Since 1889, the building had been known as H.W. Carter & Sons, a name which quickly became a symbol of quality and character in the manufacturing and distribution of work clothes throughout the northeast. Its founder, Henry Wood Carter, was a Lebanon wholesaler and manufacturer frequently referred to as “The Merchant Prince of New England.”
In the mid-1850s he bought a house in Lebanon (now known as the Marion J. Carter Homestead), and soon after built a large storage warehouse nearby for sales goods. The warehouse later became incorporated into the much-enlarged overall factory—the foundations for the warehouse are still visible in the basement of 11 Bank Street.
Carter’s advanced marketing strategies, which combined showmanship with tenacity and initiative, made him a highly successful businessman. In 1870 he took over the sales for overall manufacturer Converse Cole of Meriden, New Hampshire, and in 1871 he found himself an overall manufacturer. In 1889 his two sons, Augustus H. and Frederic G., were admitted as partners, and the company at 11 Bank Street became known as H.W. Carter & Sons.
For more than a hundred years the building provided an ideal setting for the production of nationally known work clothes of high quality. It provided jobs for hundreds of local citizens, and helped put Lebanon, New Hampshire on the map.
The building continues to be on the map today: annually, thousands of visitors come to participate in AVA’s numerous creative offerings of exhibitions, art classes and other art-related events. And people continue to be at work here, every day, year round—from the budding three-year-old artist wearing a paint splattered apron saying “AVA—where art begins,” to the many artists who have their studios in the building, some of whom are sporting venerable Carter’s aprons with the motto: “Watch the Wear.”