Specializing in casting, fitting, and machinery repair, the Manistee Iron Works was birthed on the corner of River and Smith streets in 1871 by Manistee residents John Bowie and Nels Johnson. After Johnson left, Bowie had a string of different partners in the burgeoning business. By 1883 the firm was incorporated with Bowie as President and George Ray as Vice President.
However, after a dispute that included legal proceedings, Ray eventually became President of the company and constructed a new building on the corner of Ashland and Jones streets in 1887. In 1907 the firm expanded again and another building was constructed on land located south of the 1887 structure.
In 1953 both the business and the building were acquired by the Michigan Tool Company which operated machine shops in both Detroit and Traverse City.
By the mid-1960s, Michigan Tool had been bought out by Ex-Cell-O, a Troy based company which specialized in making small machine parts for other machines.
Ex-Cell-O later expanded the original 1907 building and continued to operate out of the Manistee Iron Works until late July of 1981, when the company announced they were ceasing operations in Manistee due to a lack of business.
Today, the building has been used by a Michigan Movie/Production Company as a studio space, and has also housed a cafe and with adjacent outdoor community garden.