701 4th Avenue, Holdrege, NE 68949 • 308-995-5020

F. Johnson Building Heritage

The Kawneer Story

The Johnson store was the beginning of a new era in American store architecture

The Kawneer StoryFrank Johnson’s story intersected with Francis Plym and the Kawneer story when Frank Johnson expanded the F. Johnson Company and made plans to build a brick building.  Frank Johnson didn’t want to build another frame building.  A Johnson family member remembered him saying, “I want to build a building as good as any that can be built.”   

Before Plym’s company, the Kawneer Company was started and before Plym’s invention was patented,  F. Johnson asked Plym to draw the designs for his new department store.  Plym,  was also a Swedish immigrant.  He immigrated to America in 1893, and during his first years, he worked as a skilled carpenter in Sleger, Illinois.  His desire to improve himself and his thirst for knowledge led him to acquire an education.  He graduated from the University of Illinois School of Architecture at Urbana Illinois and soon after established an architectural firm in Kansas City. 

In 1904 Plym and his wife were strolling along a street in Kansas City when Plym noticed a building under construction.  He observed the windows with professional interest.   At that time plate glass windows were set in wooden frames.  Moisture ran down the windows and rotted the frames.  Plym noticed that the windows were beginning to crack even before the building was finished.

The problem engaged his mind, and he worked to invent a resilient metal frame for glass to replace the wooden frames.  The difficulty was how to install a large area of glass so that it would be permanent but hold up to stress and strain.  Plym’s invention in 1904 consisted of two resilient copper moldings contrived to hold a plate of glass, but with “give”.  He worked a gutter into the metal frame to carry away window drip, and ventilation openings to equalize the temperature on both sides of the glass so that it wouldn’t steam up in winter.  He applied for a patent for a resilient metal frame for glass, and in 1906, the patent was granted.

Plym’s genius was for metal fabrication.  It extended beyond his basic patent into new paths for American industry and American life.  Automobiles, airplanes, refrigerators all were impacted by metal designed by Plym and fabricated in the company he started, the Kawneer Company.  Today Kawneer offers architectural aluminum building products and systems for the commercial construction industry.  Their comprehensive product line includes entrances, framing systems, windows and curtain wall systems. From thermal efficiency and sustainability to hurricane and blast resistance, Kawneer products are designed to optimize both aesthetics and performance.  To learn more visit Kawneergreen.com. and Kawneer.com

Website design by Bulldog Graphics, LLC