The Larkin Soap Company was a family-owned business started by John D. Larkin in 1875. Larkin initially offered only one product, a yellow laundry bar named “Sweet Home Soap”. The business grew so quickly that in 1877 he purchased two lots on Seneca Street and set up a number of factories that were soon producing nine different types of soap. Products were originally sold door to door throughout surrounding neighborhoods, and later grew into a predominantly mail-order system.
“World’s Largest Manufactory of Soaps, Perfumes, Toilet Preparations and Pure Food Specialties. The entire Product goes direct from Factory to Family without tribute to Middlemen.”
Because the company grew so rapidly, there became an eventual need to expand on the existing Seneca Street factories. John D. Larkin hired Frank Lloyd Wright to design The Larkin Administration Building, which was built in 1906. The Larkin Administration Building accommodated the 1800 corresponding secretaries, clerks and executives. The layout of the building was designed to be clean and comfortable in order to attract “first-rate employees,” who were predominantly women. Innovative amenities that were available to employees’ onsite included a clinic, doctor’s office, public library, gym, savings banks, and an air conditioning system.
With all of these innovations and additions to the property, it is no wonder that by 1910, The Larkin Soap Company was receiving nearly ten thousand mail-order requests per day.
The unfailing growth of The Larkin Company resulted in an even further expansion of the complex. In 1911, a terminal warehouse building was constructed, linking the factory complex through a series of sky bridges and railroad tracks. The Larkin Company complex in its entirety is shown below.
While The Larkin Company continued to prosper for the next two decades, the Great Depression hit them hard. They immediately fell into a decline and were never able to recover. By 1945 the Administration Building was foreclosed upon by the city of Buffalo. It was eventually sold to the Western Trading Corporation in 1949, who demolished the building in 1950.
What became of The Larkin Company’s complex? Find out now!