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Original Text and Graphics Copyright 2015 by David Griffin,

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Bleecker Street

 The two streets running east and west from the Busy Corner are Bleecker Street and Lafayette Street respectively.  Here is Bleecker St., looking east.

 Above, looking East down Bleecker Street ca. 1908.   The street surface appears to be packed dirt, but could be cobble or brick toward the center where the rails sit.  The twin spires of St. John's can be seen in the background.  Not very well depicted, but we'll see it again, was the single clock tower and steeple of the Bleecker Street Baptist Church, on the corner of Bleecker and Charlotte Streets.


 This tea store photo is, according to my notes, at No. 27 Bleecker St.  That would make it quite old.   On the 1883 map that we often use the first block of buildings off Genesee St. are all brick.  So this photo pre-dates them.


 Above, the first block east of the Busy Corner in the 1940s.

In my day while in high school at Utica Catholic Academy on John St., walking east back to school from the Busy Corner I passed the side entrance of both Daws Drug and the Boston Store on my left.  On the right side (south) was The Hub, a bar of some renown.  The Hotel Hamilton on the left. (The hotel was still doing well in the 1960’s and featuring a lively piano bar at night and yard-long glasses of beer.  The waiter put the 36 inch tall glass in a vertical cradle on the floor next to the patron.  The customer was left to figure out how to drink it.)  After Charlotte St. came the Catholic Book Store and then at Burnet Street was a kitchen appliance dealer.  Crossing Burnet St. one came to the rear of St. John’s church and the entrance to the rectory.

Early 1960's outside The Hub, a bar on Bleecker St., looking west toward Busy Corner.

From the Busy Corner looking east.  Daws on your left, Grant's on the right and the "back" entrance of the Boston Store down on your left.

Of course the front entrance to the Boston Store was at the other end of the the old Arcade building, around the corner on Genesee Street.  The Boston Store that most people my age remember was just down from the Busy Corner.   A simple but memorable ... even classy ... facade over the old Arcade building.

This could be any lunch counter and soda fountain, but my notes say it's from the Boston Store.  The dress of the three customers in the photo is interesting.  I assume the little girl was aiming at the Shirley Temple look. Seated next to her is a woman who could have been my grandmother by the dress style and that hat.  I call her headgear a Ma Kettle hat.  
The creation on the head of the woman at far right was actually quite popular, judging from the news photos of the time.  I'm not sure any woman in my family wore that style hat, but I suppose it was a matter of class. To me the style of women's hats has never been understandable, but this style seems particularly weird to me.  The waitresses appear older than they probably were, maybe due to hair styles.  I doubt if most of them are older than 18 or 19.

Continuing on Bleecker Street to the east away from the Busy Corner we come to the old Schubert Vaudeville Theatre on the northeast corner of Bleecker and Charlotte ( I think.)

The Schubert would later become the Colonial theatre when motion pictures became popular. 

And then become the old Boston Store before taking over the old Arcade Building which ran from Genesee Street through the block diagonally to Bleecker.

And below you can see a third Boston Store location on Franklin Square next to Wicks and Greenman, directly across Genesee from the store's last location in downtown Utica.  Look closely at the identifying sign to the left of W&G.  It's right above "Capacity Days."  The cars look like they're from the mid-1930s.

But now let's walk farther down Bleecker street and look back at the original Schubert Theater on the right.  Careful where you walk, ... there are horses about.  It's 1910 and we're looking back to the Busy Corner.  The building that would become the Boston Store is fulfilling its first role in life as the Schubert Thearter.  
Not many autos on the street yet, just the trolley and horse drawn buggies. Burnett Street is just behind us and the ladies over on the right are crossing what used to be Culver Street, gone or become an alley by my time there in the 1950s.  Since this is a glass negative we can zoom in quite a bit and see more detail, below.

I keep a magnifying glass on my desk for viewing photos.  It is simply amazing what you will find when you examine any photo with magnification.  We were able to zoom in on this photo electronically and I first chose the left (south) side of the street because of the amount of detail.  Clothing styles are apparent.  Of particular interest to me was the printer's sign "212, Stephenson, Job Printing, Rubber Stamps."  My mother's maiden name was Stephenson, but I don't know of anyone in her family in the printing trade.  The number 212 is much higher than the street numbers printed on the 1883 map for  this block of Bleecker Street some 25 years before.  The street numbering scheme must have changed during that time.  The Mohawk Valley Waiting Room was probably used by those waiting for the inter-urban electric trolley that ran down to the valley towns of Frankfort, Ilion, etc.  You could also catch an interurban to Syraucse, and one could leap frog across the state on these short lines.

If you look closely, over the heads of the pedestrians on the side walk at the far left, you'll see the sign for the Utica Catholic Bookstore.  I wouldn't have noticed it without a magnifying glass.  The store must have been closer to the Busy Corner at that time.

Here are a couple more magnifications of the above photo.

 The two stylish  ladies, one carrying something over her shulder.  A bolt of fabric?  Or maybe something she won at the Schubert's matinee.  The hats almost look as though they hurt.
 The trolley makes regular stops here at the Schubert.
 A little closer.  Bowlers were a popular hat style.  The sign on the sidewalk says "Vaudeville."  
Note that fellow's pants.  Probably a crisp crease in your pressed pants was unheard of unless you owned a factory.

A way to solve the pressing problem ... knickers.

(I've moved the photo of the Maher Brothers store to the Lafayette Street post.  What I had thought was a shot of Charlotte Street and the corner of Bleecker was instead the corner of Lafayette and Senaca, home for many years to the Maher Brothers clothing store, after it moved from Franklin Square.)

This is definitely Charlotte Street running up the hill away from us  because you can see the roof of the court house in the background and the Catholic Bookstore on the left.

I have no photo of the Hotel Hamilton on Bleecker Street, but from the late 1950's (maybe the early '60's) here is the Hotel Martin which backed up to the Hamilton.  (I recently learned from a reader that the Hamilton and the Martin were essentially the same business.  The owner of the Martin built an addition which extended the back of the hotel up to Bleecker Street.  Then the hotel name was changed to the Hamilton.)  The Martin fronted on Jay Street and in this photo you're looking up Burnet Street.  You can see the back of the old Central Fire Station and No. 2 Engine on Elizabeth Street across from the county court house.  If the camera had edged a little more to the left you would have seen the rear section of St. John's Church.

Let's go there now.  The next post will be devoted to St. John's.