…was just one of the advertising slogans for the luxury trailer coaches made right here in Brookville.

Our county was once known for its abundance of manufacturing endeavors and the production of numerous consumer goods. In the past, Franklin County manufactured everything someone would need from birth to death –fabric, as well as garments and clothes; furniture; food and drink (there was more than one canning factory in the county as well as numerous producers of whiskey, liquors and soda pop); fancy millwork for interiors and exteriors of houses; bricks; coffins, and the list goes on –even houses on wheels were made here.

With this past year of booming camper and mobile home sales, it’s only fitting that we take a look back at the Luxor-Leffingwell Coach Company, one of the former major industries of Franklin County. The factory was in existence for twenty years and located opposite the Brookville ballpark at the corner of Mill and East Ninth streets.

As I have mentioned in the past, inquiries to the local history and genealogy department of the Franklin County Public Library District come from across the globe. In recent years, people have purchased, or reclaimed Luxor-Leffingwell coaches from salvage yards, and have contacted us to see what we know about the company.

Former well-known physician and history guru, Dr. Elmer Peters, noted in an October 1993 Democrat, “Luxor-Leffingwell Coaches was a thriving business for some years during and after World War II. The buildings burned to the ground…the work of an arsonist. Originally, these buildings were occupied by the Great Eastern Furniture factory, which went ‘belly up’ during the Panic of 1893. Before the advent of the automobile, buggies were made here…In the 1920s, the two main buildings were connected and the whole utilized as a tobacco warehouse. About the 1940s, for a couple of years, Mr. Bill Shera operated a lumberyard on the premises.”

Luxor Coaches manufacturing plant as it looked in the 1940s.

(Courtesy of Lynn Knight)

Originally, this tantalizing tidbit was all that was known about the Luxor company and its manufacturing site. Additional research and contact with the owner’s granddaughter, Lynn Knight, has produced a few more details about this unique Franklin County business.

The Luxor-Leffingwell Coach Company, a brand-new type of industry to take life in Brookville was announced in the local papers in May of 1941. Henry Leffingwell was to be in charge of the venture, assisted by his wife Lucile, and their son, Bill, of Owosso, Michigan. Henry assured the public that he was going to manufacture trailers that would retail for moderate prices ranging from $595 on up. Leffingwell was already well known and respected in this line of business. According to the May 29, 1941, Democrat, he was “a pioneer manufacturer in his line, having been in the business for the past eight years, most of which was spent in the factories of the Sturgis and Royalcraft Companies, at Chesaning, Michigan.”

According to his granddaughter, Henry bought the old factory in Brookville, sight-unseen, and was floored when he saw its condition. He had a lot of work to do to bring it up to his standards. Brookville was not really Henry’s choice but was a suggestion from Indiana state officials. Henry wanted to have his business in a good strategic location and have enough workforce. He called the governor’s office in Indianapolis to inquire about possible locations within the state that would fulfill his need and offer the best opportunities, and they recommended Brookville.

The Luxor-Leffingwell coaches were admired for their outstanding craftsmanship, and their ads claimed that the interiors were unique from other trailers. Luxor had a custom-made look that could not be copied by other companies who were using piecework production methods. Each man at Luxor had his particular job to do, which was an art, and each knew how to do it well. Luxor adhered to the workmanship of only the highest standards. “The company boasted that each group of Luxor employees is trained to do only one part in Luxor construction –the panelers only panel the job, the cabinet makers finish the cabinets, and the inside finishers do only the finishing.”

Interior of a 1950s Luxor Coach.

According to documentation in a scrapbook belonging to his granddaughter, “Henry never called his product a ‘trailer.’ He spoke of them as ‘coaches’ and was the first to designate them as mobile homes –long before any other company.”

The company’s name, Luxor, was unique and chosen by Henry for its connotation with the once sumptuous town in Egypt where people lived in luxury. Loosely, the name Luxor means palaces, of which I am sure Henry considered each one of his quality coaches.

In 1947, Ray Everett of the Democrat made a trip to the Luxor factory and mentioned it in his Sidelights column of the December 18 newspaper. Ray said he was given a 15-minute tour by Henry and his son. At the time, 35 people were regularly employed there, and sales were made from coast to coast and border to border. The output of the plant at the time was six trailers per week, and eight trailers were in various stages of manufacture as Ray made the tour.

In April 1953, Henry Leffingwell had a new addition to the factory underway. It was a concrete block building and provided an additional 10,000 square feet of floor space. The paint department and the finishing room were to be moved from their present location to this new building. The new paint department was to have the latest paint spraying devices. In the finishing room, equipment, which included refrigerators, stoves and furniture, were to be installed in the coaches.

Within the last year or so, a 1955 Luxor-Leffingwell Luxury Coach was for sale on social media. It was located in Suttons Bay, Michigan. The introduction to the unit and its amenities started out as many of the inquiries to the library –“There is very little information on Luxors, except some ads…” The seller went on to describe his coach stating it had the original cast iron bathtub and sink; a pocket door that closes off the bedroom; the windows had screens; and even though the blinds and rods were dirty, the wooden valances were intact and it still retained its original curtains, “which were like new and not faded,” and were of a colonial paisley design. The flooring was originally of red and white checkered floor tiles and the bathroom walls had faux tile wall panels.

In September 1962, the Democrat ran an article about the new “factory-engineered, designed and built” house called the Luxor Home. It had a baked aluminum exterior and could be “fabricated to be put on a permanent foundation on a buyer’s lot.” The home was on display on South Court Street just off East Third. Today the structure still stands and the history of it according to his granddaughter is that the Luxor Home was actually a little trailer designed by Henry that was intended to be pulled to Florida where he and his wife were going to spend winters. Considering the media attention it sparked, this Luxor Home was probably going to be a new line manufactured by the Leffingwells. It was a small portable home, moved to the location of one’s choice with the possibility of becoming permanent. And, once fixed in place and attached to a foundation, a cabana could be added.

Mid-1950s advertising for Luxor Coach Model 400.

Henry became ill, and he and his wife never had the chance to go to Florida, so the Brookville Luxor Home display house remained in place. It was sold to Elsie Dreyer (of nursing home fame), who lived there for a while. Eventually, it went to some of her descendants who unfortunately had no appreciation for the unique residence and “trashed it.” It’s since been revived and today no one would know the neat and tidy little house tucked away at 217 E. St. Michaels Blvd. is a “trailer.”

Henry Leffingwell officially retired in 1963. By that time, other companies started to mass-produce basic, standard quality, cheaply priced travel trailers, and the high quality, more expensive Luxor coaches could no longer compete. Henry’s son, Bill Dick, who did a little bit of everything at the Luxor company including blueprints and the designing of the coaches, moved on to other business ventures as well. He worked at Gillman’s, sold insurance, and worked at a factory in Connersville, but many of you will remember him from when he operated the Sear’s franchise store in Brookville.

Bill Dick and Henry Leffingwell with a Luxor Coach displayed at a mobile home show.

(Courtesy of Lynn Knight)

After Henry retired, the factory buildings sat idle for a few years. In 1965, the plant was leased to the Vindale Corporation of Brookville, Ohio. Vindale manufactured furniture and accessories specifically for mobile homes that were being built in Ohio, Tennessee and Florida. Some of the items produced at the local Vindale plant included wood cabinets, molding, trim, bedroom chests and countertops.

On Wednesday, November 5, 1969, Brookville was hit with the most spectacular and destructive fire since the Standard Motor Parts building on Main Street had burned in 1945 - the Vindale plant was on fire! The conflagration had reached such a proportion that by the time firefighters could get there it was out of control. Additional services from the fire departments at Cedar Grove, Blooming Grove and Drewersburg were needed to keep the flames from spreading to nearby residences. Fifty volunteer firefighters assisted in extinguishing the blaze.

Three buildings and the office were completely destroyed. Two buildings remained but had substantial damage. The fire was believed to have been set by arsonists. Local lore still says the fire was set to take away attention from a burglary that was taking place at the south end of town. Henry was heartbroken at the destruction of the complex he worked so hard to build.

A 1949 advertisement for Luxor Coach Model 229.

After the fire, the Vindale plant continued to operate here on a greatly reduced level and had no plans to rebuild. Today the site is home to the Indiana State Highway Department and their large salt dome.

Some of you may also remember Henry Leffingwell as the one who operated Birchill Orchids, raising exceptional hybrid specimens at his home greenhouses. If you are unfamiliar with Birchill, the Leffingwell’s home and Brookville’s showplace, you’ll find out more next week.

Julie Schlesselman
Local History and Genealogy Department
Franklin County Public Library District