The following is a guest post submitted by an anonymous reader.
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If you’ve ever driven down the eastern end of Lyell Ave., or been to a soccer game at Sahlen’s Stadium, you’ve probably seen an enormous old shell of a building looming in the distance. Many times I had seen it’s old edifice sitting silent and, as I usually do, I wondered what the walls contained, what stories it could tell, and what it once was. That’s why one cool September morning I went to meet with the building and see what it could tell me…
The empty structure sits on Orchard Street just south of Lyell Ave. straddling a former railroad line, and it presents an interesting look back at the architecture and industrial manufacturing processes of the twentieth century.
Built in the early 1900’s it was part of a larger complex that took up the entire block between Orchard and Whitney and was used for many different purposes throughout its century of use. Beginning in 1915, the Northeast Electric Company owned the property before ceasing operations in 1922. In 1930, Delco Appliance acquired a number of buildings and production facilities. The company operated successfully for over 30 years before moving out in 1967. From there, buildings were divided up and used separately by individual companies.
Between 1971 and 1991 there were a number of businesses calling this block home. There were various tool & die, printers, metal finishers, a synthetic foam manufacturer, plastic manufacturers, and warehousing operations. One of those companies was Sykes Datatronics. They called the 7-story Orchard Street building home until leaving in 1992.
The City of Rochester has been through several times to demolish older buildings and clean up the property. Waves of demolition in 2003, 2006, and 2009 have left only the Sykes building standing. It will soon be abated and demolished as well in preparation for redevelopment.
Sykes Datatronics was a computer and electronics business in the 1970s and 80s. Eventually competition from larger companies, coupled with misdirection at the helm, led Sykes to file for bankruptcy and end productions.
I found myself looking up at the building from what was once the loading dock. The tall structure was rather imposing from this angle. Large bays of windows line up above me, peppered with holes and plants.
I entered the main floor and found a vast emptiness scorched by fire and warped by water. The wooden floorboards moved in silent frozen waves across the warehouse, sometimes rising up several feet. Although this was frightening at first, the wood was actually quite stable and could be traversed with ease
The two photos above were contributed by Chris Goodenbury
Two large freight elevators sat at the ends of each floor, with a smaller elevator across from them in the middle of the wall.
The photo above was contributed by Chris Goodenbury
Next to the freight elevators were the stairwells. Needless to say, they weren’t in the best shape. However many still had some very nice original handrails.
On the third floor I began to see remnants of the building’s past with Sykes. Binders and paperwork were strewn all over the floor. A section of the building behind the staircase closest to Orchard St was filled with old documents. Most were for record keeping, including documents with company accounts and customers’ purchase history.
Old computer equipment sat in pieces on the floor. Smashed monitors were almost perfectly spaced out to provide an equal layer across the level. I found old keyboards, phones, instruction manuals, and even nearly untouched hundred page diagrams of the newest Sykes equipment.
Originally Sykes Datatronics only had offices on this third floor and parts of the now demolished buildings for storage. The main floor of the current building was the former offices and space of Ayer and Streb Printing, which had several locations around Rochester over the years. I wasn’t able to dig up any specific information on the Orchard St site but did find an old newspaper ad from February 24, 1933.
I moved further up to the 4th and 5th and 6th floors. Here is where Sykes expanded during their use of the Orchard St building. These floors were a maze of offices and hallways. Some were gutted by fire, some had succumbed to the elements, while others sat waiting for the next employee to walk in.
I could imagine these floors alive and buzzing with activity during the 1980s when Sykes was present. A few desks and tables were piled in a corner. More computer equipment was scattered through the larger rooms. As I later found out, the 6th floor was apparently home to a porno shop when Sykes first moved in, although there was little evidence left of that use.
The photo above was contributed by Chris Goodenbury
The 7th and top floor looked to be an addition to the original industrial structure. It was built on the roof of the brick building and was made mostly of wood and steel beams. It had a largely open floor plan with access to one of the freight elevators. Some walls and rooms protruded from the southern end of the floor but didn’t intrude far into the space. It was left mostly unfinished aside from these rooms. I assume that Sykes expanded to this floor as well. However, at one point it had been rented to a local glass blower as a studio space, which seemed to fit the style of the floor.
I stepped out the door and onto the roof. It was well on it’s way to becoming a rooftop garden. Tall grasses and trees were growing amidst the puddles of water. There was a great view of the Rochester Skyline. I cautiously climbed up to the elevator control room.
I entered and immediately noticed that there was no floor, only a rusting metal grate suspended a hundred feet above an idle elevator below. It was a terrifying realization followed by 15 very uneasy minutes trying to get some decent photographs.
I made my way back down to the main floor. All windows were sealed and doors covered up. Here was where I assumed customers and visitors would enter and be guided to the proper floors and offices. A few rooms remained, it was not as damaged as the floors above.
Sykes Datatronics filed for bankruptcy in the late 1980s and ceased operations in 1990. [Sykes Datatronics Maxed Out – NY Times, December 1, 1984 ] They removed equipment and furniture (not everything apparently) and closed the doors in early 1992. Sykes had other offices in the Rochester area as well. Including a property on Kings Highway (across from Bishop Kearney) that they acquired in the late 1970s in addition to a location on Stone St. downtown.
If you, or anyone you know used to work at Sykes Datatronics (or in any buildings formerly on this site), please comment! I’d love to hear your story.
UPDATE: Today (12/18/2014) I noticed the building is slowly being demolished. The work site was quiet this afternoon when I walked by, but an entire section of the building has been removed. The windows are now completely gone. And huge slabs of concrete, clinging to rebar, dangle precariously in the air…
*Some of the information mentioned in this post
was gathered from this other great article .
Tags: abandoned, abandoned places, City of Rochester, Delco Appliance, demolition, Lyell Avenue, Northeast Electric Company, Orchard Street, Rochester, Rochester NY, rochester photos, Sahlen’s Stadium, Sykes Datatronics, Whitney Street
This entry was posted on Wednesday, September 25th, 2013 at 7:57 am and is filed under Reader Submitted Stories, Rochester History, Rochester Images, Urban Exploration. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.