Industry along the Hungerkill started with glassworks, then wool, then hats, and finally an iron foundry from the 1880s till the 1930s

— Original photo loaned by George Schoonmaker, from the Guilderland Historical Society

This 1886 photo shows the foundry soon after Jay Newberry and George Chapman took over. To the left is Chapman, with his son, Arnold, and Newberry with his son, George, sitting in front of the horses which made trips back and forth to Fullers Station. George Kelly is on the wagon. The workers, from left, in front: Frank Donnelly, Jimmy Reed’s father, Frank O’Connor, Fred Ensign, Bert Defreest, Hank Brooks, Billy (Cupola) Smith, and an unidentified man; back row: Joss Kelderhouse, Billy Youngs, Jimmy Reed, Allie Layman, baseball pitcher Peter Adams, Charlie Sitterly, Hughey Crieghan, Ebb Layman, and DeWitt Schoonmaker. Ross Goodfellow stands at the center of the workers.

— Photo from from the Guilderland Historical Society

This view looking east from the hill behind was included in the Guilderland Foundry’s 1914 catalog. Foundry Pond, formed from damming the Hungerkill on the opposite side of Foundry Road supplied the foundry’s undershot waterwheel. Buildings in the complex included the tumbling room where castings were cleaned, the machine shop foundry room where iron was melted, a molding room, and an office and shipping room — all in separate buildings.

GUILDERLAND — Few drivers navigating the sharp turn on Foundry Road pay attention to the small stream and grove of trees and brush off the side of the pavement. Long, long ago, beginning with the 18th-Century glassworks, a series of small factories were located in that now overgrown area.

The glassworks was out of business by 1815, followed a few years later by Christopher Batterman’s establishment of a woolen mill weaving satinet, a fabric mixture of wool and cotton in operation until 1841.

This hollow along the Hungerkill, recorded on an 1862 survey as Willow Vale, was the ideal site for small-scale manufacturing, having water power and a location near the Western Turnpike.

The 1854 Gould Map showed a “Woolen Factory” in that location; this was replaced by a hat factory that was noted on the 1866 Beers Map. About that time, the hat factory closed, followed within a few years — the exact date is uncertain — by Wm. Fonda’s opening a foundry here to manufacture small cast-iron parts.

Under different ownerships, a foundry would be in operation in this spot until the early 1930s.

For a few hundred dollars, two brothers-in-law, Jay H. Newbury and George A. Chapman, purchased the Fonda foundry in about 1882 or 1883, beginning their operation with four workers. Their astute business sense combined with the growing demand for cast-iron products created by the nation’s rapidly expanding economy in the last quarter of the 19th Century made the Newbury & Chapman Foundry a great success.

Shortly after Newbury and Chapman purchased the foundry, The Enterprise began publication. Because the author of the paper’s Guilderland column reported frequently about doings at the foundry, it is possible to follow the growth of this operation and its place in the hamlet of Guilderland.

Foundry grows

Soon after their purchase in 1884 the owners invested in expansion by enlarging the cupola, a specialized furnace designed to melt down iron, which enabled them to melt 5,000 pounds of iron per heat. Two years later, the foundry’s capacity was increased with additional machinery including a new water wheel. 

A 20-by40-foot extension was added that autumn while a purchase of three-and-a-half acres of adjoining land provided a plentiful supply of sand for their molds. That same year, the old original factory building was taken down, replaced by a new and better building. By 1889, the estimate was given that $8,000 had been invested by Newbury and Chapman since they had acquired the facility.

In the 1880s, the foundry’s chief business was casting and cutting plugs for water pipes, sometimes even filling orders from overseas. In addition, sleigh-shoes and plow castings were turned out. Very quickly, they had so many orders that often the foundry ran night and day.

About the time their foundry went into production, the West Shore Railroad began operation, speeding outgoing freight shipments and incoming deliveries of raw materials. Newbury & Chapman Foundry’s draft horses and wagon hauled pig iron and coke from Fullers Station (located to the south of where the CSX trestles pass over Route 20 today), returning with finished cast iron for shipment several times daily, several miles each way.

At that time, they also contracted with a Fullers Station man to haul 100 tons of pig iron to the foundry.

Foundry workers: Dangerous job, some perks

The workforce at the foundry expanded rapidly from the original four to 25 by 1886 and double that by the 1890s. It’s not clear where the workers lived, though many seemed to be single. Perhaps they boarded with families or there may have been a boarding house in the hamlet while others lived with their families if they were within walking distance.

Stoking up heat to the high temperatures needed and ladling molten iron into molds made laboring in a foundry extremely dangerous. Over the years that the Newbury & Chapman Foundry was in operation many men were mentioned as being severely burned about the leg and foot while other men were injured by machinery or falls.

No one ever seems to have been killed on the job, but it is possible that some of the seriously burned men suffered complications and became too disabled to ever work again.

Messrs. Newbury and Chapman were honest and energetic employers who seemed to have the best interests of their workers at heart. They provided steady employment year after year, promptly paying workers their weekly wages.

In 1890, the payroll was $400 weekly, increasing a few years later when all workers were given a 7-percent raise. In the years that Newbury and Chapman operated in Guilderland, there was never a strike or evidence of worker dissatisfaction.

They encouraged camaraderie and high morale among their workers, especially since it’s likely many were boarding away from their families (several were reported to be from Coxsackie).

Sometimes there were events at the foundry itself like the baseball game between the Sand Artists vs. the Greasers, the score being 33 to 19, with the winning team being presented a box of cigars by Jay Newbury.

Then, to add to the merriment, Mr. Newbury raced his agent around the bases, and was outrun six feet by the agent. Over the years, other foundry baseball teams also played other local teams on the nearby diamond.

Another time, “quite a load of our Foundry boys” went fishing at Thompson’s Lake, possibly taken in the foundry’s wagon. Once, there was a contest held to see which worker could push the heaviest load in a wheelbarrow, bringing the winner who had managed to push 10 cwt of iron a $5 prize.

Religion was encouraged with Hamilton Presbyterian Church’s Rev. D.J. Maney holding some services at the foundry itself. Once, he accompanied a group of about 50 workers to both the Newbury and Chapman homes to present gifts of framed engravings from their grateful employees.

With both Mr. Newbury and Mr. Chapman being ardent prohibitionists, alcohol use among workers was discouraged.

These two men were not only successful entrepreneurs whose payroll brought money into the community, but also active in town affairs. Members of the Prohibition political party, each were unsuccessful candidates for local office at various times.

Each served as trustees for Prospect Hill Cemetery. Mr. Chapman was a member of Noah Lodge. Mr. Newbury was involved with the early establishment of the Altamont Fair.


Not only was the foundry’s production dangerous to the laborer, but the furnace’s intense heat and flames made the buildings themselves prone to destruction from fire. This disaster struck the Newbury & Chapman plant early on the evening of Jan. l8, 1890 when flames erupted.

The alarm brought people running from all directions to pitch in to save as much as possible. Though much damage was done in spite of their efforts, the engine room, pattern house, office and shipping rooms were saved.

Devastated at the prospect of sudden unemployment, the workers were fortunate that they were kept on to clean up the debris left by the fire and then to excavate a foundation for a larger replacement building, a 40-by-100-foot molding room.

A new cupola weighing six tons was put in position and a fire bell was added to the complex. Unbelievably, only 37 days after the destructive fire, the foundry was up and running again. Within a month after resumption of production, nearly 60 men were on the payroll.

A second setback a year later was the unexpected death of George A. Chapman, who died after a few days’ bout with pneumonia at the early age of 31. Described by The Enterprise as “one of the best business men who dwelt among us,” he was characterized “as courteous and genial, a kind husband and father, a good neighbor and friend.” His coffin was followed to Prospect Hill by a large procession of Noah Lodge members and his employees.

His death had no effect on production. Mr. Newbury took full control of the business, although it continued to be known as the Newbury & Chapman Foundry.

If the foundry’s location had been ideal earlier in the 19th Century, it had become obvious that being miles away from a railroad siding was a serious handicap, adding to the time and shipping costs involved.

As early as 1893, Mr. Newbury began actively seeking a new location for his foundry, scoping out possible locations in Voorheesville, Guilderland Center, and Altamont, each community aflutter about the wonderful prospect. He went so far as to buy some acreage near the railroad tracks in Voorheesville.

In the end, none of these satisfied him. In spite of his intention to relocate, Newbury continued to invest over $1,000 in his plant, installing a large blower and new machines.

Foundry sold

Enterprise readers, especially those in the hamlet of Guilderland, received a terrible shock when their May 29, 1896 issue arrived. Newbury had placed an ad in the paper offering his foundry and two houses for sale.

The Village and Town column news items announced that Newbury had visited The Enterprise office, announcing that he was moving his operation to Goshen (Orange County), New York where he was able to buy an existing foundry on a rail line. The loss of the foundry, Albany County’s biggest employer outside of the city of Albany, was an economic blow to the town and especially to the hamlet of Guilderland.

Within a year, Mr. Newbury and his family had moved to Goshen and many local workers followed him there to his new plant. At the time he put his foundry up for sale, a recession known as the Panic of 1896 had occurred, and it took until late 1899 or early 1900 to sell the foundry.

Renamed Guilderland Foundry, it was purchased by a group of local men who incorporated, investing in shares to buy the company. They scheduled shareholders’ meetings every January until 1934 when the corporation was probably disbanded.

After 1899, news of the Guilderland Foundry was sporadic compared to the reports of earlier years. In 1902, the foundry was reported going full blast, casting being done every day. A help-wanted ad that appeared in 1903 advertised for men needed in the machine shop and foundry, offering steady work year-round.

A few months later, a large cupola was brought to the foundry, which was looking forward to a large increase in business. A 1914 catalog issued by the company illustrated the variety of products in production.

The foundry had expanded its capabilities and was able to cast aluminum and brass as well as do nickel plating. In both 1915 and 1916, Guilderland Foundry advertised to buy cast-iron scraps, old stoves ,and cast parts of broken machines. In 1920, the buildings were wired for electricity.

However, in 1920, C. G. Zeilman, who had been the manager making frequent business trips for the company, offered his 42 shares of stock for sale as did another man with 12 shares. It’s difficult to know if the business was failing or if they attempted to sell for personal reasons. The shares were for sale for a long period and there is no way of knowing if they eventually sold.

Foundry operations continued, which is known because the town of Guilderland purchased $12 worth of “guard weights” in 1923. Advertising in both 1928 and 1929 to buy castings of any kind plus offering grates and parts for Acorn Stoves meant the company was still in business. Also at that time, an ad appeared offering castings of all kinds, large and small, including perpetual care and fraternal emblems.

The foundry continued to operate, even if on a much-reduced basis, until the Depression hit. There is no information as to when the fires were banked and production ended, although shareholder’s meetings were announced as late as 1934.

The next Enterprise mention of the foundry was a legal notice of foreclosure and sale of a “parcel of land known as the Willow Vale Woolen Factory now used by said second party as a foundry” to be held at the foundry’s front door in November 1935. A year later, the foundry buildings were razed.

Today, except for the name Foundry Road, all trace of this once-thriving manufacturing operation has disappeared, unless some foundations remain buried in the trees and brush near the bottom of the hill on Foundry Road.