ASHLAND -- Nancy Wasen's curiosity has helped preserve the legacy of the former F.E. Myers Pump Company -- and offered a sense of closure for some whose family members once worked there.
Since Page Excavating began its demolition of the multi-story building, which was most recently used by the Pump House Ministries, the Ashland woman has collected and distributed more than a dozen bricks to people with personal ties for the iconic factory.
“I stopped by when I saw the road closed. I thought maybe there was an accident,” Wasen said. “Turns out, I was in the right place at the right time.”
She struck up a conversation with a representative of Page Excavating, who offered a tour and encouraged her to take pictures. She said the representative then invited her to come back when demolition began. They exchanged phone numbers.
When Wasen later shared the photos on social media, the post brought a multitude of comments. One person, she recalled, asked about the building’s bricks.
“Someone asked if they could get a brick, and I wasn’t sure, so I reached out to the girl from Page Excavating,” Wasen said.
Sure enough, Wasen was given permission to take some bricks. She shared the news in a Facebook group called You Know You’re From Ashland If, and then made three visits to the site, collecting more than 60 bricks in total.
“People would reach out to me and say 'I’d like two or three,' and so I’ve been wrapping them in newspaper to give to them,” Wasen said.
One woman, Jane Kilplinger, asked for three bricks -- one for herself and one for each of her two children. She said they were to remember her late husband, Terry, who made frequent visits to the building for his job in the 1960s.
The manufacturer operated out of the facility -- currently being demolished -- for nearly 100 years. In its prime, F.E. Myers Pump Company employed 850 people, local historian William Duff boasted in his 1915 centennial history of the city.
At that time, the Myers pump and hay tools plant was not only Ashland’s oldest and largest industry, but also the largest of its kind in the world, Duff wrote.
The pump company relocated in 1984. The building briefly served as the location of a children’s book publisher, Landoll's Inc. before the property -- valued at $2.1 million -- was donated to the Pump House Ministries in the early 2000s.
Since then, the former pump factory and the other properties included in the Pump House Ministries became eyesores.
In spring 2019, Ashland City Council authorized $436,000 for its cleanup, which includes all former Pump House structures north of Fourth Street from Orange Street to Union Street, but not the former restaurant and office building.
Currently, the intent is to make the site into an “urban meadow.”
The demolition of the former F.E. Myers Pump Company building began in August. Since then, Wasen has been visiting the site almost every day to take photos.
“I live in the neighborhood. I’ve lived here my whole life,” she said. “I have no family that worked there, but I’m always drawn to those abandoned buildings. I just felt this connection to times gone by."
“And it’s sad to see the building go down," she said.
By giving out bricks from the location, she hopes the friends and family of former factory employees and even a few of the employees themselves will have some closure. It’s a small gesture, but it's one she believes has had a significant impact.
Some people have even offered to pay her. She’s declined and instead asked that if they would like to do anything in return, they avoid littering or pick up trash to keep Ashland beautiful.
“It’s just a brick, but it means a lot to them,” Wasen said. “I think it’s important for people to have a little piece of F.E. Myers.”
If someone is looking to contact Wasen, they are encouraged to look for her posts in the You Know You’re From Ashland If Facebook Group.