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Sibley & Holmwood Candy Factory

Exterior Before Rehab
Storefront Before Rehab
Storefront After Rehab
1st Floor Before Rehab
1st Floor After Rehab

Sibley & Holmwood Candy Factory

149 Swan Street, Buffalo, NY

  • Date Built: 1896
  • Total QREs: $5,945,000
  • Total HTCs: $2,972,500, Federal; $2,972,500 State.

Preservation Studios’ Role:

Preservation Studios completed the Part One, Two, and Three of the Historic Preservation Certification Applications as well as the National Register nomination.

History:

The building was designed by the prominent firm of Lansing and Bierl, whose decade long partnership created a large body of work in Western New York, with multiple buildings represented on the National Register of Historic Places. James Holmwood was born in Sussex, England in 1841, but subsequently migrated to Western New York. In 1862, he moved from East Hamburg and worked for the Webster & Co. grocery store for two years before joining the wholesale grocer Hastings & Bell as a bookkeeper. In 1866, Holmwood worked as a bookkeeper and “confidential manager” with Henry Hearne, one of Buffalo’s renowned confectioners located at 110 Seneca Street. It is while working for Hearne’s that he met Frank Sibley. Sibley was born in Springville, New York on February 24, 1850, with his family moving to Buffalo shortly after his birth. In 1868, he joined Hearne’s wholesale confectionary firm as a travelling salesman, before leaving in 1870 to work a similar position for John Benson’s Son confectioners. In 1873, he joined Holmwood to form the Sibley & Holmwood Confectionary Company. Initially, they did not move far from their mentor, relocating a short distance away to 133 East Seneca Street, before settling into their first factory at 111 Seneca.

In its earliest years, Sibley & Holmwood employed eighteen workers. Within a decade the company became one of the best-recognized manufacturers of confectionery candy in Buffalo. In 1880, the first factory was regarded as “an ornament to the city and substantial evidence of enterprise.” It was fully equipped with modern steam-pan confectionery and four floors dedicated to manufacturing and packing. An advertising publication for Buffalo’s industries noted that “it is safe to say that no house in the entire country makes such varieties or desirable goods.” In the eight years between 1873 and 1881, the company increased its workforce to almost one hundred, including six travelling salesmen. Even though a devastating fire destroyed its factory, as well as much of the surrounding blocks in 1891, by 1895 Sibley & Holmwood increased employment to almost two hundred workers and produced $200,000 worth of goods. Sibley & Holmwood’s factory at 149 Swan Street opened with fanfare in 1896. It was fully run by electricity and fostered the continued growth of the company. By 1898, the company employed 300 employees and was generally regarded as one of the best producers of confectionery candy in the country.

The success Sibley & Holmwood enjoyed in the confectionery world was reflected by Frank Sibley’s 1884 election as a founding member of the National Confectioners’ Association in Chicago, where he served as chair from 1886-91. In the first two years of his chairmanship, he coalesced the fledgling organization after a rough founding, and from 1888 to 1891 the organization increased total membership from seventy-eight companies to two hundred and twenty-one. Sibley served as the vice-president of the organization in 1896, and he was nominated for presidency in 1899 but declined. The National Confectionary Association is still in operation and, as of 2009, represents four hundred members who are responsible for 90 percent of the chocolate and confectionery production in the United States.

 


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