Monday, February 24, 2014

A Bethlehem Moment in LA

In this blog I try share random moments in my life that connect to Bethlehem history.  Before leaving on a trip to Los Angeles last week I wondered whether there would be any a-ha moments in that land of sunshine and palm trees.

The moment came, sort of, during our University of Southern California campus tour when I saw this

Not really historic, but very similar to the clock we have at the Four Corners.

And that was it for Bethlehem moments.

I did pick up an interesting book called Los Angeles Then and Now by Rosemary Lord.  Here's one of my favorite pages.

The transformation, about 100 years in the making, from a country dirt road into a modern city boulevard appeals to me.  It is not so different from Bethlehem's continuing change from farmland to suburb.

Saturday, February 15, 2014

February Then & Now Corrected

A reader of February's Then and Now Article for Our Towne Bethlehem was kind enough to send me a correction regarding the Jericho School on Old School Road.

She says...

In your most recent publication, you said Jericho school served as a school through the early 1960s. However I went to kindergarten and 1st grade there 1974-1976.  I think it stopped being a school soon after that. 

So there you have it.

Check out the whole article with photos at

The Niver or Church one room school on Rt 9W,  District No.5

Spotlight Articles at BPL

Your town historian is excited about some empty shelves at the Bethlehem Public Library. 

That’s where back issues of the Spotlight used to reside.  They have been sent off to be digitized. The lovely thing about digitizing is that the newspaper then becomes easily searchable in a way that was unheard of not too long ago.  Indexes are great – but they can miss things.  A key word search turns up all kinds of interesting stuff.  

Here's a link to the Spotlight article on the project

What got me thinking about this was a trip to the library last week to look up some info in the Spotlight about the Delmar Four Corners.  The empty shelves reminded me they were gone – and that they are not indexed anyway.  I was planning on just flipping thru to see what I could see.

Fortunately, the library still keeps some things old school.  Like the history file cabinet with its files of history info, the majority of which are copies of newspaper articles.  I was able to look in the Hamlets section and then in the Delmar file and found many helpful articles.

Go have a browse through sometime. 

Speaking of newspaper clippings…. clipping newspaper stories was something town historians have done in years past.  In my office are several file boxes full of manila envelopes inscribed with topics like schools, government, crime, and library. Inside these envelopes are newspaper clippings from the Spotlight, Albany Times Union, Albany Evening Post and others.  I made a conscience decision when I became Town Historian (in September of 2007 if you are curious) not to continue this practice.  First, it would be an enormous drain on my time. Second, what are libraries for? And third, modern technology has made newspaper clipping files obsolete.

One last note, my “office” is a room over the town garage on Adam’s Street.  I avoid it as much as possible.  It is creepy and dark, but does make a good storage space for history related stuff.  Certainly nothing important, original historic documents and photos are stored in the archive at Town Hall. My office files have things like Xerox copies of original documents, those newspaper clippings and various notes and books that I don’t want to throw away but are taking up too much room in my house – which is where I do most of my work.  If the town ever re-imagines Town Hall (which at the moment is stuffed to the gills) I would lobby hard for an accessible, non-isolated office where I might even be able to have office hours.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Glynn Mansion Architecture

 I am still obsessed with the Glynn Mansion at Cedar Hill.
(Seen above in a photo I took last summer)

The entry way facing River Road has bothered me since I first saw it in 1998 when it looked something like this

But then recently I saw this picture from the early 1900s and had an epiphany.

The doorway facing River Road was never intended to be an entrance at all.  In 1907 Martin Glynn instructed architect Marcus Reynolds to build him an Italian villa for his summer home at Cedar Hill. Reynolds created an elegant U shape building with a breezeway connecting the smoking room and the billiards room.  A summer breeze could sweep up the lawn, between the columns and swirl into the inner courtyard.

Here are a couple of aerial views from Bing maps to orient you.

It wasn't until the Elks took over in 1962 that the breezeway was changed to an entrance.

The Elks are also responsible for enclosing the courtyard between the two wings of the building.

Here's a couple of pictures from the early Elks club era showing the courtyard and the west facade before it was turned into an entrance.