THE NEW YORK ORDNANCE WORKS|
(A Government Owned War Project)
Sometimes referred to as "The Project"
On December 11, 1941, Germany declared war on the United States. Three
months later, 250 families living between the Oswego and Seneca Rivers, on
and round the Radisson site, were ordered by the Army Corps of Engineers to
evacuate their homes. Eight thousand acres of land were depopulated by the orders,
and all roads into the area were blocked. Within a month, construction of a huge
ordnance plant began, with more than 3,000 workers employed at the peak of
construction. By January 1943, less than a year later, the plant was in operation.
The plant was under heavy security. Ten miles of chain link fencing
with strategically located guard towers protected it. At night, floodlights played
on all perimeter areas.
Inside were 88 main buildings and more than 20 miles of roads. Eight
thousand men and women worked there. They made, processed
and shipped dinitrochlorabenzene, more familiarly known as “Explosive D.”
It was used in armor piercing shells, and it and its processing were deadly business.
“Explosive D” was made, basically, from a peaceful enough coal tar
derivative used for dye making. But, by the time the Works got through treating
it with nitric and sulfuric acids, boiling it and cooling it and, finally, shipping it,
it was anything but peaceful. It was stored in concrete magazines located generally
in the area of what is now the Game Management Preserve, along Sixty Road.
The most dangerous operations were conducted in buildings along the
east side of Radisson’s drumlin. This was done so that, in the event of an explosion,
Baldwinsville would be shielded from danger. The concrete foundations along the
east side of the drumlin, off Willett Parkway, were part of that main manufacturing
area. They supported acid vats used in processing the explosive. The
designers of the architectural sculpture that identifies Radisson’s main entrance
at route 31 used the shape of the cradles that supported those vats as the basis
for their design. The actual cradles were half the size of those in the finished
sculpture. There were five of these areas along the face of the drumlin.
A year and two months after production began, it was stopped. Following
the War, the property was declared surplus, and the Works were abandoned. The
next few years, as the Works were dismantled or destroyed and the property
disposed of, were active ones. Only the administration buildings near Rt. 31
and some of the larger concrete buildings remained.
Some farmhouses and cottages left from before the War were offered to the
public for lease. A plan to use the larger buildings for veteran’ housing fell through.
Over 5600 acres went into the land bank and was eventually sold. State officials
looked into the possibility of relocating the State Fair there but then decided not to.
Syracuse University began renovating some of the buildings for student housing, but
the work was never completed.
The State Conservation Department purchased 3000 acres in the north end
of the property fro the Game Management Preserve. Later, in 1952, the trustees of
the William Waldorf Astor estate bought 2000 acres for residential and commercial
development. This never took place. For the next 20 years, the land stood idle.
The Urban Development Corporation (UDC) purchased the site in 1969.
It is now the site of the Lysander Planned Community better known as Radisson.
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