Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Globe Dye Works with the Greenwood Family

A couple of Saturdays ago I had the tickling experience of walking through the exhibition space at the Globe Dye Works with a handful of energetic, proud and knowledgeable men.  

Three of these men were Bill, Craig and Tim Greenwood.  The Greenwood family (Bill is Craig's father, and Tim is his cousin) have owned and operated the Globe Dye Works since it was opened by Richard Greenwood in 1865.  That the Greenwoods managed to run the textile dying operation for 140 years without selling the business or encountering any major familial feuds seems absolutely remarkable, until you meet these men.  The enthusiasm that the Greenwood's have for their family's business flows out of their easy smiles and eager storytelling.  But that enthusiasm is most evident in Bill, who is 89 years old and "going through adolescence."  His stories are filled with pride and humor, particularly in talking about the companies employees.  

George Ditzel (our other tour guide - shown below at left with Bill and Craig) was one of those employees.  He began working for Globe Dye at 18, along with all of his brothers (he says he doesn't know how many he has, and Bill guesses 46) as well as their wives.  George is a "neighborhood boy," as were essentially all Globe Dye employees.  The Greenwoods say they never remember looking for employees - most of the neighborhood families just worked for them.  Or really I should say with them, as it seems evident that at least these two generations of Greenwoods did plenty of work.  Below Craig reminisces how George taught him that you should always walk around carrying a tool so people will assume you are either headed to fix something or have just fixed something.

Craig was the last owner/operator of the Globe Dye Works, along with Billy Greenwood (the family kept only two members in charge of the business at a time).  They closed the facility in 2005, after the market had been slumping for years due to foreign competition.  They waited to close until three 40+ year employees reached retirement.  

There were a few sad years after the business closed and the neighborhood began to head downhill, but the Greenwoods could not be happier about the direction this historic warehouse is headed.  The building is now being slowly renovated and transformed into artist's studios, amongst other things.  Tim told me about one of the organizations now operating at the Globe, the Philadelphia Wooden Boat Factory, an experimental group attempting to engage city kids with maritime related activities.  Hearing Tim's excitement about the exhibition as well really brought home just how perfect this space is for Catagenesis.

top - Bill points to where the giant dye vats would have been, while Tim and Craig look on.
bottom - Left to right, George Ditzel, Bill and Craig Greenwood. 

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