Tiger Room: Where’d it come from?
There’s great news that one of Battle Creek’s most historic buildings might find new life. The St. Philip “Tiger Room” is getting a $125,000 grant from the state toward creating the “Tiger Room Accelerator Kitchen Project.” They still need a lot more. Hopefully, it’ll happen.
The idea was put out there five years ago by Father John Fleckenstein, Pastor at St. Philip Catholic Church. The church has owned the building since 1960. But have you ever wondered why it was built, and by whom?
Old timers and history buffs know it was part of one of the biggest and most important pieces of Battle Creek’s industrial history, going back to before the cereal industry. According to Heritage Battle Creek, the Battle Creek Machinery Company, established in 1873, started out making woodworking machines, but saw the need for industrial pumps, and began manufacturing force-feed pumps in 1880.
Battle Creek’s version of Elon Musk, was an innovator named Elon Marsh. By 1889 he had patented the double-acting piston which formed the basis for the future development of the pump industry in Battle Creek. The company grew and was renamed the Battle Creek Steam Pump Company in 1894 and then changed to the American Steam Pump Company five years later. The plant ran between Capital Avenue NE and North Division Street along the Michigan Central Railroad tracks at the Battle Creek River. It was a huge complex that shipped pumps all over the world.
In 1902, they started a new building, as noted in the local paper.
“The new building for the American Steam Pump company at the corner of East Van Buren and North Monroe streets is being worked upon by a large number of men, but it is a large task and will not be done for some time yet. It will be a fine structure.” (Moon Journal on November 15th, 1902).
Two months later, it was completed.
“The recently completed pattern house of the American Steam Pump company at East Van Buren and North Monroe streets is the subject of many commendatory remarks. The building is handsome and substantial and is fire proof, no wood having entered into its construction. The building materials are paving brick, steel, Portland cement and unbreakable glass, through the panes of which finely meshed wires are woven. The building is as nearly fire proof as human ingenuity can make it and the attractive style of architecture makes it one of the handsomest in the city.” (Battle Creek Daily Moon, February 17, 1903)
The company continued to thrive and expand and by 1904 it was the city’s third largest employer, ranking only behind Advance Thresher and the Postum Company. In 1937 the company named was changed to American Marsh Pump Company, in belated recognition of the importance of Elon Marsh’s inventions.
American Marsh continued in existence through 1959. The next year the buildings were purchased by St. Thomas Episcopal Church and St. Philip Catholic Church, which adjoined the plant. All the factory buildings were demolished to make space for church facilities and parking. The lone survivor is The St. Philip Tiger Room. That's 59 years of St. Philip memories alone!
A man named Frank Stallings bought the pump company in 1959 and moved it to Lansing, where he ran it into the ground. It eventually was sold and moved to Tennessee where pumps are still made under the American-Marsh name.