Saturday, March 5, 2011

Bygone Business: Nowels Lumber

Nowels Lumber Yard was located at 412 Water Street, just south of the Rochester Elevator. Owner and operator Russell W. Nowels first came to Rochester in 1920, just after he had been released from the army at the end of World War I. He was an investor with a group of business men who were operating several lumber yards, and the investor group hired Nowels to manage their Rochester yard. He was successful in building up the business and was able to buy it in 1932, when he changed the name to Nowels Lumber & Coal. The Nowels family business grew and eventually included three lumber yards in the area.

Russ Nowels told a Clarion interviewer in the mid-1950s that the Federal Housing Act of 1936 had transformed his industry by popularizing the "do-it-yourself" movement among homeowners. Nowels tried to stay out front of this development with a training program that equipped his employees to instruct homeowners in selection and use of building materials and tools, and he credited this program with the success of his lumber business in the post-WWII era.

The Nowels lumber yard closed in October 1966, and Houghton Power Center took over the building at 412 Water St. Russell W. Nowels died in 1976.

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