Members of Friends of Salt Point, a group of local volunteers who manage the Salt Point Natural Area, the Town of Lansing Parks and Recreation Department as well as other town officials will be unveiling a new marker enshrining the area’s industrial history on Oct. 3 near the entrance to Myers Park.
The marker is a solid metal plaque, painted blue and yellow, on a metal post with the words “Table Salt Wells” in bold and a description underneath reading, “From 1891 to 1962, Cayuga Lake Salt Co. Pumped Brine From Wells Here To Produce Refined Salt For Food & Cooking. Plant Demolished 1964.”
Funding for the marker was provided by the William G. Pomeroy Foundation, an organization that provides grant money for historical signage. Donna Scott, member of Friends of Salt Point, was the one who applied for the grant for the marker.
“When I drive around the countryside, I often look at those historic markers … and I started seeing these newer ones, and on the bottom it says, ‘William G. Pomeroy Foundation,’ Scott said. “I watch PBS TV a lot and they started having ads on there?—?this foundation?—?and they would showcase a couple of important markers given out here and there. And then it said somewhere on there that if your group or your town or whatever wants to apply for a historic marker, just go to our website and follow the directions. So, that’s how I did it.”
The overall application process was quite simple, according to Scott, although the foundation’s requirements for proof of documentation were very precise.
“The main thing for this application is you have to have at least two primary sources of historical proof that what you’re getting the marker for is actually true,” she said. “They’re really quite strict about that. Primary means it has to be the most original thing that you can get. It can’t be something that’s cited six times [in] books and things like that where people just keep copying people’s information. It has to be something original.”
Fortunately for Scott she was able to find the original deed for the salt plant facilities?—?then called Salt Works?—?in 1891 when the founders received when they purchased the property.
“It even says Cayuga Lake Salt Company in the deed,” she said. “So that was a really good primary proof, and … luckily I was able to find that online, although you could probably go down to the courthouse and find the same thing.”
The second piece of primary documentation was from a book on the history of Tompkins County published in 1894, which has a chapter on the Cayuga Lake Salt Company.
“When they wrote it, it was 1893, so it was right after the salt company got going and it was quite successful right away, because there’s a ton of relatively pure salt under that area,” Scott said.
Scott also documented when the salt company closed in the application. She said she was able to find an article from magazines published by the company about its closing and another article published two years after the closing on the demolition of the plant.
From 1891 to 1962, the Cayuga Salt Company processed table salt from brine, which was pumped from salt deposits below Salt Point. The salt retrieved from the site led to the development of the table salt company called International Salt Company. Some of the salt processing equipment was moved to Watkins Glen following the plant’s closing. The land is currently owned by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.
Due to the cultural and economic impacts it had on Lansing, the Friends of Salt Point felt it was important to highlight the history of the salt company with the marker.
“We just think everyone would be interested in the important industry that operated here in Lansing,” Robert Rieger, a member of the Friends of Salt Point, said. “The salt plant really helped shape Lansing in terms of people and economics. We want to celebrate that history and share it with future generations.”
“Many immigrants came here because of the availability of jobs at the salt plant. There’s a number of families that are actually descendants of people who came here, who are still here in Lansing, actually.”
Scott shared similar sentiments regarding the plant’s history.
“It was one of the very first big, successful industries in the Town of Lansing,” she said. “It employed a lot of people. Even just a few years after it started, there were at least a hundred employees, both men and women, and many of them were immigrants. Many came from Syria and they came from other places, probably eastern Europe, too.”
The unveiling will be held at 9 a.m. The marker will be placed where the first salt well was drilled and the facilities were sited, off Myers Road north of the entrance to the park. Rieger encourages those interested in the town’s history to attend the event.
“Just a chance to get together and talk about the really important business that was operated right here at Salt Point,” Rieger said. “It’s funny because you go down there now and it feels like just a really nice natural area, but it’s hard to believe that not that long ago it was a big industrial site.”