Stories: Century Cement

World War I came and went and still no one to help Andrew out financially. But in the mid nineteen-twenties there was a big building boom going on down in Long Island and it was very fashionable to have black masonry joints in the brick veneer and stone veneer homes of Garden City, Forest Hills, Kew Gardens, and similar suburban areas.Andrew could sell all the cement he could make but he just couldn’t make enough of it.

Then one day, in the mid-nineteen-twenties, a cement dealer from Cleveland called Andrew on the phone: “Tell me more about Rosendale cement!” Andrew must have given this fellow a good sales talk because the cement dealer said, “Send me a carload!” Now Andrew was hard pressed to produce a wheelbarrow load, let alone a carload, but he talked this fellow from Cleveland into coming to Rosendale to see what was here. And he was very much impressed. He laughed at the production facility but he saw that it had great potential: a high grade limestone deposit close to the New York City market. He wanted to buy the place from Andrew but one of the secrets of Andrew’s success was that he never sold a thing. If somebody wanted something that he had, he would lease it for a basic lease-hold rent plus a percentage of the profits, or a percentage of the gross receipts. He’d always negotiate a good lease and you had to wake up early in the morning to match wits with Andrew; he was a shrewd Yankee trader.

Andrew gave this cement dealer from Cleveland a long-term lease: ninety-nine years. A basic rent plus so much per bag of cement produced. The cement dealer went back to Cleveland and raised some more venture capital and formed a new corporation called the Century Cement Corporation. They put up a new mill, electrically driven, new silos, new mining machinery, and they started making cement and selling it under the name of Century Cement, “Brooklyn Bridge” brand. It was a great trade-mark and an immediate success. The mill was going night and day and the Ohio people had plans of expanding, building new silos and doubling the size of the mill. Andrew was smiling all the while because with every cement bag that left the mill he got a few cents royalty. He started to become very, very rich.

Then came the Depression. You couldn’t give a bag of cement away. The mill shut down around 1931 and it was idle for a couple of years. The Ohio people failed to pay the rent and Andrew foreclosed on the lease. He got the mill for nothing with no investment of his own! Now he had a cement mill and could make cement, but nobody wanted it. But Andrew had an idea, he was always full of ideas, and this idea led to a new industry for Rosendale.