End of the Line for Mile Track

There was a hint of grief in The Post-Star report on Nov. 21, 1919, that work would begin that day on demolition of the barns and grand stand at the old Mile Track on Upper Coolidge Avenue, between Dixon Road and Sherman Avenue, in Glens Falls. “The passing of the Mile Track will bring many memories … to sporting men in this section and in fact the whole country.”

 
The old One-Mile Track at Broadacres, west of Kensington Road in Glens Falls, where harness racing was held in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Photo courtesy of    The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library   .

The old One-Mile Track at Broadacres, west of Kensington Road in Glens Falls, where harness racing was held in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Photo courtesy of The Folklife Center at Crandall Public Library.

 

In its heyday, it was known outside Glens Falls in the harness racing world as the “Billiard Table Track,” for its smooth surface and speed. “The horses whose feet graced the track were the very peers of their species in this form of sport.”

Sixty-seven trotting horses set records at the track, “universally considered to be the fastest one-mile track in existence,” according to the 1908 book “Glens Falls – The Empire City.”

In 1897 – 1901, the Mile Track was a stop on the Grand Circuit of racing, putting Glens Falls in an elite league of cities that included Detroit, Cleveland, Fort Wayne, Indianapolis, Buffalo and the Bronx.

There was excitement when George Finch, president of the Northern New York Horse Breeders Association, received a letter that Glens Falls would be accepted into the Grand Circuit, provided necessary purses could be raised.

“A grand circuit meeting would bring a great crowd of money spenders to Glens Falls, and the town would be benefited financially,” The Morning Star reported on Feb. 10, 1897. “There is every reason to believe that the breeder’s association would also realize a handsome profit from the venture.”

Anticipation turned to reality and 335 horses were entered in the debut meet Aug. 17-20, 1897.

“Promptly at two o’clock starter Frank Walker of Chicago will ring up the horses for the opening event,” The Morning Star reported on Aug. 17, 1897.

Admission was $1 for “gentlemen” and 50 cents for “ladies.”

By 1901, the meet was losing momentum, and in 1902 local organizers pulled the plug when the Glens Falls meet was moved on the schedule from August to mid-September, coinciding with another prominent meet at the Empire Track in New York City.

Local organizers feared they would not be able to draw enough entries for the local meet to be feasible.

“This news will be received with extreme regret in town, since there was no one thing which advertised this place more extremely than the annual circuit meeting. It brought visitors from the length and breadth of the country,” The Morning Star reported on May 20, 1902. The track was not used and fell into disrepair. A Post-Star editorial on June 11, 1918 urged the community to brainstorm to come up with a new use for the Mile Track.

“Glens Falls, noted for its civic pride, ought not to allow these grounds and grandstand to fall into decay,” the editorial stated. “Grand Circuit racing may never return here, but this track would make an ideal place for athletic events of school or municipal nature.”

The grandstand was still structurally sound, and with a little work could be put back in good condition.

“Too many of us are prone to forget, as we dream of the glories of some bygone days, what it is possible to do in the present. … Glens Falls should find some way to save them for the use of the younger generation.”

But a way was not found, and the barns and grand stand were demolished, and the land eventually redeveloped for housing.

All that is left are antiquated newspaper reports of trotting horse John R. Gentry setting a world record and of M.J. Cassidy of Colorado, a man with no arms or hands, driving trotting horse Raymond M.

“Other famous horses of the day that won great laurels and who will go down in history of trackdom as among greatest of the great and who competed at the old Mile Track are Star Pointer, Royal R. Sheldon, Indiana, Bingin and many other too numerous to mention,” The Post-Star reported on Nov. 21, 1919.

 
Glens Falls Living
 
 
Maury Thompson
 

Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He now is a freelance writer and documentary film producer specializing in regional history. Thompson is collaborating with Snarky Aardvark Films to produce a documentary about Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks, which is expected to release in 2020. See the trailer here.

Dinner for the Win

Late 19th-century baseball booster George Pardo could be a sore loser. Pardo, owner of the American House Hotel at the northwest corner of South and Glen Streets in downtown Glens Falls, sponsored the local amateur baseball team, The Pardos, from 1875 to 1883.

The American House c. 1875. Photo courtesy of    The Chapman Museum   .

The American House c. 1875. Photo courtesy of The Chapman Museum.

When the team was playing on the road, Pardo would sit on the hotel porch, overlooking South Street, and wait for the players to return to Glens Falls.

“Late at night, when we would return from Corinth, Lake George or some adjacent place, the old man (Pardo) would be up on the front porch to know what success we had met with,” Addison B. Colvin, the team’s manager, recalled decades later. “If the team lost, Pardo would swear and sic his dog on the players,” Colvin said. “If we won, as we frequently did, a fine dinner was served to us.”

More than a century after Pardo’s death in 1898, the historic red brick building where Pardo operated the American House is getting a face lift.

Developer Chris Patten is renovating the building for a mixed-use, new urbanist complex with Craft on 9 restaurant and other commercial tenants on the ground floor. Craft on 9 is relocating from Moreau. The upper floors will be renovated for about 20 apartments.

The existing red brick building replaced a previous hotel structure that burned in 1879. Pardo, who operated the hotel for 38 years, was among a string of operators over the decades of the hotel known at different times as the American House, Hotel Ruliff and Plaza Hotel.

The re-built American House c. 1880. Photo courtesy of  The Chapman Museum .

The re-built American House c. 1880. Photo courtesy of The Chapman Museum.

In 1895, rooms with steam heat rented for $2 a night – the equivalent of about $61 in current dollars.

Daniel Robertson, a former pitcher for the Pardos, told a similar version of Colvin’s story about Pardo and baseball in a speech to the Glens Falls Rotary Club on Sept. 27, 1923. “Occasionally we would have a game and Uncle George would ask us how it came out, and if we told him, ‘We licked them today,’ he would say, ‘That is right. Come in and get supper,’” Robertson said. “But sometimes when we got the worst of it he would say, ‘Get out of here. I won’t have any damned dirty ball players hanging around my hotel.’”

Other players on the team were Dudley Ferguson, James McGrievey, Ed Reed, later a Glens Falls mayor, George Aiken, Will Wing, Will Capron, later a Glens Falls assistant fire chief, and H.A. Hurtubis.

Pardo also enjoyed fishing. In 1897, Pardo and his nephew brought back to the hotel about twenty “good-sized” pickerel from a fishing trip at Katskill Bay on Lake George. “The entire catch was exhibited in the hotel office during the evening and attracted the curiosity of visitors,” The Morning Star reported.

In 1896, Pardo sent back to the hotel 12 black bass, the largest of which weighed five-and-one-half pounds, that he caught on the east side of Lake George. In 1889, Pardo offered sage culinary advice to a Morning Star reporter. “Broil a black bass, and I would rather have it than a salmon prepared in the same manner, but the bass is not so good boiled.”

Pardo died of a heart condition on March 17, 1898 in his room at the hotel. The Morning Star said of him: “Mr. Pardo had long been an honored and prominent citizen of Glens Falls. He was a man of rugged and sterling integrity, positive of his likes and dislikes, but beneath a stern exterior he carried a warm and charitable heart.”

Pardo, the oldest of eight brothers, was born in Burlington, VT on Feb. 9, 1819. As a boy, he moved to Whitehall to learn the bakery trade from his uncle. He then worked as a baker in Troy for several years before returning to Whitehall, where he worked as a general agent for the packet lines until he entered the hotel business.

Sources: Letter from Addison B. Colvin to Roy Akins, Aug. 5, 1937; The Morning Star, Oct. 30, 1896; Jan. 18, 1897; May 28, 1889; March 18, 1898; The Post-Star, April 12, 1922; Sept. 29, 1923; Nov. 19, 1926; Oct. 1, 1964; The Lake George Mirror, June 5, 1895.

Glens Falls Living
 
 

Maury Thompson was a reporter for The Post-Star for 21 years before he retired in 2017. He now is a freelance writer and documentary film producer specializing in regional history. Join Maury on April 10th 2019, 7pm, at the Crandall Public Library Folklife Center Community Room for a preview of Snarky Aardvark’s film, Charles Evans Hughes and the Adirondacks, focusing on the Glens Falls/Sandy Hill segments. Maury, producer/co-director, will be providing an update on research and the status of the entire documentary, expected to be released in 2020. See the trailer here.