The city’s leather industry started to go into decline after World War II, but as late as the mid-1980s many of the big tanneries continued to operate, employing hundreds.
Feuer Leather, which at one point operated five mills in Fulton County, including Risedorph and Pan American in Gloversville, did not close shop until 1994.
Now, Pan American and Risedorph — still famous names in the community — are vacant lots surrounded by the chain-link fence state and federal authorities demand at contaminated brownfield sites.
Independent Leather on South Main got the same treatment, and authorities are now razing Metro Leather on Second Street.
While at least two of the city’s tanneries remain in business, having found a niche in a market now dominated by foreign production, the idle plants have generally been turned over to the city through foreclosure and then removed one after another following environmental investigations.
Cayadutta Tanning on Harrison Street, which closed in the 1980s, remains in private hands. Cayadutta is a property of about six acres sitting along Route 30A. If cleared for alternative uses, it would presumably be valuable but is now assessed for about $32,000. Other smaller properties on 30A have sold for $1 million or more.
In 1999, city records show, the Cayadutta property was sold to a private entity called Comrie Avenue Inc., which listed a Fultonville post office box. Attempts to identify or find the owner for comment were unsuccessful.
A local attorney, said to be representing Comrie Avenue Inc., could not be reached for comment.
Mayor Dayton King, in office less than a year, said he briefly discussed the Cayadutta property with a county official but the conversation focused solely on a possible need to drain the old mill pond.
Maureen Wren, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Conservation, said the department was approached by city officials in the 1990s about having DEC start an “environmental restoration program” investigation of the Cayadutta property.
No investigation was ever conducted, Wren said.
With the property in private hands, she said, “an imminent threat” would have to be identified on the site. The criteria warranting investigation might include evidence of chemical drums or groundwater contamination, she said.
The Cayadutta property may have been of some concern to city officials in the 90s, but it no longer seems to be on anyone’s radar. Code enforcement officials said they have not dealt with the owner of Cayadutta.
City Assessor Joni Dennie said the former tannery buildings are listed as storage facilities.
There are two separate parcels — a vacant 2.6-acre portion assessed at $7,600 and 3.5 acres covered by buildings and valued at $24,500.
City officials said the taxes are fully paid.
Cayadutta was last operated by Liberty Leather Corp., which was headquartered across Harrison Street in one of the county’s more modern leather plants. A Daily Gazette story reporting on 1984 contract negotiations between Liberty management and the tannery workers union mentioned that 250 employees were employed at the two plants.
Last year, the photo-sharing website called Flickr posted numerous photos apparently taken inside Cayadutta without the knowledge of the property owner. The photos depict deteriorating buildings and some old tannery equipment and other refuse, but no chemical drums. In one shot water is pooled on a muddy floor.