Factory Town

Where to find pianos, poundcake, and power produced nearby.



Q: Are there any factories that give tours in Westchester or within a one- to two-hour radius? I used to live in Philly, and there are a ton of places that do factory tours down there, but I’d love to take my sons on one up here.
—Suzie Fromer, Tarrytown

A: Ah yes, Pennsylvania, the factory-tour capital of the world, where one can witness the birth of TastyKakes, Yuengling beer, and Crayloa crayons. But as much fun as those places may be, you need not visit the Keystone State to see products’ first steps into the marketplace. Unfortunately for your sons, some of the most popular tours offered in our area involve alcohol. In Westchester, you can tour the Captain Lawrence Brewery every Friday and Saturday and learn the secret of how these alcoholic alchemists produce their Liquid Gold. Similarly, at the Tuthilltown Distillery in nearby Gardiner, for $15 you can tour the grounds then taste the spirits.

But we don’t want to leave your sons out of the touring experience. Here are some to consider: the Steinway & Sons piano factory in Long Island City (they can watch every key of a newly built piano pounded on 10,000 times to ensure durability); the Bon Bons Chocolatier in Huntington (they can sample the sweet stuff); and the Gillinder Glass Factory in Port Jervis (glass-blowing demos are really cool).

 

Q: If you’re going south on 87, right past the Ardsley toll, and look to the left, there’s a small, brick building with a smokestack that looks really old. All around it is construction (I think that’s the Yonkers Ridge Hill thing). What is that building, and is it going to survive all the development?
—Janine DeSala, Ardsley



Ridge Hill is being built on a site that formerly housed a sanitarium, hospital, church, and rehab center.

A: We pieced together information from the New York Times, the Journal News, and research from Margaret Vitulli at the Yonkers Historical Society and John Favareau at the Yonkers Public Library, and we are pretty sure that the smokestack is part of a power station built in 1930, when a nonprofit and non-sectarian tuberculosis sanitarium known as the House of Rest merged with the Sprain Ridge Hospital, a medical facility that had occupied the area since 1907. The merger required expansion of the premises and it was at this point that the power-providing structure was built.

The hospital remained at the location until the mid-1950s, when it had precisely 13(!) patients. After it closed, it was purchased by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, which had been in the sanitarium business since the mid 1800s. The Church lost the land in 1967 and it was used for a short time as a narcotics rehab center. Eventually, it found its way into the hands of the Ridge Hill Development Corporation and is indeed part of the Ridge Hill “thing,” as you call it, that is blossoming above the cliffs of I-87.

But developer Forest City Ratner is not so short on electricity to power its project that it needs its own power plant, so don’t expect to see smoke churning out of the building any time soon. However, according to the firm’s publicist, there are “no plans to do anything with the smokestack.” We assume “no plans” means “no plans” to tear it down, either.

 

April SLOOF, Eastchester

Q: I am aware that in 2000, New York passed the State Labeling Ordinance on Organizational Formats (SLOOF), which, among other things, required the town of Eastchester to change its name by 2010 to avoid continued confusion with the name of the county; but I have heard no proposals for new names and am curious when and if the town still needs do this. It sounds like a real headache, if so.
—April

A: Indeed you are correct, April. If you recall, in 1997, New York State passed New York State’s School Tax Relief program, better known as the “STAR” credit. This program allocated state money to residents who owned homes and were overburdened by school taxes. It was essentially a refund from the state. However, in 2000, money earmarked for disbursement by various counties throughout the state was accidentally delivered to similar-sounding towns and cities due to a glitch in new programming installed after Y2K. Organizational chaos ensued and the SLOOF Act was passed requiring six different municipalities to change their respective names. Notably, all but two towns have complied, Eastchester and Fishkill, which, due to an amendment supported by the ASPCA, has been fighting the requirement it change its name to Fishsave.

According to the Eastchester Town Board, the town must submit a new name by December 31st, 2010, and have all signs and official documents changed by the end of 2011. The delay has been due to an ongoing court battle which the town lost late last year. In July, residents will be asked to vote on the town’s website for one of three names picked by the board. As of print time, two names had been decided. They are Donckchester, named for Adrian Van Der Donck, the first lawyer in New Netherlands (now New York), and the Town of Hachaliah, named for Westchester resident Hachaliah Bailey of Barnum & Bailey fame. The third name has not yet been decided. Oh, and one last thing, if for some reason you have not figured it out: April Fools from “Ask Westchester!”