During the 1890s, the Sharples Separator Works was the cool place to work. The sprawling five-acre facility—located in West Chester, Pa., about 30 miles west of Philadelphia—was the home of the dairy industry's first tubular cream separator. The production plant churned out a good amount of cream products for Chester County dairy farmers, so thousands of workers were hired to handle the company's growing business.

The facility was seen as one of the nation's most significant industrial manufacturing plants of the early 20th century. The company was owned by Philip Sharples, who is considered the father of industrial dairy farming. The facility encompassed four brick and timber mill buildings that housed the massive equipment needed to efficiently separate cream. Because the equipment required a lot of foot space, all of the buildings were designed with high ceilings and huge windows to maximize natural light for production workers.

But as technology advanced, the Sharples Separator Works became obsolete. During the later part of the century, the complex served different commercial purposes. In 1984, Historic Landmarks for Living, a Philadelphia-based national rehabilitation developer of historic buildings, snapped up the property for $11 million. The company breathed new life into the rundown relic and transformed the landmark into a luxury apartment community called Sharples Works.

The building offers 155 units with modern conveniences, including gourmet kitchens and energy-friendly heat pumps and air conditioning. In addition to the updated amenities, Historic Landmarks for Living paid close attention to preserving the property's eye-catching architectural details, such as its rustic wood beams and columns, oversized industrial windows, and original brick. The property offers more than 100 different floor plans, including loft designs. According to the developer, no two units are identical.

Abby Garcia Telleria is a freelance writer in Costa Mesa, Calif. Know of a landmark apartment property? Send your suggestions to abbygarcia@yahoo.com.