Tuesday, November 30th, 2021

Seniors deck the halls

Oak mantel at Mackinaw Senior Apartments a nod to Mersman Tables

By Leslie Gartrell

The community room inside Mackinaw Senior Apartments is filled with Christmas de. . .

CELINA - A group of residents at Mackinaw Senior Apartments have been busy turning the community room at the senior independent living community where they live into a Christmas wonderland.
Danica Hales-Contreras, a Mackinaw resident since 2016, said she decorates the halls, community room and any other space she can get her hands on each Christmas. With the help of friends and neighbors Robin Ganger, David Roessner and others, Hales-Contreras said the group was able to get the decorations up in about two weeks.
Perhaps most notable among the displays is the heavy oak mantle above the fireplace in the community room.
The rustic mantel was made from a beam from the former Mersman Tables factory.
The apartments, which opened in 2011, were built on the site of the former factory, said Bob Hellmuth, president of the company that manages the senior facility.
Hellmuth appreciates Celina's history and the furniture factory's connection to it. Before the factory was demolished, the wooden beam and several bricks were kept as a nod to Mersman Tables' history.
"We're always trying to make sure we keep a good remembrance of that site and its importance to the community," Hellmuth said Monday. "Mersman (Tables) was one of the biggest employers for maybe 100 years, so (it was) a very significant building and company."
Hellmuth said many of the residents either knew someone or had a family member who had worked at Mersman's.
"We've had residents talk about their family members who were involved with the company," Hellmuth said. "We were trying to make sure our building identified with the community."
Building manager Karla Kincaid said she's happy to see residents coming together to create such a beautiful Christmas display. Kincaid said the residents are independent and have their own apartments and doorsteps to decorate. Shared spaces such as the community room should feel like an extension of the residents' homes, she said.
"The tenants just outdid themselves this year," she said.
Hales-Contreras decorates, cooks and brings people together, Kincaid said, and she's good at bringing people out of their shells.
J.B. Mersman, a sawmill operator, founded Mersman Tables around 1876 in Ottoville, according to the 1978 Mercer County Ohio History Book, making headboards, footboards and bed slats. Shortly after the turn of the 20th century, Mersman was approached by representatives of the city of Celina and offered incentives to build a plant in Celina.
The Celina plant was built in 1900 and employed 25 people. By 1906, the company had changed its name twice and employed 125 factory workers and 10 traveling salesmen, shipping products to every state and Canada, according to the history book.
During the 1930s, the company expanded its product line to include bedroom suites and radio cabinets. During World War II, Mersman Brothers made wooden desks for the Treasury Department, benches and mess tables for the Navy and plywood for the Lend Lease program. When the war ended, Mersman Brothers Corp. shifted to the production of living room tables.
Congoleum Industries acquired Mersman Brothers Corp. in 1963, according to the book. In 1977, Congoleum sold the company to Somers Corp., a group of private investors. By this time, the company name had changed to the Mersman Tables Co.
By the time the 1978 Mercer County Ohio History Book was published, Mersman Tables manufactured occasional tables and correlated wall units and curios in three separate facilities. The main plant in Celina housed the main offices and factory in a nearly 500,000-square-foot facility, where it employed more than 570 people, according to the book. A smaller facility, also in Celina, handled specialty items and employed about 20 people.
The company also operated a southern plant in Eupora, Mississippi, which covered 200,000 square feet and employed 180 workers. Mersman Tables ceased operations in 1995.
Although the Mersman Table factory no longer stands, Hellmuth said he is proud the senior facility is able to preserve some of the company's history.
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