Founder Henry Gass Sr. was born in Switzerland in 1844 and came to the US in 1866. He lived for a short time in Illinois and Pennsylvania where he was employed in a furniture store. In 1870, he moved to Columbus where his four children were born–Henry Jr., Samuel, Rose, and Augusta. He made furniture and coffins in his shop on 7th Street by hand while also offering funeral services. It was common at the time for furniture makers to also conduct funerals as they were the coffin builders. The population of Columbus was about 200 then but as Columbus and his business grew, he required more space and built a shop on what was then known as Washington Avenue (now 21st Avenue). This later became the location of the family home which still stands today between 9th and 10th Streets.
Henry Gass Sr. conducted the first funeral at the original 7th Street location in 1870. The deceased was noted as killed by Indians.
HG Furniture and Undertaking moved to 11th Street in 1871.
As Columbus grew, so did Henry Gass’ business and in 1878 he moved his business to a building located across 23rd Avenue from Glur’s Tavern. It was here that he put his first complete line of factory-made furniture. A fire forced the business to take up temporary headquarters in a building on 11th Street between 25th and 26th Avenues while a new location was built on 13th Street between 24th and 25th Avenues. The new building completed in 1903 was designed with the latest improvements in the funeral home industry including the capability of displaying caskets in the back of the store by means of pull-out drawers. The new store still had a shop for the manufacture and assembly of handmade caskets. With the completion of the new building, arterial embalming was done on a more regular basis which had previously been done in the family home.
In 1922, Henry Gass Sr. sold the business to his sons Henry Jr. and Samuel. In 1923, Samuel took over the operation of the furniture store while Henry Jr. started construction of a new funeral home at this location. This new location still had a shop for constructing caskets which continued until the 1930s, and a display area for casket components if the casket was to be built in-house. It also had an office, chapel, and preparation room. As time passed and the demand for homemade caskets diminished, several renovations of the building took place and the shop and component display room were converted to a family room for the chapel and a visitation room.
Henry Gass Sr. sold the business to two sons who operated separate businesses. Henry Gass Jr. purchased the funeral business from his brother Samuel in 1925. Samuel operated the furniture business at 2415 13th Street until selling out to Alexands Furniture in 1945. Alexands then became Brenner Furniture which was destroyed by fire in 1979.
When Henry Gass Jr. died in 1951, his daughter Marjorie and her husband William Haney bought the funeral business. William died unexpectedly and Marjorie operated the funeral home until 1960. At that time her son Steve purchased his mother’s interests so she could begin gradually retiring through1969. The business moved to 2109 14th Street in 1981 having conducted over 13,000 funerals. In 1981 the business was sold to a series of large funeral home corporations but eventually, two long-time employees–Brad Ramaekers and Gary Sharman–bought the business back.
For more information on Gass Haney, click here.