Eight That Can’t Wait 2019: H. A. Moyer Factories

1710-1714 North Salina Street, Syracuse – National Register-eligible Historic District

Challenges: Vacancy, Deterioration

The H. A. Moyer Factories is a large complex of late 19th and early 20th-century industrial buildings at the far north end of North Salina Street, best known today by the west factory with “the house on the roof.” The factories are significant for their architecture and association with Syracuse’s industrial history. The 210,000 square-foot complex has stood mostly vacant since 2005, and in 2014 one of the walls facing Park Street collapsed. As of 2019, developers are proposing a housing project for the portio of the complex between Park and North Salina streets using historic tax credits. PACNY is listing the Moyer Factories to raise awareness about their history and significance, and to support a current proposal for historic rehabilitation.

The Moyer Factories, with North Salina Street at lower left, ca. 2018. The red line is the boundary of the draft National Register district. (Pictometry, annotated by PACNY)
The Moyer factory complex at its height, looking west across Wolf and Park streets with Onondaga Lake in the distance, ca. 1915. (Postcard, personal collection)

Harvey A Moyer (1853-1935) was born in Clay and founded the H. A. Moyer Carriage Company in Cicero in 1876. In 1880, Moyer moved the company to Syracuse a short distance east of the Oswego Canal, and built the earliest of the existing factory buildings, at the corner of Wolf and Park Streets.  

The original Moyer Carriage Factory building at the corner of Wolf and Park streets, built in 1880. Note collapsed side wall. (PACNY, 2019)
Lithograph of the Moyer Carriage Manufactory, ca. 1900. (Onondaga Historical Society)

In 1908, H. A. Moyer began to produce automobiles, and commissioned his son-in-law, architect Ward Welling Ward, to design a new factory at the northeast corner of Park and Wolf streets. The four-story brick building went up in 1909. Moyer tried to make cars the way he made fine carriages, but his individually produced luxury cars could not compete with mass-produced cars, especially the Ford Model T introduced in 1908.

The Ward Wellington Ward-design Automobile Factory, built in 1909. (PACNY, 2019)
A Moyer touring car at the Automobile Factory, 1911. (H. A. Moyer Automobile Company Facebook page)

By 1924, Moyer had gone out of business and the Automobile Factory was occupied by the Owen-Dyneto Corporation. Porter-Cable, the innovator in American portable power tools that occupied the west factory for several decades until 1960, when the company was bought by Rockwell International and moved to Tennessee. The last major tenant was the Penfield Company, which manufactured mattresses and box springs at the site until 2005.

The west factory building (Penfield Building) built ca. 1890. (PACNY, 2019)

Today, although vacant and with portions in poor condition, the carriage manufactory portion of the Moyer complex may soon have a new life through rehabilitation as housing, using state and federal historic tax credits. As part of this project, the entire Moyer complex, including the Automobile Factory, is being listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Reuse of these buildings will help to spur investment in the surrounding neighborhood that contains many other former industrial buildings, in the shadow of Destiny shopping mall. PACNY strongly supports the developer’s investment in the Moyer factories. Announcement of plans is anticipated later this fall.

Sources: Eight That Can’t Wait Nomination Form, 2019; Sam Gruber, My Central New York blog, http://mycentralnewyork.blogspot.com/2013/08/ward-wellington-wards-1909-h-moyer.html ; City of Syracuse City Planning Division

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