Ellicottville has always been a very industrial village. Various industries flourished here in the 1800’s and early 1900’s for several reasons. It was the first settlement in the area with plenty of fast moving streams to support different industries and growing population. Also, it was the first county seat which added greatly to its popularity as a place to settle.
Soon after settlement, Orin Pitcher built a sawmill on the Great Valley Creek. Operation began in 1821 with the location about two miles east of the village. Mr. Pitcher must have had incredible foresight, because lumbering had always been our chief industry until recently. This was the result of an enormous abundance of hardwoods in the area.
Following Mr. Pitcher’s example, a Daniel Bartlett built a factory on Mill Street on the Great Valley Creek and manufactured wooden blocks over which shoes were formed. Before the introduction of plastic, Ellicottville was the world center for shoe last block manufacturing. Mr. Bartlett’s establishment burned in 1893.
M. Murphy & Son, Inc. manufactured shoe lasts, too, as well as bowling pins. Down the street, Fitzpatrick & Weller, which was founded in 1895 as a shoe manufacturer, is still producing lumber products. At present, it is a diversified company selling logs, lumber, and dimension throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Pacific Rim countries.
Rust and Olin owned a planing and saw mill on Elizabeth Street. It was located where the present Larimer and Norton, Inc. has its mill, and manufactures rough-turn “Louisville Slugger” baseball bats.
Another lumber business which existed was The Ellicottville Specialty Corporation, financed by Fitzpatrick & Weller interests. It was organized in 1921, and engaged in the manufacture of coaster wagons, baseball bats, and wood novelties and toys on a large scale.
An offshoot of the lumber business was a basket manufacturer. The Basket Factory was established in 1924. It was located on Rockwell Avenue near the old baseball park. It was destroyed by fire in 1931, and rebuilt. It was again completely destroyed by fire in 1932 and rebuilt once more. In 1935, they employed from 30 to 50 workers. They manufactured bushel, ½ bushel, 8 quart, 4 quart, diamond braid market baskets and boxes.
Agriculture related businesses flourished too. The first grist mill, which was established in 1832 was located where the old light company stood. J.D. and D.P. Mc Mahon operated the Maple Grove Mill, which handled feed as well as lumber. Cheese factories, collecting the milk from farmers, were scattered throughout the area, producing and manufacturing cheese.
A condensed milk factory was established in Ellicottville in 1902 by the Scranton Condensed Milk Co. At the time it was the largest industry in the village. In 1905 the company sold out to Borden Co. The buildings occupied several acres of land; the plant was large and unusually well equipped.
On the west end of town a tannery was established in 1832 by Artemis Blair. This was located on Tannery Creek, east of the present Ralph Chapman residence.
Moving into a more modern vein, Ellicottville kept up with the times. The Ellicottville Electric Light Company was established in 1905 and furnished electricity for lighting the streets of the village and commercial and residential districts. In 1914, the lauder and Watson Hosiery Co. moved here from Perry, New York and was engaged in the manufacture of ladies’ high grade hosiery.
One of our smaller industries was the Specialty Shop which was located at the corner of Washington and Mill Streets. This establishment manufactured small novelty boxes for the Kulp Co., which was located directly across the street. The Kulp Co. in turn, produced decorated jewelry boxes, desk and dress sets, vases, bookends, candlesticks and other similar pieces. Later on, the Moberg brothers were located in the former Specialty Shop building. They manufactured baseball bats, baby cribs and playpens. In the early 1930’s prior to the Moberg’s, another industry which occupied the former Kulp Co. building was a manufacturer of pre-fabricated metal service stations.
Just east of the Specialty Shop a furniture upholstery manufacturer was established. In 1937 a branch of the Jamestown Lounge Co. of Jamestown, N.Y. located in the building. They also upholstered chairs and continue to operate until 1975 with the exception of being closed for five years during World War II. At present, Boothe’s Upholstery occupies the building.
In more recent years Ellicottville’s industries diversified even more. Burrell Cutlery, Inc. was started in 1940 by the late Harold W. Burrell and his son, Dean Burrell. During World War II, the company manufactured straight razors and surgical instruments. After the war the firm started manufacturing household cutlery and in addition to knives, the company also manufactures tomato slicers which are exported to twenty-nine countries throughout the world.
In July, 1961, Otis Steel Corporation erected a new building on Maple Avenue after fire destroyed their plant on Washington Street. The firm manufactured office partitions, shelving, and metal products. Otis Steel was a sub-contractor for General Fireproofing Company, which manufactured office desks and partitions. In 1971 General Fireproofing sold to York Merit Products. York Merit pulled out in 1986, and the 10 acre site is now being prepared for an expansion project by Fitzpatrick & Weller, Inc., the new owner of the property.
One of the larger industries in Ellicottville is Signore, Inc., which is a division of American Locker Group, Inc. of Jamestown. It was founded in 1948 and bought out in 1967. This manufacturer of steel desks and files has recently announced plans to expand. Currently, the firm employs 230 hourly and 50 salaried workers at both Jefferson and Martha Street sites.
Notice the variety of manufacturers past and present. At the present time, Stride Tool, Inc. is one of the newer industries in Ellicottville and manufactures specialty tools. Advanced Nutritional Research and Art Glass Productions, both located in the 1887 Building manufacture vitamins, stained glass windows and decoration respectively.
Presently construction companies include J.D. Northrup Co., Scharf Bros., George Raecher & Sons, Inc., and Tye Construction among others. All housing related industries are at a peak at the present time as a result of our newest industry; Skiing.
Two natural resources, hills and snow, turn Ellicottville into a major ski resort each winter. Skiing is now one of Ellicottville’s largest industries. The beginnings of this were very modest with a rope tow first on Fish Hill and then Greer Hill. Fish Hill began its new adventure in 1936, with a rope tow which was the second to be established in the state. Greer Hill started two years later into this very unpretentious industry.
In 1957 a corporation was formed: Win-Sum Ski Corporation. This was the birth of Holiday Valley Resort. Later on, HoliMont, a private club, was established. From this modest, initial venture Ellicottville has developed into a major ski center in the Northeast.
In conclusion, industry has been very varied. The products that have come out of Ellicottville have been different, but always a result of our environment and times. Lumber and agriculture were our beginnings, with more metal-related industries stepping in, and at the present skiing is still an up and coming business in our area. Industry has survived in Ellicottville, but adjusted with changing times.
Source: “1837 – 1987 Village of Ellicottville Sesquicentennial” - Commemorative Publication, Author of Article Unknown.
Written by Mary Elizabeth Dunbar, Historian Town of Ellicottville.
This article was published on 4/10/2009 in the Special Effects, Ellicottville, NY