Mushroom Farm

Photographs taken October 4, 2008.

Coming to my attention in 2008 was a new set of distinct architectural type in the Hudson Valley, the mushroom farm. These low, broad-gabled buildings of brick and/or
concrete, with metal roofs, were built expressly for growing mushrooms in cold, dark conditions. The interiors feature slight wooden shelves from wall to wall and floor to ceiling, on which trays were set for growing mushrooms. 

The closest precedent to these buildings were the vast icehouses of the 19th century, which also required cold, dark rooms for storage of that perishable commodity. Ice harvesting on the Hudson River ceased to be a viable business around the 1920s, but a few of the old wooden buildings bigger than American football fields found new life adaptively-reused as mushroom farms. Abandoned cement mines in Ulster County also became suitable sites for growing mushrooms, and names like Knaust and DePoala were some of the more well-known families in the field. 

Reusing an old icehouse cut out the labor and materials costs of building new indoor farms, and the ice harvesters were eager to sell their antiquated buildings to recover some costs (even selling for scrap wasn't too profitable due to the labor and removal demands - the icehouses were often located at the bottom of steep, windy roads that were not well maintained). But the mushroom growing business was strong enough for a while, perhaps around the 1930s and 1940s, that some companies built dedicated-use facilities. 

These mushroom plantations had buildings for all the steps of growing and packing of mushrooms, machinery for temperature maintenance, and sometimes even boarding houses for the laborers. Mechanical plants with steam pipes and refrigeration machines kept the temperature inside the growing houses between 50 degrees and 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The laborers who harvested the mushrooms wore miners' caps with headlamps, as the growing houses were not illuminated with natural or electric light. The growing shelves had just enough spacing between each successive row to allow for a bed containing one inch of loam and six inches of horse manure - usually brought in by barge from New York City. Once harvested, workers in the packing room packaged the mushrooms, which were quickly shipped to New York City and New England.

I learned about this particular abandoned mushroom farm in 2008 through printed and online sources, and have since learned of at least three other possible mushroom farms, two of which I have photographed. The site shown here is relatively isolated and is not yet a site that will soon be redeveloped for commercial or residential purposes, but decay is occurring at its slow but steady pace.

ABOVE and BELOW: An exterior wall containing MALDEN brick has collapsed and now reveals the interior shelves on which trays of mushrooms were set.

More Abandoned Mushroom Farm Photos - Page 2


Yaz’ Hudson Valley Ruins 
and Abandoned Buildings, etc.

Yaz’ Hudson Valley Ruins and Abandoned Buildings, etc.

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This page copyright © 2009 by Robert J. Yasinsac. 
Reproduction of these photos without the permission of Robert Yasinsac is prohibited.