Watertown Steam Engine Company

(formerly called the Portable Steam Engine Company and sometimes the Watertown Portable Steam Engine Company)

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Some of the brick buildings still stand, though some are in bad repair and empty while others are used by the Feel Safe Door Company and Black River Plumbing or are for sale (see present-day photos below).

Hope Marshall of the website Perceptionphotography.biz writes that this business may have been owned by the Palmer Brothers. Hope writes - "The Steam Engine Company located in Watertown, New York held patents on a portable steam engine with the cylinder and valve chest integral with the boiler steam dome, and a riding cut-off valve. The first patent was in 1871. Many of the Watertown Steam Engine Co.’s portable steam engines exist today, in private collections or in museums." She also has found that the first portable steam engine made in the United States was made in Watertown in 1847. The Steam Engine Company located in Watertown, New York held patents on a portable steam engine with the cylinder and valve chest integral with the boiler steam dome, and a riding cut-off valve. The first patent was in 1871, many of the Watertown Steam Engine Company portable steam engines exist today, in private collections or in museums.

Other research indicates that Daniel Kleff and his builders and contractors built the extensive buildings of the Watertown Steam Company in addition to many other local buildings of the time; like the Times Building, the Smith Block, the Opera House block, Babcock Buggy Works, etc.

One text mentions that the Watertown Steam Engine Company was built on the place formerly used by a C.B. Hoard to build firearms, and that the steam engine company had a machine shop on Moulton and Mill Streets also.

The business was started in 1866 with $40,000 and had 35,000 square feet of flooring for large boiler and blacksmith shops, store houses, etc. It's capital then increased to $200,000 and the business employed 100 men, turned out 400 steam engines, saw mills, and agricultural engines. These were sold all over the US, Canada, Cuba and probably other parts of the world. Much of the cast iron they used was produced locally.

There is no indication of when the business shut down but there are some collectors who have Watertown Steam Engine Company steam engines manufactured as late as 1920.

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See Also

Jefferson County Industry



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This building housed boilers for all the other buildings in the complex. The attached structure is what is left of the large smokestack that the state took down after they left the site on the early 1980's. There is a cement wall to the left that was used as a outdoor loading dock. - Bill
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For more photos go to this external page.