Longaberger is a family tradition that has become synonymous with quality products and quality service. In 1896, when the Longaberger family first moved to Dresden, the small village was very prosperous as a rural transportation and industrial hub in the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains: a hotel on Main Street, 3 railroad stations, a woolen mill and a paper mill made up the core of Dresden. Before that, a side-cut canal connected the community with the historic Ohio and Erie Canal, giving these manufacturers access to the entire world, transforming the village into a bustling canal town.
Today, baskets are more decorative than functional, although they still do what they were designed to do. At the beginning of the 20th Century, baskets were more functional in day-to-day living. The Dresden Basket Factory created these functional baskets used mostly in the pottery industry that had become established in the area. This was where J.W. Longaberger first started working as an apprentice. He learned all the intricacies of basket making. One of the techniques he learned was the precise, tight weave styling that became the trademark of the Longaberger baskets we cherish today.
J.W. married Bonnie Jean Gist in 1927, however, soon after that America entered the Great Depression starting in 1929. Like many mills and factories across the country, the Dresden Basket Factory was forced to close. J.W. was lucky in that he found one of the few jobs still around in a paper mill.
Longaberger Heritage Days at the Longaberger Homestead
The Longaberger Homestead is really a park that features the original Longaberger home, the 1890 Crawford Barn that was moved to the site in the late 1990s, and a mall that all feature the Longaberger brand. Each year the Homestead puts on a show that puts everything on display for visitors to sample as well as the heritage of the area.
Usually held the first weekend after Labor Day is the Longaberger Heritage Days held at the Longaberger Homestead just outside Frazeyburg. Visitors can watch weaver make baskets (even learn to weave yourself for a fee).
Also offered are basket-making tours of the famous Longaberger factory.
Longaberger Headquarters in Newark
Not far from the Longaberger plant and shopping district is the distinctive Longaberger Headquarters. The 7 story, 180,000 square foot structure took 2 years to complete and is designed as a 160 times larger than life replica of the Longaberger's Medium Market Basket which has been one of the company's traditional best sellers. The building itself is visited by more than 25,000 people each year and has been featured in countless news articles, TV shows, and has even been a clue on the gameshow Jeopardy!
Most distinctive of the buildings unique design are the steel handles that sit atop the building. Each handle weighs in at 75 tons and are both heated to prevent ice-buidup during snow or ice storms so that there is no buildup that might suddenly fall upon the skylights of the atrium directly below the handles.
Another unique feature inside the building is the cherry millwork seen throughout the building. The wood for this woodwork was harvested from the Longaberger Golf Club in Hanover. The wood was dried, milled and shaped by company employees at the factory.