A Century Ago: A City on the Rise

April 4, 2019

Masons_Sized.jpgMasonic Parade on South Street in Glens Falls -- circa 1919. In lead of parade — Mr. Herman Parks, H. Prior King, Charles Whipple, Fred La Salle (Photo taken from corner of South and Elm streets.)
Courtesy The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library


One hundred years ago, a copy of The Post-Star could be purchased at the Times Square Newsstand in midtown Manhattan. The papers, usually 12 to 16 pages, were rushed to New York City on the last train leaving Glens Falls each night – an ambitious gambit that spoke to Glens Falls’ self-confidence, its aspirations and its growing Upstate prominence.

One hundred years ago, chances were you’d read golf news on the front page. Golf and baseball were popular sports in Glens Falls  -- so popular, in fact, that an indoor golf course was opened at Glens Falls YMCA in the Winter of 1918-’19.

One hundred years ago, in the year that the First World War ended, Glens Falls hosted a year of parades and celebratory dinners as residents welcomed home soldiers, chaplains and Red Cross nurses. Soldiers in uniform got in free to most dances in the city.

Glens Falls native Charles Evans Hughes played golf with fellow Republican Addison B. Colvin and others at the Glens Falls Country Club in August 1919, during his first vacation since narrowly losing the presidential race in 1916 to Democratic incumbent Woodrow Wilson. It was a powerful gathering. Colvin was New York State Treasurer, president of the Glens Falls Gaslight Company and owner of the Glens Falls Daily Times and Glens Falls Weekly Messenger newspapers.

A generous 35 handicap made certain that the former New York governor and future U.S. chief justice had the lowest net score of the foursome.

Young men played baseball at the new Recreation Field at Crandall Park, sometimes drawing 2,000 or more spectators to 6:30 p.m. nightly Industrial League or Fraternal League matchups, with double headers on Saturdays. The Post-Star donated the trophies.

Among those who returned to Glens Falls from the war was “Broncho Charlie” Miller, legendary for his exploits as a Pony Express Rider beginning at age 11 and for training Teddy Roosevelt’s horses. He had met Carrie Potter, a Glens Falls girl, while in town with Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West show. Broncho Charlie had served in the British Army because, at 63, he was too old to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Their son, Dewey, also came home to Glens Falls, just in time to march in the Memorial Day parade with about 30 members of Henry Crandall’s Boy’s Savings Club who served in World War I. Dewey was the bugler for Glens Falls-based National Guard Company K.

The post-war economy in Glens Falls was strong and promising.

The Glens Falls Chamber of Commerce established an airport on Miller Hill, the Route 9 incline in Queensbury where Walmart is located today. A recently discharged military aviator established an airline running between Albany, Schenectady, Saratoga and Glens Falls. Miss Gladys E. Peters, daughter of longtime downtown merchant C.V. Peters, was the first Glens Falls resident to fly as a passenger over the city.

Byron Baker Fowler, better known as B.B., held a three-day celebration of the 50th anniversary of his iconic downtown department store (a sign marks the entrance of the venerable  building owned by JMZ Architects and Planners, PC, where the Downtown Social is located today on Glen Street).  Jay Van Vranken, better known as Van the Shoe Man, established the Glens Falls area chapter of the New York State Retail Shoe Dealers’ Association.

The Russian Symphony Orchestra performed at Christ Church, the largest public assembly space in the city at the time. Tierney’s Orchestra performed for the grand opening of the new location of the Sono-tone Music Co. store at the Rialto Theater on Warren Street.

Glens Falls Pharmaceutical Co. expanded its operation.

But Standard Textile Company on Haskell Avenue lost its market for cotton cellulose used in the manufacture of smokeless gun powder and closed.

The Glens Falls American Legion post, Glens Falls Kiwanis Club, Glens Falls Recreation Commission and Local 773 of the International Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters union were established.

Automobiles were expanding tourism, bringing people north on U.S. Route 9 to Glens Falls, Lake George and the Adirondacks, and increasing the need for hotel rooms. Gov. Al Smith and companions went on a fishing trip in August to Tupper Lake but, on their way back to Albany, could not find a room in Glens Falls to rest overnight.

The Post-Star editorial page called for a new modern hotel, and the Queensbury Hotel opened seven years later. For the next 100 years, it played host to many prominent politicians and entertainers, including  U.S. Rep. Ogden Livingston Mills of New York City, a one-time Republican candidate for governor; future President Ronald Reagan (who on the same trip also visited Jackson Heights Elementary School), Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and more recently Gov. George Pataki, Billy Joel and Ozzy Osbourne.

A movie camera manufacturer had plans to move to Glens Falls in 1919 and the Chamber of Commerce held a community meeting to discuss the proposal. But only a handful of people showed up.

 “The attendance at the meeting was less than 25 and many people known to be constantly criticizing the Chamber of Commerce on the ground that the directors do not desire to bring industries to the city were not present,” a Post-Star editorial chided on Feb. 28.

The relocation did not materialize, but the chamber continued its community-building efforts undeterred.

In August, The Post-Star praised the chamber for its joint effort with the Lake George Association to secure $50,000 in state funding to establish a fish hatchery at Lake George.

“Anything that enhances the reputation of the Lake George region as a summer paradise is of direct benefit to Glens Falls and surrounding country,” the editorial said.

 “Glens Falls will improve as an industrial center in the same ratio as its citizens take a vital interest in the things which are vital to Glens Falls,” business leader Elmer J. West, vice president of Adirondack Electric Power Corp. wrote in an April 21, 1919, Post-Star op-ed. “A stream cannot rise higher than its source, nor can a community rise higher in its commercial life than the standards set by the individuals of which a community is composed.”

Sources Post-Star reports in 1919, 1926, 1958 and 2011.

Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in September 2017. He now is a freelance writer, specializing in regional history. He writes for several area newspapers and for medium.com

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