The history of the old shoe factory.

The area known as “Capitol Mile” once stretched from the Missouri State Capitol building and down Capitol Avenue to the International Shoe Factory. Built in the early1900s, the historic building has been a fixture of our community for generations. However, its story starts much earlier than that.

As Jefferson City transformed into a manufacturing town after the Civil War, more businesses flocked to the town because the inmates supplied cheap labor at theMissouri State Penitentiary (MSP). In the late 1870s, the contract labor system allowed private enterprises to utilize low-cost prison labor. This granted factories the ability to operate within the prison walls, which also reduced opportunities for prisoners to escape while simultaneously maximizing profits for manufacturers.

Numerous shoe manufacturers, as well as other companies, operated within the high limestone walls of the prison during this time. By 1900, five shoe factories were located within the walls of the MSP, combining to produce 7,000 pairs each day. The staff included an estimated 1,500 male inmates and 30 female inmates making 50 and 30 cents, respectively for their efforts. This typeof low-cost labor manufacturing system (as well as the close proximity to the Missouri River) allowed Jefferson City to become the second largest footwear producer west of the Allegheny Mountains. Contracting prison labor within the walls of MSP slowly discontinued in the early 1900s, which led to multiple factories being built around Jefferson City.

One such factory, the Giesecke-D’Oench-Hays Shoe Company, stood at 1101 E. Capitol Avenue and was built in 1905. Later, the building housed the International Shoe Company and several other shoe manufacturing businesses. The International Shoe Company employed hundreds of Jefferson City residents, many of whom lived in the surrounding neighbor-hood. When the factory closed, Joe DeLong of DeLongProperties purchased the building for his small metal fabrication, which stayed in the building until 2009. Few alterations were needed to accommodate the new use. They added the small building south of the original factory to house rubber gaskets early on, and it is likely the current storm windows were added by themas well. After the metal fabrications business closed, the DeLongs rented the property to a vending machine company for a short time and later used it for long-term storage.

Holly Stitt and her husband, Nathan, took interest as soon as it went on the market at the end of 2017. While developing a plan for the space, it went under contract with an out-of-state developer. When that proposal fell apart, the Stitts didn’t hesitate to purchase it in fall of2019. Upon the purchase, the couple already owned several historic buildings around Capitol Avenue when some received severe damage during the 2019 tornado.Despite the damage her properties sustained, Holly continued to believe in the revitalization of Capitol Avenue and still continues to invest heavily in the area. Since purchasing the shoe factory building, Holly and Nathan have worked steadily to revive it with hopes to once again make it an important part of the community.

“I strongly believe historic buildings should be saved.The value they add to a community, especially a historic community, cannot be recreated. Once a historic build-ing is gone, a piece of the city’s history is gone as well.Capitol Avenue is an important part of our city’s history which is why we are working so hard to save it,” she said.

The building is over 80,000 square feet. With five floors and original factory elevator, it’s the largest build-ing the Stitts own. Repairing and replacing the factory’s300 windows has been a challenge as they continue to stabilize the building structurally. The Stitts are also working to get the building placed on the National Register of Historic Places. Once rehabbed, it will serve as the perfect bookend to the historic Capitol Mile.

The International Shoe Factory built by the Giesecke-D’Oench-Hays Shoe Company circa 1905.