In the mid 19th century, German immigrants began settling on Syracuse’s north side and, for most of the next fifty years, the majority of the city’s immigrant population came from Germany. One of the largest local industries that sprang from the influx of Germans concerned the making of candles, particularly church candles. In fact, the American church candle industry began in Syracuse in 1855, when German immigrants Anton and Rosina Will began making candles in their McBride Street home. For the next 100 years or so, local candle companies proliferated and were dominated by German names like Baumer, Muench, Knapp, Kreuzer, Bausinger, and Steigerwald. Together, they made Syracuse the candle making capital of the country.
In 1897, Jacob Steigerwald, left Will & Baumer to found Cathedral Candle Company to exclusively make church candles. Today, Cathedral is the oldest religious candle manufacturer continually owned and operated by the same family and supplies candles to churches throughout North America. 121 years later, the fourth generation of Steigerwalds still owns and operates the company. Louis Steigerwald III is president; his brother Mark [Vice President] is in charge of marketing, and their cousin, John Hogan [Treasurer] is in charge of personnel. The company still makes church candles using paraffin and beeswax imported from around the world. Today, while Company employees make the majority of their candles on state of the art equipment, you’ll find that some of the specialty candles are still created by hand dipping or molding them on original machines that were built to last forever.
From the company’s inception, Jacob Steigerwald decided that Cathedral Candle would sell to dealers who in turn would sell candles to their local churches. Some of Cathedral’s dealers have represented the company for more than 100 years. One dealer commented on the company’s family atmosphere and traditional aspects by saying, “[Cathedral Candle Company] has the tradition of treating their dealers with old-fashioned courtesy while offering up-to-the minute responsiveness.”
From the beginning the company has maintained its neighborhood atmosphere. Jacob Steigerwald lived within walking distance of the factory and today many employees still walk to work. Cathedral has always been proud of the dedicated and skilled employees it has recruited from the neighborhood. The original factory has expanded over the years, most recently in December 2018. Having conducted business in a residential area for over 100 years and recognizing the corporate and community advantages, Cathedral embraces “new urbanism” or “the return to old village values and mixed uses.” In 1999, Cathedral Candle Company became the City’s first “Planned Development District”, a new zoning designation designed to accommodate the mixed-use concept.