The Shirt Factory is this amazing huge old building that has a fantastic history. It is located in Glens Falls, NY just outside the Adirondack Park about 1hr North of Albany. As a side note – Glens Falls was a lovely town, they have made a real effort to preserve buildings and have a great main street area with shops and restaurants. There’s a lot to do in the area too. But back to The Shirt Factory….
The Shirt Factory was in fact a real Shirt Factory. It is a huge 4 story brick building and was started in the early 1900’s employing many hundred of the townspeople. The shirts were made under the McMullen label and were incredibly successful. In the 1930’s, the company went in a new direction – in addition to shirts, they started designing and making dresses for women. They were very successful with their dresses being featured in Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar and other fashion magazines. They even dressed celebrities, making custom pieces for many famous women. One of their creations is even part of the collection at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
The company went through many changes during the mid-century but kept along making shirts till it finally closed in the late 1990’s. It lasted as factory for nearly a century, employing many generations of Glens Falls residents.
In 1996, the current owner of the building bought it at auction and fell in love with it. He chose to preserve and renovate this amazing space with high ceilings and beautiful windows and turned it into artists spaces. Today the building has 77 unique studios with over 100 artists / artisans.
You can visit this super neat place most days – but if you go Thursday thru Saturday from 12-5, all the shops / studios / galleries on the main 1st floor will be open. The rest of the studios keep their own hours, but you’re welcome to wander the halls, and if someone has their door open you might be allowed in to visit and see what they’re working on.
One of the cool bits about wandering around the building – they’ve got tons of historical stuff just around. They have samples of the dresses in cases on the walls. There are old sewing machines in the hallways that you can touch. There are old photos of what it looked like, what the workers looked like and stories about their lives on the walls. One of the ladies in a studio showed me in the floor where there were worn spots and she told me it was where an ironing station had been and those worn bits were from where the worker stood. Just cool that this place got preserved, saved and given a new life incorporating its’ history and not just gutted or torn down.
So why did I find out about this place? Well, it turns out, one of the tenants of building is The Shirt Factory Gallery, a beautiful art gallery who accepted one of my pieces into a show they were having. The Shirt Factory Gallery has had an annual “smalls” show for about 7 or 8 years in a row now. This year, I applied and was pretty thrilled that my piece Shiro Piegare 8127 got accepted! We even went down and attended the opening reception party – it was PACKED!! The party was such fun, it was great to meet and talk with other artists and see all sorts of neat work in the show. This place is so wonderfully supportive of artists, it’s a great community and I was thrilled to be a part of it for a tiny bit.
It is such a cool side benefit of making art, that you get to find out about these neat places when a piece gets accepted somewhere. If you’re ever near Glens Falls be sure to stop by and take look at this amazing place!