February 26, 2008

The Natural Foods Company

The 17th Edition of The Vital Question Cook Book (1902, 112 pages) was published by The Natural Foods Company of Niagara Falls, New York. This company was the maker of Shredded Wheat Biscuits.

This cookbook has several interesting aspects, so we'll just look at one portion today, that which tells about their first plant in the Niagara Falls area. There would eventually be two more factories built in this area, one on each side of the U.S. and Canadian border.

The booklet is compact, measuring only 4 by 4-1/2 inches and it has a thin, pliable blue cloth cover. The copy I have has a faded and frayed red cord still attached to the top hole.

Like C. I. Hood & Co., The Natural Foods Company felt it beneficial to inform potential customers about the magnificence of their building.

Although the book does not mention it, the building described below was built at a cost of two million dollars.

The image below is found in the cookbook.

This image provides a better view.

The Natural Food Conservatory
Niagara Falls, N. Y.

"The Home of Shredded Wheat"
The Largest and Finest Industrial Building in the World.

The beautiful structure of The Natural Food Company is located on Buffalo Avenue (occupying ten acres), in the finest residence portion of the city, with a frontage of 900 feet on the Niagara Rapids.

The plant consists of the main building four hundred and sixty-three (463) feet long and sixty-six (66) feet wide, with four connecting portions. This united structure covers an area of fifty-five thousand six hundred and fifty-three (55,653) square feet, or a total of four million five hundred thousand (4,5000,000) cubic feet--about 5-1/2 acres floor space.

The center section, first in importance, and in itself a large building, contains the administrative and educational features. As one enters the Conservatory, he steps directly into a large foyer or reception room, from which may be taken one of the high-speed electric elevators to the floor above.

The gallery around the foyer or reception room is taken up with offices, and the entire floor above is devoted to the main offices of the Company.

On the fourth floor is a lecture hall with seating capacity of 1,000, provided with all conveniences, and is placed at the disposal of the public and employees. Conventions meeting at Niagara are given the free use of this hall for any length of time they desire.

On the fifth and top floor, a great airy room, commanding a delightful view of the Niagara River, there is a dining room, which will be perfectly equipped and attractive in its fittings as to be decidedly stimulating to the appetite. This room is arranged for the noon eating room of the employees. Here each day the various workers will come to luncheon. The Natural Food Company looks to keeping the standard of its employees up to the same high grade that characterizes everything connected with it.

The roof of the Administration building will be converted into a very beautiful and attractive roof garden, affording a picturesque view of the wonders of Niagara.

The frame of the building required three thousand tons of steel, which is covered with a light buff-colored brick. The interior is finished in Keene cement, painted with white enamel, requiring nearly thirty-five tons of paint. The building is heated and ventilated by the fan system. There are eight hundred and forty-four window openings, and all windows are double glazed--to exclude dust and smoke--thirty thousand lights of glass being required and ten tons of putty used for glazing. The temperature is kept uniform in summer by means of bringing fresh air over cool water and distributing it throughout the building, and in winter by forcing fresh air through coils of steam pipe.

Elaborate lavatories, finished in marble and mosaic, are provided for the employees and fitted with shower and needle baths and hot and cold soft water, employees being allowed one hour per week on Company's time for use of same.

The air in the Administration building is changed every seven and one-half minutes. Electricity is used for power and lighting throughout, and in part for baking, supplied by the Niagara Falls Power Company. Each floor of the Administration Building is connected with the Conservatory proper. A special provision is made for visitors to see the process. Galleries are provided on the second and third floors; Shredded Wheat dishes will be served by means of a carrier system in the form of a miniature electric railway. Individual desks are so arranged that one may make a memorandum of luncheon from a menu card, and placing same on the car and pushing an electric button, the car starts on its way, and is returned in a remarkably short space of time with your order complete.

The Conservatory is open, free to the visiting public, during the usual business hours.

This illustration showing visitors to the Conservatory is a portion of one found in a 1906 magazine advertisement.

Here are several other views of The Natural Food Observatory, found on souvenir postcards.

I find it interesting that in earlier times, food companies were eager to have visitors and to show off their facilities. Proprietary reasons and liability issues aside, do you think the food companies today would want us anywhere near their manufacturing facilities? I think not.

There's a fairly recent book that's been published about Henry Perky, known as the Shredded Wheat King, if you'd like to learn more about him or the company's early history.


At 2:38 PM CST, Blogger ~~Louise~~ said...

Hi Kathy,
Just dropped in to see what's cooking. What an interesting little gem of a book. I'm jealous:) Not really, great post!

At 2:04 AM CDT, Blogger T.W. Barritt at Culinary Types said...

It sounds like "modern" was supposed to equal cutting-edge company. Funny that the companies were promoting their location as a "destination." I suppose if one were visiting Niagra Falls, it might make an interesting afternoon trip. I have actually been on tours of food manufacturing sites, namely a beer company in Milwaukee, and a pretzel company in Pennsylvania Dutch company. You can always buy the product at the end. Imaging taking home your complementary box of Shredded Wheat?

At 8:45 AM CDT, Blogger Kathy said...

I have only visited a couple of food manufacturing sites. My most memorable was to Frito-Lay with my Brownie troop back in the early 1960s. I was fascinated with the huge barrels of little rubber Frito Banditos they were putting in the chip packages at that time.

At 2:59 AM CDT, Blogger Rochelle R. said...

I have a commerative recipe box that looks just like the one on the color postcard. To the left of the biscuit is a partial view of the building. It must have been a beautiful building in it's prime.


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