I recently had the opportunity recently to travel to Troy, NY and do some research into the history of Rototiller and Troy-Bilt. These are the doors leading to once famous Troy-Bilt tiller factory at the corner of 102 St & 9 Ave in Troy, NY. Before that this was the home of ROTOTILLER, INC. from 1937 until around 1959 when Porter-Cable purchased controlling interest and moved the operation to Syracuse.rot
After Porter Cable was sold to Rockwell Mfg Co. tiller manufacturing returned here in 1961 with the newly designed Trojan Horse Rototiller manufactured by Watco Machine Products, the same folks that manufactured the Rototiller inc. products. In 1962 tillers started rolling off the assembly line. In1965 the company name was changed to Garden Way Mfg.Co.inc.and the product renamed the Troy-Bilt Horse Rototiller. Troy-Bilt tillers along with other models of lawn equipment was made here until 2001 when they declared bankruptcy.
This is the foyer for the offices on the 3rd floor. This building was built in the late 1800’s and was previously home to Draper Cordage Works. In the 70’s and 80’s business was booming with production backlogs as long as 26 weeks.
In 2007, I made my first trip to Troy after being introduced to Allen Cluett via email. Allen worked for Troy-Bilt from 1969 until 1981 and was service manager for some of that time. His father worked for Rototiller from 1946 until 1958 as Sales Manager. On my visit I met Dean Leith, who started as sales manager in 1965, Allen Cluett, Donna Done, daughter of Dave Done, Vice President of Production for Garden Way Manufacturing, and with George Dunham, who started working for Rototiller, Inc., in 1949 as a welder. George could make or fix anything. He is credited with making over a million hoods for Troy-Bilt tillers. On that trip I had the privilege of sitting in on an almost 2 hour round table discussion with plenty of stories about Rototiller and Garden Way, which I was able to record. We had met at the Burden Iron Works Museum which houses the museum pieces that were collected by Garden Way .There is a nice collection of tillers dating from 1937 that were built at the 102 St & 9 Ave location.
I spent a day at The Rensselaer County Historical Society in Troy going through boxes of documents and photos from Rototiller/Troy-Bilt. I was only able to scratch the surface of what is there. RCHS was kind enough to allow me to scan any documents and photos I wanted and were most accommodating.
This time I got to meet more people with a connection to Troy-Bilt. I had the pleasure of meeting Shirley and Janet Done daughters of George Done, John Pattison, who worked for Troy-Bilt and whose father was the law firm that supplied legal council for Rototiller, Inc. and Choppy Wicker who worked there from 1972 until 1999. He was at one point Director of Product Innovation and was responsible for the “skydiving Rototiller” called Pegasus, a marketing stunt in which Choppy and ‘Pegasus’ free fell 9000 ft from an airplane as they were being video taped.
Last, but not least, I was able to see RT-1, a one of a kind tractor with an attached 58” wide Rototiller. It was shipped to Florida for use in an orange grove. After all these years of sitting, the engine is not stuck and efforts are being made to find someone who would restore this one of a kind tractor.
It is nice to collect pieces of equipment, but it is even more satisfying to learn of the history of the company who built it. Even better I was able to go inside the building where all this history took place. Even though it is a deserted shell, I could just imagine all that went on there for those many years. A big THANK YOU to my guide for the three days, Allen Cluett.
- Dec 26, 2014 04:47 PM
- by earthgrinder