Amsterdam couple looks to restore the Breier Leather Factory


One of the properties authorized for sale on Tuesday by the Amsterdam Common Council was the old Breier Leather Factory on the corner of Bunn Street and Blood Street. The foreclosed property will be sold to an Amsterdam couple who say they want to restore the building to the way it looked in the 1920’s.

“We had been looking for some time for properties in the city,” said Diane Smith on Tuesday. “We’ve been looking at this factory for about two years now.”

Smith said she and her husband Charles White are both nearing retirement, and plan to use their own money to fix up the building over the course of the next four years.

Smith said her husband’s hobby is buying and restoring English sports cars and will use the bottom floor of the building as an automotive workshop. The top floor, she said, will be turned into a woodworking shop. She also plans to plant a garden in the adjacent vacant lot.

One of the first steps is to repair the buildings damaged roof, which Smith says could cost forty thousand dollars alone. She also hopes to replace the building’s windows and preserve its clay tiles and brickwork.

According to Walter Elwood Museum Director Ann Peconie, the building was used as a leather factory up until the 1970’s and was once owned and operated by Marcus Brier, a former Amsterdam mayor.

Once the renovations are done, Smith says she hopes to start a mentoring program for local youth, to teach gardening, woodworking, and motor repair.

Smith said older cars, such as the ones her husband works on,  are better to learn on.

“There’s very little to those motors…they’re extraordinarily simple to work on,” she said.

Smith says she is a long-time Amsterdam resident and looks at the project as a chance to do something good for the community. She said the factory building is currently a “magnet for vandalism” and hopes the renovations will encourage others in the neighborhood to take pride in their own properties.

“If you look, other people are starting to fix up their houses. We’re big believers that once you start going in and fixing up, it catches on,” said Smith.

“I wish more people would do this in the community. Instead of looking at abandoned buildings as something to tear down. I know it costs, but restore them. It’s the history of Amsterdam,” she added.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Smith thanked local officials including the controller and codes department for their help in the bidding process.

“Everyone put up with me asking numerous questions, and I was treated very courteously, especially by the people in codes who took their time with us and went though everything with the building. And it made the process very smooth for us,” said Smith.

Tim Becker

Tim Becker is the owner of Anthem Websites Inc. which publishes The Compass. He serves as both editor and a writer.