As my travels into Frederick via North Market Street have increased exponentially since Monocacy Boulevard closed, I have been able to follow the progress of the former Coca-Cola Bottling Plant resurrection as apartments and shops. I am pleased someone with a vivid imagination was able to save the structural exterior of the building as multi-use facility.
Though the building was not unlike other Coca-Cola facilities in Hagerstown and elsewhere, the building has been an anchor of the north end of Frederick for over 70 years. I am glad to see at least the outside edifice of the Coke plant, as it was locally known, being preserved. One of my favorite pictures of the building was in The Frederick News-Post showing the crew of Ladder 4 of the Citizens Truck Company high up on the aerial replacing the huge bottle cap back on the giant Coke bottle that stood watch over the plant.
Coca-Cola owned Frederick when I was growing up. I can’t recall any soda fountain in Frederick that served Pepsi products. I recently happened to see Doug Huffer, the son of the late Carroll Huffer, who was the general manager of the Coke plant. Doug left Frederick over 30 years ago to pursue a very successful career with Dixie-Narco, the vending machine manufacturer for Coke. His family is pulling together some mementoes and pictures of the old Coke plant to be displayed in the new facility. His dad was a member of a great team of employees that worked for decades at the Coke plant, many of whom, including Carroll, were personal friends.
Carroll Huffer was a dedicated lifelong employee of Coke and well liked in the community. He was an active member of the Ruritan Club. Many of his employees were involved in the volunteer fire service. Carmen Fogle was a longtime chief of the New Midway Volunteer Fire Company and did repairs on Coke machines. When I worked at the original Central Alarm office, he would come out to repair our ancient, manual Coke machine. No doubt today, that Coke machine would be on American Pickers, somehow, Carmen kept it working.
Paul Burrier, life member of the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company would occasionally accompany Carmen and sometimes have to pinch hit on repairing our antique. John Poole, also a member of the Walkersville Volunteer Fire Company, was involved with the route deliveries. Many days, I would see several Coke vehicles parked along West 6th Street when John and the “Coke crew” would have lunch at B-Renns, a corner luncheonette and watering hole run by Hass Stewart. The restaurant served daily lunch specials, but always had steamers and bean soup on the menu.
Don Wyand lived across the street from my parents in Monocacy Village and was a good friend of Carroll Huffer. He was an amazing individual that didn’t let his disability deter or interfere with his work. Though he only had one good arm, he could handle a route and drive a truck as well as anyone. He was eventually transferred to a Coca-Cola operation in Pennsylvania. I saw him recently, as he has returned to the Frederick area.
I am also happy to see the beginnings of a walking trail alongside the building on the former tracks of the Pennsylvania Railroad. The recent report in the FNP of completing a rail/trail to Fountain Rock is a great idea, as long as the Walkersville Southern rail trips are not compromised. Growing up in Frederick, I would often walk the tracks from Monocacy Village to the Monocacy River with my friend Terry Keefer. With few cars on the highway, walking across Md. 26 was not an issue back then. I am sure the proposed project will require a pedestrian bridge over the heavily trafficked lanes of Liberty Road.
The giant Coca-Cola bottle has long since disappeared. The interior of the original building has been gutted. The storage yard is now full of mid-rise apartments under construction. The brick and tan exterior has plate glass windows installed. The imposing building facade is still standing guard over the intersection of North Market and East streets. The inside of the plant may be gone, but the memories of the family-like atmosphere and great people that worked inside the Coke plant will live on forever. The walls are still standing. If only those walls could talk!
Clarence “Chip” Jewell is a lifelong resident of Frederick County in his 50th year as an active volunteer in the county fire and rescue service. He retired in 2017 as the Deputy Chief/Director of the Division of Volunteer Fire & Rescue Service.