“If they can put a man on the moon, they can certainly build a building that’s shaped like a basket,” said Dave Longaberger. With that musing began a multi-year journey to construct a seven-story building shaped like a picnic basket to house the Home Office of the Longaberger Company. The supersized basket, modeled on the company’s Medium Basket model, stands on the east side of Newark, set back from Main Street beyond a semi-circular drive that allows gawking motorists to easily pull off from the road. Proportionally, the building is an exact replica of the company’s trademarked basket, including its outwardly tapering exterior, which resulted in the seventh floor having 5,000 square feet more than the first.
The family-owned Longaberger Company began in the late 1970s as a maker of handcrafted baskets. Two decades later, the rapidly growing company decided it that its new headquarters could also serve as a corporate icon. Groundbreaking took place in October 1995 and the building was ready for employees in December 1997. As a building shaped like a basket housing a company that makes baskets, Longaberger’s is a late example of a longstanding American roadside type. This kind of mimetic architecture is sometimes described by the term “duck,” which designers and theorists Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown popularized in their famous study Learning from Las Vegas.
The Longaberger building has a steel structure faced with painted stucco over wire mesh, formed to create the woven bands of the basket. Window placement was held to the location of vertical splints, in order to maintain the visual imagery. The building’s exterior is further enhanced by details such as applied stucco discs to replicate tacks, steel rivets for the handles that are painted to mimic copper, and large handles arching over the building’s roof. These handles presented the biggest engineering challenge in the project: the 150-ton galvanized steel handles are heated to stop ice build-up. The final touch is the building’s signage: a 700-pound tag with the Longaberger name on the north and south elevations, replicating the brass tags of the company’s special edition product.
On the interior, the Longaberger Home Office contains a full-height central atrium, with offices for 500 employees arranged around it. The dramatic atrium is capped with a 4,000-square-foot rooftop skylight. The first floor features a grand lobby, with a sweeping cherry staircase. The colors selected for the building interior are all derived from the palette used for the company’s basket accessories and pottery line.
As might be expected of a $30 million office building shaped like a basket, construction of Longaberger’s attracted media from across the country with reporters, photographers, and camera crews descended on the site like ants at a picnic. International media outlets carried stories about the building, and it also was prominently featured in architectural and engineering trade publications.
Following the 1999 death of founder Dave Longaberger, the company faced numerous economic challenges that resulted in consolidation of its workforce. The company left the building in 2016 and eventually declared bankruptcy in 2018. Canton developer Steve Coon purchased the building in 2017, with plans to turn it into a luxury hotel. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020.
Gunts, Edward. "Ohio's Big Basket building may become a luxury hotel." The Architect's Newspaper, November 6, 2019.
Hayden, Dolores and Jim Wark. A Field Guide to Sprawl. New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 2004.
Longaberger. Newark, OH: The Longaberger Company, 1998.
Longaberger, David H., and Robert L. Shook. Longaberger: An American Success Story. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc., 2003.
Mallett, Kent. "Key Dates: The Rise and Fall of the Longaberger Company." Newark Advocate (Newark, OH), November 26, 2018.
Miller, Brian. “Basket building tagged to open next month.” Newark Advocate (Newark, OH), October 30, 1997.
Snavely, Brent. “Lofty goals.” Newark Advocate (Newark, OH), November 30, 1997.
Snavely, Brent. “Opening the basket.” Newark Advocate (Newark, OH), November 30, 1997.