The Collar City Creamery – North Central’s Milk Headquarters

[Original post can be found on SpellenOfTroy.Com]

Throughout much of the late 19th and 20th centuries, the North End, as Troy’s North Central neighborhood was often called, produced many important products that were vital to Troy’s own citizenry, as well as products that were sold across the country.

Our most vital resource, the Hudson River, flows past this neighborhood, sandwiched between Downtown and Lansingburgh. Many industries and businesses were located along, or not far from its banks.

They were largely companies that needed the river to transport their raw materials and products. They included the gas company, lumber yards, ice houses, coal companies and other commodities. Factory buildings lined River Street, and the streets west of it, when possible, making collars and cuffs, clothing, furniture, mattresses and other products.

Over the years on into the 20th century, as industry changed in Troy, new businesses rose where older businesses once stood. Regatta Place, a now forgotten short street leading from River Street to the Hudson, was once home to the Collar City Creamery.

I didn’t know Regatta Place existed, and it’s only a few blocks from my house. Here, at the end of the street was the headquarters of Troy’s largest and most successful dairy business.

 The Collar City Creamery

The CCC was established in 1925 as a distributing company for dairy products. The Regatta Place location was their main office, with other centers to be established in nearby towns.The Directors of the company were Jerry B. Batigley, Charles R. Cornell and John E. P. Hughes of Albany, and William Clarkson and John H. Brewster of Troy.Charles Cornell, known throughout his life as C. Ray, was the head of the company as well as the plant manager. He was an experienced dairy man, having founded the Boulevard Dairy in Albany in 1913. The CCC was his baby.As we can see from the Troy city map, the plant consisted of a large central processing plant, with a line of stables and wagons on the grounds. These horse drawn milk carts were a familiar sight for all of Troy’s citizens for many years.

The Troy Times carried ads almost daily for the Creamery, offering a wide range of dairy products, including milk, cottage cheese, butter, buttermilk, cream, eggs and later – chocolate milk and fruit drinks.

The Importance of the Collar City Creamery to Troy

The CCC became ingrained in the life of Troy. Their products were used exclusively in cooking classes sponsored by the WYCA and local banks. Cooking columnists in the Troy Times touted the superiority of Creamery milk and dairy.

Local school classes from both Lansingburgh and Troy visited the plant often, which no doubt, hired many of the students after they graduated.  The Creamery donated their products to the Home Ec. Classes of both school systems.

The CCC took part in local industry trade shows and was touted as one of Troy’s most important businesses. Don Rittner’s book, Troy Revisited has a photo of the CCC’s exhibit table at a Troy Business Fair held at the Troy Armory in 1934.

Like most companies, the Collar City Creamery had its own baseball team. This was par for the course with most companies in America at the time. The Collar City Milkmen played other local company teams. The company also had annual picnics, Christmas parties and other perks for their workers.

They also had their share of problems. Over the years there were accidents involving delivery cart drivers and pedestrians and runaway horses. Someone tried to open the safe and rob the office in 1928. They were scared off by the watchman.

The great milk wars of the Depression also affected the Creamery, as upstate farmers tried to get fair prices for their milk. They were fighting against the three largest dairy companies, who controlled most of the milk processing in the state.

The largest of these, the Borden Milk Company, bought the Collar City Creamery from C. Ray Cornell in 1936 for an undisclosed amount. They retained him as plant manager. He would stay with the company until his retirement in 1947.

During World War II, as the country experienced rationing of items like tires, the Creamery went back to delivering milk by horse drawn carts. They even made an ad out of it. Old Dobbin, the horse, had been drafted, too.

The Creamery fought the tire rationing and won a concession from the government, allowing them to buy tires. It was deemed that dairy delivery, especially to Troy’s children, was important to the war effort.
After the War

On January 30, 1949, two neighborhood kids, Dennis Curley and David Collins, both 8 years old, were playing near the Hudson River. They got closer and closer to the river’s edge and ended up having a great time sliding on the ice near the shore.David Collins turned to call his dog. When he turned around, Dennis had fallen through the ice into 15 feet of water. He was shivering, desperately clinging to the edge. Young Collins ran for help at the Creamery.

A group of workers rushed to the river to rescue the boy. They brought ropes and got to the scene as David Collins went out on the ice to hand his friend a long stick. He told him that help was coming. The freezing Dennis told him he didn’t know how much longer he could hold on.

It turned out the rope wasn’t long enough, even with the stick attached. One of the Creamery rescuers, Si Maple, tied the rope around his waist, and crawled on his stomach out on the ice to the boys. He sent David back to shore. Dennis looked at him and said, “I can’t hold on any longer.” Maple grabbed his coat as he let go, and yelled for his co-workers to pull.

The ice was breaking under the two as they were pulled to shore, but they made it. The police had arrived and Dennis was rushed to the hospital. The St Patrick’s School student was there for several days, and fully recovered, hopefully wiser, from his ordeal.

A year later, Si Maple received a reward from the nationally-based Milk Industry Foundation for his heroism.

The End of an Era

The Collar City Creamery stayed in business until the 1950s. The last mention in the Troy Times was in 1954. Whenever it was they closed down, they did not make a lot of noise doing it. No doubt Borden, which several other milk processing plants in the Capital Region, just moved its operations to another location.The plant was sold. The S.A. Fane Construction Company was located here by the 1960s. They kept the 1930s Deco style main building, where “Collar City Creamery” can still be seen. Today, this location is the Pump Service and Supply of Troy.Over the years, Regatta Place has almost disappeared. It wasn’t a large or wide street to begin with, and does not cross River, so it’s easy to miss. It marks the termination of the alley that runs behind the buildings on the west side of River Street.The old Collar City Creamery building still stands. It’s right around the corner from St. Basil’s Greek Orthodox Church, a block north of Glen. Walk or ride by sometime and take a look. It’s a piece of North Central’s forgotten history.

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