When I was a little girl growing up on Orchard Street in Gloversville, my great-grandfather often took me to the park around the corner. The park, which extended from Cherry to Spring streets, was not anything fancy.
But in the late '80s and early '90s, it had things to climb, swings, sand to play in and a working water fountain. So when I went for a walk a couple of weekends ago, fully intending to enjoy the beautiful weather we were having, I made the familiar trek to the park.
Not having been there in well over a decade, I wasn't sure what to expect. Nothing remains apart from a few swings and the stone tables with the chessboard tops and the green wooden bench seats bolted to the ground. I was drawn to the sign outside of the chain-link fence, one that I had seen so many times before and ignored (maybe because I was too short, but most likely because I was running for the swings as fast as my little legs could carry me). It designates the park as the Spring Street Neighborhood Park, created through the city of Gloversville Community Development Program.
A sign at the Spring Street Neighborhood Park in Gloversville is shown.
The Spring Street Park was one of four parks created in the city with federal grant money in the 1970s and '80s. One of the outcomes of the Housing and Development Act of 1974 was the creation of Community Development Block Grants, which provided funds for community development activities like the creation of affordable housing, infrastructure development, etc. In 1975, under the leadership of Mayor Eugene Reppenhagen, the city of Gloversville was guaranteed $179,000 for the first year of this five-year program. They allocated about $120,000 to be spent on recreation, with plans to spend $70,000 on the Spring Street site and the rest on a second park, which would be located at Wohlfarth's Pond.
Prior to the selection of the park project, city officials reactivated a defunct Citizens Advisory Committee to assist with the grant application. Leeland Burgess, the director of the Gloversville Urban Renewal Agency, stressed the importance of community participation in the process. The CAC would hold several public meetings to hear ideas about what the city should use the $179,000 for. The attendance at the CAC meetings was low, however, and disheartening for officials to see. One meeting had 13 participants; another had only nine. Those who attended suggested several projects that would certainly be beneficial to Gloversville, but did not fall under the guidelines for the grant money.
For instance, at a November meeting at the Our Lady of Mt. Carmel School, several residents asked that the "pigeon problem" on South Main Street be solved. One particularly disgruntled attendee asked why so much "bother" was being made over the use of the funds, and wanted to know why the city couldn't use them to lower taxes. Of course, the grant money couldn't be used for that purpose.
The site of the Spring Street Park was once the location of the Old Spring Street School. It served Gloversville's west end until the late 1930s, when McNab was built. The park, which was completed in the summer of 1976, offered an open play area used for ice skating in the winter months, two raised tennis courses, a half-basketball court, a sheltered area, a children's playground, a fountain, chess tables and benches. The second park was built at Wohlfarth's Pond at South McNab Avenue and Third Street. Plans were made to dredge and clean the pond and stock it for fishing and to build shelters and picnic areas. The pond has been in existence since the 1890s, developed by August Wohlfarth. According to former Fulton County Historian Dr. Robert M. Palmer, the pond lasted until about 1930 and was used by the citizens of Gloversville for swimming. Wohlfarth even stocked the pond with goldfish and sold them as pets for 25 cents.
Under the leadership of Mayor Louis Nicolella, two other parks were built in the city through the Community Development Program. The Elk Street Playground, now referred to by locals as "The Cage," was built on the spot once occupied by the old synagogue, in existence before the synagogue that currently stands on East Fulton Street. The Washington Street Tot Lot was the other park created, and it still contains several pieces of playground equipment for neighborhood kids.
It would be wonderful to see the Spring Street Park fixed up and revitalized. However, Wohlfarth's Pond still provides a beautiful space for walking or a relaxing afternoon with a book or a friend, and the other two parks give recreation space to the local youngsters. Let's take advantage of these past gifts from the city this summer. I know I will.
Samantha Hall-Saladino is the Fulton County historian.