Skip to content

Oval Wood Dish Factory, Tupper Lake, New York


Oval Wood Dish Factory, Tupper Lake, New York


The former Oval Wood Dish factory looms over the Tupper Lake in the town of Tupper Lake, New York, on April 8, 2024. The factory has been an eyesore in town for years and talk of a redevelopment into housing and commercial space is being met with excitement by the town.

An Eyesore With A Fascinating History

The story of rural towns often starts with a booming industry around a natural resource and a bust when the demand changes. Tupper Lake, New York fits that mold, but a long dormant eyesore on its picturesque lake could benefit from the fact that the region's natural resource is fueling another demand.

The Oval Wood Dish company got its start in 1883 in Ohio and later Michigan, before moving to its final location in Tupper Lake, New York in 1918. If you’re thinking that Oval Wood Dish was just the company’s name and not their product, well you would be wrong.

Long before plastic and styrofoam plates and bowls made great ways to transport food (and also not have to nag your family for your dishes back), OWD made wooden bowls, plates, forks, and spoons. Sure they were good for picnics and the like, but the bowls started out as a way for butchers to sell ground beef and other meat.

Having plenty of wood in them hills, the move to Tupper Lake sparked growth in the small logging town. The company not only ended up bringing over 500 new jobs to the town and helped grow the local economy in other ways. Donating land for the country club’s golf course and building a ski hill. 

The company launched a new product during the Great Depression called the “Ritespoon” and “Ritefork.” The company also made clothespins, tongue depressors (think “say ah” at the doctor’s office), hardwood flooring, and ice cream and popsicle sticks. They went out of business in 1964, but chances are if you were a child from 1940 to then, you’ve probably put an OWD product in your mouth at one point. 

You can read more about Oval Wood Dish Company here

Demand For Natural Resources

A father and daughter fish in Tupper Lake as the former Oval Wood Dish factory looms over the Tupper Lake in the town of Tupper Lake, New York, on April 8, 2024. The factory has been an eyesore in town for years and talk of a redevelopment into housing and commercial space is being met with excitement by the town.

If you’ve ever visited the Adirondack Mountains, you know how stunningly beautiful the area is. The Adirondack Park is a unique National Historic Landmark covering 6 million acres of land. It is the largest publicly protected area in the contiguous U.S. So large in fact it covers more land than Yellowstone, Yosemite, Glacier, the Great Smokies, and the Grand Canyon National Parks combined. 

While the state of New York owns almost half of the land, the rest is a mix of public and private spaces. Which is why you have towns like Tupper Lake and the OWD factory in the middle of such a wilderness area.  

Now days the natural resource that attracted the logging companies of the past are what’s attracting the travelers of the present. Today small towns that weren’t the final destination for tourists in the past are seeing staying. After decades of population decline as agricultural industries needed less man power. It is in no way surprising to other small towns across the country who have seen a boost in their economy thanks to nearby natural areas, such as National Parks, that Tupper Lake may be primed for a comeback.

Hopefully Not Another Dead End

The sunset over Tupper Lake as seen from Flanders Park in Tupper Lake , New York, on April 8, 2024.

It’s unclear how long the OWD factory has sat unused. The building in the rear where the smoke stack is, may be the original 1918 structure. It looks to be no more than a brick shell that has long since been missing its roof. The more lake facing structure had some business venture post the 1964 closure of OWD, but it doesn’t look like anything short having the factory floor used as a storage space for cars and boats had happened lately.

What is clear is that there is hope for the building and the town. In 2021 a developer purchased the property with the talk of turning it in to a mixed income housing, commercial space, and one local new article even mentioned a possible brewery. 

The news out of Tupper Lake on the development has kind of gone cold since then. A June 2023 article mentioned the project was ready to go after some tax and grant money came through, but when I drove through town in April of 2024 it looked as if little had been done. 

Things like this are always hard to tell from a far. Even with the internet putting info at our finger tips, the death of small town news outlets makes news of the good (and the bad) so much harder to come by. Thanks to Adirondack Almanack for writing about the area’s history

Tupper Lake’s population doubled in a decade after OWD came to town. Growing from 2,500 in 1920 to 5,300 by 1930. The town has declined in population between 5%-10% every decade after 1950. The 2020 census reported a -10.5% decrease. 

This was my second time through Tupper Lake. My first trip was in 2015 when we camped in nearby Forked Lake, which is a state park campground. Primitive camp sites only. And bonus, if you call ahead you’ll want to get the island spot #52. 

One of my all-time favorite camp sites. Forked Lake State Park, just south of Long Lake, New York. Look at reserving the island campsite. This place is a hidden gem. Photo taken in 2015.