Morrison Street Warehouse Once Deemed Modern


Tucked away down Watertown’s Morrison Street are four concrete-steel silos that were hailed at the time of their 1916 construction as “up-to-date” structures that showed the owners were “keeping up with the progress of Watertown.”

Situated where Morrison and Binsse streets meet, the silos were erected to take advantage of the proximity to the New York Central freight house, as the structures were used to store coal unloaded from freight trains.

     A 25,000-square-foot warehouse was also built next door, with the storage area being “absolutely fireproof,” according to a March 23, 1916, article in the Watertown Daily Times that heralded the “modern” plant.

     “Not only are they fireproof, but the individual storage rooms are nearly air-tight, so that should a fire start in the contents of any room, the lack of air would cause the fire to smother itself in just eight minutes,” the Times reported.

     The buildings were “steam heated throughout,” with rooms “kept at an even temperature of 70 degrees the year around.”

     “Immense motor trucks, capable of carrying the entire household belongings of an average family, supply the transportation facilities, besides a dozen horse teams,” according to the Times article.

     Coal off-loaded into the neighboring silos from trains was “elevated by machinery from the cars and as it is loaded into the delivery wagons, it is rescreened.”

     “None but experienced men are employed, which provides the very best service, whether it is in moving, storing, packing or delivering a load of coal or wood,” the Times said.

     Today, there is little evidence of what the buildings were used for. About the only clue is a faded sign atop the side of the warehouse   visible from LeRay Street – that reads “Winslow Co.”

     Charles A. Winslow was born July 13, 1871, in Utica and spent his childhood in that city, beginning his business career with the Utica Brewery. In 1895 he came to Watertown with his brother, Frank, to supervise the equipping of the Watertown Brewing company plant, of which his brother was a principal organizer.

     According to a life sketch of Mr. Winslow written at the time of his 1968 death by Times staff writer John Pepp, he later left the brewing business and, after short stints as a night clerk at two hotels and a job with New York Central, he joined Horace E. Tyler at Mr. Tyler’s coal dealing business on Court Street. In 1912, he formed his own trucking, storage and coal business known as Winslow Trucking on Court Street.

     Fire destroyed his plant in June 1914 and Mr. Winslow, associated with Edward L. (Ned) Day, formed the Winslow-Day Co., which erected the fireproof Morrison Street warehouse. In 1920, Mr. Day retired and Mr. Winslow purchased his interest in the business and it was again renamed Winslow Trucking. The business later merged with the Marcy-Buck Co. and become known as Marcy-Buck & Winslow Co., becoming one the largest dealers in solid fuels north of the New York Central main line.

     Mr. Winslow would go on to become public relations director for New York Air Brake, a bank director and chairman of the Watertown War Council during World War II. He was a charter member of the Watertown Elks Lodge and a charter member of the Thousand Islands State Parks Commission, serving as chairman for 15 years.

     But he is best remembered for serving as mayor of Watertown from 1940 to 1948. A true renaissance man, Mr. Winslow was recognized as “the dean of Watertown vocalists,” being chosen to lead the Watertown Male chorus when the group formed in 1929 and then leading it for several years.

     As a youth, Mr. Winslow had studied voice training in New York City under Paola Giorza and he would later perform several operas in Watertown. He also organized and sang in many concerts presented by churches and charitable organizations.

     By July 1967, Mr. Winslow had moved from his Flower Avenue East home and was living at the Hotel Woodruff on Public Square. On his 96th birthday that month, he penned a note to the Times using Hotel Woodruff stationery with the brief heading “Obituary Notes.”

     In the note, he asks an unknown recipient to “Drop in some day” and “Please add these to my obituary notice.” Among the accomplishments he cites are: “The first moving, horse drawn moving van ever used in Watertown;” “The first motor truck for hire;”  “The first power moving van;” and “The only fire proof warehouse between Syracuse and Montreal.”

     “I am almost blind and I am almost deaf, but still in the ring at 96,” he wrote.

     He also notes, in addition to having served as mayor and being “the last living charter member of Elks,” he was a past president of the Rotary and the Chamber of Commerce and, upon listing these achievements, closes with “And just an ordinary Horses Tail.”

     The Times took a different view after his death a year later at 97, recognizing Mr. Winslow as “one of Watertown’s leading citizens whose multiple talents led him to the heights in music and politics.”

     “Probably Mr. Winslow will be best remembered by the northern New York public for his service as mayor of Watertown and his leadership in the musical world,” the Times wrote. “But to his family and close friends, he will also be remembered as a gentleman who lived enthusiastically and well.”

     Today, Mr. Winslow’s former warehouse on Morrison Street houses offices for the Community Action Planning Council of Jefferson County Inc., which owns the building. 

~Brian Kelly