Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of articles about local street names and the history behind them.
People are often honored with having a street named after them. Many streets in Portland are named after people who have contributed to the history of the area.
One example is Victor Reiter Parkway. These street names become just that - street names and the history behind the name is forgotten.
Not many people in Portland remember why an established street name was changed to Victor Reiter Parkway. That street began as a gravel road people traveled to Franklin, Ky. and became known as Franklin Road and later Old Franklin Road.
It became a popular route because it was quicker than going to Hwy. 52 (College Street) and turning right at Hwy. 31-W. According to local resident Robert Lane, who grew up on Old Franklin Road, it was first paved from the intersection at Portland Church of Christ to the railroad track.
Historian Allen Hayes described the pavement as layers of rocks in graduated sizes from large rocks on the bottom, to the smallest on top.
Reiter was the president of Lawnlite, the first outdoor manufacturer of aluminum outdoor furniture, which he began in 1953 in Miami, Fla. Because taxes were very high in Florida, he began looking for another location.
It wasn’t long until Fred White approached him about building a plant in Portland. At that time Portland’s major industries were the shirt factory and Davis Cabinet Company.
Reiter was attracted to the area not only because of the tax breaks that were offered, but because of the large number of farmers in the area who could be a work force during the fall and winter months, which was the peak manufacturing season.
According to his son, Jimmie Reiter, at one time Lawnlite employed 650-700 workers and had two shifts.
In the Lawnlite 1978 catalog, Reiter expressed his excitement about the new line of outdoor furniture being produced at the plant. He added that just as important as the quality of the outdoor furniture, the centrally located warehousing and manufacturing facilities in California, Tennessee and Florida made deliveries quick and on-time to meet customers’ demands.
Because of the significance of a major manufacturing plant locating in Portland, city leaders renamed Old Franklin Road to Victor Reiter Parkway. The plant was located on Old Franklin Road.
The company was sold around 1983 to Sunbeam Outdoor Products and has since closed.