Ballston Spa Life
Lumber company lasted into the 1940s
Ballston Spa Life
The lumber business was among the earliest and most important industries in New York State. Sawmills were usually the first industry in any new settlement to provide finished lumber for constructing houses and public buildings. The seemingly endless supply of trees in the Kayaderosseras Valley and north in the Adirondacks supported a thriving lumber industry into the twentieth century.
One of the most successful sawmills in this area was Manogue’s. Located at 81 Bath Street in Ballston Spa, it was built by Dennis Manogue in 1885 for the production of lumber, sash, doors, blinds, moldings, shelving, counters, and wood working materials.
The main plant occupied an area of 150 by 250 feet and contained the manufacturing departments, dry kiln, and storage rooms. The buildings were equipped with a system of piping and conductors through which all shavings were blown by an exhaust fan to the boiler room to be used as fuel. The mill employed 25 men and had a daily capacity of 5,000 feet of lumber.
Manogue was one of the most prominent contractors in the area. He was born in Ireland in 1848 and came to the United States with his parents in 1853. Some of the buildings he erected were the Verbeck, Vassar, and George Story buildings, the Tracy, Dolch and Luther blocks, the rectory of the Episcopal Church, and St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
In October 1895 the mill was largely destroyed by fire. The cause of the fire was unknown, but it was first seen in the engine room. The fire chief soon saw that the fire was beyond the capabilities of even the fire department, so he asked Samuel Haight’s tannery and George West’s Union mills for the use of their fire hoses and force pumps. Despite the high value of its stock and equipment, Manogue reportedly only had insurance of $6,500. Damages were estimated to be up to $26,000, made worse by the fact that the mill was building up stock for the construction of St. Mary’s Church.
Yet another fire struck just a few years later in November 1899. Soon after the workmen had left for the day, the night watchman noticed a fire had broken out near the paint room. Manogue, who was working in the office nearby, was immediately notified and the alarm was sounded. The Eagle Hose and Union Hose fire companies both responded and quickly had streams of water pouring onto the flames. Within an hour the fire was put out, but the intensity of the flames destroyed large parts of the mill. The engine room, boiler room, paint shop, drying room, and much of the second floor were all lost.
There was a dispute between Dennis Manogue and the Carpenters’ Union in June 1905 concerning whether the workers had to be part of the union or could choose not to join. The dispute started when several union workers asked Manogue to discharge a man named Eugene Deyoe, who was a non-union worker that was employed doing side work for the mill. They also asked Manogue to sign a contract stating that he would only hire men who are part of the union. When he refused to sign it, many of them went on strike. Manogue then ran the business as an open shop.
Despite the labor troubles and multiple fires, the mill stayed in business until about 1944, and was one of the few businesses established in the 1800s to survive the Great Depression. The office building still stands today as a residence – its unique shape is recognizable despite heavy renovations and additions over the years. The mill’s survival over the span of 60 years makes it one of the longest-lasting businesses in the village’s history.
Excerpted from Timothy Starr’s book “Lost Industries of the Kaydeross Valley,” available for sale at the Brookside Museum, home of the Saratoga County Historical Society. For more information on the book, please see www.ballstonhistory.com.