John S Tilley Ladders Company

John S. Tilley Ladders Company building. Three story red brick masonry building
John S. Tilley Ladders Company building

Photographs by William E. Krattinger, courtesy of New York State Historic Preservation Office

Quick Facts

122 Second Street, Watervliet, NY
Listed in the National Register of Historic Places (reference number 100000993)
The former John S. Tilley Ladders Company building, located in the City of Watervliet, Albany County, New York, is a historic factory complex that satisfies National Register of Historic Places Criterion A, in the area of Industry, given its association with a manufacturing concern the history of which spanned a century and a half. Founded in 1855 by the company’s namesake, John S. Tilley, the company was the nation’s oldest ladder manufacturer and during its active years manufactured tens of thousands of ladders and scaffolding units which were widely used by consumers for a wide range of applications, among them household chores, in the construction trades, and for the harvesting of fruit. Ladder design for those basic functions changed little during the course of the twentieth century, and during that period the company continued to expand; this growth is apparent in the continual additions made to the original 1916 factory, which in time came to occupy a large portion of a city block in Watervliet. Employing on average 100 workers at a time and owned by several generations of the Tilley family, the company was among Watervliet’s larger employers until it ceased operations in 2004, at which time it filed for bankruptcy protection. The building remains a salient reminder of the Tilley family’s Watervliet business, the operation of which spanned portions of three centuries, and a once vital manufacturing niche. The building’s adaptation and rehabilitation as an apartment facility has provided the former factory with a new use and ensured its survival as a part of the streetscape of Watervliet’s Port Schuyler neighborhood.

Last updated: April 13, 2018