Home | Whats New | Site Index | Search

Uneek Havana Cigar Company

Hilltown Twp, Bucks County, PA

The Uneek Havana Cigar Company Building [‡] was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1970.


The Uneek Havana Cigar Factory is located on Route 113 on the west side of the village of Blooming Glen in Hilltown Township, Bucks County. The building is oriented eave side to the street, set back thirty feet on a parcel of 0.525 acres on the edge of the village's building density, adjacent late Victorian brick gable roofed houses, and borders expansive agricultural fields that characterize the setting of this rural hamlet. The factory, designed ca. 1907-1910 by A. Oscar Martin, is of vernacular utilitarian style with modest design elements inspired by the Prairie and Arts and Crafts movements. It has a rectangular footprint of 80' x 32' and is of brick construction two stories high above a functional exposed basement of stucco covered stone. Seventy-seven windows, mostly original large 2/2 Victorian sash with low segmental arches, are evenly spaced on all four facades. The building's early 20th century character is enhanced by the low pitched gable roof with broad overhangs around the perimeter, excepting only the center six bays for functional lighting purposes. The principal east gable facade contains the original double wooden doors on the main (2nd) level with a decorative corbelled brick outline of the letters "U, H" centered above the door. Modern entrance doors occur on the north and west facades in original bay openings. The building retains much of the integrity of its original construction and is well maintained.

The building is assembled with symmetrical, evenly fenestrated facades and its modest height, essentially 2-1/2 stories, and brick construction allow it to blend well with the surrounding domestic village of the late 19th and early 20th century. The basement foundation walls are stone covered with stucco, and stand% of a story high on the north street facade, diminishing with the higher grade to a 14 story exposure on the rear, south eave elevation. Sash windows set in the foundation on the north facade follow the fenestration of the windows above with their lintel arches breaking the top line of the stucco into the brick wall above. The upper stories are locally manufactured red brick in a standard 2oth century stretcher bond pattern with strengthening courses of alternating headers and stretchers every five to six courses. There is a slightly projecting water table at the third course of bricks above the stone. The first level of the brick portion is the principal floor of the building, with historic entrances on the east and north facades formerly accessed by open wooden steps leading to threshold decks protected by plain board railings. The north deck was removed and the door replaced by a window in the last quarter of the 2oth century, the main entrance steps and deck rebuilt recently in wood with one set of steps. The current entrance is now in the southwest gable facade in the right bay and accessed by recent set of concrete steps and metal railings that replace a deteriorated, non-historic loading dock of rotted telephone poles and asphalt. The door is under a former third floor exit door that had been reached by open, metal "emergency" stairs, thereby maintaining the location of historic egress on this facade.

Window fenestration, while even and symmetrical, differs slightly from the first to second floors. In correct visual proportion, the first floor windows are tallest and occur in regular spacing, 10 bays across the eave facades, four bays on the west gable end and three wider spaced openings on the east, namely two windows flanking the principal entrance door. The wider spacing accommodates the "Arts and Crafts" corbelled "U" & "H" decoration above and around the door. The paneled wooden door has a multi-light transom above. The door, as well as all the standard windows, is topped by a segmental arch created by two rows of brick headers placed vertically, then topped by one row of horizontal headers. The second floor on this east facade is fenestrated in four bays as its west counterpart. The second floor windows are slightly shorter than the first, and in the middle six bays of both eave facades, the windows are placed slightly higher and are wider 3/3 sash, providing more light. Additional light is gained by the absence of the overhanging cornice above these windows. Slight asymmetry is created by the original and nearby later furnace flue chimneys on the northwest facade, as well as a small tower that held the mechanism for the elevator with wood doors mid-way along the east facade.

The interior is framed in a traditional manner, with brick and wood intermediate support piers holding large wooden summer beams. The wooden floor joists are exposed and support wooden floors that deteriorated and patched over the years. Plywood and carpeting has been placed over the floors for current office use. The main floor levels contained a 3Y, foot wide wooden staircase at the east corner that remains, a new stair has been built in the west corner. The walls are matched and beaded vertical wainscot in the lower half and plaster on the upper half covering the original painted brick. The upper two floors had few original wall partitions allowing for large work rooms accommodating long tables, areas for materials, boxing and labeling. On the east end of the first floor the area was partitioned for office and entrance foyers. Storage was in the basement and first floors, with the heating plant in the basement. Current use as office suites has introduced new wall partitions that are removable. A long center corridor with exposed wood columns and visibility to the open joist ceiling maintains the record of the original space. Modern plumbing facilities are located on the east end, where it had been partitioned originally, and modern HVAC systems have been installed with the least intrusion possible. Store rental space and conference room are located in the basement.

The site was devoid of any other structures in recent years and was simply gravel and grass surrounding the building. A modern paved parking area is located to the west of the building by the new entrance, the balance is grass and light landscaping and a paved drive. The historic windows and doors have all been repaired and painted, cornices repaired and the original sign painted on the brick on the north eave facade has been restored. The building therefore maintains very good exterior integrity and good interior integrity from its function as a cigar factory.


The period of significance for the Uneek Havana Cigar Company building is the period 1907 to 1919 representing the initial design date of the building to the end of its use as a cigar manufacturing facility. The property is significant as an historic structure in two applicable categories. The first is Criterion A, Events - Industry for its association with the cigar-making industry in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and the second is Criterion C, Design I Construction - Architecture as an example of industrial architecture by Bucks County architect Oscar A. Martin.

Sometime between 1907 and 1910, the Uneek Havana Cigar Company building was built by a group of local Mennonite businessmen who formed the Blooming Glen Improvement Company. The building was operated as a cigar factory until 1919 when it was purchased from Henry G. Moyer by Philip A. Specht and converted to a pants factory that he operated for the next 26 years. On January 2, 1945, the property was purchased from Specht's estate by Charles J. and Florence E. Spanninger, who continued the operation until the late 1950s. Both the Moyers and the Spanningers were local Blooming Glen residents. Various light industrial uses occupied the building until around 2004 when it was purchased by the current owner with plans to restore the building and convert the property to a business use.

Criterion A: Cigar Industry in Bucks County

According to an article in the Bucks County Courier Times, "From the late 1800's until the early 1930's, the scent of tobacco and cigar leaves wafted through Upper Bucks in a way it hasn't since, and likely never will." Tobacco began to be grown in Bucks County around 1855. The cigar manufacturing business had its roots in the homes of local farmers who rolled cigars as a way to pass the time during the winter's slow months. There began to be significant demand for the finished cigar and the industry grew to approximately 30 factories in the Blooming Glen, Sellersville, Perkasie and Quakertown area alone. Of the 85 cigar factories in the county at that time, this was more than any other localized area according to the 1914 edition of the Farm and Business Directory of Bucks County. According to the June 1954 edition of the Bucks County Traveler magazine, the largest selling 5 cent cigar in America was made in Bucks County. "It was the Cinco and was sold from Maine to California. Although a lot of wags referred to the Cinco as the Stinko, it maintained its lead as the most popular 5 cent cigar in America. It is told that after smoking a Cinco cigar, Vice President Tom Marshall made his famous remark, What this country needs is a good five cent cigar. Although the Cinco was not manufactured by the Uneek Havana Cigar Co it was made local to Uneek and contributed greatly to the area's reputation as a cigar manufacturing location.

By the late 1800s, Bucks County was the third-largest tobacco producer in the state producing over a million pounds a year but by the early 1900s Bucks' crop fell to a little more than two thousand pounds. Cigar making, however, flourished. Bucks County's workers had the level of skill required and, with the help of the North Penn Railroad for transportation. The industry continued as late as 1943. In an undated article by James I. Moyer of the Perkasie Historical Society titled Perkasie History, Mr. Moyer discusses the cigar industry in Perkasie, Pennsylvania. He says "In 1892 the first of many cigar factories was opened in Perkasie. In 1901, the Boltz, Clymer & Company manufactured 150,000 cigars a month for Honolulu, Hawaii." He goes on to say "Cigar production had reached its peak, employing 2,000 people, more than the population of town." A review of the 1910 U.S. Census finds that 17 cigar makers, 4 strippers and the owner (listed as farmer/employer) lived within the immediate area of the Uneek Havana Cigar Company.

By the 1920 U.S. Census there were only 2 cigar makers and 1 assistant foreman listed within the immediate area of the Uneek factory. The demise of the industry in Bucks County was rapid and devastating with the advent of mechanized rolling machines, the market's taste for cigarettes, a cheap alternative to cigars, and the concentration of a few major corporations in the South. A single craftsman was capable of rolling 300 cigars in a day but could not compete with the 6,500 rolled by the machine in a single day. A review of the U.S. Department of Commerce's Historical Statistics of the U.S. shows that within the period of 1910 to 1920 a dramatic increase in the Value of Output of cigars, cigarettes and tobacco occurred beginning in 1917. Output grew from a relatively flat $500,000,000 for the period 1910 to 1916 to $1,196,000,000 from 1917 to 1920. This growth was most likely the result of cigarette popularity & mechanization.

The Uneek Havana Cigar Company building is a well preserved example of the original design in 1907 by Oscar A. Martin (1873-1942). Based on a photo of the building soon after it was built, the exterior brick, the original wood double hung windows and other features such as the original wainscot paneling and interior plaster walls, as they are today are significant in preserving the historical integrity of the factory. "Martin, Adam Oscar (1873-1942)

Chiefly known as a Doylestown, PA, architect, A. Oscar Martin was the son of carpenter/contractor Jonas and Mary Catharine Martin. He graduated from Doylestown High School and pursued his architectural education at Drexel Institute, followed by several years as a draftsman with Hazelhurst & Huckel in Philadelphia (1893-1895), Green & Wicks of Buffalo, NY, and Milton Bean of Lansdale, PA (1898-1899). His first independent project is noted in the Philadelphia Real Estate Record and Builders Guide in 1896, however, when he announces that he has completed plans for the Salem Reform congregation on Court Street, presumably in Doylestown, PA. New projects do not appear for Martin until 1904, and then a mix of building types appears, including churches, residences and office buildings. Expanding beyond architecture to engineering, Martin became a registered engineer and served as county engineer for Bucks County.

In 1928, after the graduation of his son Fred F. Martin from the University of Pennsylvania, A. Oscar Martin expanded his office to include both his son and Oscar S. Leidy, revising the firm name to A. Oscar Martin & Son, still in Doylestown. This office continued in operation through 1942, when it is assumed that the older Martin died." Oscar Martin was a versatile architect practicing in Doylestown from the turn of the 20th century. He was quite popular with clients principally from central Bucks County perhaps because he seemed to have a keen understanding of the penchant of area residents for conservative, Georgian based architectural form and masonry construction, exuding solid symmetry. A number of his homes in Doylestown and Wycombe are large Colonial Revival houses of brick or stone, three or five bays wide and two piles deep with well defined moldings and classical porticos (Van Artsdalen Home, Doylestown, 1914). Through this form Martin also was able to demonstrate many design elements of the Prairie School and the popular Arts and Crafts movement. This includes the diminutive dining room to the Fountain House Hotel, 1905, appearing Colonial Revival but exuding by materials and texture Arts and Crafts, the William Geil House 1912, blending Spanish, Prairie and Colonial motifs with, stucco, tile roof and flanking loggia porches. Spanish and Prairie influences can also be seen in the Doylestown Fire House, 1902, and a brick residence both on Shewell Avenue.

The upscale environment and culturally blended population of Doylestown allowed Martin more freedom of artistic expression, within conservative limits. However, traveling northward in Bucks County, the population was dominated by old school Mennonite and traditional German Lutheran population that found comfortable security in the FourSquare and Colonial Revival solid homes and buildings of the turn of the century. Martin's design for the Uneek Havana Cigar Company building, in the visually predictable village of Blooming Glen, responds to this desire for recognizable forms while moderately introducing design and function modifications to make the building "up to date" and efficient. He maintains the popular even fenestration and principal gable entrance and uses the Prairie low gable with broad overhangs for a more modern profile and functional simplicity. The use of brick and domestic scale of the building show Martin's sensitivity to the surrounding environment, principally of 2-1/2, story brick homes. The corbelled brick "H" design was Martin's decorative Arts and Crafts touch.

The Uneek Havana Cigar Company Building, while demonstrating mainly traditional elements of 19th and early 20th century industrial and cigar factories of Bucks County, represents the subtle changes to the common forms that emerged around the turn of the century, and in particular, the preferences of architect A Oscar Martin.

Industrial architecture in Bucks County has evolved slowly and conservatively over the last two hundred years staying with essentially a rectangular form and gable roof and following domestic Georgian precedents with even fenestration. Little distinguished industrial buildings from houses aside from scale, function, gable fronts and fewer chimneys. Medieval and urban influences encouraged the gable end front orientation to expedite loading goods via pulleys and service doors. In Bucks County the most common and obvious industrial buildings of the 18th and early 19th centuries were grist mills. Built of heavy stone or brick masonry, these buildings featured loading doors at each floor level on the front gable and one chimney in the front corner for the miller's office. Internal supports were provided by large post and summer beam construction. Windows were placed symmetrically on the exterior, one each flanking the doors and several on the eave sides. Minimal ornamentation was displayed except for signage, occasional cupolas or decorative bargeboards (Stover Mill, Erwinna). Scale increased from 1-1/2, and 2 story mills of the 18th century (Phillips Mill, Solebury) to 3-1/2 and 4 story mills of the mid 19th century. While there was design consciousness to the main mill block by the 19th century, ancillary structures such as saw mills, cider presses and steam power rooms had a casual, additive appearance (Stover-Myers Mill, Pipersville, Sheards-Clymers Mill, Thatcher).

With the arrival of the railroad to communities in the latter decades of the 19th century came the opportunity to expand home-based industries to larger-scale operations under one roof. Textiles, carriages and cigars were the principal products produced in large buildings following the mill prototype with principal gable facade for entrance and loading. The size was increased in the length of the eave facade and appearance made attractive with the evenly spaced rows of repetitive windows. While the size was larger than anything else previous in many communities, the regular fenestration and gable roofs allowed these buildings to blend into the domestically scaled villages and small towns. Often factories of the mid century were built of plastered fieldstone and flat window heads, after the Civil War there was a shift to manufactured brick construction and slightly curved, segmental arch window lintels (Teller Cigar Factory, Sellersville).

Gable roofs maintained a medium pitch with attic gable & large wooden sash windows had divided sash in various sizes, 6/6, 9/9, 4/4 and the later Victorian 2/2. In addition to the heavy wood timber interior structure occasional iron tie rods were utilized with decorative iron stars or circles on the exterior wall face. There was a shift with cigar factories to eave orientation to the street, including an entrance, and the name of the business displayed in large letters painted on the long brick facade or on a large sign set on the ridge (Vetterlein Brothers Cigar Manufactures, Souderton, Suelke & Bedford Cigar Manuf & Allen Sc Marshall Cigar Co., both Quakertown, Otto Eisenlohr & Brothers Cigar Manuf., Sellersville.)

By the turn of the 20th century changes seen in domestic architecture began to surface in industrial buildings as well. A break from strict symmetry and regularity came not only with the impact of Victorian complexity of form and materials, but also a growing emphasis of function defining form. This was most evident in the fenestration, window sizes and placement reflected more the need for light and ventilation (or the absence of it). The Prairie style brought a lowering of the roof pitch and extension of the overhanging eaves. Concrete was introduced, first in floors, then in wall construction. Steel beams were used to reinforce and extend floor spans with fewer intermediate supports. Internal ventilation, elevators and sanitary facilities brought factories into the modern era (Grundy Mill Complex, Bristol).

The Uneek Havana Cigar Company building (ca 1907-1910) follows the traditional rectangular form and even fenestration of its predecessors. It is slightly smaller in scale than the large factories of Quakertown and Sellersville being two stories high with a raised basement (three functional stories) and ten bays wide with a low gable roof. The 2/2 Victorian sash windows with segmental arched lintels are placed evenly across the facade. The eave facade is set principally along the road (Route 113), however a slight bend allows the gable ends to be visible, with the northeast gable towards the village of Blooming Glen most prominent. The main entrance is centered on this facade underneath a decorative corbelled brick pattern that combines the letters "U and "H". In addition to this ornamentation was a large sign with the name of the company painted on the brick between floors on the eave street facade. Upper story floors are wood on wood floor joists. The use of iron tie bars is seen with several iron stars at floor levels.

There are several subtle variations to the traditional form. The attic story has been eliminated in favor of the low roof pitch in the Prairie style. This design "look" is enhanced by the overhanging cornice. A break in the cornice in the middle six bays along the eave facade begins to demonstrate modifications to perfect symmetry and regularity in favor of function. These six windows on the third floor are larger than the remainder in the building, suggesting the most intensive hand work activity requiring the most light on this floor. On the gable end there are four windows on this level, rather than three openings as below. The basement floor is concrete and the use of brick piers to support the floor systems is an advance on the wooden posts of 19th century factories. An elevator, midway on the southeast eave where the higher ground level gives access to the second level of the building, replaced the traditional gable pulley. While designed by an architect and exhibiting a number of design and construction elements of the early 20th century the Uneek building contrasts with the contemporary Grundy Mill Complex in Bristol Borough. Bristol, located on the Delaware River mid way between New York and Philadelphia, had long been an industrial town with the railroad and canal terminus linking with seaport shipping. Building #12 of the complex, completed in 1910, was designed by architects J. Linden Heacock and Oscar Hokansen and was intended to be fireproof. Massive in scale, over 80' by 260' and seven stories high, this modern industrial building was constructed of steel encased in concrete, brick filled walls and reinforced concrete floors. Fenestration more directly relates to function, with middle stories of storage lacking windows entirely, only the top, sorting floor has the series of consecutive large windows. This building lacks ornamentation and appears stark and powerful; design was reserved for the tall Italianate clock tower adjacent. By contrast the domestically scaled Uneek Cigar building, built in the quiet rural village of Blooming Glen, still appears very conservative and follows traditional mill design types of the 19th century.

Oscar Martin designed several cigar factories, the nearest to the Uneek building being in the large towns of Perkasie and Sellersville. Sellersville, in particular, developed a significant niche in the cigar industry, with the workforce moving in from points as far away as Gettysburg to secure employment (Mary Huffnagle, Sellersville, interview 6/27/06 by KAA). The Sellersville Improvement Company commissioned a cigar factory design from Martin in 1900 and again in 1910. Both buildings are larger than Uneek, namely 100 by 40 and 125 by 41 (vs. 80 by 32) and three stories of brick plus the raised stone basement. They present a more formal appearance with corbelled brick cornices accented by brick corbelled brackets, large center entrances with sidelights and continue the traditional even,,patterned fenestration of 414 or 6/6 segmented arched windows The roof and skylights show an evolution of Martin's work, from the low tin gable of 1900 to the nearly flat "slag" roof of 1910 (Uneek, 1907, is still the low gable).

The 1900 building has larger and more elaborate skylights than Uneek's top windows, tall windows angled in a separate frame starting from the broken cornice in the central five bays of the building and extending above the roof. They are similar to Uneek in being large windows and set back cornice, a feature that is a part of the eave facade design. By 1910 the skylights are no longer a part of the facade, but set completely on the rooftop and angled to the building's square to catch the most beneficial light. This feature is repeated in the angled tin roofed factory built for E. Kleimer and Sons (a New York City company) in Perkasie. Roof coping, again accented by brick corbelled cornice and brackets, hides the skylights from view.

The 1920 design of the Perkasie cigar factory was an addition to an existing factory and is principally different from the other factories in including sanitary facilities. The workforce by then included women. 112 workers (65 male and 47 female) is noted on the plan. Separate ladies and gents toilet rooms, as well as ladies cloak and rest rooms are now built in (there is no notation for this in the 1907 Uneek plans). Concrete is now also used for the main staircase for fire safety.

While scaled smaller and less styled than the Perkasie and Sellersville factories, the Uneek building includes many of the principal traits of Martin's cigar factories. These include the traditional mill design brick construction with heavy timber internal supports, even fenestration and low roof profile. Larger windows, similar to the skylights and elevators enhance modern efficiency. Ornamentation is reserved to corbelled brick decoration and segmented arched windows. Martin provided a solid, well constructed and visually pleasing building to his customers Uneek Havana Cigar Factory is among the few remaining cigar factories to have retained integrity of its original design. A number of the factories located in Sellersville, Quakertown and Souderton have undergone significant changes including lower roof heights and types, altered and closed windows and doors and new surface materials. The Uneek factory maintains its original form, exterior brick surface, windows and doors, as well as original interior wainscot and framing posts.

Nearby Neighborhoods

Street Names
Route 113