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MMD > Archives > June 2006 > 2006.06.14 > 01Prev  Next

Artizan Factory Building in North Tonawanda
By Doug Hershberger

I live in North Tonawanda, a short distance from the former Wurlitzer
factory campus, the Artizan Factory, and the North Tonawanda Musical
Instrument Works (NTMIW) factory.  What doesn't show in the picture
of the Artizan factory is a one-story addition to the northeast where
the business of the current occupant is conducted.  Access is from this
addition and there is no clue if the original brick factory building
is in use or not.  It is not vandalized and falling apart like the
Wurlitzer building was for a while.

I have long intended to stop there, introduce myself as an associate of
the Herschell Carousel Factory Museum, and ask if they knew the history
of the building.  I wanted to secure egress to the factory building and
just see what is in there.  I don't expect to find machinery on the
third floor and a bin of organ parts, but you just never know.  There
could be things tacked on walls, etc.

Before the present occupant there was another business using the site.
There is no identification remaining on the building to indicate what
the previous business was but that could easily be learned.

The building has likely had much use since Artizan left in 1930 as
North Tonawanda was a viable city through at least the 1950s.  The
building sits in a Y formed by two railroad tracks.  The track to the
left (NW) ran to the Wurlitzer Station and beyond less than two miles
from Artizan.  The railroad track to the right ran to Lockport and
Olcott Beach and was used by steam and trolley lines.

A few years ago I stopped at the NTMIW building and the folks I met
there were fascinated.  They allowed me to roam the entire building.
There was little to see; it was all left to the imagination.  I took
them pictures and literature to support my information and they
examined it all with interest.

Understand this: Rand acquired NTMIW in the teens for one reason:
its woodworking ability.  Rand never cared a bit about manufacturing
musical instruments.  There is an interview with some Mr. Rand in the
Bowers' Encyclopedia which confirms this.

I have had many conversations with people who "were there" over the
40 years of my interest.  I was told (I can't say by whom or when) that
NTMIW was formed by disenchanted employees of DeKleist and that Artizan
was formed by a similar group who recognized that the days of NTMIW
were numbered under the ownership of Rand.  Wurlitzer simply outlasted
them all.

The Willard Dittmar incident probably occurred many, many years ago and
at a time when the papers described were trash in anyone's view except
a historian.  Willard (with whom I also talked several times), was
probably in his 90s when he recounted this incident.  He would have
been retired many years by then.

The Wurlitzer complex is huge.  It was abandoned, vandalized and falling
apart.  It was considered an eyesore in the community.  Some time ago
a local businessman, William Irr, acquired it.  I am told by some who
worked for him that he has some regard for the building.  I don't know
why.  He has carefully and thoughtfully rehabilitated the property until
it is mostly occupied and looks very presentable.  He is a successful
man and knows how to manage such a property.  There are many artifacts
in the lobby and incredible items were simply abandoned when Wurlitzer
vacated even after the place was seriously looted by collectors and
former employees.

Excuse me, I need to go to work.

Doug Hershberger

P.S. Oh, yes, there were and are heirs around.  The Morganti's had a
restaurant.  Another family of significance started a finance company.
Gordon Tussing, Ralph's son, lives a few miles from me.

(Message sent Wed 14 Jun 2006, 11:13:28 GMT, from time zone GMT-0400.)

Key Words in Subject:  Artizan, Building, Factory, North, Tonawanda

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