The history of Harbach Lofts began more than 100 years ago with the beginning of Harbach Furniture. As shown in the National Register of Historic Places documentation, the Harbach family made significant contributions to the city of Des Moines, and the former Harbach Furniture complex indicates the family’s business success.
At age 19, Louis Harbach began as a harness maker in Des Moines while his brother Christopher ran a small furniture shop on 2nd Street. Louis took a break from Des Moines and traveled to Cincinnati to learn cabinet making. When he returned, he and his brother opened a furniture shop together and expanded operations. Over the years, the business gained financial success, expanded, and moved its base of operations several times. In 1882, Harbach furniture had grown from a workshop of a few people building everything by hand into a furniture factory employing 150 people using machinery. Historian Jennifer James documents Harbach’s success and the importance of his contributions business-wise and architecturally in her National Register of Historic Places application for the Harbach Lofts at 300 SW 5th Street.
The L. Harbach's Sons Co. and predecessor Harbach family firms including L. Harbach & Sons Co. manufactured furniture for more than seventy years in Des Moines and occupied this factory complex from 1906 to 1928. These large industrial buildings allowed the company to upgrade its manufacturing to early twentieth-century modern factory conditions to remain competitive in a changing marketplace. The warehouse allowed the company to accommodate stored materials as well as associated handling equipment in tandem with the rail line behind its complex. The Warehouse and Factory Complex also represents some of the earliest and largest industrial construction in Des Moines' then-newly emerging warehouse and jobbing district south of the major rail lines-an important real estate development, and one of the last major such real estate development projects undertaken by the L. Harbach & Sons Co. and its founder, Louis Harbach. Louis Harbach was noted during his lifetime as an important real estate developer in Des Moines who "set the pace" innovatively, building the first furniture factory in Des Moines; constructing the first four-, five-, and six-story retail commercial buildings in the city; continuing to improve his commercial buildings; and erecting the first building dedicated exclusively to mortuary purposes in the city (completed in 1916) - all of these buildings are non-extant, which raise the importance of these two rare surviving functionally related factory and warehouse buildings. (Des Moines Daily News, August 30, 1898; Halstead: 34) – Jennifer James National Register of Historic Places document.
You may read the full history of The Harbach Lofts and more about the Harbach family in Jennifer James’ National Register of Historic Places application.