For over a century, Central New York was the hub for the production of salt in the United States. The rapid rise of the salt industry in Syracuse led to the nickname “The Salt City.” By 1900, salt production had declined due to competition and the exhaustion of concentrated salt brine in and around Onondaga Lake.
Solar evaporation became the most cost-effective way to harvest salt from brine water. The brine was pumped into chambers where impurities settled out and then pumped into 3-inch deep wooden trays referred to as salt vats or salt covers. The entire process took about seven days.
Salt lots were managed by New York State and were sold or leased to individual salt producers for the purpose of digging or drilling wells to harvest salt brine. Saltwater obtained from deep salt wells and stored in the salt reservoir was pumped along a raceway through Syracuse’s Third Ward to the Erie Canal where it was processed into bushels of salt for transportation and sale across the country.