The building was the original office and headquarters for the Wisconsin Land & Lumber Company, a company founded by German-born cabinetmaker Charles J. L. Meyer. In the mid 19th century, Meyer had established a factory in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin making wooden sashes, doors, and blinds. In 1878, to acquire pine for his factory, Meyer began buying land in Menominee County, Michigan. In 1881-1882, Meyer moved company operations out of Fond du Lac into Michigan, and built the company's headquarters at the current site in Hermansville. Meyer continued purchasing land, and eventually the company owned nearly 100,000 acres (400 km2) spread out over eight counties.
However, the company had overextended itself, and in 1890 the tightening credit market and reduction in sales forced Meyer to sell some of the company's assets. Most of the pine had been cut on Wisconsin Land & Lumber's holdings, and the company was forced to begin producing hardwood flooring. Wisconsin Land & Lumber is particularly notable for the firm's early interest in using hardwoods and for its development of machinery used to make flooring. The firm's flooring was called "IXL," a derivative of the words "I excel" which was the company's philosophy about the superior quality of their product. Every piece of flooring was stamped with the letters "IXL" inside a circle.
Unfortunately, the introduction of hardwood flooring was not an immediate success, and the company began falling apart. At the same time, Meyer suffered a brain hemorrhage from a riding accident which left him confused and unable to cope with running the company. Meyer's son-in-law, Dr. George Washington Earle, took over operation of the company.
George Washington Earle was born in Truxton, New York in 1849. In 1851, his family moved to Huntley, Illinois, and when he was only ten years old Gerge left home on his own. He hired out on a Wisconsin farm owned by Dr. Rollin S. Wooster in 1860, and in 1863 moved with Wooster to Iowa. Earle attended school, and eventually acquired enough education that he became a schoolteacher. However, he was unsatisfied, and in 1868 returned to New York and began doing piecework in a sash and door factory, continuing until he had saved enough money to attend medical college.
In 1872, Earle gradualted from Buffalo Medical College, receiving his diploma from Millard Fillmore. He moved to Tully, New York, and began a medical practice, which over the next 17 years he built into a large and prosperous business. In 1886, Earle took a months-long trip to Europe, where he met Emma Meyer, Charles Meyer's daughter. They were married in 1888, and in 1889 Earle decided to retire from the rigors of practicing medicine, and moved with his wife to Michigan. Earle invested a considerable amount of his savings in his father-in-law's business, and was made a vice-president of Wisconsin Land & Lumber only months before the 1890 financial crash. With the other directors unable or unwilling to steer the company, the crash and Meyer's incapacitation forced Earle to take over the company's operations.