Sodus Point Malt House as it appeared in 1997 Photo by Bill Huff Jr.
The Sodus Point Malt House was originally built in 1880 and was locally owned and operated. It was owned by Colonel E. Bloss Parsons who built the Lakestones House on Wickham Blvd. in Sodus Point. The original Malt House had barley delivered to it via small ships that came into Sodus Bay. It in turn supplied malt to breweries around the Lake Ontario shoreline.
(The following information is from the April 8, 1938 edition of The Picket Line Post, Mount Morris, NY)
In 1936, the old Parsons Malt House was purchased by Genesee Brewing Company of Rochester. During the next two years, it spent $200,000 to recondition and equip the plant. At that time it was the only private malt house owned by an eastern brewery and the only one in America malting by the European floor system. The floor system, instead of speeding up the transition of barley into malt thru mechanical means, permitted a slow natural germination where grain is spread on a huge floor and turned over regularly by hand producing a malt of superior quality. This new malting program benefitted hundreds of Western New York farmers because Genesee used locally-grown barley. The malt house opened in early 1938.
Doug Stark (a Sodus Point resident of the 1950s and 1960s), tells his experience working at the Malt House.
“When I got older I had a job doing the external audit of the Genesee Brewing Company. One year I got to take inventory at the malt house grain elevators. It was another Sodus Point experience that I will never forget. To find out how much grain is in the elevator, someone had to ride to the top on what was called a “man lift”. It was essentially a vertical conveyor belt with rungs to hold on to and stand on. It was tricky because I had to carry a clipboard and it was necessary for someone to pull a rope that was next to the belt when you wanted to stop the belt at the top. If the belt failed to stop to allow jumping off, a person could go over the top and start descending upside-down. OSHA had not approved this very tall and very old lift. It was pretty scary if you were not used to it. At the top there was a hatch where you could get on the roof and get a spectacular but windy view of the entire bay. To measure the grain level in the elevator a lead line was gently lowered to see how full the silo was. If the lead was lowered too fast, it would just sink right into the grain giving a false reading. A volume calculation was then computed to check the calculation of what should have been in the silo from the net in and out truck deliveries since the last time it was empty.”
Genesee Brewery stored barley at the Oswego Grain Elevator, and then sent that barley by truck to Sodus Point for malting. It also received several railroad carloads of grain every five or six weeks.
The Malt House was very active in the life of the community. During the years that Sodus Point supported a semi-professional baseball team (Sodus Point Chiefs and later the Sodus Point Lakers), the Malt House contributed to the cost of the uniforms and even paid the really good local players. Old timers described working at the Malt House: “The company would give out a case of beer every week to every employee. And for Christmas, employees would receive turkeys, fruitcakes, and boxes of citrus.” These working conditions seemed to have led to happy employees.
The employees of the company were very loyal not only for the free gifts but also because of the way they were treated. Frank Grosz tells the story of what happened when his father (Frederick Grosz) who worked at the Malt House passed away unexpectedly in 1958. Mr. Whaley, who was the owner of the Malt House, attended his father’s funeral. The owner asked his mother how old his sister was (who was the youngest in the family). His mother replied that she was 14. The owner told her that she would continue to receive her dead husband’s weekly paycheck until she turned 21. This promise was kept and is a great testimony of a company taking care of its employees.
In 1986, the Genesee Brewery Malt House ceased operation. Today it is used for boat Storage by Katlynn Marina located across the street from the Malt House.