Eps 9 Burns Bros. Carriages and more


CLICK THIS LINK to go to Carriages Back in the Day, Harford County’s Rural Heritage – (c) 2016, Jack Shagena, Jr. and Henry Peden, Jr. Much of the info we share regarding Burns Bros. Co. Carriages is from their research as well as from Historic HavredeGrace website. 

In 1890 Walter Ellsworth Burns, age 25, acquired the former Empire Carriage Shops in Havre de Grace, located at the corner of Water and Erie streets near the Canal Basin (presently the corner across from Havre de Grace Marine Center).

The Burns Bros. Co. (as they were later known) was a profitable enterprise through 1918.

Empire Shop purchased by W.E. Burns at Water and Erie Streets, Havre de Grace 1890
Empire Shops, Carriage Repair Works by W. E. Burns 1890
Sanborn Map 1885 Burns Bros. at Erie and Water Sts Havre de Grace MD
Sanborn map 1885

PRESENT DAY – Water Street location

Present day - Erie and Water Streets, Havre de Grace, MD
Erie and Water Streets, Havre de Grace, MD

They were recognized for the manufacture of the first mail carriage used by the U.S. Post Office and produced them through 1925.

painting a Burns  Bros. mail carriage
painting a Burns Bros. mail carriage
advertisement for postal wagons manufactured by Burns Bros Co. of Havre de Grace
Famous Little Beauty Mail Wagons – Burns Bros. Co.
Burns Bros Co ads for fine carriages
advertisement for Burns Bros fine carriages

1889 Burns Ice Wagon

This can be seen in the exhibits at Steppingstone Museum off Rt 155. Mr. Bodt pointed this out to me when I visited his canning label exhibit!

Burns Bros Co. ice wagon - can be seen at Steppingstone Museum
Burns Bros. ice wagon – on exhibit at Steppingstone Museum
patent tag on Burns Bros Ice Wagon 1889
Tag on Burns Bros. (W.E. Burns) ice wagon – May 21, 1889

In 1895, they opened their newly built factory at the corner of Green and Adams.

New Burns Bros Factory at Green and Adams, Havre de Grace 1896
Burns Bros. Co. – new factory at Green and Adams – 1896

Above reprinted in the Havre de Grace Republican,
March 2, 1895

They continued to use the Water Street location for carriage repairs.

Business seemed to be doing well, so the brothers decided to modernize their manufacturing operations in late 1898 by putting “in steam power to run the various departments of their plant.”17 An addition to the rear of their building, 38 by 48 feet and four stories high, was contracted to S. W. Touchton, and upon completion their facility would be brought up to date and increased in size to 118 by 38 feet. 

from Havre de Grace Republican, Dec. 17, 1898

In 1902 there was a big fire that destroyed the carriage factory. It also destroyed the Reynolds Bros. Can storage (over 2,000,000 tin cans) that sat on Adams Street behind the factory.

The Susquehanna Hose Co. had formed that same year. As George shares in the video (from a discussion with and information furnished by Gary Burns), it was “An expensive fire for that day… Due to lack of an adequate water supply and hoses that were too short, their efforts were in vain. A bucket brigade was formed to help put the fire out after they found out that the supply was inadequate. Their efforts did save other buildings (including the Hecht’s Hotel across the street.) “

1902 Burns Bros. Co. factory fire Havre de Grace MD
Disastrous fire at Burns Bros. Co. carriage factory at Green and Adams Sts, Havre de Grace MD

1906 This Burns Hose Reel Carriage was built in 1906 for the Susquehanna Hose Company and is now the property of The Community Fire Company of Perryville, Maryland. The authors (of Carriages Back in the Day) wish to thank John A. Jones, president of the company, for his assistance in photographing the cart in 2015  

Burns Bros. Hose Reel Carriage 1906
Burns Hose Reel Carriage – 1906 – at Community Fire Company in Perryville, MD

1908 Limousine – from Carriages Back in the Day.

Burns Bros. "Limousine" advertisement 1908
advertisement for Burns Bros. “Limousines” – physician’s automobile

1918 The Aegis and Intelligencer of July 26, 1918 had this to say,

Burns Brothers of Havre de Grace are converting their fine brick building erected a few year ago and formerly used as a carriage factory into thirty department [sic] houses which are apparently destined to become a very successful enterprise / Shrewdly recognizing that this is not the day for the carriage manufacturer, however successful he may have been in former years, these gentlemen are trying in their small way to help meet the pressing demand recently created by the influx of Proving Ground employees.

The apartment building caught fire the night of December 25, 1966 forcing the occupants to safely flee the structure. The five-alarm conflagration completely destroyed the wooden interior leaving only the outer brick shell that was later torn down. 

The fire was arson. The building was torn down completely in the 1980s.

Present Day – Green Street

Home of Burns Bros in the early 1900s - Green Street Havre de Grace, MD
Home of Burns Bros in the early 1900s – Green Street Havre de Grace, MD


The Burns. Bros. Baseball Club, 1906 

Newspaper clipping of Burns Bros. Baseball Club 1906
Back row, left to right: Fred Hoover, 2b; Charles B. Burns, 3b; James Gibson, 1b; Mackinson, rf; William E. Penning, cf.
Front row, left to right: Simpers, ss, Thomas Drennen, lf; W. L. “Midget” Hand, p; and Lawrence Nichols, c. 

1907  Concrete Blocks & Apartments 

Mr. Isaac Burns developed a machine for making large concrete blocks that have the appearance of cut granite stones, which are suitable for building attractive dwellings. They are 24 inches wide, 9 inches high and hollow so as keep the weight from becoming unwieldy. Walter E. Burns plans to use the blocks to erect a row of ten houses on Green Street west of the carriage factory. The houses will be two stories high with Mansard roofs and have cellars underneath. “The corner residence will have a twelve-foot round bay window extending to the square with steeple, and when finished will present an artistic and pleasing appearance and add greatly to that section of the city.

From the Havre de Grace Republican, of August 3, 1907

An example of their apartments, this one is on Congress Avenue.

Burns Bros. Congress Avenue Row Apts
Burns Bros. Congress Avenue Row Apts – still there today


Letterhead of Burns Brothers – building would be located on Green and Adams Street, Havre de Grace, MD


Burns Bros. Carriages Lease Agreement
Burns Bros. Carriages Lease Agreement

Although the Burns Bros. Co. was extremely successful with carriages. They were not as successful with automobiles. Moving on to building apartment buildings turned out to be very successful. And a large number of their properties are still in use today.

Stay tuned for our upcoming post on Havre de Grace Post Offices.

Stop in and chat with our ‘casual historian.’ George is always ready to share a story or two, but also is waiting to hear what you might have to share.

Remember, don’t throw the Havre de Grace ‘stuff’ out when you’re cleaning out a home, settling an estate, or just ‘downsizing,’ without checking in with George. Don’t give him cause to cry!!!

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