells Industries Inc., of Gulfport. Miss., a former subsidiary of Struthers Wells.
2005 The intellectual property of Struthers Wells and Struthers Industries, Inc., are purchased by Thermal Engineering International Inc., of Santa Fe Springs, Calif., and renamed TEI Struthers Wells with offices in Warren and Houston, Texas.
April 2013 Struthers Wells office in Warren is closed after 162 years of service.