Places that Matter

Hudson North American

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Building exterior overview-color, Tamara Coombs
Building exterior overview-color, Tamara Coombs
Building overview, Courtesy of Hudson North American
Building exterior, Courtesy of Hudson North American
Surrounding area, Courtesy of Hudson North American
Horse cart, Berenice Abbott
Woman-owned storage and moving company, housed in historic Sheffield Farms horse stable
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Place Matters Profile

By Katie McLaughlin

Hudson North American, a woman-owned moving and storage company with a niche in the luxury home and office furnishings industry, occupies this former horse stable of the Sheffield Farms-Slawson-Decker Company, once one of the city's most important milk companies. The building, known as Sheffield Farms Stable, was listed to the National Register of Historic Places in 2005 for its association with the transformation of the New York City milk business and technological advances that improved sanitation.

The stable was built to accommodate the horses and wagons that delivered milk throughout Manhattan, first from a nearby milk depot and then from a major Sheffield bottling plant. Though it was "only" a stable, its design and upkeep consciously conveyed an image of cleanliness and hygiene. Its years as a stable ended in 1938 when Sheffield switched to delivery by truck, but the existing building continues to illustrate the emphasis on sanitation and health new to the milk industry at the time of its construction in 1903, as well as concepts of efficient stable design typical of the early 1900s.

The milk industry in the mid-1800s in New York City suffered from technological shortcomings, ignorance of sanitation needs, and cost-cutting efforts of distributors. Lack of refrigeration made it necessary to keep milk cows in the city, but the close quarters in which the cattle were kept and the swill with which they were fed bred bacteria and made the milk they produced unhealthy. Contaminated milk contributed to high disease and mortality rates among infants and children, but even as increased regulation of the industry improved the conditions in which cows were kept, additives to "preserve" milk (such as formaldehyde) and disease-causing agents passed from cattle through milk continued to spread tuberculosis, typhoid, and other diseases throughout the nineteenth century.