Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Middle School in 1954

While browsing through the 1954 Bethlehem Central High School Year Book for something completely different,  I came across this picture and had to share a quick Then and Now.  Enjoy.

The class of 1954 started at what is now the Middle School on Kenwood Avenue and moved into the new High School on Delaware Avenue.  Here's what they had to say in the introduction to the year book:

“After three long years of planning, building, and waiting, the Senior High has at last moved into a new building.  But though the importance of the move was great, it brought no great change in the way we acted, or in the activities with which our hands busied themselves.  Once again it was proven that the important part of a school, the enduring part, is not the building, but the people in it.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Horse racing in Bethlehem?

For the past two days I have been at the annual conference of the Association of Public Historians of New York State (APHNYS) which was held in Saratoga Springs.  It is always rewarding and educational for me to talk shop with other historians.

Yesterday afternoon we took a tour around Saratoga.  After an uncomfortable ride on a school bus (but lovely historic homes), a long tour through the Racing Museum, more riding around town on the school bus including a drive by the track and an icy drive through Yaddo, we arrived at the Canfield Casino   I was getting a little numb from all the history talk (historians can get tired of history too you know.)  As I looked around at the lovely architecture of the Casino and pretended to listen to the guide, my mind wandered.... what could the Bethlehem connection be? My numb brain finally shook out the fact that yes, Bethlehem had horse racing tracks too, three that I know of.

Pleasure Trotting Park

The oval in the above map from 1891 is the Pleasure Trotting Park.  The dot near the name W. Hurst is where William Hurst established his hotel.  It is the site of the former Log Tavern so it became known as Hurst's Log Tavern (in the Prohibition era it was known as the Love Nest.)  Hurst operated the race track across New Scotland Road.  This area, known as Hurstville, was annexed by the City of Albany in 1917.  Just to orient you, the hotel was on New Scotland at the corner with today's Krumkill Road.  If you squint, you can see that the road at the bottom of the map near A. Fryer is Whitehall Road.  The small lettering under the Pleasure Trotting Park reads One-Half Mile Track.

Parr Island Track

Henry Parr took over the Abbey Hotel in Glenmont in 1881 and soon connected the well known hotel and tavern on Route 144/River Road to Parr Island.  Parr Island became a destination for many, especially those from Albany looking for a respite from city life.  Folks enjoyed picnics and swimming, boat rides and of course races.  I've found references to human, horse, automobile and motorcycle races at Parr Island. Here are a couple of ads.

Albany Evening Journal, October 13 1911

Albany Evening Journal, May 29, 1913

The Wemple Track

Wemple is a place name remembered in today's Wemple Road.  There was a stop on the West Shore Railroad, a post office,  a few homes.  And a race track.  

Despite what the ticket below says, I am sure the track was on the southeast corner of Wemple Road and River Road.  Not 9W.

And that is about all I know about horse racing in Bethlehem.

Just for fun - here's a blurb from the Altamont Enterprise about folks from the Kenwood School  shaking the foot at Parr's.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Bethlehem Mutual Protective Association

Last fall I came across this sign on an old Bethlehem barn.  I've been meaning to write about it ever since.

I start many of my investigations with the book Bethlehem Revisited A Bicentennial Story 1793-1993 and rarely does it lead me astray - except for this time, but not for long.  On page 204 is a photo of this same sign.  Excellent I thought, but the text was about the Bethlehem Mutual Insurance Company.  Which has an interesting history itself - organized in 1854, and still going today, after many mergers, as the Community Mutual Insurance Company.  Their website even lists a David W. Becker on their board.  One of the founders of the company was Albertus Becker.

Albertus was town supervisor in 1862 and 1871-74.  Besides the insurance company, he and William Kimmey founded the Bethlehem Conscript Society in 1875 to protect against horse thieves.

Which brings us back to the Bethlehem Mutual Protective Association - which also protected against horse thieves.  An article I found in the town's archive about the association (type written and with no author noted) indicates that it was formed in 1909 to "protect the residents of Coeymans, Bethlehem and New Scotland against theft and malicious mischief."   And just to keep it in the family, Israel Kimmey was an active member.

The article continues...

An initiation fee of $2 was charged to members, as well as $10 to be put toward the replacement or repair of any member's damaged property.  Classes and drills were held by the Association to teach the men sleuthism and how to deal with crimes.  Self-defense and use of weapons were taught.  As well, various alarm systems and traps were introduced to prevent house and barn break-ins.

The B.M.P.A. quickly became noted for its activities and was admired for its sleeplessness and success in catching offenders, especially horse and chicken thieves.  The group continue their work up until 1948, under the motto "The B.M.P.A. will get you inspite of your watchfullness." At this point in time the group's activities were absorbed by the Bethlehem Police.

As always, more questions arise.  What is the history of the Bethlehem Police Department?  How does that fit in with the sheriffs and constables?

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

The Delmar Four Corners - 1957 Spotlight Article

The same file that had the Tri-Village Town Talk in it also had a copy of the May 2, 1957 issue of the Spotlight.  To my delight, there was a lengthy article about the history of the Four Corners.  Below are scanned images of the article.  Maybe you can read them?  If not, keep checking with the Bethlehem Public Library for their digitized copies - which are hopefully coming soon.

The Delmar Four Corners - Libbey's Restaurant

The cover photo for my latest Then & Now Article for Our Towne Bethlehem features Libbey's Restaurant.  As so often happens, when looking for something else I came across the January 16, 1946 issue of the
Tri-Village Town Talk.

Inside was this ad.

The Tri-Village Town Talk is very similar to Our Town Bethlehem.  It was published bi-weekly in 1945 and 1946 and features local advertising and articles.