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Susquehanna Life

History of the Sheffield Farms Creamery Building, Route 15, Lewisburg, Pa.

Creamery giant Sheffield Dairy, of New York, had a creamery in the tiny town of Lewisburg, Pa.

This stout two-story brick building still proudly boasts its past history as the home of a Sheffield Farms creamery, in the form of fading words on the side of the building which reads:

"Sheffield Farms Co Inc New York City"

Sheffield Farms, whose headquarters are in New York City, was one of the top 3 dairy companies in New York at the turn of the century. If you have ever watched Antique Roadshow on TV, you may have seen some of the antique toys with the "Sheffield Farms" logo on the side. Many of the toys depicted horse drawn milk wagons.

The building is now a multi-tenant commercial use building. A recent for-rent add indicates it is a 19th century historic brick former creamery plant, with 19,700 square feet and boasts an elevator.

Address:
130 Buffalo Road
Lewisburg PA 17837

Sheffield Farms Milk wagon, 1936

 






The Sheffield Farms–Slawson–Decker Company, known as Sheffield Farms, pasteurized, bottled, and delivered milk in New York City in the first half of the 20th century, becoming one of the largest dairy companies in the world, and selling 20% of the city's milk. The company played a major part in transforming commercial milk from a dirty, disease-spreading product into a clean and healthy one.


History

L. B. Halsey, a lawyer who married Sarah Frances Sheffield, (daughter of the late John H and Anne Maria Sheffield) became interested in the dairy business when called upon to help deliver his widowed mother-in-law’s butter. Through careful selection and breeding the Sheffield herd of Mahwah, New Jersey, produced superior milk, which in turn made fine butter. He began marketing the butter in his spare time in the city and by 1880 had given up the law to devote himself to the dairy trade. His first innovation was to design a covered milk wagon that protected fluid milk from dust. Halsey trained other farmers to improve the quality of their milk and bought milk only from the best herds.

In 1892, he installed the first pasteurizing machine in the United States, imported from Germany, at Sheffield Farms’ Bloomville, New York, plant. The following year, pasteurization was demonstrated at the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. Commercial milk pasteurization was introduced in Baltimore in 1893 but Cincinnati is credited with the first large scale pasteurization program in America. New York City followed in 1898, although pasteurization was not yet required for some years.

Slawson Brothers entered the milk distribution business in 1866. Loton H. Horton (April 22, 1852 – December 15, 1926), a Slawson on his mother’s side, began driving a milk wagon for his uncle when he was 16. He quickly rose to lead the company, becoming a partner at the age of 21 and principal owner in 1898. When the company merged with T. W. Decker and Sheffield Farms, he became the new firm’s president, a post he held until his death in 1926. At that time, Sheffield Farms Co. (the name was eventually shortened from Sheffield Farms–Slawson–Decker) was the largest dairy products company in the world with nearly 2,000 retail routes and over 300 stores, mostly in New York City.

Computer Music Center, formerly a Sheffield Farms dairy plant, on 125th Street in New York City

Just before his death, Horton had sold the company to the National Dairy Products Corporation. National Dairy Products was formed in 1923 as a merger of several dairy concerns and continued to grow through acquisitions, the most important of which was the addition of Sheffield Farms. Others included Breyer Ice Cream, also purchased in 1926, and Kraft-Phenix Cheese Corporation in 1930. All of the companies continued to operate independently, marketing products under their recognized brand names. In 1969, National Dairy Products became Kraftco and then Kraft in 1976.

Since 1964, the Sheffield buildings on West 57th Street between Tenth and Eleventh Avenues in Manhattan have been the CBS Broadcast Center.

Horace S. Tuthill Jr., retired in 1950 as a vice president of the Sheffield Farms Company in charge of sales and advertising, after thirty years with the company. Joseph A. Mulvihill and Michael J. Mulvihill worked for the company from 1920 to 1950 in the New York City and Jamaica plants. There was also a store in Rockaway during the summer months.

The company built the Sheffield Farms Stable, 3229 Broadway near 130th Street, between 1903 and 1909. It was a historic stable located in upper Manhattan. Designed by Frank A. Rooke, it was a six-story, light colored brick building with terracotta ornament. It was originally built in 1903 as a two-story stable building for the Sheffield Farms dairy, then expanded to its present size in 1909. It housed horses used for the delivery of pasteurized milk until July 1938. It was sold in 1942, after which it housed a real estate company, insurance company, and warehouse. After its purchase by Columbia University, it escaped demolition by getting listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2005.


Where it all began

Manhattan dairies established in 1903, including Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker, were served by milk trains coming down the Hudson River rail line. In 1909, Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker enlarged its initial building, at 3229 Broadway, to an imposing six-story structure that housed horses. Stables were nexus of the milk industry, sending out wagons to drop off thousands of bottles every morning to individual customers.

The building was another in the modern French style, with a huge projecting eave of tile. (In 1909, according to articles in The NY Times, more than 60 Sheffield horses died during an epidemic of arsenic poisoning, apparently by extortionists or disgruntled employees.)

Sheffield soon added a new hub for its operations, its great dairy plant at 632 West 125th Street, finished in 1911. Like the 1909 stable, this was designed by Frank A. Rooke,  a specialist in stable and industrial architecture, with a pure, gleaming front of white glazed tile, and trimmed with copper windows and other details, oxidized to green.

The Sheffield dairy plant at 632 West 125th Street, designed by Frank A. Rooke, shown in the 1910s. Credit: Architecture and Building, Library of Congress

The Sheffield dairy had a copper and glass overhang over the central section, shielding delivery wagons from the elements. The milk cans were emptied on the top floor in a dust-free room: the windows were double-glazed, and air pressure was kept higher than that outside, so air was constantly flowing out.

Inside, the walls were white-painted plaster, meeting in curves to avoid dirt-catching corners. The ceilings were a translucent green glass tile. Milk flowed down through filters and pasteurizing equipment until bottled and sealed at the ground-floor level. Ice was dumped into the screen-bottom milk crates, which were transferred to delivery wagons moving through a half-oval path on the interior, entering on the right side of the building and exiting on the left.

The new plant could process and pasteurize 15,000 bottles an hour and, according to a 1911 article in the magazine Architecture and Building, was the brainchild of Loton Horton, head of Sheffield, “whose long life has been devoted to the study of pure milk.”

Mr. Horton had bitterly opposed the 1912 city law that required all milk to be pasteurized, but nevertheless designed his plant with pasteurizing capacity.

By the 1930s the dairies had begun building milk-processing plants beyond Manhattan. Gradually, they moved out of Manhattanville; Columbia bought Sheffield’s old 125th Street plant in 1949 for its engineering school.

In 2008, Columbia planned a new science campus, mostly west of Broadway from 125th to 133rd Street. In addition to the 125th Street Sheffield site, it owns the Borden one, and says it plans to keep them intact. But it plans to demolish the 1909 Sheffield stable on Broadway, and does not rule out invoking the right of eminent domain to get it.


Information courtesy of Waymarking.comWikipedia and the NY Times.

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