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49 Responses to “Inside the Abandoned Sykes Datatronics Building”

  1. Sarah says:

    thanks for the pics, ive wanted to poke around that building myself for awhile!

  2. Carlos Mercado says:

    Either this building or one of the nearby ones on Orchard St that might be demolished housed the Haloid Corp. that was renamed Xerox Corp.

  3. Flour City says:

    Would make a great spot for livable work lofts and ground level retail / restaurants and entertainment

  4. rochplanner says:

    Agree with Flour City, seems ideal for re-use. Not sure if this neighborhood is ready to support normal loft and retail/restaurant development like that though. I think it would be a great opportunity to turn the neighborhood into one for artists. Make these affordable artist lofts. But, like most old Rochester gems, it will make way for a parking lot or empty lot set aside for only the slight possibility of “future development”

  5. RochesterRealist says:

    Anyone who thinks these old buildings are good for stores & living have never figured out the cost associated with it. Even if the building was in an area that would support it (it’s not), the cost to bring it up to current codes would be huge. Some buildings are perfect for this idea but not this one. It has had extensive fire & water damage… it would need a complete rebuild, sadly, not a feasible option.

  6. john says:

    I’ve been in this building it isn’t in as bad a shape as it looks. Its all reinforced concrete. The bowed wood floors are just flooring and not structural. It needs a massive amount of interior and cosmetic work, but structurally its in good shape. I dont see why the city doesn’t do the abatement, keep it bundled up and see if it can find a buyer. The cost to demo will be massive even after asbestos and lead abatement, this building isnt going to go quietly into the night, its gonna fight every step of the way. Last I heard was demo would be in the multi-million dollar range, seems it’d be best to find a constructive alternative. Its not like that neighborhood has any lack of vacant land. Try preservation once in a while, we’ve certainly demo’d enough in JOSANA and it hasn’t helped yet.

  7. Adrian says:

    Looks like a great building in a terrible neighborhood. No real reason to demolish it, it’s not like anyone wants to relocate to Orchard St. Might as well keep it until (if) the neighborhood improves so that the space and building is actually worth something.

  8. Jason S says:

    See also:

    http://www.thecolorblindphotographer.com/2009/10/11/exploring-sykes-datatronics/

    These folks came out with some Sykes collateral.

  9. @Jason, yes. That’s the link at the end of this post. A lot of interesting information and stories from Sykes ex-employees came from that page.

  10. industrial waste? Where does a demo landfill go?

  11. DJ says:

    Every comment so far has valid points. My first thought was ‘can this be converted to lofts?’. Yes, it’s in a bummer of a neighborhood, yes it would cost lots to fix up… But I hate to see an old school bldg torn down w/out even trying. My thought is for city to do the old $1 sale to a developer w very loose strings attached. Clean it up, DON’T tear it down, and do Something w/it. Be it lofts, businesses, art gallery.

    I’d even leave that offer on the table for next 5-10 yrs. if the bldg isn’t hurting anyone & would cost a lot to demo, why not be patient & see if a creative developer comes along?

  12. Adrian says:

    Nothing lost for the city to offer a deal like that. But a developer would be insane to take it. This isn’t just a “bummer” of a neighborhood. This is a neighborhood where someone getting shot to death make page B5. In order for anyone to put any money into this building, the neighborhood has to change and that will take decades.

  13. gumby says:

    I just turned 53 and spent the first 48 of my years in Rochester. I make custom pens and would love a piece of wood from there. Is tent city still up? That is another building I would like a few pieces from.

  14. Jay says:

    About a stones throw from this building is – I think – 387 Orchard St, which is Dock Hardware/Surplus Select. If you ever get the chance to take a look, it’s an amazing warehouse full of reclaimed office supplies and industrial equipment. It’s easy to get lost there.

  15. SmartGirl21 says:

    I had an interview at Sykes in this building in 1987. Unfortunately, I didn’t get the job, which is probably a good thing. I remember it was a decent building back then, but what I remember the most is that the employees were getting ready to go on their company picnic. Really is a shame how things went downhill for Sykes. They were really making a name for themselves back in the 80’s.

  16. Flour City says:

    I just moved back from Brooklyn after 6.5yrs….. Rochester needs to start looking at the movements happening in places like Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Austin, Seattle etc… and creating gentrification within these neighborhoods, not more segregation. Buildings like this can be the center of those changes. Welcoming in developers who are willing to invest in reuse / re-purpose of old buildings is a key ingredient in maintaining the Heritage of Rochester.

  17. Harrison Freer says:

    i knew people that wen to work for Sykes in the late seventies and early eighties. So sad meany Rochester industries have suffered a smiler fate.

  18. Urban Explorer says:

    @Flour City: I love Brooklyn et al., but those places have completely different market realities than Rochester. The city, particularly the current administration, is exceedingly welcoming to developers. After all, the city just gave away Midtown Tower for $2, AND threw in $10 million+ to the developer just for taking it off their hands. And that’s a building in the center of downtown.

    That being said, it appears this building is reinforced concrete construction, not heavy timber frame, so as people have pointed out, it’s probably more solid. Remediate the lead and asbestos, button it up, keep it secure, and let it sit there.

    Politicians, economic development types, and even the general population in this city seem to have a problem with patience. A building can’t just sit, unused, waiting. It either has to be used or taken down for a grassy lot or parking lot. Witness the Cataract Building. The brewery could well have just secured the building, painted it, lit the exterior, and let it sit until a developer could be found. Demolishing these buildings, whether it’s the Cataract or the Sykes building, is so short-sighted because we’ll never build buildings like this again.

  19. Joel Helfrich says:

    LAND BANK, people!

  20. Joe says:

    Here’s the thing about cities and rough neighborhoods like this. If I wanted a new house, a big yard, etc all those suburban things that the city seems to be doing to “revitalize” these neighborhoods, I wouldn’t be in the city. I’d go to the suburbs. If you are going to get people into JOSANA that live there by choice and not economic necessity, you need to have things other neighborhoods don’t have. You know, like converted factory buildings into lofts, offices, maybe some retail, preserved 1860-1900 houses or at least houses from that period I can get cheaply and restore myself. Sorry, but these new suburban-like new construction houses I’ll go to Webster for.

  21. Dan Colbert says:

    I worked in the building next door (367 orchard st)at Scientific Radio Systems. I had seen signs in that building which leads me to believe that Haloid utilized 367 orchard street as a business location.
    Ironically, my father was an machinist at Haloid. He died in March 1979, I started to work for SRS in July 1979… never got to ask….

  22. John Shepherd says:

    I worked for Sykes in 1982 though not, thank goodness in that building. At times employees leaving that building at night required an armed escort to take them across the road to the car park. A small company, Moscom (now part of Calero), also based in Rochester, started up in 1983, produced better products for a much lower price and won a lot of the business that Sykes used to have. This was the main reason that Sykes went out of business.

  23. The Rhode Island Computer Museum is restoring a DEC PDP-8e computer that has a SYKESdisk 7000 dual diskette system. We cannot find any technical information on this Sykes equipment. I was really surprised to see the manual that we need is in your image abandoned-rochester-sykes-datatronics-manuals.jpg.

    Is there any possibility that someone could get this manual? Any other SYKESdisk manuals would be appreciated.

  24. @Michael Thompson, I can’t guarantee it… but I’ll have someone contact you if it’s a possibility.

  25. Cheryle Wood says:

    Thank you so much for what you are doing. I’ve bookmarked your site. I worked in the marketing department at Sykes from 1975-1979. The people were great and it was exciting. The company had many sales reps and distributors stateside and many distributors worldwide. I typed some of those users and configuration manuals. I remember well taking the stairs in lieu of the elevator. Good memories.

  26. Jack says:

    Haloid’s was located on Haloid Street off Barrows st. and runs between Rutgers St. ,which are off Lyell Ave. Where the building was is a vacant lot.

  27. Jack says:

    I found a picture of the old Haloid building on line. I found it using bing.com My mother worked there for a time. I never knew where it was myself until I did a little research. I would up load the picture but I don’t know how. If anyone is interested I would send it via E mail.

  28. Here’s the photo of the Haloid building…

    Thanks Jack!

  29. Frank Wilson says:

    Thank you for the Sykes information. Long ago and far away I used a General Radio board tester that had a PDP8/E with a Sykes dual cassette tape storage unit. They could have improved the design, but it was better than no mass storage. Later we bought an RK05 disk storage unit and ran it in parallel with the Sykes unit. You have answered a lot of questions.

  30. John Ochs says:

    I worked at the Xerox Orchard St. facility and the facility o\behind it on Whitney St.Xerox built their older products there like the Microprinter, the 1824 and 1860 printers. No. 4 Camera and a newer one the 600MEP. I also worked on a new program in the Whitney Bldg. called the 2436 Engineering Copier.

    The let the lease lapse on both buildings in the mid-70’s and moved all the production to their Jefferson Rd. facility.

  31. Tony P says:

    Board it up and let it sit? I’m guessing those commentors are not from Rochester, or haven’t lived here long.

    Do a search on ‘Delco Rochester fire’ and you’ll understand why most of the buildings on the site were demolished.

    Sadly, that’s what happens when buildings are left to sit. The city really doesn’t have much of a choice – if a developer doesn’t want it, time and vandals will force their hand towards demolition.

  32. John says:

    Since the city did a proper job securing the lower floors, there hasn’t been an issue with it. However, its a moot point, they’re taking the place down. But like I said a few years ago, it isn’t going down without a fight. That “unsafe, unstable” building actually is built like a concrete reinforced shithouse.

    Its just sad, because there is no way anything like that will get built in this town again and I doubt anyone will go to that lot to build. Why go there, when there are better lots with less environmental issues? Old buildings like that are the one thing we have against the suburbs, and this neighborhood has against most other city neighborhoods. I don’t see anything going on that lot for a long, long time and without boat loads of public money. I understand why the neighborhood might want it gone, but perceived threat doesn’t equal actual threat.

  33. UPDATE ON SYKES DATATRONICS BUILDING:

    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…

    Sykes Datatronics building being demolished. December 19, 2014. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

    Sykes Datatronics building being demolished. December 19, 2014. [PHOTO: RochesterSubway.com]

  34. Ruth Nederlk says:

    The first Xerox building was he Haloid Co off of Birr St in the city It was there in the time I was growing up in the 20′ and 30’s and later was called Xerox when on orchard ST and then I believe it was on Hollenbeck St and later moved to Webster,NY Came a long way from a very small building on Haloid St.

  35. Brad says:

    i was at Sykes when they opened the doors here. I worked for RTC and we were installing a stromberg Carlson F-50 XY PBX phone system. I remember the lead tech on the job bought some shares for a dime each. Transmation was another company that was located on mt read near Lyell. I remember a big yellow building near the old Beechnut plant.

  36. RochesterGoner says:

    Did the Kodak, Sykes, Xerox and every other Rochester tech firms CEO’s get together for lunch at Oakhill in the late 80’s and decide that technology had finished advancing and they should just play golf?

  37. John says:

    The management at xerox just got very risk averse and decided that it was too difficult to manage and costly to the bottom line to develop lots of new products. So they focused on a few and tried to fill out the product line by acquiring new companies with new technologies.

    Then they moved mfg. off-shore to Singapore and now they are outsourcing their engineering to India. This does not bide well for Rochester or Xerox.

  38. Lawrence Forsley says:

    HI, thanks for trip down memory lane! I was a consultant to Sykes Datatronics, probably in the early to mid-70s. I wrote the code for Sykes Dataronics Hewlett Packard floppy disk drives. I remember riding my 10 speed to this building, sometimes at night, from where I lived over in the 19 th ward. I don’t remember what floor I was on, but it was an open, industrial manufacturing floor with both their cassette tape drives and floppy drives for minicomputers. I worked with Ed Pavia.

  39. hammerhead says:

    wow cool picts i used to work on those back when i wa a kid

  40. Woody says:

    I worked at Sykes during hey days late 70’s to early 80’s. Ma Bell was their largest customer, and the AT&T breakup in ’82 into the Baby Bells damaged their revenue stream. They never recovered.

    Sykes had a 6502 microprocessor-based computer with Basic programmability, database, and flexible communications features – CommStor IV – and a distribution network that helped establish the small computer market for business.

    The Basic interpreter was written by a couple guys working out of a garage in Seattle. One of the Sykes engineers who worked with them commented at the time, “Do these guys really think they can build a company around this little Basic interpreter?”

    About 1980, one of those guys came to Rochester to talk about his vision for having personal computers in every home and under every desk within a few years. The Sykes marketing guys threw him out.

    Bill Gates, Paul Allen, and Microsoft .. I wonder whatever became of them.

    Many years later, Gates was a keynote speaker at a conference that one of those marketing guys attended. Afterwards, he introduced himself to Gates and said, “Do you remember coming to Rochester about 1980 and…” Gates interrupted him with, “Yeah, what a bunch of assholes!”

  41. Rochester says:

    I explored this place a few times and it looked exactly like it does in your pictures. I walked through it about 10 times over the course of a year. I even explored it a few times during its last stages of being demolished (I know that it is extremely dangerous). It is completely taken down now, so no more exploring for me. It was very fun while it lasted.

  42. Jim Sciuto says:

    I have a circuit board from 1978 marked SYKES
    it about to go on Ebay for sale ….
    check it out .. search it …

  43. Mike Marshall says:

    I worked at Sykes during the early days..1970 thru 1975. There were between 20 and 100 employees at Sykes in those days.

    Great pictures here. I walked down that stairway many times!

    When I left Sykes in 1975 they gave me a nice going away luncheon and a gift of a Samsonite briefcase. The combination lock on the briefcase has always been set to ‘375’ as in 375 Orchard Street!

    I was a design engineer and worked on many of Sykes’ early products. Most memorable, to me, was when I designed their dual floppy disk controller.

    Many good people worked at Sykes in those days. I will write some of the names I can remember here just in case they find it. I would like to hear from you by email at: ekimllahsram (at) gmail (dot) com

    Tom Greer
    Don Grube
    Ed Pavia
    Marilyn Parshall
    Norm LaFond
    Al Montevecchio
    Bob Sykes
    John Sykes
    Bill Mulligan
    Ron Borges
    Norm Kraft
    Gil Morth
    Beverly Chirka
    Skip Consel (sic?)

    Thanks for the great pictures Subway…

    Mike

  44. Mike Marshall says:

    The floppy disk system I designed was called: “SYKESdisk 7000 dual diskette”

    A Michael Thompson commented above that he was looking for someone who knew something about the Sykesdisk.

    Maybe the MODERATOR of this site could send my post to Michael Thompson….

  45. Jack Lamphier says:

    A good friend of mine, now dead, had worked there for many years in the late 40’s and early 50’s when it was Delco.

  46. Michelle says:

    I found a Sykes datatronics stock from my grandparents. Very interesting reading about this stuff.

  47. John Voymas says:

    I worked at Sykes on a six-month co-op work block in 1978 while attending RIT. Primarily worked in shipping and receiving and spent a fair amount of time in the freight elevator. We would pack the COMM-STOR into shipping boxes and spray foam in to create a safe package. Some went to colleges. As was mentioned, these were communication storage devices used by AT&T. Calls would be tracked on the COMM-STOR at local AT&T centers and then uploaded nightly to AT&T’s mainframe for later billing. The break-up of AT&T was a significant factor in Sykes decline.

    They also had designed an office workstation which retailed at $15,000. I don’t think they sold many.

    While I was there, they created a version of their computer that could be programmed in Basic. They asked me to write a couple of applications for it. The simple one was successful … it created inventory tags for the sub-assemblies with serial numbers on them. The other app was way too big for the 4K (later 8K) core memory of this machine. Yes, ‘K’.

    BTW, these machines used an 8 inch floppy disk. I still have a couple.

    Sykes was a very good company to work for. They participated in the Rochester corporate Euchre league along with Kodak and Xerox. I had the option to go golfing with the VP who was in charge of my work area, which was cool for a college student.

    Piece of American history … the building was a Cold War fallout shelter and had many 55 gallon drums of water and cartons of soda crackers on one of the lower floors. And, yes, I saw the old porno booths on the upper floor.

  48. Greg says:

    I was looking at google maps and noticed that in 3d mode the building was there, but when I turned it off it was gone. Further googling got me here.

    I worked at Sykes one summer when I was in college. I was in receiving and then the warehouse. The place was flying at that time, 1981 I think? Yeah, the Bell breakup really hit them hard. I believe they were the sole tenant of the building at the time, but I was only on the first floor.

    I grew up in Rochester and still live here. The city is fairly resilient, but the core is hollowed out. It was very manufacturing oriented, but is much more service and health care now. I work for a thriving manufacturing company. We have buildings that once housed Xerox and computer consoles (Northern Telecom) but it is nothing like things were in the 80s.

    The neighborhood around Sykes was bad then and has not gotten any better. Many businesses are gone. The soccer stadium is a disaster and they currently have no tenants, 2 years ago they had a mens and womens team plus lacrosse.

    As for re-purposing the building, there’s a lot of that going on in downtown and there’s more to come. I’d say there’s a glut of lofts in much better neighborhoods.

    Thanks for the post!


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