A significant reminder of the importance of the iron industry to Chattanooga’s growth is the United States Pipe and Foundry Company, one of Chattanooga’s oldest manufacturing establishments and a familiar landmark on the city’s skyline. The company’s owners, David Giles and Caleb B. Isbester, were Pennsylvania iron men who had manufactured pipe in Nashville since 1867. Together they established the Chattanooga Pipe and Foundry Works in 1877, building a modern and efficient plant along Whiteside Street adjacent to the city’s growing rail yard.
Chattanooga Pipe and Foundry became one of the city’s leading manufacturers and was recognized as one of the nation’s finest iron fabricators. The company was also one of the city’s top employers and engaged over 150 workers, two-thirds of whom were black. Innovators from the outset, Giles and Isbester experimented with a number of revolutionary manufacturing techniques and even attempted to find new uses for industrial wastes–using spent tans for fuel and converting furnace ashes to fertilizer.
In 1899, following a protracted local depression, Chattanooga Pipe and Foundry consolidated with other regional fabricators to form the United States Cast Iron Pipe and Foundry Company. Later, in 1936, the company closed the old Whiteside Street plant and moved its operations to the current facility on Chestnut Street near Moccasin Bend. In 1969 the firm, now known as U.S. Pipe and Foundry Company, was purchased by the Jim Walter Corporation, a leading producer of building materials and prefab houses. U.S. Pipe and Foundry continues to be one of Chattanooga’s leading manufacturers.