Throughout much of the 1800’s and even into the early 1900’s, the economy of the City of Utica was largely based on textile manufacturing. In fact, by the early 1900’s, Utica was one of the chief textile manufacturing centers in the entire country. Many of the early textile mills in Utica developed on the west side of the City, including the Utica Steam Cotton Mills, the Utica Steam Woolen Mills and the Globe Woolen Mills which still stands on Court Street in West Utica; the Globe Woolen Mills is in the process of being renovated for a large-scale, mixed-income loft housing project.
The manufacturing of knit-goods was introduced in Utica in 1863 when the Utica Steam Knitting Mills built a coal-fired steam plant very close to the Bagg’s Square neighborhood. The manufacture of knit-goods grew steadily through the turn of the century. With this new industrial process, companies soon discovered the need to build larger factories. While the older, smaller cotton mills populated much of Utica’s west side, the newer and larger knitting mills began to develop along Broad Street in what is now commonly known as East Utica.
The building that now houses the Bagg’s Square Cafe at 421 Broad Street owes its very existence to this emerging economy of the early 1900’s. The property, on the northwest corner of Broad and Second Streets, was once the home of Moses Bagg, Jr., the son of one of the City’s original founders and first entrepreneurs. The Frisbie-Stansfield Knitting Company, the world leader in knit-goods manufacture at the time, purchased the land just after the turn of the century, demolished the Bagg home and constructed the Byington Mill in 1910. Two years later, the Company would construct office headquarters, attached and immediately west of the building (where the building’s parking lot is now located).
The architect of the Byington Mill was Frederick H. Gouge. Gouge was a prominent Utica architect and designed a number of notable Utica buildings, including the Commercial Traveler’s Insurance Company Building, the Winston Building, St. Francis de Sales Church, the New Century Club Building, the Doyle Hardware Building, the Children’s Museum Building and the Hurd Building along with numerous buildings on the campus of Hamilton College in nearby Clinton. As is evident from the exterior of the building, Gouge designed the structure with load-bearing masonry walls which were configured to provide for large windows along all sides of the building which would light the interior space. Within that space, as many of 200 people were once employed by the Knitting Company, at its height. The building was originally constructed as a four-story tall building. The fifth floor, which today houses five upscale loft apartments, was added sometime between 1910 and the sale of the building in 1929.
By 1920, the number of mills in the City had dropped from a high of 19 to roughly 6. As a result, in 1929, Byington Mill was sold to J. Edward Clark who then sold the building to J.A. Firsching Company for the manufacture of textile machinery in 1936; that business was purchased by William Bashant in 1986 which continued until 1991. Due to their historical and architectural significance, both the Byington Mill and the attached office building were added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1993.
In 1983, the City of Utica acquired the building through tax foreclosure, later selling the building in 1999 to Cobblestone Construction. In 2007, Cobblestone Construction demolished the attached office building in order to construct the parking lot that now sits adjacent to the building. Two years later, Cobblestone Construction sold the building to the current owners who undertook a major renovation of the building.
The building’s owners, Michael Pezzolanella and his son Francis, built the Cafe which opened in January 2011. The pair has since moved on to purchase and renovate the former HSBC building into a premier mixed-use property and together own and operate Ocean Blue. The Cafe’s current owners, Melinda and Brian Thomas, purchased the Cafe in January 2015 and operate it today as a family business with their children, Benjamin and Aubrianna. Brian also currently serves as the Commissioner of Urban & Economic Development for the City of Utica.
Bagg’s Sq. Cafe
421 Broad St
Utica, NY 13501
Monday-Friday, 7:00 AM to 2:30 PM
“Bagg’s Square Cafe owner: ‘We believe in . . . Utica.'” Observer Dispatch 21 April 2013
Bottini, Joseph P.; Davis, James L. Utica: Then & Now. Chicago: Arcadia Publishing, 2007
“Contractor renovating Cobblestone building.” Observer Dispatch 17 August 2010.
Kroup, Ben A. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form: Byington Mill. 1993