The Otis Elevator Company is a former factory along Northland Avenue in Buffalo, New York. The site was later reused by Curtiss-Wright to manufacture aircraft components.
It is located in an area that was prime for industrial development in the early 20th century. Located along the New York Central Railroad’s (NYC) Belt Line, which was constructed in 1883 in an effort to decentralize industrial development in Buffalo, factories sprung up along Northland Avenue. 8 Industries that developed in the area included Otis Elevator Company, Niagara Machine & Tool Works, Houde Engineering, Northland Rubber and Buffalo Foundry & Machine.
Most of the factories along Northland had orders from the federal government during World War I and World War II to serve as defense contractors. 8 During the Cold War, the companies received routine orders for the military, producing wares for aircraft manufacturers, including Curtiss-Wright, Bell and 23 different foundries. Curtiss-Wright, Lockheed and Douglas used Niagara Machine & Tool Work’s presses to produce small parts for aircraft assembly both during and after World War II. As the Cold War waned, so did the companies along the Northland corridor.
In February 1906, the Otis Elevator Company acquired 35 acres at the northwest corner of Grider Street and Northland Avenue 4 near the NYC Belt Line 6 for their Buffalo Works. 5 The Buffalo Works was to manufacture the plunger elevator which at the time was produced at their Worcester Works in Worcester, Massachusetts. 7
Construction of the rail and plunger shop, at a cost of $130,000, began in March. 6 Ten buildings were planned, including offices, shipping facilities, machine shop, electric equipment shop, pattern vaults, power station, car and grill shop, escalator shop, foundry with two cupola annexes and storehouses for the storage of raw material.
A foundry at 777 Northland at the southeast corner of Sheridan Avenue, 3 designed by Green & Wicks of Buffalo, was added in 1913. 8 Other additions to Otis’ Buffalo Works came in 1939 and 1942.
Curtiss-Wright purchased the properties in 1951 8 for its metals processing division, 13 divided into casting, forging and extrusion operations. 16 It manufactured aerospace and aircraft components and later titanium parts for General Electric engines, 2 and worked closely with the United States Air Force and the United States Air Express program. 17 Early in the facility’s history, the company produced uranium heavy walled tubing and extruded steel propeller blades. 16
One of the plant’s signature machines was a circa 1955 16 12,000-ton 126-foot horizontal press built by the Loewy-Hydropress Division of Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton 15 that allowed the company to produce large-diameter, heavy-wall alloy chrome-molybdenum steel pipes. 13 Those pipes could then be used in pressure retention applications in nuclear, oil refining and missile applications.
In May 1968, Curtiss-Wright announced a $3.5 million expansion of its Buffalo facility to include new forging and machining equipment in a new building. 2
The company began negotiations for the sale of its metal processing division, as well as its Buffalo facility, in July 1993 due to cutbacks in the commercial aviation industry. 14 The two entities accounted for 46% of the company’s annual net sales.
The former Curtiss-Wright factory was purchased for $150,000 on June 16, 1995. 10 747 and 777 Northland were then sold for $650,000 on February 25, 2005.
In March 2006, Centerstone Development proposed rehabilitating 60 Girder for Sodexho (rebranded as Sodexo in January 2008) at a cost of $22 million. 10 The 145,000 square-foot facility was renamed “Wright Place,” with Sodexho leasing 80,000 square-feet for a hospital laundry operation.
In June 2005, the Buffalo Urban Development Corporation (BUDC) acquired the former Curtiss-Wright factory and an adjoining five acres, paying just $50,000 to Buffalo businessman John Giordano. 1
Buffalo Billion, a $1 billion project that was first proposed by Governor Cuomo in 2012, 12 is designed to create thousands of jobs and spur billions of new investment and economic activity in the Buffalo region. 11 Part of that proposal included the reuse or reclamation of abandoned or underused industrial sites along the Northland corridor.
The state packaged together $6.7 million in financing to redevelop the Northland corridor into a 50-acre advanced manufacturing park in September 2014. 10 The land would be acquired by BUDC. In January 2015, BUDC acquired 35.6 acres of land and 700,000 square-feet of industrial space for $4.4 million. It included 631, 644, 664, 683, 688, 690, 741, 767 and 777 Northland and 126 and 128 Dutton. BUDC had earlier purchased 537 East Delavan Avenue for $250,000.
BUDC determined that 741 Northland was salvageable and could be stabilized for reuse with select demolition of some collapsed areas. 9 777 Northland was noted to be in an extreme state of disrepair, built upon a stone foundation with load-bearing brick walls that had partially collapsed. It was determined that it was unfeasible to save the structure and it is set for demolition.