Out of the Attic: National Fruit Product Co. goes up in flames

Out of the Attic: National Fruit Product Co. goes up in flames

(Photo/Library of Congress)

The National Fruit Product Co.’s origins began with the Board-Armstrong Co., which had a vinegar and cider business at the corner of Prince and Union streets in the early 1900s. In 1909, Board-Armstrong purchased property south of Wythe Street between the railroad tracks on Henry and Fayette streets, and began construction on a new vinegar plant that fall.

The factory processed apples into cider vinegar, with apples ground and pressed on separate floors in one building, functioning as a mill. Another building housed storage tanks, and the packing and shipping operations occupied a third building. After Benjamin Fleet Board, one of the partners, died suddenly in 1912, Frank Armstrong organized the National Fruit Product Co., which received a charter from the Commonwealth of Virginia in early 1913. Two years later the company opened a plant in Winchester near the apple orchards of Shenandoah Valley. The new company used clear bottles and the White House brand name for its product. The Alexandria operations expanded, too, and by 1921, occupied the southern part of the block along Pendleton Street and the northwest corner of Pendleton and Patrick Street where more than a dozen wooden vats were located.

In 1922, a teenage employee was killed at the Alexandria factory after being overcome by poisonous gases, and on July 8, 1925, another tragedy struck when a fire destroyed the entire plant. Several fire companies responded and city officials,

including the mayor, assisted them in putting the fire out. The intense fire attracted a large crowd of spectators seen in this photograph and left several firefighters in need of medical treatment.

The National Fruit Product Co. continued to produce vinegar, and later apple sauce, out of the Winchester plant, but the Alexandria factory was never rebuilt.

– Out of the Attic is provided by the 
Office of Historic Alexandria.