Sunday, January 11, 2009

Greeley Sugar Factory

Continuing the series on Front Range beet sugar factories, the Greeley Colorado factory was completed in the fall of 1902, one year after the Loveland plant started operating. It was built at an enormous cost of $750,000 and designed to process 600 tons of beets per day, which later was expanded to 1000 tons.

The Greeley factory is interesting, in that:

  • The Greeley factory processed beets until 2002, giving it a full 100 years of operation -- a lifetime much longer than most Front Range factories.
  • The Greeley factory is no more! Unlike other ex-sugar factory cities (like Longmont) that are struggling with how to re-develop their crumbling factory sites and deal with the associated environmental problems, the factory owner (Western Sugar Cooperative) and the City of Greeley have successfully marketed and sold the property to a cheese company, which included a plan for razing the site. Just last year (2008), the factory was demolished by Colorado Cleanup, a Littleton company.

    There is a video on youtube of the concrete smokestack coming down in November 2008. Perhaps Longmont will experience a similar scene in the future.

The Greeley factory, from around 1918. This factory had a more interesting architectural facade than the typical industrial "shoebox" look, like that at Loveland and other factories that will be shown here in the future.

A sugar beet factory needed three crucial things before any investment could be made in its construction:
  1. Water: the Greeley factory was built on some bottom land by the Poudre River, and used a well to pump one million gallons of water per day, for the manufacturing of sugar.
  2. Railroad access. Not only to get the beets to the factory, but also to bring in coal, limestone, and coke, and to carry away the finished sugar product and leftover beet pulp which was used to feed livestock. A Union Pacific railroad spur was constructed to reach the Greeley factory, and 60% of the beets sliced in Greeley came via rail.
  3. Beets, of course. Before any factory was built, enough acres of committment had to be contracted with local farmers to grow beets.
Great Western Sugar company sold its assets, including the Greeley factory, to the UK-based Tate & Lyle sugar company in 1985. That lasted ten years until 1995 when the company was up for sale again. A group of 1,000 western sugar beet growers formed a cooperative in 2002 called the Western Sugar Cooperative and bought the company. In 2006, the coop put the Greeley plant up for sale, with the cost of operation as the major reason. A sale was made in 2008 to the Leprino Food company, who will be building a large cheese factory there, scheduled to be opened in 2011.

I should have taken some pictures of the old factory before it was torn down (lesson learned!), but luckily the Google Maps Street View crew visited Greeley in the past few years, and still has the site captured in pre-demolishment form, in its photographic memory (until it gets refreshed someday)!

The front entrance to the factory (photos courtesy of Google) at 1302 1st Avenue in Greeley. You can still see some elements of the original factory in the picture above:

A January 2009 perspective from the same entrance fence shows nothing left but the sign. The factory has been torn down and trucked away.

The tracks stop here, on the way to factory-no-more:

Continuing series on the Colorado Front Range beet sugar factories:

1 comment:

mogulsmoke said...

This is a sad end to a company that employed so many men and women, including me at one time. Sugar was king on the front range, no more...
Sometimes, progress is painful...
My father put in many hard days at the Greeley Factory, being a manager there. He rarely had Christmas dinner with us...The GW always came first. RDL