Leather factory in Gloversville

Sebastien Gloversville factory

Not the typical factory tour.

Sebastien and B's Urban Decay Tour of the (Greater) Capital Regionâ„¢ continues with a stop at a former leather factory in Gloversville (Sebastien's photoset | B's photoset).

As you might expect from its name, Gloversville has a long history with leather making. It was originally called Stump City -- but changed its name in the 1800s because it had become a center for making... gloves.

Earlier on AOA:
+ The Wellington Hotel
+ Abandoned train in Glenmont
+ The Starlight Music Theatre
+ Central Warehouse

(Thanks, Sebastien and B!)

photo: Sebastien B


Actually "Leather Mill" is an extremely polite name for these businesses. Being from Gloversville, and enduring the odors that gagged me walking to and from elementary school, the term "Skin Mill" is much more honest, as the mills literally processed the skins of dead cows, ostriches, alligators, and deer.

@AOA: thanks!

@Slackeyed: sounds appetizing :) Now one element I'm curious about, and maybe you'd know about it, is this "machine". Is it a tanning drum? They were quite large, probably five in a row, I couldn't get much more in the frame without backing up in the goddamn' quick sands lurking in the dark behind me.

There were more than five of those, even; the far wall of the last "run" in the main building of the facility was end to end with them. They were a complete mystery to us.

Anyway, someone needs to film a horror movie in there, stat.

Love these; well done.

I wonder who mows the grass there...

@Summer: I would say, the town. It's weird actually: there are barb wire fences on one side of the complex... but the side facing the main road, 30A, is completely open and the grass taken care of. Security fail.

It also seems like the place is in somewhat limited use as a glorified parking lot. There was a cherry picker and a trailer parked there, which I don't believe we took any photos of, which looked like they were still in use. But, who mows the grass? For the most part, no one.

For you "abandoned-building-photograph-ophiles" (Dr. Phil said it, so it must be real) check out "http://www.hudsonvalleyruins.org/"

The alabny portion of the site is lacking, but there's some cool stuff. Abandoned Planet is also interesting, but I'm sure ya'll know about it.

This won't be pretty LOL but here goes:

The skins are actually stripped from the offending animal, including blood, meat, feces, you name it. They show up by truck loaded on pallets and are unloaded by hand quickly (the guy I know who used to do it was paid about $7.00 an hour). They had to one at a time throw these heavy wet animal skins onto drying racks. It was very hard sweaty nasty work.

The skins are still juicy, and as you might expect, they are in a state of decomposition so of course there are parasites (maggots) in the mix as well.

The skins have to be dried before the tanning process begins, so my guess for the drums are that they are involved in the drying process somehow. I think that there was a "drying room" in the chain somehow where the temperatures are 100+ degrees even in the winter, so you can imagine the smell in these buildings in the summertime.

There were also large quantities of chemicals in pools, some of these poor guys had to wade through it and were in contact with it constantly. I've seen skin mill workers in the grocery stores with large boils all over their skin, face, neck, arms etc.., which I presumed to be a result of splashing around in these tanning chemicals for twenty years.

As disgusting as it may seem, these abandoned skin mills didn't dispose of the chemicals properly, in the case of a 2005 chemical spill which re-contaminated the Cayadutta Creek:


And for additional details


...there were barrels piled up outside near the that began to leak and re-polluted the often maligned Creek (When I was little, we couldn't believe the stories our parents told us about actually being able to fish in the creeks....I only remember crawfish and tadpoles being able to survive there)

At some point, perhaps to soften or to dry the leather the skins probably got tossed into these large dryer drums.

I've been out of Gloversville for many years, but I assume that there are still skin mills in operation there and in Johnstown.

I will begin saying that my company does marketing for Fulton County Center for Regional Growth and a rather large leather company in Johnstown. So my view may be somewhat skewed by that fact.

I also grew up in Johnstown industrial smell filled lingered in the communities. Like many former industrial towns in this country there is a list of empty factories and history of pollution in cities of Johnstown and Gloversville. Slackeyed was correct on much if not all of what he stated.

But that is only a sliver to the much bigger story of the the two cities. Johnstown still has a vibrant downtown today, while Gloversville has a large downtown filled with amazing architecture - Trust me, this is a city that people will wish they invested in 25 years from now. Both cities are low in crime and seem as safe and any in the Capital Region.

The school systems have had to deal with growing poverty over the last decade, yet have performed quite well and are on par with other small schools in the capital region.

Currently these two industrial towns are staying true to their historical roots as a vibrant industrial sector beginning to take hold once again. The Fage factory addition is currently the second largest construction project in New York State. At the same time Crystl Guyser’s new state of the art bottling plant is producing and shipping throughout the North East. The leather industry is not dead either, with several company's still spinning those large wash and dry wheels, and distributing leather across the globe.

Overall the two communities are in incredibly good shape for what they have been through over the last two decades. Neighborhoods are filled with beautiful homes. Real estate is exceptionally affordable - amazing when compared to the more urban areas of the Capital Region.

The clean up of the pollution has been nothing but incredable. Millions of dollars have been spent on one of the most advanced water treatment facilities in the state. There is no longer any smell and the creek that once was barren of any life is now crystal clean.

It is easy to look at these communities an see the negative issues that stare people in the face everyday. Yet, Fulton County is quickly becoming a hub for food processing, advanced manufacturing and the continued worldwide export of leather. The infrastructure of the two downtowns are incredibly well kept, and affordable. Overall the county is abundant in natural resources that can only become more valuable in the future.

Fulton County has a history of tough people who had difficult jobs. Today they are creating clean, safe and vibrant communities, and dealing with the social and economic problems just like former industrial towns in Watervliet, Menands, and Waterford.

Mike Rowe on dirty jobs did an epsodie on leather tanning. http://videos.howstuffworks.com/discovery/28320-dirty-jobs-tanning-hide-video.htm
It's defiantly a dirty job.

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