Milton History

a pictorial history of Milton, PA

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Susquehanna Silk Mill construction - 1919

Picture above courtesy of the Milton Historical Society

The building was under construction by the Turner Construction Company. The new Milton Manufacturing Company Shell Plant can be seen at the right edge of the picture. The houses on the left are facing Chestnut Street north of Marr. The mill was west of Chestnut Street and south of Marr Street, in a marshy area that was previously used for clay mining and brick production. It was sold to Hector Boiardi in 1938 and became the first production building for Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Foods. The Susquehanna Silk Company had plants in several towns around the area.

Susquehanna Silk Mill

From the book “Milton, Pennsylvania, the 19th Century Town on Limestone Run” by Homer F. Folk:

To the west of Chestnut Street was a marsh that was never developed. Civic-minded citizens acquired this land in 1920 with the idea of attracting industry. Susquehanna Silk Mills had purchased the Souter Silk Company on Hepburn Street in 1913. In the early 1920s they moved their production of silk cloth to the new plant that they built on Marr Street, which was the west and highest part of the marsh. The company deeded their Hepburn Street building and land to the Milton School Board with the provision that it was to be used for educational purposes. The company prospered during the 1920s but encountered financial problems in the early 1930s when the depression made silk clothes and articles too expensive for the average person. Also, rayon was one of the first synthetics made and cloth made from this fiber was more affordable. It was slow, however, to become acceptable to the low-end market for clothing. The Milton plant of the Susquehanna Silk Mills closed in 1936.

Again, civic leaders went seeking an industry that would give steady employment to Milton. They found it in Hector Boiardi, who had worked in many clubs and hotels as the chef-in-charge of sauces. His Italian-style sauce had found such success that he took the many suggestions that he market the sauce and his spaghetti dinners. When the kitchen in his Cleveland restaurant could not handle the demand, he went seeking a building that could be fitted with facilities to meet commercial production. The Susquehanna Silk Mill building was ideal for his needs and in 1938 Milton people began the production of Chef Boy-Ar-Dee Quality Foods, an immediate success in a market that had very little prepared Italian food. During WWII the Boy-Ar-Dee plant produced special rations for the armed services. After the war, Boiardi sold his interest in the plant to American Home Food Products, Inc., who expanded to meet the demand for prepared foods. They continued to use the Chef Boy-Ar-Dee logo.

Susquehanna Silk Mill today

Picture courtesy of Google Earth

The red rectangle in the picture at left shows the original Susquehanna Silk Mill building, completely surrounded by new construction. It is now part of Con-Agra Foods.