This undated photo from The Gazette’s archives shows the Parker Pen building on the corner of Parker Place and Court Street.
The bricks and multipaned windows were covered up in a 1989 remodeling project, but the building’s bones are still there. Today, it is known as One Parker Place.
In a February 1919 story in The Janesville Gazette, Parker Pen founder and CEO George S. Parker said a new building was necessary to meet the needs of his growing company. That June, he awarded the contract to a Milwaukee company with the understanding that the building would be completed by Dec. 1.
He was overly optimistic. The project soon ran into labor disputes between workers and local unions over what wage scale should be used.
After two months of bickering, a settlement was reached that “would give masons and bricklayers $1.25 an hour, carpenters $1, and other crafts proportionate advances of practically the same scale as the Janesville unions are demanding from the members of the Builders Exchange.
"The pen company job, however, is wholly outside the jurisdiction of the Exchange, and it is expected to have little effect on the controversy between the local factions,” The Janesville Gazette reported in April 1920.
At the same time, a series of railroad labor issues prevented workers from getting the materials they needed.
When the building was finished late in 1920, it was considered the “last word in modern construction.”
“There is a large restroom for the women, which will be furnished entirely in wicker. There is a smoking and lounging room for the men, an innovation in the industrial world,” The Janesville Gazette reported in December 1920.
In addition, hot-air hand dryers in the restrooms were enough of an innovation to merit a mention near the top of the story—even before the description of the locked room where diamonds were sharpened. The stones were used to “turn out parts for the famous ‘Lucky Curve’ fountain pens. Previously, when the diamonds became dull, they were sent to New York.”