post cards126In May 1900, C. A. S. Hopkins, a native of Ohio, founded the Hopkins Candy Factory and began producing candies in a frame building on West Street, in downtown Manassas. In their modest 16 by 20 foot factory, 25 employees made a sweet assortment of:
  • Stick candy
  • Rock candy
  • Peanut bars
  • Coconut bars
Salesmen traveled by train and wagon toting sample cases of wholesale sweet confections to general stores throughout the region. The high quality yet inexpensive candy quickly became a regional favorite and the business flourished.

Seizing Opportunities
A devastating fire nearly destroyed the thriving business in December 1905. Spared from destruction, the enterprising businessman seized the opportunity to purchase a burnt-out lot along the railroad tracks on Battle Street. Here Hopkins would build a new "modern" factory designed by Manassas architect Albert Speiden.
Albert Speiden - Copy   Speiden  Speiden sign
(left and center) Albert Speiden (right) The sign that hung at Speiden's Washington, D.C. office

New Modern Factory
Work on the factory began in earnest in 1907 and the company moved into the four-story brick structure in February 1908, Newspapers reported that it was one of the most modern of the day. The structure housed equipment to produce machine dipped chocolates, as well as a new line of creams, drops, and fancy crystallized jellies. Hopkins continued to produce his previous candy selections. The company also produced a premium line of hand-dipped chocolates marketed as the "Robert E. Lee" or "Eastern Star" selection. 

By the end of the year the company had 10 salesmen serving every state east of the Mississippi and the factory shipped 5 to 10 tons of candy daily. Yet despite their success the Hopkins Candy Factory stopped production sometime before 1917 and the company sold the building. 
Over the next few decades the Candy Factory building would be adapted to support the requirements of several different businesses. It was first converted into the Manassas Feed and Milling Company. Much of the exterior advertisements remaining on the brick walls date from this period. The building was then sold to Southern States Manassas Cooperative in the 1930s. In June of 1980, Southern States sold the building to Caton and Mae Merchant who used the building as a tire warehouse.

Donation and Restoration
Understanding the structure's significance to the community's revitalization of the historic district, the Merchant family donated the building to the City of Manassas in 1998. 
Restoration of the structure began in August of 2001 under the direction of the Manassas Museum. On October 25, 2002 the renovated building was leased to the Center for the Arts of Greater Manassas. Today the Center includes the Merchant Family art gallery, theater, and studio classroom facilities and is the centerpiece of Manassas' growing art community. 

The ARTFactory is located at 9419 Battle Street. View a free exhibit about the history of the site and its architect Albert Speiden on the main level. Hours of operation are Monday-Saturday, 10 AM to 5 -PM; closed on Sundays.  For more information, please visit the ARTFactory.

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