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Big plans in works for Tupper Lake’s old OWD factory

Tupper Lake’s empty but iconic former Oval Wood Dish factory, known simply as OWD, has been recommended as an addition to the state and national Registers of Historic Places — but the village mayor says a deal is in the works for it to be purchased and converted into housing.

The factory, owned by Norman Bobrow of Manhattan, was one of 18 properties across the state selected to be on the registers in an announcement made Monday, Sept. 14 by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. The governor said the recommendation was made by the New York State Board for Historic Preservation.

State and National Registers listing can assist owners in revitalizing properties, making them eligible for various public preservation programs and services, such as matching state grants and state and federal historic rehabilitation tax credits.

Redevelopment possible

Meanwhile, Tupper Lake village Mayor Paul Maroun said Monday that a Syracuse company is in the process of trying to buy the factory property from Bobrow.

“There’s a transaction being formulated right now,” Maroun said. “I’m very hopeful that they do because we have a plan that I’ll be able to talk to you about as soon as, hopefully, the sale is complete. But it has to do with housing.”

This purchasing company, he said, has converted former manufacturing facilities into upscale housing in Utica and Syracuse.

“I’ve met with them here in Tupper Lake twice, and I’ve met with them once in Syracuse,” Maroun said. One of the company’s owners recently bought a house in Long Lake, he said, and “They love Tupper Lake.”

Maroun said he can’t say any more at this time because the deal isn’t finalized.

Property history

According to published historical reports, the Oval Wood Dish company moved to Tupper Lake around 1917 from its previous location in Michigan. The company was founded in Delta, Ohio, in 1883. At its Tupper Lake plant, OWD manufactured not only oval wooden dishes but also various types of wooden products including clothespins, bowling pins, tongue depressors, furniture pieces, commercial veneer, hardwood flooring, ice cream and popsicle sticks, and the popular wooden spoons that came with cups of ice cream.

In addition to the plant, the company owned more than 100,000 acres of forest.

During its heyday, the company provided residents of Tupper Lake and surrounding areas with hundreds of jobs. OWD’s owners were also community oriented, building the village’s first ski hill and donating land for the Tupper Lake Country Club golf course.

OWD went out of business in 1964, and Jarden Plastics Solutions Inc. eventually bought the factory in 2003 and operated there until shutting down its local operations in May 2008, which resulted in the loss of approximately 70 jobs. Jarden had made plastic items there ranging from eating utensils to poker chips.

For the most part, the 100,000-square-foot factory has remained vacant, with the exception of a time when Family Champions, a local charity, occupied a section of one of the buildings. Clarkson University students have devoted projects to envisioning reuse plans for it, but these did not come to pass.

“These historic locations highlight so much of what is exceptional about New York and its incredible contributions to our nation’s history,” Cuomo said in a press release. “By placing these landmarks on the state and national Registers of Historic Places, we are helping to ensure these places and their caretakers have the funding needed to preserve, improve and promote the best of this great state.”