In 1982, a big explosion at the Thonet plant, once located at North 10th and Niagara, sparked by sawdust, burned the plant down.
A spark started the blaze catching fire quickly from all the sawdust. Negative back pressure sucked flames into the air system of the building and traveled quickly to all parts of the complex.
Employees said the explosion shook the entire building and the fire was like a tornado, nearly blowing them out the doors. There were reports that the fire could be seen all the way from Sheboygan, Wisconsin to Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
9 workers were injured, 2 severely. 180 people lost their jobs.
Firefighters from many different departments came and put out the blaze. It took 6 million gallons of water to extinguish the fire.
Furniture making in Sheboygan, WI began with Koen Brothers making cane seat embossed maple chairs. By 1909 they were named American Chair. By the 1940’s the European furniture maker, Thonet, bought the company along with two other furniture plants in the United States.
The fire closed the factory. There was hope of rebuilding in Sheboygan, Wisconsin but by the end of 1982 all of its production had been moved to another plant in Pennsylvania. The union was unable to keep the jobs in Sheboygan and the company left.
Today multiple housing units are where American Chair/Thonet Industries once stood.