Located at 7392 South Broadway, the old Soap Factory building, which now houses the Red Hook Emporium, oozes local history. If only the walls could talk! Built as the local school before 1905, it housed K-12 until it burned down in 1936. So many folks who come into the building now reminisce about their school days there, or about how their parents told stories of attending school there.
In 1941 the Voorhis Tiebout Company, owned by Gordon Voorhis, opened a soap factory built on the foundations of the school. From then on the building was known as the Red Hook Soap Factory. Gordon Voorhis was a colorful character around town in the 1940’s. Besides owning the soap factory, he was a keen breeder of Morgan horses. In fact, he was considered to be one of the best in the country. His breeding farm, Applevale Farm, was located on the property that is now Hardeman Orchards on route 199.
Voorhis’ soap factory made soap grinding machines found in schools and public bathrooms nationwide. If you are of a certain age, then you surely remember grinding the soap by turning the arm on the side of the grinder with one hand and catching the flakes as they fell out of the bottom of the grinder with the other. Everything was assembled in the factory from parts made elsewhere. Many of the parts of the grinding machines were made at the local Stamp Inc. factory; and later, when the grinding machines were made of plastic the parts were extruded by GE. The soap was made by both Johnson and Johnson and Proctor and Gamble. Once it arrived at the factory it was dried in large kilns to make it particularly hard and therefore long lasting in the grinding machines. In the early 1990’s the Americans with Disabilities Act, combined with the development of liquid soap, put the company out of business. The new laws for public bathrooms required easier methods for dispensing soap that did not require using two hands.
Since then, the building has housed a hardware store and a radio station, amongst others. Today the building’s principal tenant is the Red Hook Emporium. It also houses Rhinebeck Party Rentals and High Ridge Traditional Healing.
Do come by the Red Hook Emporium to see more of the history of the building, along with some of the actual soap bars that were used in the dispensers!