Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

Albany Wire Works

Over the years I’d driven by 386 Delaware Avenue innumerable times, always noticing the wonderfully old-fashioned “Albany Wire Works” sign and wondering what exactly they made (besides wire, of course), and who bought it. After all, how big is the market for chicken-wire?

Come to find out they made just about anything you can manufacture out of wire: decorative furniture, window guards, bank and office railings, fencing, even wire lampshade frames.

A little searching unearthed this 1951 article;

WIRE WORKS PLANT THRIVING—BECAUSE OF CRIMPS IN BUSINESS

William J. Marohn Sr., by the nature of his art, is forced to put a crimp in business.

Proprietor of the Albany Wire Works at 386 Delaware Ave.. an establishment that had its origin in Albany 80 years ago,  Mr. Marohn turns out to his wire works shop a variety of goods without equal within a radius of 100 miles.

The machines crimp the metal strands of varying thicknesses that go into such products as fireplace screens, iron and wire fences, grills, safety guards for machines, gravel, sand and coal screening and also any product in which metal mesh is required. Machines also punch out decorative perforated metals in many designs. suitable for radiators, kitchen cabinets and numerous other purposes. Wire cloth, in all size meshes, some of them so fine that the final product feels like silk, is also turned out in this plant.

The founder of the Albany Wire Works was Adam Van Allen, who had his shop at 24 Beaver St. in 1862. Later he was succeeded by his nephew, Edward Van Allen, who won prominence in the Spanish-American War. In 1898, Alfred Durant and August J. Marohn became the owners. On Durant’s death, August J. Marohn was joined by John F. Marohn and William J. Marohn, his brothers, under the firm name of “Albany Wire Works, A. J. Marohn and Brothers.”

MOVED IN 1918
Of the three brothers. William J. Marohn survives and heeds the business. “Senior” Bill Marohn has his son, Bill Jr., in with him now.

It was in 1918 that the Marohns moved the wire works to Delaware Ave.

One of the largest undertakings of the firm, Mr. Marohn recalls, really taxed Its ingenuity. “The Pillsbury Flour people had a huge distribution center out at Carman’s Crossing, alongside the New York Central Railroad tracks between Schenectady and Albany,” he said. “They ordered a huge sign that extended for a mile and a half along the railroad tracks. It was 20 feet high all the way.”

The purpose of this sign was to attract the attention of passengers on the trains. Mr. Marohn said. The frames for the huge sign, consisting of channel iron and mesh, were made in the shop, in sections. These were then taken by horse drawn truck to the railroad site, and installed one after another, much in the manner of putting up a fence. When this was completed, the Pillsbury Flour name and other block lettering of metal were attached.

NO ONE LEARNING
Mr. Marohn says that only a small number of firms are engaged in the fabrication of wire products now. He feels that the reason is that “no one is learning the art today.”

In addition to defense contracts for various wire products, the firm makes fire escapes, spark guards and elevator guards.

“We began with the old hand looms, not unlike the old cloth looms,” he said. In 1900 came the machines.” Many of the original machines are still in use, and would be difficult of reproduction today unless made to specific requirements. Mr. Marohn says.

A typical neighborhood dweller (he lives above the shop), Mr. Marohn likes to reminisce about the early Delaware Ave. days. He says the first movie theater in the area was operated by William Bauer and Carl Weisell, forrner South End butcher shop proprietors. at 388 Delaware Ave. T’he “Perils of Pauline” and the “Red Ace” serials are still vivid In his memory. The theater later became the original A & P supermarket, since relocated in a new building across the street. Now the former movie house is occupied by the California Fruit Market and Panetta’s Market.

– From The Knickerbocker News, 1951

wire works 1877
I believe there are a few historical inaccuracies and omissions in the above account. Very early ads for the business list it at other addresses with other owners. In 1877, for instance, it was at 7 Green Street and run by John Heise. By 1900 it was relocated to 24 Beaver Street and run by “Durand and Hinckelman.” In 1912 it moved to 121 Beaver Street, proprietors “Durand and Marohn.” Albany Wire Works was incorporated in 1957.

I’m not exactly sure when they closed up shop, although it was probably coincidental with the sale of the property in 2006. It’s now home to Davey Jones’ Locker, a tropical fish store, which shares space with 386 Gallery.
wire works

It amazes me Albany Wire Works managed to stay in business for over 130 years. William J. Marohn, Sr. died in1961.

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