Utica’s Stanley

Guest blog by Jerod Gibson-Faber, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS. Be gentle, my iambic pentameter is a bit rusty..

Let us remember the Stanley Theater.

For theaters in New York, it’s a leader.

Located on the street called Genesee,

In 1928 it was marquee.

It opened on a Monday afternoon.

It’s beauty made the city-goers swoon.

Designed by architect named Thomas Lamb,

In it did all of Utica try cram.

utica72md Stanley Theater, Dischiavo's 1972

Photo captured in 1972

On it hard times eventually did fall;

The Stanley almost met the wrecking ball.

However, help from the community

Ensured a future of prosperity!

New stage, new roof, and new interior,

Would make again the site superior

Than any place the human eye could see.

Come one, come all, to Utica’s Stanley.

While it’s pretty obvious I’m no more than some fake Shakespeare, what is now known as the Stanley Center for the Arts is absolutely the real deal. In 3 years, the theater will celebrate its 90th year of existence – an impressive accomplishment for any establishment. The Stanley was not the only theater designed by Lamb and his firm. In fact, they were responsible for designing over 300 theaters worldwide. Utica can take pride in being the recipient of such a grand theater as well as the fact that Thomas Lamb was somewhat of a local himself. He owned a camp and spent a good deal of time just north in the Adirondack mountains.


Vintage shot of the theater

In the archives at the OCHS, I found a program for a touring violinist – Fritz Kreisler.  It’s dated for Monday evening on December 6th, 1937.


$1.10 to see a world famous violinist?!

The fact that Utica had the venue and allure to attract a musician such as Kreisler – regarded as one of the greatest violinists of all time – really says something about the city. The theater flourished for many years throughout the mid-1900s, but by 1973 it was screening grade B movies and demolition was a very real threat. However, the community it had served for so long came to its rescue as the Central New York Community Arts Council purchased the property for $135,000 in 1974. They spearheaded a revitalization campaign that poured millions of dollars into the theater to see it through to the 21st century. A grand reopening was held in 2008 and it hosts entities such as the Utica Symphony, Broadway Theatre League of Utica, and travelling artists (Martina McBride, Tony Bennett, and Jerry Seinfeld in the more recent past) among other shows, too. While the Stanley Center for the Arts has faced its share of ups and downs, it nevertheless continues to be a mark of pride for the city of Utica.

stanley stage

Many photos can be found on their website

– Jerod (jgibsonfaber@colgate.edu)

“Mirrors on the ceiling, the pink champagne on ice”

Guest blog by Jerod Gibson-Faber, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS

FR 179873_copy

On the corner of Lafayette and Seneca streets

Now the Eagles decided to sing about a certain Hotel California but I believe they could have just as easily made the song about Hotel Utica. I think the song would have started something like:

On a crowded city thoroughfare, cool wind in my hair

Matt’s brewery pilsner, could be bought over there

Up ahead on the corner, I saw a radiant light

I made it to the Utica Hotel – here I’d stay for the night

I’m not too sure how the rest of the song would pan out, but it’s safe to say that the Hotel – especially in its prime – was such a lovely place.  The hotel celebrated its centennial three years ago.  It was designed by Esenwein & Johnson, an architectural firm located west of Utica in Buffalo, New York.  Many of the firm’s projects stemmed out of the Buffalo area, but they also spent time designing hotels in Ohio, Michigan, and Massachusetts.  Hotel Utica, erected 10 stories tall, would be one of the firm’s largest undertakings of that time – three stories taller than Hotel Lafayette in Buffalo and one story taller than the Bancroft Hotel in Worcester, Massachusetts.

hotel utica ad

An advertisement for the hotel

The hotel was to be as luxurious as it was spacious.  Not only was it going to accommodate an impressive number of customers, but it also included a cafe and lounge area, a restaurant, and multiple conference rooms that could hold anywhere from 20 to 500 people.  Hotel Utica hosted famous guests from US President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to more recently US Vice President Dick Cheney.  The restaurant, too, employed some of the finest they could find. In the late 1930s, chef Gaston Colas – who had spent time in Paris, London, and New York City before finding his way to Utica – was hired by the new hotel manager, Harry E. Mull.  Throughout much of the first half of the century, the hotel truly strove to be one of distinction and was described by the Utica Observer as, “the most beautiful, thoroughly modern hotel between New York City and Chicago.”

hotel utica prices

1936 pamphlet: look at those rates!

Despite its continued success, the hotel eventually came upon some hard times and ended up closing down in 1972.  The hotel served as an adult care facility for roughly twenty years before it was purchased and renovated by Joseph R. Carucci and Charles N. Gaetano in 1998.  Hotel Utica officially reopened in 2001 but faces tax and debt trouble at the present time.  The future of the building is uncertain, but one can undoubtedly appreciate the rich history and the value the hotel added to the city of Utica in its heyday.


Refurbished decor for the re-opening

– Jerod (jgibsonfaber@colgate.edu)

Family Brewed to Success

Guest blog by Jerod Gibson-Faber, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS

“My grandfather … felt that a brewer had to keep faith with the public by making a very high quality product.  If you did that, then the public would support you through thick and thin.”

– F.X. Matt II, May 27th, 1988


F.X. Matt inside his family brewery

In 1878, Francis “Frank” Xavier Matt emigrated from Baden, Germany to United States.  He found employment that year in Utica, New York, at Carl Bierbauer’s brewery.  Ten years later, F.X. Matt led a reorganization effort and titled it the West End Brewing Co. – today’s F.X. Matt’s Brewing Co.  The ambitious immigrant had learned the trade from his father, who was a local tavern operator in Germany.  F.X. Matt thought of brewing as more of an art than a science, and hoped to create masterpieces to satisfy his customers.

His efforts would be slowed, though, by the 18th amendment to the U.S Constitution which declared the production, transport, and sale of alcoholic beverages illegal.  To cope with those trying times, Matt relied upon his creativity and resilience.  The brewery began producing tonics, sodas, and other non-alcoholic beverages to stay afloat.  One retiree, Ida Graf, recalled, “Mr. Matt was so keen about everything.  We tried everything – cider, soda, malt tonic – you name it.  He just wouldn’t give up.”

utica84zc Matt's Brewery

Post prohibition, Matt did some re-branding

His efforts were rewarded on December 5th, 1933, when the 21st amendment was ratified and prohibition was ended.  F.X. Matt was prepared for this moment, too, as his brewing company actually obtained the nation’s very first sales permit after the ratification of this legislation.  The company re-branded itself and started producing new drinks with new names such as their Utica Club pilsener. It remained the West End brewery until 1980 when F.X. Matt II, then president of the company, named the business after his grandfather – F.X. Matt.


A can of Matt’s premium Lager from the 90s

Object: Matt’s premium lager

Description: 12 ounce recyclable aluminum can of Matt’s premium Lager.

Height: ~ 4 1/2″

Width: ~ 2 1/4″

Beyond prohibition, the local brewery faced other trials of adversity.  From competition with larger, nationwide breweries to a destructive fire in 2008, Matt’s has experienced some rough patches.  Despite that, however, they were named among the top 15 craft breweries in the nation in 2013 by Brewers Association and continue to offer the community of Utica smooth drinks and entertaining events alike.

– Jerod (jgibsonfaber@colgate.edu)

Key to the Past

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR


Object: Key
Description: Brass skeleton key with attached tag.  Tag reads, “Please Return to Bagg’s Hotel, Utica, NY”
Date: pre1932
Height: (Key) 1″ (tag) 2″
Length: (Key) 2 7/8″ (tag) 3 1/2″

Last November, I wrote my first blogpost about  a curious box I found in the collection room with the simple label, “cannonballs.”  Similarly, I recently came across a box labeled keys.

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

If Carried Away
Return Unsealed
We Guarantee Postage

I hesitantly opened it, fearing a box full of fascinating but anonymous keys, but I was pleasantly surprised by the labels accompanying the keys and including several noted Utica hostelries: Hotel Utica, the Butterfield House, and Baggs Hotel.


Baggs Hotel (Library of Congress Photo)

In 1980, the Oneida Chapter, NSDAR donated the Bagg’s Hotel room 59 key (said to be for the bridal suite) to OCHS.  According to the accession paperwork, “these keys were in an envelope with the notation on outside, ‘rec’d from UPD/ 6-29-73…’ apparently having been recovered from a burglary and theft of DAR items from Baggs Square Memorial Building.”  For more information about Bagg’s Hotel, click here or here.

Whether the trembling hands of nervous newlyweds did or did not use this key to unlock their wedding chamber is unknown, but Bagg’s hotel registers in the OCHS collection do tell us some of the people who stayed in room 59.

In 1868:
March 6th            C. H. Whieler, Boston, MA
March 17th         Col. L. Smith, Buffalo, NY
April 29th             P. J. Kennedy, Bradford, PA
May 16th               George N. Crouse, Utica, NY

In 1914 (100 years ago)
September 22nd       F. J. Molhem & Wife, Troy, NY
October 8th                Mr. & Mrs. H. Barnard, Rochester, NY
October 14th              William West & Wife, New York

key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

On back of postcard: “Dear Sister,
Mamie is finding fault with the butter we get here. I wish you would send some as soon as possible and while you’re at it, you might answer one or two of my letters.”

Better stop here…this key (like all of the other artifacts I have shared with you on this blog) has unlocked many stories about local landmarks and people, some still here, some almost forgotten except for the rediscovery of relics and works of art hidden away on the shelves, behind the cupboards, in the drawers, and around the corner.

Thanks for reading!



key, Hotel Utica, Baggs Hotel, Butterfield House, Room 59, DAR

A key to the City, a key to the Past
A key to my future, for this is my last


Visit to a Lunatic Asylum

Old Main, Utica, State Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital, Laura S. Tucker, Court St., Mrs. Piatt's School, The Seminary, Utica Female Academy

TUC.1/ EBO.1.1

Old Main, Utica, State Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital, Laura S. Tucker, Court St., Mrs. Piatt's School, The Seminary, Utica Female Academy

…shrieks and groans went through the air…

Object: Essay Book
Description: Essay book of Laura S. Tucker, student at the Utica Female Seminary, 1863 (36 pp). Of particular interest is her essay, “Visit to a Lunatic Asylum” (probably the State Lunatic Asylum at Utica).
Date: 1863
Height: 8 ¼”
Length: 7”
Depth: ¼”
Weight: ½ lbs
On Monday, August 25, 2014 the Landmarks Society of Greater Utica is hosting a program at Old Main (for more information, click here ). What is Old Main? A stunning example of Greek Revival architecture, the former New York State Lunatic Asylum is now largely vacant. For a history of the building, click here or here.

Old Main, Utica, State Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital, Laura S. Tucker, Court St., Mrs. Piatt's School, The Seminary, Utica Female Academy

Old Main

As a student at the Utica Female Academy, also known as The Seminary, Laura S. Tucker wrote the following essay in 1863, 2 years before the building burned down and was eventually replaced with what became Mrs. Piatt’s Female Seminary (remember Mrs. Piatt’s?).

Visit to a Lunatic Asylum

On entering the asylum we passed many comfortable rooms, in which were those who were recovering from temporary fits of insanity.

In the fourth story, we reached the cells where were confined like wild beasts, raving, yelling maniacs. Shrieks and groans went through the air. Demonic laughter and wild words that made the blood curdle in the veins, prayers, groans, and protestations, all mingled to form a sound discordant and horrible. From one end of the hall the rays of the morning sun streamed in, half lighting the abode of misery and seemed a consolation that could not be shut out, even though it came through a barred window.

Old Main, Utica, State Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital, Laura S. Tucker, Court St., Mrs. Piatt's School, The Seminary, Utica Female Academy

…In a fit of fear that she would discover that he might sometime be crazy…

On each side of the hall were cells, which the worst cases were kept, and from their occupants the noises proceeded. In one was a man of about twenty-five whose beauty would have marked him anywhere, but he was chained to the wall, struggling, groaning, and talking. I turned away, sick at heart at the sight of a case so sad. The keeper whispered to my father that the maniac, now one of their worst cases, had once been a very handsome and talented man, fond of society, and a great ornament to it, but inheriting insanity. Still knowing this, he had married a young and very beautiful girl and in a fit of fear that she would discover that he might sometime be crazy, he had murdered her.

Since then he had been there without hope of recovery. I went away thanking God that he had not made me a terror to my kindred and friends, by inflicting upon me that most awful curse, madness.

Miss Tucker’s essays give a glimpse into the world of a young girl in the mid-19th century, and her remarks about the Lunatic Asylum suggest what sorts of spirits one might find still haunting the halls and walls of Old Main.


Old Main, Utica, State Lunatic Asylum, Utica State Hospital, Laura S. Tucker, Court St., Mrs. Piatt's School, The Seminary, Utica Female Academy

that most awful curse, madness

Up, Up, and Away!


Guest blog by Kennedy Pope, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS

“Red Panella was a romantic flier, remembered as the pioneer sort who was most at home with leather helmet and jacket, white scarf flying, as he took off in open-cockpit Waco biplane.” – Utica Daily Press, April 20, 1974

panella goggles


Object: aviation goggles and helmet

Description: Leather goggles with glass eye frames and rubber helmet attached to the goggles

Date: 1928

Width: 19.5 inches

panella goggles pen

c. 5832 refers to Panella’s pilot license number


These H. B. Inc. “Rocket” aviation goggles and helmet belonged to Utican Albert “Red” Panella (1901-1974). A pioneer in aviation and the director of the Utica Aviation School, he taught pilots in what was then a relatively new industry.  Outside of instruction, he performed in air shows and transported news photographers for aerial photographs.


panella ID card

Other ID cards list his hair color as red… …perhaps the source of his nickname?

During WWII, Panella trained over 600 pilots for the US Army. In the postwar period, veterans enrolled in the federally sponsored Civilian Aviation Pilots’ Training Program at his school. Many had some experience in flying through their time in the military, and his courses helped them develop their skills for private, commercial, and instructor licenses.

OD sept17 1946

From the Utica Observer-Dispatch, September 17, 1946

Beyond traditional flight skills, Panella also taught students “aerobatics,” or flying stunts. In the interwar period, stunt shows involving airplanes were very popular and gave WWI army pilots a way to show off their skills. Military pilot training also involved aerobatics, as extreme and unusual maneuvers were useful in the battlefield.

learn to fly booklet

Cartoon animals urging potential pilots to enroll accompany course descriptions in this pamphlet

So, next time you’re on a delayed flight, trapped underneath the person who has reclined their seat into your lap, just close your eyes and try to imagine you’re in a breezy open-cockpit plane instead, goggles on while you soar through the air. It might be calming or make you appreciative that air travel is so much easier nowadays, but either way it will hopefully help tune out the baby crying behind you…

~Kennedy (kpope@colgate.edu)

panella with car

Panella posing with some ground transportation

Do Museums Still Need Objects?

weaver's pick, Mill No. 2, weaver, New York Mills, toe-nail clippers, point


Object: Pick, Weaver’s
Description: Metal pick with two flat handles curved at ends to form cutting blades.  Used at No. 2 Mill in New York Mills
Date: c.1900
Width: ¾”

A few years ago, I attended a class and the question was posed, “Do museums still need objects?”  My answer then – and today – is yes, museums do need objects.  This blog is an excellent example of why museums need objects.  In this blog, we have explored “on the shelves, behind the cupboards, in the drawers, around the corner.”  We found Baron von Steuben’s sword and the bed-curtains made by the first settler of Whitesboro.  We witnessed the Attack on Pearl Harbor through the diary entries of a young female worker and remembered the exciting festivities during Old Home Week.  Many of our objects led us back to beer or hard liquor.  Through these objects and the accompanying maps, documents, and photographs, we all now have a better understanding of the history of our area –a history that we likely would not have found or fully comprehended in the text of history books.

This week, I bring you a mystery item.  In our paperwork from when the object was donated in 1990, it is described as a “weaver’s pick, used by donor’s grandmother in No. 2 Mill in New York Mills.

weaver's pick, Mill No. 2, weaver, New York Mills, toe-nail clippers, point

Mill No. 2

The pick is similar to toe-nail clippers.  One end has two blades that can be squeezed together.

weaver's pick, Mill No. 2, weaver, New York Mills, toe-nail clippers, point

Toe-nail clipper end


The other end comes to a point.  While this is an industrial tool, one end is asymmetrical, suggesting it was handmade.  At one time, there may have been a manufacturers stamp.

weaver's pick, Mill No. 2, weaver, New York Mills, toe-nail clippers, point

Ghost of a Stamp

What was this pick used for?  The durability and wear patterns of the object suggest that it was used a lot and often.  It would easily fit in the palm of a hand – and possibly in a pocket when not in use.

That’s all I can tell you about the weaver’s pick.  The physical tool gives us clues to its use, but I’m not sure what it was used for.  Have you seen one of these before?  I’d love to hear your feedback.


weaver's pick, Mill No. 2, weaver, New York Mills, toe-nail clippers, point

What’s the point?



I Spy With My Little Eye…


Guest blog by Kennedy Pope, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS


Pupils of Mrs. Piatt’s School (PHO-UT-PSC.1.2)

“The utmost attention is paid to the moral culture of the heart and the formation of graceful and elegant manners.” – Catalogue of the School 1837-38

The Utica Female Academy opened in 1837, offering courses such as geography, bookkeeping, and natural philosophy. There were many rules under Principal Miss Jane Kelly. Among the “not allowed,” were expensive clothing and receiving calls from men unless they were certain family friends or relatives. However, the girls didn’t lack in companionship, as many had a suspiciously large number of male “cousins.” The school burned down in March 1865, and didn’t reopen until 1871 due to funding difficulties.


Hopefully the misspelling of the name wasn’t by a student of the school! (1882, PHO-UT-PSC1.1)


By 1875, times were changing. The school became Mrs. Piatt’s Female Seminary, with a new headmaster in charge. Rules were less restricting and the motto “Als Ikh Kan” was adopted (Dutch for “the best I can.”) With no graduation exercises or exams, women were instead encouraged to keep learning throughout their lives. Still, many of the old traditions stayed to keep their reputation, including a daily curtseying ceremony.

Mrs. Piatt personified this blurring line between the traditional and modern. She wore tailored clothes with a “mannish collar and tie,” but made sure her pupils didn’t do the same. At night, she wore soft silks and pearls to demonstrate proper, ladylike apparel.

These images are from dorm rooms at the “Fem Sem,” and shed light on the everyday lives of the students. They’re like the photos in I Spy books, as these girls clearly didn’t hold back when it came to packing for school.


The sign above her door reads “destinies.” Influenced by philosophy class perhaps?

 All the girls have either a guitar or banjo, as music was a major part of the curriculum.


There’s a poster of a soldier hanging beside the bed, the pop star of the times?

Physical exercise requirements included walking and lawn tennis, evidenced by the racquets on their walls.


How many carpets does one room need? 

Every surface is covered in family photos, the only way they had to connect with their families, as contact between the two was highly discouraged.


The small table in the middle is set up for a tea party, but doesn’t allow for many guests

 All of the girls have paper fans hanging up, a somewhat luxurious object showing they were relatively well off, able to afford the school and other niceties.


A lot of patterns happening here

These images are packed with really interesting things, so look closely and see what you can find!

~Kennedy (kpope@colgate.edu)

(Interior photos PHO-UT-PSC.1.3-.7)

1920s Ice Cream Clipart

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,


Object: Tray, Ice Cream
Description: Tray with woman and two children eating ice cream.  Written around the sides:
Date: 1920-1930
Height: 10.75”
Length: 13.25”
Depth: 1”
Weight: 13/16 lb

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,



I had only a passing interest in the ice cream tray; my true interest was in finding out more about Pride O’Utica, a local ice cream brand.  But when I Googled, “1920s Ice Cream tray,” imagine my surprise when I found my tray on The Henry Ford’s blog “Past Forward!”   Only it’s not my tray because the words are different.  The Henry Ford’s tray reads, “Allen’s Ice Cream/ NOT A FAD/ ICE CREAM/ IT’S A FOOD.”  Their Tray was created by Kaufmann & Strauss Co., New York based lithographers for Allen’s Ice Cream Co., in Rockford, Illinois.  (Read their entire blogpost here: The “Scoop on American Ice Cream”)

Established in 1890, the New York City firm Kaufmann & Strauss (K&S) manufactured lithographed tin signs and trays.

ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,

Kaufmann & Strauss

Now I know where the trays came from, but why do they share the same image?!  It is best explained by this blog excerpt about Antique Advertising:

The advertising company sales rep carried a binder or book with them that had an extensive selection of “stock” images. (These are known as “salesman sample books” …) These were far less expensive to purchase as there was only a marginal cost for printing your business name and address and/or product on top of the stock image. It’s relatively common to find the identical image on a sign, calendar or tin serving tray that was used by several different businesses.  (http://antiqueauctionforum.com/antique_advertising__phelps_fullerton)

So, ice cream trays in museums and private homes around the country likely share the same image as the ones in the OCHS collection and at The Henry Ford.  1920s clipart!



ice cream, Pride O'Utica, Ice Cream Tray, The Henry Ford, Kaufmann & Strauss, K&S,

When I write for various media outlets, I try to showcase different artifacts but my interest in this object began with research into Ice Cream in Utica for the August issue of Mohawk Valley Living. For the complete story, look for the magazine at these locations: click here !


Hello, Dolly!


Guest blog by Kennedy Pope, Upstate Institute Summer Field School Fellow at OCHS

doll in chair

1970.55.2 (seated in doll chair c. 1890, 1967.51.1)

Description: “Doll, canvas painted head & body, 18” long.  Dressed in pink cotton dress, buttoned in back, white cotton petticoat.  Made by Isanna Foster before 1850.  She was the first to make canvas dolls & copyrighted them after 1850…”

Height: 18″

Date: Pre-1850


If you’re anything like me, opening a box and seeing this:

"We've been awoken..."

“How dare you disturb us” – the one without eyes

is a nightmare come true.  However, there was a time when these were slightly less terrifying and loved by their owners, so I put my doll prejudice aside to learn more.  I was initially drawn to this doll because of its folk art style (and that it was one of the only ones that couldn’t blink at me when I moved it…).

The doll was donated along with an 1883 photograph of two-year-old Hannah E. Calder holding it.   Notes indicate the doll belonged to the Walcott family, and given the age of the doll compared to that of the photo, perhaps it was passed down to Hannah from her mother, Adelaide Walcott of N.Y. Mills.


hannah calder


With some online sleuthing, I discovered doll-maker “Isanna Foster” in the accession record was likely a misspelling, instead supposed to read “Izannah Walker.”  Walker was known for her innovative cloth dolls and while she didn’t patent her designs until 1873, many think she was producing them as early as 1845. Her dolls were unique because they were intended as playthings, specifically designed as small and durable at a time when most dolls were just for looking at and collecting.  Now they’re also viewed as folk-art in their own right, a kind of mid-19th century children’s portraiture.

no clothes doll

Look at that Barbie-proportioned waist!

Comparing it with known Walker dolls, it has many of the same characteristics, including arm and knee “joints,” a head painted the same color as the limbs, and individually stitched fingers.  I’m obviously no doll-expert, but it seems to be a match.  Given the enthusiasm I saw online for these dolls, this is an exciting find!

~Kennedy (kpope@colgate.edu)

close up

Unlike those paintings where the eyes follow you, this doll never looks directly at you…


(Source:  O’Neill, Edyth, and Dixie Redmond. “Izannah Walker’s Iconic Dolls.” Early American Life, Christmas 2011.  Accessed July 8, 2014. https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B1XmvypimSNNdHMteUliUGFwMUU/edit?pli=1.)