BRING ME EDELWEISS! Forgotten dairies around town.

Before modern efficiencies, milk and milk products were done on a local scale. Eventually due to New York City’s swelling population, larger facilities were needed. There were many private companies filling that demand, but by 1930 three dairy companies dominated the dairy scene. They were the United States Dairy Products Corp., Borden’s and Sheffield Farms. Most of those facilities are gone now, but a few buildings have survived…

R.H. Renken Dairy at SW corner of Classon & Myrtle Avenues, Clinton Hill Brooklyn. Building is unused presently. It was constructed in the 1930s by Koch & Wagner.

RIGHT: Art Deco design of office entrance on Myrtle Avenue side of building that’s still in good condition except for the missing “e” in office.

The M.H. Renken Dairy of Brooklyn, NY was established in 1927 in the eastern part of the borough, continuing operation until 1962.

Sheffield Farms, a major milk distributor in the Northeast in the late 1800s and early 1900s, was acquired by National Dairy Products (now Kraft, Inc.) in 1925. It has left a number of impressive buildings around town, not least what is now the CBS Broadcast Center at 524 West 57th Street at the northern end of Hell’s Kitchen. Here are some others…–your webmaster

Sheffield Farms on west side Webster Avenue between East 165th and 166th Streets in the Morrisania section of the Bronx. There was more of the dairy building on right side. That part was demolished to make way for the apartment building about ten years ago. (I know this personally because I used to drive the BX41 that went right past the building.)

Built between 1914-1921 by Frank Rooke.–your webmaster

A Sheffield Farms building on West 125th Street between Broadway and 12th Avenue is now Prentis Hall, Department of Chemical Engineering; it was constructed in 1906 with the architect being Edgar Moeller.

Sheffield Farms in Brooklyn. This facility was on south side of Fulton Street between Brooklyn & New York Avenues. The building was transformed to The Restoration Center in the early 1970s. The Restoration center contains retail stores that includes a Duane-Reade drugstore, Baskin-Robbins, a branch of Citibank, a supermarket that was formerly Pathmark, a skating rink and the Billie Holiday Theater where off-off Broadway shows are presented.

Mayflower Ice Cream Company on east side of Vernon Avenue near 43rd Avenue in Long Island City,Queens.

RIGHT: The former W.M. Evans Dairy Co. on Fulton Street and Eldert Lane in Cypress Hills, Brooklyn. This is the highest numbered address on Brooklyn’s Fulton Street–your webmaster

The history of Borden’s is a lengthy and illustrious one in the annals of American entrepreneurship.


As an American philanthropist, businessman, and inventor, Gail Borden, Jr. envisioned food concentrates as a means of safeguarding the human food supply. He was the first to develop a commercial method of condensing milk, and the dairy company founded by him (renamed Borden, Inc., in 1968) expanded and diversified to become a sizable corporation operating in many areas of business.

Gail Borden, Jr., (1801-1874) inventor, publisher, surveyor, and founder of the Borden Company, son of Gail and Philadelphia Borden, was born in Norwich, New York, on November 9, 1801. In the middle 1840s he began inventing. He is supposed to have experimented with large-scale refrigeration as a means of preventing yellow fever and with a terraqueous machine, a sort of prairie schooner that would go on land or water. In 1849 he perfected a meat biscuit, made of dehydrated meat compounded with flour, which he tried to market on a worldwide scale in partnership with Ashbel Smith. Although this project left him deeply in debt, for seven years Borden struggled to sell meat biscuits. For this purpose he moved to New York in 1851 to be nearer trade centers.

In 1853 he sought a patent on a process for condensing milk in vacuum, but it was 1856 before he received American and British patents. He then dropped the meat biscuit to devote himself to condensing milk. He opened a factory in Connecticut in 1856 but failed, then tried and failed again in 1857. Through Jeremiah Milbank, a New York financier, he received new backing and opened another factory in Connecticut in 1858. When the Civil War brought intensified demand for condensed milk, sales grew so much that Borden’s success was assured. He opened another factory in Connecticut, two in New York, and one in Illinois and licensed other concerns in Pennsylvania and Maine. He also invented processes for condensing various fruit juices, for extract of beef, and for coffee. After the Civil War he established a meat-packing plant at Borden, Texas, twelve miles west of Columbus, and a sawmill and copperware factory at Bastrop.

He died in Borden, Texas, a community named for him. Today it boasts a population of about 50.

Borden mascot Elsie the Cow, her husband Elmer the Bull and calf Lobelia appeared in the 1930s, making an appearance at the Flushing Meadows World’s Fair, an event recollected in sidewalk mosaics there [see Forgotten Tour 19]

Elsie’s got a new look…check it out at Borden Products Online.

Borden is the most storied of the dairies shown here, and the remnants of Borden’s plants in NYC are likewise some of the more impressive of NYC’s defunct dairies…

I’m not Elsie. This is Borden’s facility on south side of Atlantic Avenue near Barbey Street in East New York, Brooklyn.

The blue terra cotta Borden’s entablature is cracked and broken above what was the main entrance, but flanking the door are two of NYC’s more unsung terra cotta designs, seemingly depicting Switzerland.

While New York is full of gorgeous terra cotta,some of it gets no respect: the large tablet at theTunnel Garage has now disappeared as the gragae is demolished, and several wonderful scenes depicting activities at Seaview Hospital lie cracked, broken, and overgrown with weeds and fungus.

Happily, Parkchester in the Bronx has dozens of terrific pieces still. —your webmaster

This Borden’s facility is on the east side of Ralph Avenue between Monroe Street and Gates Avenue in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, and its identifying tablet is still there.

Photographed mid-to-late 2005 by Gary Fonville. Page completed April 8, 2006.


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18 Responses to BRING ME EDELWEISS! Forgotten dairies around town.

  1. Bill Piazza says:

    When I was a boy living in the southern end of ENY. Brooklyn there were a number of daires………Wortman Farms. Crescent Farms…Savosh Farms. All located along Wortman Ave. Between Berriman St. and Schenck Ave.. Also Balsam Farms on Schenck Ave. between New Lots and Hegeman.

    • Gary Savosh says:

      Hi Bill
      My Father Bill Savosh worked on this family dairy owned by his Father. My Dad (now pasted on) never spoke of it. A cousin of mine once told me that the City had taken the Farm by imminent domain and is now housing he referred to as “the projects”. We are in California where my parents settled in the 1940s and have grown to a family of a dozen (between my brother and I). I would love to hear anything, anyone remembers about Savosh Farms.
      Gary Savosh

      • jay wolman says:

        Balsam farms was sold about 1963 and homes were built. Isaac Balsam (1880-1945) started the first Chalav Yisrael dairy farm on the east coast, and possibly in the United States. He emigrated to the US in 1898. lived initially with his uncle, Meyer Emmer for 5 years and worked on his dairy farm. In 1903 Balsam established his own dairy farm in Ozone park Queens. At its peak the Balsam farm had 300 cows.

        • Gilbert Kiefer says:

          I grew up on De Sarc Road in Ozone Pqrk. Born 1944, grade school at PS 63. The Balsam farms was still operating into the early fifties along Pitkin Ave, past Sitka St.. Before Little League field was built, we kids used to run by the active farm buildings and even nibble (ugh!) the cow feed.

  2. Arne says:

    doing research for my book, I don’t see Hegemann Dairy, Elmhusrt, N.Y> or Elmhurst Dairy, Queens, N.y.

    • Stacey Kellar says:

      My mom grew up on Wortman Farms – we would love more information if anyone has it.

    • Peter says:

      I live in South Carolina now, but when i lived in Saratoga NY, I bought a milk can which i still have. The top is stamped – Amity Dairies, NYC. The side is stamped, Hersey Farms Inc. Long Island City, there is also a serial number on the top. Do u have any infro on these Dairys ?

  3. Doug Douglass says:

    In her new autobiography, Cyndi Lauper mentions the abandoned Borden’s on Atlantic Avenue near her childhood home in Ozone Park.

  4. rick says:

    i cant find any listings for daitchwell milk company which was located down the block from the old sheffield plant which was on 165 st and park ave, i know it exisisted because my father opened up the school right across the street in 1965

  5. patti says:

    i am trying to find information about hagemann farms, my grandfather worked there around 1930? does anyone know where it was located? or have any history

    • carmine says:

      It may be the Hegeman Dairy you are looking for. We grew up near the Hegeman Dairy in the East New York section of Brooklyn in what we called “New Lots”. New lots were developed and sold to many Italian immigrant families maybe in the 1915 + time frame. They were originally the garbage dump site that had been covered in dug up Bay bottom sand and I guess after some very long period of time the ground was allowed to be sold and had homes built on it. We played in the newer parts of the dump that in my time extended out to the Bay fom more or less Linden Blvd. Maybe Hegeman Avenue was named after that family.

      • Maryann Jones says:

        There was a Hegeman’s Lane in Brookville, LI which I believe the dairy may have been located.

  6. Peter says:

    Anyone know of Amity Dairy in NYC, Hersey Farms Inc, Long Island City ?

  7. E Love says:

    Looking for info on the Stehlin Dairy in Westbury Long Island back in the mid 1800s to early 1900s I think. He was my grandfather’s brother. Looking for any info, or possibly even a dairy bottle or can from there. Just found out about this two days ago!

  8. Grace says:

    Can anyone give info on a dairy in New Lots sec. of B’klyn. Name of “Wasserman” or” Waddington”. My brother seems to remember it was Late 1940’s Early 1950’s
    Near Pennsylvania Or Hageman Aves. Thank You.

  9. Marie Alesi Caruana says:

    My father, Sam, worked for Hegeman Farms on Centre Street near the Brooklyn/Queens border for as long as I can remember. He delivered wholesale to the schools and hospitals and carried wooden crates of pints of milk which were much heavier than the plastic ones we have today, one on each shoulder from his truck. I remember going to the facility many times where they “bottled” the milk into quarts and pints (no half gallons in those days) which I think were cardboard covered in wax film. A gas station opened on the next street and every Saturday night they gave away a TV–the streets were crowded with cars and people waiting for the winner to be called.

  10. Jay Bazz says:

    I am wondering what went on at these dairies…. were cows actually stabled there in the middle of the city? were there fields for them to wander in or did they spend their lives in stalls? how did this work in a city with buildings and cars and city life? how did it smell? how was it cleaned? where did the manure go? how was the feed brought in? How many cows would a dairy have or serve? And these things were still in use into the 60s????

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