Countless hams have been roasted on Wagner Ware. The company’s cast iron and cast aluminum products, immensely popular in the early 20th century, have nourished generations of Americans. Today, its Sidney, Ohio, factory lies abandoned and in terrible disrepair at one of the city’s largest and oldest industrial sites.
When the Wagner brothers founded the Wagner Manufacturing Company in 1891, little did they know that over a century later, culinary enthusiasts would be storming vintage cookware stores for the company’s cast iron skillets and dutch ovens, which have now become prized collector’s items, and coveted (carefully seasoned) heirloom pieces. Among the first American cast iron cookware companies, Wagner was established its factory in Sidney, Ohio. Along with rival Griswold (which was later acquired by the same company that bought out Wagner), Wagner ware became so popular that it was also sold in Europe. The cookware, engraved with the town’s name on the bottom, put Sidney on the global map. Soon, the Wagners would diversify from cast iron products to cast aluminum cookware, becoming pioneers and market dominators of this line of kitchenware in the United States. The company’s Magnalite line—a hardy series made of magnesium and aluminum alloy—has likewise climbed the hallowed antique cookware pedestal.
All of this magic happened at the Sidney factory, which was in operation until the 1990s, but now stands desolate and decaying. The Wagner family began divesting their holdings in the 1950s, and the company has changed hands several times in the ensuing decades. The American Culinary Corporation of Willoughby, Ohio, currently holds the Wagner Ware trademark and manufactures cookware under the Wagner name. The Sidney foundry was closed permanently in 2008, after the building was deemed hazardous. Floors are caving in, there’s caution tape everywhere, and most of the structure has been boarded up. The town is trying to gather funds for demolition, while also hoping that someone might bid to purchase the lot.
Know Before You Go
The site is owned, unsafe, and the owners have a security system that alerts the police of intruders.