Gloversville’s Littauer Building demolished; Demolition end of five weeks of hand prep work
Space to be used for park
Traffic was shut down on part of South Main Street on Monday for about 12 hours while a work crew from Jackson Demolition Service used a heavy excavator to tear down the facade of the Littauer Building located at 12-18 South Main St.
Department of Public Works Director Chris Perry said the demolition went faster than anticipated after about five weeks of hand preparation work with sledge hammers and drills at the site, which included “common wall stabilization efforts” for the two buildings to either side of the 1884-vintage building.
“Things went smoother than anticipated,” Perry said Monday. “We had thought it was going to be a two or three-day project, but they got it down in one day. There’s a true common wall between the building being demo-ed and 20 S. Main, so we had to drill-in and install about 40 anchors to stabilize that demolition.”
The three-story Littauer Building was the site of the city’s first public library and had been used for commercial space at different times over the course of its history, according to Mayor Vince DeSantis. He said he thinks there was a bar and restaurant in it about two decades ago but nothing since then.
Google StreetView from 2014
At one time the city had hoped to save the facade of the building plus 20 feet of the interior of the building, DeSantis said, but it would have cost more than $900,000, and severely limited the use of the space.
“We just realized we could not save the historic facade,” DeSantis said.
The demolition project removes an unstable building, but leaves behind a gap between 20-24 and 26 S. Main St., the other buildings on the “Littauer block”, all built by the glove making fortune of Lucius Littauer, son of the famous Nathan Littauer, for whom Gloversville’s hospital is named.
James Hannahs, the Fulton County Center for Regional Growth’s downtown development specialist, said the historic character of the 19th century architecture in downtown Gloversville is among its strongest selling points for developers. He likened the demolition of the Littauer Building to old fashioned dentistry, necessary but painful.
“It’s sort of like knocking the tooth out of a smile,” he said. “The building had to come down, and it’s unfortunate and sad to see a piece of the historic landscape downtown come down.”
All of the buildings on the Littauer block are built in the “Second Empire style” made popular in Paris during the Second French Republic from 1848 until the end of the 19th century. The demolished building featured the slate double pitched hip roof, known as a mansard roof, and at one time had the other ornamental characteristics common to the Second Empire Style, including curved brackets and decorative window label moldings.
But 12-18 South Main St. has been in an advanced state of disrepair for at least the last four years. The buildings that make up the Littauer Block were purchased by the Two Great Guys Corp. out of Saratoga Springs in 2008 for $6,400.
Two Great Guys attempted a major renovation project within the Littauer Building, taking out the majority of the wooden floors running through the building’s upper stories, leaving the building structurally unsound with the bearing walls unbraced. A portion of the rear west roof and fourth floor bearing walls collapsed on July 5, 2017, and then the building was further damaged during a windstorm on April 5, 2018, when two large sections of roofing materials were blown off.
Two Great Guys gave up ownership of 12-18 South Main St., along with 20-24 S. Main St. and 26 S. Main St., to the city in 2017. The city then gave the buildings to the Center for Regional Growth in July 2019. When the center determined the cost of demolishing 12-18 South Main St. would be over $500,000, it gave the property back to the city in January as part of a deal whereby the city would borrow the money to tear the building down and the center would pay for 50 percent of the cost using money from the $900,000 Gloversville Loan Fund it administers.
After a competitive bidding process, in June the Common Council approved paying Jackson Demolition Service $539,000 to demolish the building.
Hannahs said he’s optimistic for the future use of the space at 12-18 South Main St.
“We have to deal with this vacancy now, but the good part is the city has site control of it, so we have a say as to what happens to the space, and we know it will help any private or public investment in the buildings surrounding it,” he said.
Perry said he’s hopeful the project will be completed, with the hole filled in and grass planted over top of it within a month. He said some of the vintage building has been saved for potential future use.
“We were able to salvage eight of the decorative brickwork squares that were on the facade,” he said “Jackson Demo’ was able to salvage those in a safe place to incorporate in some other future development that may take place on site, and we’re trying to restore anywhere from two to four of the old iron columns that were in place on the front, the storefront columns. It looks like we’ll be able to somehow incorporate those in some future project down the road.”
DeSantis said 12-18 South Main St. will essentially be a park-event space owned by the city.
“The city will retain the ownership, and it will be much wider than the other mini-parks that we have,” DeSantis said. “We hope to put a space in the back where bands can play, and that type of thing. We’re going to have to put a wall there, some type of retainer so you can’t go into the back of the other buildings. We’re going to landscape it, and the benefit of that will be the buildings to the north and south of that space will now have access to natural light for windows, balconies, whatever they want to do if they want to develop their upper stories, and for the first-floor space maybe a restaurant could open up and use that park. We will have music, and even movies in the summertime.”