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Original Text and Graphics Copyright 2015 by David Griffin,

Monday, March 24, 2014

Broad, Main and Whitesboro Streets

If you didn't come to Utica on the train in the 1940's you may have arrived by automobile.The old 5S (South of the Mohawk) was a popular route, taking you from Albany through every small town in existence along the old Erie and Barge Canal routes.  You can still drive it today for the nostalgia.  Come west out of Ilion and go straight instead of turning left on to the "new" 4-lane  5S.  You'll be on what's called Acme Road.  It will turn into East and West Main Streets when it brings your through downtown Frankfort.  The rest of the ride into Utica is on what today is called Southside Road and it  chugs along beside the old railroad tracks (and Erie Canal route) as well as past the remnants of Cappy's  (Capuano) old junk yard before meeting Ferguson Road.  Soon you'll see the  iconic railroad bridge up ahead.  Stay the course and you come into Utica on Broad Street, Utica's major street of commerce many, many years ago.
 Dozens of trucks might be seen on a typical weekday morning in the middle of the last century as drivers topped their tanks with gas and got ready for a haul down the valleys of the Mohawk and Hudson Rivers to the docks lining both sides of Manhattan.

Just before you reach the Mann Building on the corner of Genesee and Broad Streets,  you would have passed the old Federal building and Post office if you arrived before WW One.
The new post office and federal building replaced it after the  war.  Styles and tastes change, I suppose, but I much prefer the old architecture.  The new architecture in my mind speaks more to a militarily strong nation.  The old spoke more to our mutual aesthetics.  And, if you like, to our soul.

I don't remember exactly what street it was on, but it was down there somewhere.  The Imperial Restaurant.  My Aunt Margaret (actually a first cousin, once removed and my Godmother) was a cook there years ago.  Wow, her meals were great and I well remember Thanksgivings at her house.  Delicious food and enough cigarette smoke to choke a horse, as she would say.  I've chronicled a particular Thanksgiving in the story Pack of Lies, located here:
Master Story list at

(I've since figured out where the above scene and the Imperial were located. The Amoco gas station in the back ground was converted to the Greyhound Bus Station in the 1950's.  So that's Hotel Street running right to left.  The Imperial was located directly across from the Devereux Building on Oriskany Boulevard, between Hotel and Genesee Streets.)

This the Fraser Store fire, for dramatic effect.  Hey, I'm a storyteller, not an historian.

Across the intersection stood the Crouse Block, an immense building and storehouse for cloth goods and machinery.  It burned down in 1897 in a huge fire that injured many.  The fire took the lives of Firemen John O'Hanlon and Isaac Monroe when the floor they were on collapsed into the conflagration below.  O'Hanlon had been a hero the year before at the colossal Genesee Flats fire (today replaced by the Obliston on Genesee Street and Clinton Place) when he "rescued many women and children and was not afraid to climb to the highest story in order to save them. He was badly burned about the face and hands." (Herald Dispatch, March 10, 1896.)

John O'Hanlon's memorial monument stands today in the St. Agnes Cemetery on Mohawk Street.  My father, a former UFD fireman (tillerman) as well as long-time Observer Dispatch pressman, often walked us by O'Hanlon's statue on the way to his parents graves.

Seymour House on Whitesboro St.
Let's go back down Genesee Street for a short distance and quickly run out Whitesboro Street.  In the first half of the 19th century the stores and factories on Whitesboro Street soon ended and the homes of the wealthy business owners could be seen when strolling through their lovely neighborhood.  If you remember the Utica Birdseye/Baggs Square painting, here is a detail from the bottom right corner where you can see a few of the comfortable homes along Whitesboro Street.

Farther out Whitesboro Street in later years were a number of manufacturing concerns, including Horrocks-Ibbotson, shown below in the 1950's.

H-I made a number of different sport fishing items, including bamboo fly rods.  In the 1930's my mother worked there, happy to land the job after more than a year spent standing behind her counter at Woolworths for 49 hours each week and about $17 pay.   Her exciting new job at H-I was to tie the line guides on the rods, done with thread and glue.  Her boyfriend also worked there.  They were never to be, which is OK with me because I kind of like looking somewhat like my Dad whom she met later.  I fictionalized my Mom's story  and wrote the novella, "Jimmy Bean."  You can buy it on Amazon, hard copy or Kindle, or download it for free from my master story list at  (I never resist the urge to plug a story.)  Mom would either kill me if she were alive or thank me for giving her a voice again through my story.

Here is one in a series of successful advertising posters distributed by H-I in the early years of the 
 20th century


I "photo-shopped" this scene (actually Gimp) of Mom at work in 1936 at her workbench in the H-I factory.  I modified a '30s house dress, stole reels and rods from old fishing catalogs and made my mother a bit prettier than she probably was.  (You're welcome, Mom.)

Also on Whitesboro Street was The Saturday Globe, a publishing phenomenon of Utica you probably never heard of.  The Saturday Globe  was a national newspaper which published from 1881 to 1924.  It reached a circulation peak of almost 300,000 and was read from Maine to California each week in thirty-one localized  editions.  It was noted for the way it told a story and for an early use of photographs instead of wood cuts.  It pre dated a copy-cat publication, The Saturday Evening Post, by fifteen years.

I don't think the New York Bakery was on Whitesboro Street, but it was in the neighborhood, so let's get a dozen donuts.  I can remember my parents stopping to buy rolls for Sunday night supper.

And of course, we have to visit the MotherShip where I was born.  The original St. Lukes Hospital on Whitesboro Street.  I think it's still there.  Is it a rest home now?  If so, I suppose I could arrange to have come into the world and gone out in the same building.  Maybe on the same floor.