Like today, 19th-century factories were
built to serve specific needs and to have close access to transportation. The
Seneca-Cayuga Canal and the railroad depots drew companies to build on the
lakefront . Malt houses, like this one owned by Samuel Nester, had tall stacks to aid in
drying barley that had been germinated. The wall and window treatments gave the
factory personality. Begun in 1888, Herendeen Manufacturing made boilers and
radiators. The factory was on the lakefront to use water as a resource in
the foundry and for access to the railroad for receiving coal and sand. In
1885, the Phillips and Clark Stove Company moved from Troy to Geneva. It was
on Evans Avenue at the foot of Seneca Lake near the canal and railroads. Later,
it became the Andes Furnace and Range Corporation. The Geneva Preserving
Company was the first of several factories to can fruits and vegetables.
It was on North Street on the New York Central Railroad line. This building
burned down in 1912 and the company rebuilt in the same location. In 1892,
Patent Cereals moved to Geneva from Brooklyn to be closer to grain crops and
for better transportation. The large complex produced everything from
wallpaper paste to breakfast cereals. The new Lehigh Valley Railroad depot in 1893
on the north side of town attracted new industries. Land was available for
development and railroad spurs could be built directly to loading docks. Geneva
Cutlery produced straight razors, and later, kitchen knives and utensils.
Business was good enough that the factory expanded numerous times and
added a third floor. The three-story plant was fairly narrow and much of the
light came from tall windows in all four sides. Today, the building is owned by
Brandon and Amy Phillips, who make furniture on the first floor and rent the second
floor for weddings, concerts, and other events.
Fay and Bowen Boat Company moved from Auburn to the lakefront in 1909. They had
water access to test their boats and engines, and were also across the street
from the New York Central Railroad freight depot. Standard Optical, which
later became Shuron Optical, was on Lyceum Avenue in the northwest corner of
the city. They made lenses, frames, and optical
equipment. Unlike Standard Optical and Geneva Cutlery, the American Can Company
was built horizontally. The sawtooth sections of the roof were skylights to
illuminate the factory floor. The new Ekco plant had a similar horizontal plane, but
with window walls. It was built on a railroad line but also had plenty of
loading docks as trucks began to replace trains. Nineteenth century downtown Geneva was
a mix of residential and retail buildings. Many were wooden structures
but there were brick buildings as well. Fires and demolition destroyed many of
the early buildings. By the 1920s, downtown streets looked much like they
do today. Business owners have always tried to stay modern. Haviland’s Pharmacy
gave their exterior a new look with brick, black structural glass, and art
deco lettering. National chains had a presence in downtown Geneva. In 1929 S.S.
Kresge purchased 28 – 30 Seneca Street and tore it down for
a modern store. The new store had a cleaner look on the outside and was more
spacious on the inside. Traditional grocery stores like George Haskins at 49
Seneca Street were full service. Customers gave their list to the clerks
who filled the orders. Most of the goods were behind counters on either side of
the store, and customers stayed in the center. In the 1940s supermarkets, also
called groceterias in the early days, changed the way people shopped. Large
windows and the new invention of fluorescent lighting made the stores
bright and inviting. Shopping was self-service and customers could move
through the aisles on their own. In the 1960s, new buildings began to replace the
old. In 1966, Lincoln First Bank on Seneca
Street replaced their very traditional brick building with a modern structure.
The National Bank of Geneva was on the opposite corner and they, too, put up a new
bank. The modern style of architecture rejected all influences from the past,
such as classical windows or decorative trim. Business owners who didn’t or
couldn’t replace their buildings opted for makeovers. 22 Castle Street is a good
example. Owners covered up the 19th- century facades with space-age metal to
look more like the new plazas that were being built. Fortunately, this fad passed
and owners have gone back to the original facades. Downtown businesses and
shoppers alike have embraced Geneva’s traditional architecture.

Industrial and commercial architecture
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  • July 2, 2019 at 11:47 pm
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