When the Great Depression caused many local businesses to crumble, Marshfield’s business leaders formed the Marshfield Industrial Foundation to lure new industries and jobs to their town. The foundation called for public funding to build private industrial facilities, reasoning that greater employment would serve the public good. The Albert H. Weinbrenner Company, a Milwaukee-based shoe manufacturer, responded by opening a factory in Marshfield. Funding for construction came from the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), one of the earliest agencies of President Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, and the city leased the building to the manufacturer at a nominal cost. As the Weinbrenner Company began training its new local employees at a nearby school, FERA-paid workers began building the new shoe factory. The facility opened in November 1935 with two hundred Marshfield residents on its payroll. Over the next two years, Weinbrenner hired even more local workers, and it also opened two city-sponsored branch factories in Merrill and Antigo.
The facility occupies an entire city block. When built, it surrounded an interior courtyard, but after World War II, as demand and output grew, the factory expanded to fill in the open area. Most of the sprawling, flat-roofed building is a utilitarian one-story structure. But the three-story wing extending along S. Walnut Avenue is an imposing brick-and-glass building that features some aspects of Art Deco industrial design. Brick pilasters crowned by ziggurat capitals thrust upward, supporting stepped parapets at the building’s corners. Huge multipaned windows between the pilasters flood the factory floor with natural light. Each window’s middle section pivots outward to provide ventilation.