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Early History of the Bloomington Creamery aka Johnson Creamery

Blog post by Randi Richardson

The Johnson’s Creamery smoke stack is a Bloomington landmark.

The Johnson’s Creamery smoke stack that rises skyward 110 feet is one of Bloomington’s most recognized landmarks.  Although the smoke stack was not built until 1949, the original creamery building at 400 W. Seventh Street was completed in 1914.  As the creamery business grew, it was necessary to expand the building.  The last addition was completed in 1951.

Johnson’s Creamery vacated the building in 1987, and in 1995 the building was restored and adapted for use as the Johnson Creamery Business Center.  It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

A nice article pertaining to the early history of the Johnson’s Creamery was published on page of the Bloomington Evening World, January 13, 1922.  It read as follows:

“The business operating under the name of the Johnson Creamery Company is owned by E[llis] W. and W[ard] W. Johnson.  The Johnson Brothers hail from Orange County, Indiana, where they had their first experience in the dairy industry.

“Before coming to Bloomington they managed a successful creamery and ice cream plant at Iola, Kansas.  In December 1912, they purchase the small plant of P. B. Martin and Son which was located on South Washington Street [in the brick building later used many years by the Coca Cola Bottling Plant] and continued the business under the name of the Bloomington Creamery Company.  This business soon outgrew the plant on Washington Street, and in the fall of 1913 a new building was started at the present location of the Johnson Creamery Company at Seventh and Madison streets.

“It was at this stage in the development of the business that an ice plant was added.  The business grew steadily until it became apparent that additional manufacturing capacity was needed.

“In order to adequately supply the needs of the community the firm has doubled the capacity of their plant this year.  Work is now in progress on the new creamery addition and large ice storage.  The new ice storage with a capacity of 1600 tons insures Bloomington against having another ice shortage like many in the past years.  As soon as the additions are completed, new and modern machinery will be installed which will afford Bloomington an up-to-date creamery and ice storage that not many towns can boast of having.  All improvements are being made with special attention being given to sanitation and improvement of the service.

Johnson’s Creamery photo from the Monroe County History Center’s photo archive.

“The chief products of the Johnson Creamery Company are Shady Brook Butter, Johnson’s Ice Cream, Pasteurized Milk and Cream and Distilled Water Ice.  It would be a hard matter for anyone to group a larger number of the real essentials to modern living under one manufacturing head.  All are recognized as ‘Bloomington products.’

“In addition to supplying local citizens with the above-mentioned products, this institution affords a profitable market to Monroe County for its dairy farmers.  The advantages of having such a manufacturing plant in this county is appreciated by local dairymen.”

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