Looming over the riverfront in one of the Valley’s biggest cities, this brick tower is a reminder of our region’s — as well as our nation’s — once-vibrant industrial past.
The company that eventually became known as Sedgwick Machine Works was established all the way back in 1643 in Lynn, Massachusetts. It was there that General Robert Sedgwick started the first furnace and iron works in America. Fast-forward two centuries: Sedgwick’s direct descendent, Charles Henry Sedgwick, brings his family’s business to the Valley in 1844. About 50 years later, Charles Henry’s son, Alonzo, builds a factory — and this tower — right at the edge of the Hudson River.
Throughout much of the 20th century, Sedgwick Machine Works built and sold hand-operated elevators and dumb waiters. Their circa-1920 catalogue shows a variety of dumb-waiter “outfits” — some of which no doubt found their way into the kitchens of the grand Gilded Age mansions that had sprung up throughout the area. Relying on a system of ropes and pulleys rather than electricity, the hand-powered elevators were specially built to lift construction materials, dry goods, ash cans, even cars — as well as people. The polio-stricken FDR used a Sedgwick elevator to travel between floors at Springwood, his Hyde Park home.
Our tracking of Sedgwick’s history trail goes cold in the mid-1990s. We’ve been unable to determine if the company moved away from its riverside home around that time, or simply went out of business. Their building, sadly, was damaged by fire in 2002; it was razed in 2005 to make way for waterfront development. The tower, however, was left standing — possibly because taking it down would have been prohibitively expensive.
Can you identify the city that Sedgwick called home for 150 years? Send us your answer as a comment in the box below. The first reader with the correct response wins a prize. (And if you can shed some light on Sedgwick’s most recent history, we’d love to hear about that, too.) Good luck!