Kelly Axe and Tool Company
Located in what is now known as Patrick Street Plaza, the former Kelly Axe and Tool Company opened in 1904. This factory was one of the first large industries to locate in the Kanawha Valley, and employed thousands of Charleston area residents during its lifetime. Although the company would officially change its name to True Temper, and eventually move to an out of state location, it is still remembered fondly by area residents as Kelly Axe.
Backstory and Context
In 1930 The American Fork & Hoe Company purchased Kelly Axe & Tool Co. The company remained in Charleston and continued to produce quality tools under the title of the Kelly Axe & Tool Works. In 1948 the company became True Temper, yet remained in the same location. The company once again traded hands in 1960 when Ludlum Corp, purchased the facility. Products were still manufactured under the True Temper and Kelly Axe name brand.3 By the 1960s production began to decline. The factory was able to stay open until May 28, 1982 when it finally closed its doors for good.4
At the height of production the plant employed over 1.000 people, covered 41 of the 53 acres of land at the foot of Patrick Street Bridge the with approximately 50 buildings, and ran production 24 hours a day resulting in 40,000 finished tools daily. Among those employed were a substantial population of Polish and Russian immigrants.
Today, no remains of the Kelly Axe and Tool Company exist at Patrick Street Plaza, nor is there a marker to recognize the plant’s existence. Businesses such as McDonald’s, K-Mart, Big Lots, and car dealerships are currently located on the old property of the Kelly Axe and Tool Company.