When the sunlight shines on the old brick the right way, the past life of one of the Warehouse Row buildings shines through. The Mills & Lupton Supply Company was once located there, and its painted sign is still visible on its southern wall.
Mills & Lupton Supply dates to 1910, when it was founded by Walter E. Mills and James Schuyler Lupton. Both men had been in the industrial supply business previously.
Through their new venture, they continued to sell the parts that allowed Chattanooga manufacturers to flourish. From a small building on Carter Street, Mills-Lupton built up a customer base in the surrounding area. The radius was defined initially by how far that a horse and wagon could travel to deliver goods.
James Lupton, unfortunately, did not live long enough to see his business grow. In 1912, he passed away suddenly from an acute bout of indigestion at the age of forty-seven. His obituary noted that he was “an indefatigable worker and always considered himself so sound in body that he hesitated at no strain from his energies, burning the candle at both ends in his anxiety to make his business a success.”
Also occurring in 1912 was the relocation of Mills & Lupton to larger quarters in the 1100 block of Market Street.
After the passing of Walter Mills in 1923, Mills & Lupton was acquired by the Consolidated Electric and Gas Company of Chicago. In 1933, John B. Crimmins – the first employee of Mills & Lupton – and several associates purchased the firm, returning it to local ownership.
Under the leadership of Mr. Crimmins, Mills & Lupton increased its product offerings significantly. It added separate divisions that specialized in industrial electrical, heating, plumbing, and roofing supplies. More than 40,000 separate items were stocked in its warehouse.
Mills & Lupton played a key role in the development of the chenille bedspread industry in Dalton, Georgia. The February 29, 1940 Dalton News profiled the company, saying “From a small beginning, it has grown with the industrial development of this section until now Mills-Lupton has come to be recognized as one of the leading concerns of its kind in the South.” Nine traveling representatives were employed to serve the Dalton industrial base.
By the mid-1950’s, the business had outgrown its 1152 Market Street location. A new building was constructed at 749 East Twelfth Street, and was occupied in 1957. The new home of Mills & Lupton included a large warehouse, offices, and showroom.
On the firm’s fiftieth anniversary in 1960, a book called “Growing with Chattanooga” was published. The Local History/Genealogy department of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Bicentennial Library has a copy in its archives, and features photographs of the various departments of Mills & Lupton.
In 1988, Mills & Lupton Supply was purchased by Orlando, Florida-based Hughes Supply, Inc. At the time, Mills & Lupton had sixty employees and branches in Cleveland, Tennessee and Dalton, Georgia.
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