“The Old Spec Shop “ - 1839 

Over the last 150 years, the physical facilities of American Optical expanded to meet the demands of the rapidly growing business. In the August “volume” of our history of American Optical, we will take a closer look at the expansion of its facilities from William Beecher’s shop in 1833 to 1983 when the Southbridge facility encompasses 151 acres of land and over 1.3 million square feet of floor space.

It didn’t take William Beecher long to outgrow the second floor “spectacle factory” over his jewelry shop. By late in that decade he couldn’t expand his spectacle making operation there any further so he began the search for a new location. The site of Beecher’s new factory was on lower Main Street, near the corner of Main and Chestnut Streets by Cohasse Brook. It was part of 500 acres granted to Rev. Caleb Rice as the first settled minister in Sturbridge in 1736.

In 1839, Beecher and his staff moved to what was to become known as “The Old Spec Shop.” The original firms of Beecher, Ammidown & Putney, Ammidown & Co., Beecher & Cole, and Robert H. Cole & Co. were located in this building.

“Robert H. Cole & Co. occupied this old spectacle shop when American Optical was formed in 1869. At the same time another firm just across the street was making spectacles...this firm, known as H. C. Ammidown & Co., was composed in 1869 of George W. Wells and Hiram C. Wells and C. S. Edmonds. A merger of this company with Robert H. Cole & Co. in the same year was completed and the manufacturing was consolidated in the Cole building, or the old spectacle shop.” (The Southbridge News, Sept. 5, 1933).

 NEXT WEEK: AO Facilities: Beyond “The Old Spec Shop,” 1869-1904.

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