A view of the building as it appeared prior to scheduled demolition.

The wisdom of historic preservation has not always been a given. The desire by some to preserve old buildings and places is at times pitted against those who would rather “start over” with new construction.

View of the Mohawk Valley looking south towards Little Falls, NY.

January 17, 2022 marks the 300th anniversary of the Burnetsfield Patent. 

The earliest European settlers in the Mohawk Valley came from what is now southwest Germany. Under near constant threat of destruction, whether from multiple wars, invasions, or the plague, in the near hundred years leading up to the 18th century, the southwest German population experienced extreme hardship.

In the 1950s and 1960s, Little Falls was a bustling blue-collar mill town of about 9,000 people with many hard-working citizens employed in its numerous factories. Most of the factories were on Mill Street which ran parallel to the railroad tracks on the southern side with a few factories on the other side of the tracks. My parents, and most of the parents of my friends, worked in the mills. None wore a tie to work.

If you lived in Little Falls in the late-1950s through early-1980s I bet you ate at least one slice of Papaleo’s pizza or one of the delicious hoagies (subs) that came out of the family restaurant owned by my parents Anthony (Tony) and Grayce Papaleo.

Even today, 40 years after the restaurant closed, people still tell me and my sisters how our Dad’s pizza and hoagies were the best they have ever eaten. I might be biased, but I agree because I have never found another pizza or hoagie like Dad’s.

This article came about as part of the research started for the Southside Veteran’s Recognition Project, which was displayed during the September 2013 Southside Reunion.  It covers the period from the 1930s through the mid-1970s and the role three Southside cigar stores played in the lives of the young men who grew up hanging out around them.

Moose Club Basketball Team

Older people in Little Falls, especially those sports fanatics, know who Hubie Brown is. However, the name may not be familiar with the younger folks. Hubie rose from the ranks of coaching basketball at St. Mary’s Academy in Little Falls to the apex of his profession, enshrinement in the National Basketball Hall of Fame.

Dairy Farmers Dumping Milk During The Great Depression

Dairy farming has been integral to life in Herkimer County since the first European settlers—the Palatine Germans—arrived in the Mohawk Valley in the early-1700s, and some of their descendants still operate dairies around Little Falls and elsewhere throughout the county.

When it comes right down to it, Little Falls is all about water. The earliest explorers in America found it easiest to move along the waterways and rivers as did the Native Americans living here. In the 1600s and 1700s the British colonies extended inward from the Atlantic Ocean to the Appalachian Mountains.

Late 19th century map of Moreland (Park).

Since 1911, Moreland Park has played an important role in community life for generations of Little Falls residents. Family picnics, group outings, community events and celebrations, wedding receptions, birthday and graduation parties, family and class reunions, and kids squealing with delight on the playground equipment are all common occurrences on the park’s bucolic grounds. We all have our own Moreland Park memories.

From 2011 to 2013, I wrote my master’s degree thesis for the Cooperstown Graduate Program about “Pitt the Painter” and his role in showcasing the identity of Little Falls by means of his artwork. The project was largely based on oral histories told by those in town who remembered him since his death on September 4, 2007. While I spoke with several people, there were so many more I did not reach, as Pitt’s sphere of influence seemed immeasurable. The project went on, and it was apparent that these stories meshed together as modern-day folklore about talent, humor, addiction, and belonging.