Last time, we talked about the completely lost hamlet of Hoffmans, née Hoffmans Ferry, née Vedders Ferry, and wondered at all the life and business it once held, where now there is barely a trace.
One of those businesses was a complete surprise to us – we had no idea that a fairly major greenhouse operation had been located out there on the Mohawk Turnpike, but indeed there was – a place called Hatcher’s.
John C. Hatcher was born in Norwood, England, May 20, 1848, and began learning the florist business at the age of 12. His obituary in the Schenectady Gazette says that he came to the United States soon after the Civil War and came to Amsterdam in 1877. His first greenhouse was on Grove Street; “in 1912 he transferred the greenhouses to Hoffmans where he also made his home.” He died in 1935, almost 87 years old.
In 1906 the Amsterdam Evening Recorder wrote about the significant improvements being made at Hoffmans – “Monster New Greenhouse to be Erected for Culture of English Violets – Handsome Residence and Cottages to be Built – Will be a Show Spot of the Valley.” John C. Hatcher, who owned 18 acres at Hoffmans (14 north of the interurban trolley line, four south of the tracks), had bought greenhouses from a floriculturist in Elmira containing 25,000 feet (linear? Square? We’re not told) of glass. “On the south side of the electric road is now a greenhouse containing 8000 rose plants, from which are culled, in the busy season, from 1,000 to 1,500 roses every day. Directly south of this structure and connecting with it, is to bre erected the new house, which will be devoted to the cultivation of English violets, to the exclusion of all other blooms. The system of ventilation and heating will be the most modern. The building will be 50×200 feet in size and of steel construction. A two-story cottage is now being constructed near the greenhouses for the use of the foreman, Anthony Manning, an expert grower. Two additional cottages will also be erected, to be used by the other employes [sic] of the florists.
“The space along the electric road will be leveled and laid out in flower beds, and the fence running east and west along that line will be torn down A station is to be erected for the accommodation of visitors to the greenhouses, and will be called ‘Hatcher’s.’”
On the north side of the tracks would be a modern suburban home, by which “with shrubbery, flowerbeds, and the aid of other blooms and pretty things, will be shown what can be done in the way of making a suburban home attractive.” The location between the growing cities of Amsterdam and Schenectady “was what induced the florists to acquire these increased facilities.” And, in fact, Hatcher’s had stores in both cities.
Growth didn’t stop there. A Recorder article in 1913 was headlined “Hatcher Making Many Improvements,” outlining a new 200×44 foot greenhouse, “the last word in greenhouse construction. It is fitted with first grade Belgium glass, and is equipped with a new style, worming gear, self locking system, by means of which it is possible for one man to govern the temperature in all sections of the greenhouse with a minimum of labor.” With that complete, Hatcher would, there and in Amsterdam and Schenectady, have 21 greenhouses with a glass surface of 100,000 square feet. “The newest greenhouse will be devoted exclusively to the culture of the latest and highest grades of roses, including the Lady Hillingdon, My Maryland, Milady and Mrs. Ward varieties. It is also the intention to build a house which will be used entirely for the culture of American beauty roses, so that these blossoms may be supplied to the flower lovers of Amsterdam and Schenectady freshly culled under the most favorable circumstances.” Hatcher was also noted for his chrysanthemums, and was the originator of an asparagus hybrid, asparagus hatcheri, reported in 1912 “Bulletins of the Bureau of Plant Industry” as possibly a chance hybrid, but one that grew dense, tall, and freely. “On account of the density of its growth it is much preferred by retailers for bunch work.”
A brief in a 1912 “Florists’ Review” says
“‘Established 1877,’ reads the sign over the Hatcher Greenhouses, Hoffmans, N. Y. ‘Still going strong,’ adds the veteran founder, John G. Hatcher, who supervises the big establishment that supplies the Hatcher stores, at Amsterdam and Schenectady, with high- grade stock. Now early chrysanthemums are being supplied.”
We know the greenhouse continued at least through 1955, and perhaps later. A story on an epic 1951 hailstorm noted that $5000 in damage had been done to the “former Hatcher greenhouse at Hoffmans now owned and conducted by Alfred Parillo … At the greenhouse, every pane of glass was broken by hailstones that fell during the torrential rainstorm.” But if any evidence of the old greenhouses remained in the ’70s, we have no memory of it.