Growing Up on the Southside 1957 – 1970

(By popular demand SATURDAY November 06, 2021 for the 1st FALL TOUR!)

WHEN: Saturday November 06, 2021 

Sign In begins at 8AM  (Registration, Questions, Safety Briefing), and the Tour STARTS at 9AM.

Allow 2 to 3 hours, but participants can leave at any time (Please inform Tour Guide when leaving). 

PANDEMIC CONCERNS – This tour is outdoors with social distancing. We will adhere to all NYS and CDC guidelines in effect at the time of the event. 

Other personal protective measures such as masks are optional based on your personal comfort. 

Your Tour Guide has received the three Covid-19 Vaccination doses.

WHEREMeet at the Rotary Park Terminal Building on Southern Ave by NLT 8:30 am. We will start on time. Parking and rest rooms are available at the Terminal. NO REST ROOMS ALONG THE TOUR!

Special Needs:  The walk includes unpaved dirt paths, uneven surfaces, outdoors, etc.

Moderate to vigorous physical activity.

Pets:  Please do not bring your pets, as we may encounter other “pets” that are not under owner command or on a leash.

REGISTRATION: Advance registration is requested and appreciated. Please register by phone or email.

If you have questions or concerns, contact Gary.  Southside Territory Details list available upon request.

Gary T. Staffo

Phone: 703-336-7241

Email: 6226gardenroad@gmail.com

(NOTE:  This is an independent event and is not an official program of the Little Falls Historical Society.)

Helen Dunteman

Helen Dunteman was a highly respected social studies teacher in the Little Falls school district for many years, retiring in 1962. Helen was both a lifelong Little Falls resident and a graduate of Oneonta State Normal School. She passed away in 1984.

This author admits upfront that he is both a local history nut and a diehard New York Yankees fan. The intertwined paths of baseball and American history resonate with me. Older readers of this piece will likely recall watching Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio and the transformational impact of Jackie Robinson. This author’s baseball roots trace to Willie Mays, Duke Snyder and Mickey Mantle, ah, The Mick, my favorite. I grew up assuming that the Yankees would always play in the World Series each year.

2021 Canal Days Celebration included the return of vintage base ball to Little Falls in the form of a three-team, three-game, round-robin tournament. The newly formed Little Falls Alerts competed against the Catskill area Bovina Dairymen and the Mountain Athletic Club, all retrieved names from the earliest days of American baseball. 1860’s, 1880’s and 1890’s era base ball game rules were in place at different times during the three games. 

Early era Little Falls base ball teams included the Rough and Readys and the Pastimes in the 1860’s, the Excelsiors in the 1870’s and the Rocktons and the Alerts in the 1880’s – 90’s. The Alerts took the field in the north end of Ward Square in the 1880’s-90’s for most of their games. Games were heavily attended. 

I watched most of the first game between the Alerts and the Bovina Dairymen and the entire third game between the local nine and the Mountain Athletic Club. I was not present for the second game between the two Catskill region teams.

Authenticity, gentlemanly conduct, high-spirited competitiveness and inter-team camaraderie graced the daylong tournament. The local nine may have lost both of their games to the longer-established downstate teams, but their athleticism and baseball acumen were in evidence throughout; an important foothold was re-established and another Little Falls tradition has been reborn. Vintage base ball is back in Little Falls after a long hiatus. The new Alerts will now carry forward our vintage base ball banner. Three cheers for the Alerts!

Vintage base ball both resembles and differs from our modern national pastime. The players do not wear ball gloves, hit balls caught on the first bounce are still outs; the difference in rules is too complex to be fully captured in this piece. Vintage base ball equipment, including bats, balls and catcher’s gear is also quite different. 

The Little Falls Historical Society has provided financial sponsorship for the Alerts, including the purchase of four high-quality bats hand-turned to perfection by local craftsman Ian Giudilli who labeled each bat “made in Little Falls” and “Rough and Ready.”

In conclusion, Little Falls vintage base ball is back and being roundly embraced by a talented group of local athletes eager to call themselves Alerts. The Little Falls Historical Society and the Little Falls Family and Youth Center have partnered to back the Alerts and the City is eager to provide the ballfields for games. Hopefully, Canal Days Celebrations will feature an annual vintage base ball tournament. Long live the Little Falls Alerts!

The recent uptick in COVID-19 cases in Herkimer County has forced our board directors and officers to rethink our Canal Days Celebration calendar of events and museum operation. Foremost in our thinking is public safety. We regret any inconveniences that these adjustments may cause.

The CHURCH STREET CEMETERY TOUR was scheduled for Friday August 13 at 6:00 PM. Due to concerns over crowd density and social distancing, the event has been cancelled. We have made provisions so that people can individually enjoy self-guided tours. You can either pick up a tour brochure from the sealed plastic container that has been placed on the visitor bench near the caretaker’s cabin inside the main Monroe Street entrance to the cemetery or download the cemetery tour from our website. The brochure’s thirty-five graves have all been marked in sequence by stakes with surveyor’s tape. The tour begins at gravesite #1 in the area behind the African American monument nearby the caretaker’s cabin.

HISTORICAL MARKERS DEDICATION CEREMONIES  –  Twin dedication ceremonies for the Old Bank Building historic marker and the 1782 Gristmill Attack historic marker will begin at 10:30 AM at the base of the west ramp off Burke Bridge near the intersection of West Mill Street and the industrial park roadway. There will be no historic marker dedication ceremony outside the museum that had been scheduled for 10:00 AM.

VINTAGE BASE BALL TOURNAMENT  –   Games for the three-team, round-robin tournament will be played at 10:30 AM, 1:00 PM and 3:30 PM on Field #3 behind the main field at Veterans’ Memorial Park. The Historical Society is the primary financial sponsor of the Little Falls Alerts, one of the three tournament teams.

MUSEUM VISITATION APPOINTMENTS are not being accepted at this time. Please visit our website linked below.

We urge all persons attending any of these events to follow CDC COVID-19 safety protocols regarding mask wearing and social distancing. 

Bushnell monument
Bushnell monument
Bushnell monument

Most Little Falls residents know who Nathaniel Benton, H.P. Snyder, and D.H. Burrell were, but who were Enoch Moore, Arphaxed Loomis, Titus Sheard, and Peewash and how did each of these individuals impact community history? What do gravestones with weeping angels, shrouded urns, and tree stumps represent? What interesting life stories are hidden away in Little Falls’ main cemetery?

The self-guided walking tour is about one-half mile in length over generally grassy roadways and will last approximately 90 minutes. No restrooms are available. 

HISTORICAL MARKERS DEDICATION CEREMONIES  –  Twin dedication ceremonies for the Old Bank Building historic marker and the 1782 Gristmill Attack historic marker will begin at 10:30 AM at the base of the west ramp off Burke Bridge near the intersection of West Mill Street and the industrial park roadway. There will be no historic marker dedication ceremony outside the museum that had been scheduled for 10:00 AM.

Due to Covid-19 concerns, the Old Bank Building Museum is currently closed. View the updated press release here.

Little Falls Historical Society Museum | Little Falls NY

The Old Bank Building Museum has not been open to the public since Christmas in Little Falls in December 2019, a year and a half ago. Somehow it seems even longer ago than that. This is about to change.

The museum has a number of new exhibits since 2019, most notably, the centennial exhibit celebrating women gaining the right to vote and the role played by local women in that quest. 

The museum will be open by appointment only beginning on Monday July 5. The museum will not be open for walk-in visitations at this time.

Appointments must be scheduled at least 24 hours in advance and can be arranged by calling either Louie Baum at 315/867-3527 or Maryanne Terzi at 315/823-1502.  

When calling to schedule an appointment, you will be asked a number of COVID-19 related questions. It is requested that only COVID-19 vaccinated persons call for appointments.

Museum visits will be limited to three visitors plus two volunteer docents to conduct tours. Masks and social distancing protocols will be in place during visits.

No public restrooms are available at the museum at this time.

The officers and directors of the Little Falls Historical Society wish to thank our members and the general public for understanding the need for these restrictions and guidelines in the interest of protecting the health of visitors and museum volunteers alike. Hopefully, we can eventually operate with a less-restrictive visitation policy. 

Our goal is to once again have a “full house” with various groups of visitors walking around this  community facility admiring the many Little Falls artifacts on display. 

Little Falls and Women's Suffrage
The centennial exhibit celebrating women gaining the right to vote and the role played by local women in that quest. 

Please visit the Historical Society’s following social media sites: 

Website:    https://littlefallshistoricalsociety.org/

Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/littlefallsNYmuseum 

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/littlefallshistory/

Using a treasure trove at the Little Falls Historical Society Museum, Louie Baum toiled for months creating an over 200-page document to chronicle the historic past of Little Falls.

OLD BANK BUILDING REACHES A MILESTONE | Little Falls Historical Society Museum

Photo submitted – National Herkimer County Bank and Presbyterian Church in the background – (Kinney Plaza) circa 1860.

by Pat Frezza-Gressler, member of the Little Falls Historical Society

Constructed of native stone in 1833 as the first bank in Herkimer County and placed on the National Registry of Historic Places in 1970, the Little Falls Historical Society’s Old Bank Building Museum has had a storied past. 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of this designation and it is time to celebrate this great building as the survivor that it is!

The current generation of Old Bank Building Museum stewards stands on the shoulders of the small group of community visionaries who succeeded in their efforts to save the structure from the 1960’s urban renewal wrecking ball. Let’s begin by highlighting the chronology of important events related to this 1970 landmark designation.

Little Falls’ 1961 Sesquicentennial Celebration served as the catalyst for a small group of “history buffs” to secure a central location where important community artifacts would be permanently housed, displayed, and made available for research purposes. This group first met officially on November 29, 1962, and what would become our Historical Society was launched. Their headquarters was the GAR room upstairs in City Hall. In 1963 the Historical Society was granted a permanent charter by NYS.

By 1962, the Kennedy administration’s Urban Renewal program was in full swing; Little Falls received its first grant and demolition began on the south side of Main Street from Second Street eastward to William Street. A phase two grant was to be used to demolish the block of buildings between Ann and Second Streets, including the historic Old Bank Building. Historical Society president Dr. Fred Sabin first voiced the idea of saving the historic structure in 1965.

Of critical importance was the 1966 National Historic Preservation Act signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson. Lady Bird Johnson headed the commission which developed a national inventory of properties and buildings central to American character and identity. A mechanism had been created to protect such properties. What seems like commonsense today, historic preservation was at that time a radical idea “standing in the way of progress.”

The Little Falls Urban Renewal Agency purchased the building in 1966 and slated it for demolition as part of Phase 2.

Using this law as a guiding principle, the early members of the Historical Society stood four-square against the demolition of the Old Bank Building which upset many others, including the then-current administration. Old Bank Building demolition would allow for a larger parking lot for the new Herkimer County Trust building. The preserved need for fourteen extra parking spaces was pitted against the preservation of an important piece of community history.

This struggle played out for the next four years until the 1970 placement of the building on the NRHP; at that point, the structure was sacrosanct; some in the community were livid that a small group of “backward leaning preservationists” had stymied progress. Would anyone today trade the museum for those fourteen parking spaces?

Photo submitted – National Herkimer County Bank – circa 1860.

WHY WAS THE BUILDING IMPORTANT?

To quote from a 1966 NYS Historic Trust newspaper article, “The old Herkimer County Bank Building, dating from 1833, is a work of the Greek Revival style, characteristic of the period. To discover a 130-year old bank is itself important, moreover, while much of the architecture of this period is constructed of wood, here we find a stone building with cut stone used in a monumental manner.”

Current Historical Society member Elaine Sperbeck remembers her father Harold being on the phone with the National Historic Preservation Commission in Washington making the case for Registry inclusion for the Old Bank Building. Using the Commission’s three criteria, Sperbeck reasoned that the building was associated with events significant to local history, that the building was associated with persons significant in local history, and that the building does embody distinctive characteristics of a type and period of architecture and construction.

The Old Bank Building met each of these criteria and on March 5, 1970, the structure was officially placed on the National Registry of Historic Places.

Photo submitted – Portion of the poster used to generate community support for saving Old Bank Building.

The Old Bank Building then sat in a sort of limbo and neglect from 1970 until 1977 when the Historical Society purchased the structure. Seven years of extensive restoration followed, and by 1985, Historical Society artifacts had been safely moved to the new museum.

The building that had served as the first bank in Herkimer County, as the office of the local Red Cross, as a mortuary, as a temporary location for the Little Falls National Bank, as the Railway Express office, and as a storage area for Lovenheim’s dry goods store had become the primary repository of local history.

On this 50th anniversary, current members of the Little Falls Historical Society wish to thank the following individuals for their courage and vision in saving and then renovating the Old Bank Building:

Edward and Mary Louise Cooney, Natalie Derby, John Gallagher, John George, Mary Grace, Lydia Loucks, Robert McEvoy, Dr. Fred Sabin, Harold Sperbeck, and Ralph Van Horn.

Apologies if anyone involved in this effort was not included in this listing. Additionally, it is important to extend thanks to all those individuals, past and present, who followed in the footsteps of the above visionaries by their involvement and stewardship of the museum.

As Margaret Mead’s famous quote states: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Although the world certainly wasn’t changed, thanks to the efforts of the small group of committed citizens in saving the building from urban renewal, the Little Falls Historical Society remains an important community institution with plenty of parking nearby!

This article is more about the future than the past.  Although 2020 will be remembered for the succession of crises that changed our lives in many ways, for the members of the Little Falls Historical Society, a group of six students from SUNY Oneonta’s Cooperstown Graduate Program of Museum Studies and their professor, this year will be cherished  as the beginning of a successful collaboration.   

INITIAL OUTREACH

The seed out of which this collaboration emerged dates back to mid-August 2018, when I newly arrived with my family to America in order to take up a teaching position at the science-track of the aforementioned program. Since Cooperstown was at the peak of its high season, our search for a temporary accommodation brought us to Little Falls. 

During those two weeks, I discovered the perfect living example of what was taking shape as one of the main ideas with which I try to imbue my students: that even though our museum studies is unique in that it has a specific track on science museums, it is impossible to disentangle science, history and art into separate stories, since they are all intertwined. 

This of course applies everywhere, but Little Falls exemplifies this in a particularly clear and explicit way – from its very existence due to the geological features of this part of the Mohawk River, through so many developments rooted in science and technology –  the cheese market, engineering, the canals, the locks and the mill-powered industries and back to its geology as an attraction for tourism and leisure. 

So, while I was still living in Little Falls, I brought my first cohort of science-track students on a field trip there. The experience was so well-received and enjoyed that in 2019 the field trip was expanded to include all students of the incoming cohort, in both the science and history tracks. As in 2018, we made sure we visited the Little Falls Historical Society Museum, and we were once again given the warmest welcome by the docents on duty that day. 

While the students were exploring on their own, my mind wandered to one of the new courses I was going to introduce for the 2019-20 academic year: it was going to be a course in which this idea of multidisciplinarity would be revisited and taken to the next level, a capstone course in which the science-track students and possibly history-track students  would put into practice much of what they learned in earlier courses.

 Although I had not yet found how exactly this would be done, I was certain that Little Falls and its Historical Society would play an essential role. So, I left my business card at the museum with the message that if anyone was interested in taking up the idea of exploring a potential collaboration, I would be happy to get in touch.

A PARTNERSHIP MOVES FORWARD

Just a few days passed until the phone rang, with Jeff Gressler on the line, conveying not only the interest of the Society’s board of directors with this idea, but also a very warm, friendly and heartfelt passion and energy that set everything in motion. The collaboration began with a couple of mutual visits, meeting the students who would take the course and who themselves helped us brainstorm ideas. The course was named “A Science Cabinet of Curiosities” and every year its students will be given a time period for which to pick an object each from the collection at the Little Falls Historical Society Museum and work on communicating to the public its connection to Little Falls history. The actual format of this “cabinet of curiosities” will vary every year, for 2020 it was decided it would be as a book which is currently in the making. 

Student topics chosen and completed in 2020 included: the 1833 Old Bank Museum building that houses the Little Falls Historical Society, the 1940 Gulf Curve train crash, the history of canals and canal construction through Little Falls, the discovery of rennet and its impact on cheese manufacturing, Little Falls / Herkimer diamonds, and the history of factories and labor unrest in Little Falls.

MORE TO COME

Just as every good story, this one ends where it began, because the science-track students who have just completed this course are the same students who came to that first field trip when I had just discovered the educational value of a visit to Little Falls. By now I have discovered much more, I have also discovered some of the wonderful people who inhabit this town, who bring to life the Little Falls Historical Society and who make working together such a memorable experience for the students and me. The experience has certainly been enriching, productive and even mutually beneficial – but most of all, it has been the expression of a heartfelt friendship that outshines the backdrop of calamities that we have endured in 2020.

DR. ERIK STENGLER IS A MEMBER OF THE LITTLE FALLS HISTORICAL SOCIETY

Theresa Carrig Children's Center at the Little Falls Library

Little Falls native Blaise Carrig (LFHS class of 1969) and his wife Leslie donated $50,000 earlier this year to six Little Falls non-profit organizations. The Carrigs responded to a series of questions for this article from their home in Longmont, Colorado. 

“We make a living by what we get but we make a life by what we give.”

Winston Churchill

QUESTION #1: What / who inspired you to engage in philanthropic activity? 

RESPONSE: We have been particularly inspired by the philanthropic efforts of people like Bill and Melinda Gates. We are fortunate to be able to be generous. Our primary goals are to help kids and families in need and to get kids outdoors to enjoy the natural world. For our giving to Little Falls entities, we have taken a broader view, encompassing some of the cultural and economic efforts taking place. 

QUESTION #2: Why do the two of you feel that it is important for people to provide financial assistance to community non-profits and other charitable organizations? 

RESPONSE: We feel fortunate and grateful for the ability to give back. Organizations that positively affect the lives of families in need are worthy of financial assistance. Little Falls has a number of such organizations and people doing great things.

QUESTION #3: In the past, you have provided anonymous donations for community organizations in Little Falls. What compelled you to “go public” this time?

RESPONSE: This was not an easy decision for us. While we often prefer to remain anonymous with our charitable donations, our primary goal in “going public” this time is to hopefully inspire other Little Falls residents and expatriates to support these worthy non-profits that are doing so much. I follow the My Little Falls online newsletter that Dave Warner publishes; I was struck by an article about the Community Chest having difficulty meeting their annual fund-raising goal. I see a lot of people on the I Remember Little Falls Facebook page who talk lovingly about their hometown, we hope to inspire some of those folks to consider giving back, even small amounts can greatly help these non-profits 

QUESTION #4: Why do you feel that your hometown is worthy of such generosity?

RESPONSE: I feel very fortunate to have grown up in Little Falls and have great memories, appreciation, and fondness for my hometown. Additionally, a number of friends that I grew up with in Little Falls regularly donate much of their time and energy to the organizations that we donated to. Their efforts inspired us. 

QUESTION#5: Is there anything you would like to add? 

RESPONSE: Little Falls is a special place. When visiting family and friends, we are struck by the city’s timeless beauty and the volunteer energy that enhance the quality of life there.  

Blaise also added that his parents loved Little Falls and the amenities and quality of life that exist here. Indirectly, Tom and Theresa Carrig were the inspiration for their son’s and daughter-in- law’s generous gift to Little Falls non-profits. 

Once the COVID-19 health crisis subsides, we all hope that Blaise and Leslie continue to visit Little Falls. On behalf of our entire community, the Little Falls Historical Society wishes to thank them for their inspirational generosity.

Theresa Carrig Children's Center at the Little Falls Library
To honor their mother, Theresa Carrig, the entire Carrig family made a generous donation to the LF Public library, which resulted in the complete renovation of the library’s children’s area. The Children’s Center now bears her name.