From Tipp Hill to Liberty Island to the village

Old-timers recall driving down North Geddes Street and marveling at the Heaphy Man.

The seven-foot-tall tin man stood watch for decades outside Jim Heaphy’s hardware store on Syracuse’s West End. Of course we called it a tin man, but it turns out to have been constructed of galvanized steel duct pipe. And indeed, certain steel vents and stove pipes are bent in a way that resembles human joints.

One of the oldest Irish families in Syracuse, the Heaphys have done business here for four generations. Tom Heaphy, a refugee from Ireland’s potato famine, came to Syracuse in the 1840s. His son, Dennis Heaphy, learned tinsmithing in the 1880s on the St. Lawrence Seaway before returning to Syracuse where he made splashguards for horse carriages. The family’s shop opened in the early-1890s and sold roofing and heating supplies. Its sidewalk tin man became a Central New York landmark.

You can still see the tin man, but before I tell you where, let me tell you about the 21st century’s Dennis Heaphy.

Statue of Liberty

“I’m the fourth generation of my family in this craft,” says Dennis Heaphy, son of Jim Heaphy who ran the shop at 133 North Geddes until 1998. “I’m carrying on the family business started in that small shop on the banks of the Erie Canal,” says the great grandson of the 19th century Dennis Heaphy.

Now 53, our Dennis started working in the business when he was 11 years old, making chimney caps, roofing metal, even zinc casket liners used to seal coffins. But at the end of the last century, Dennis sold the family shop. Instead he carries on the tinsmithing tradition at one of America’s most cherished historical monuments, the State of Liberty in New York harbor.

In 1999, Dennis and his brother and visited the Statue of Liberty for the first time.

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