The first time I became aware of Wells & Coverly, a pretty high-end gentlemen’s clothing store, was when I moved to Syracuse in the late ’70s, where I believe they had a store in Shoppingtown Mall and may have still had their South Salina Street location. It was a top name for quality and service, and pops up in a number of Syracuse-related searches; people were proud of their Wells & Coverly clothes and their Nettleton shoes. So I was surprised to find that in fact, Wells & Coverly was from Troy.
Weise’s “Troy’s One Hundred Years, 1789-1889” says that in 1890, Frederick Wells and James Coverly, took over the men’s and boys’ clothing business of Morris Gross at 336-338 River Street and 13-17 Fourth Street in Troy. (Curiously, there was also a Boston hardware concern some years earlier by the name of Wells, Coverly & Co. It was around in the 1850s, and other variations including the Coverly name continued through 1864, when it became Frye, Phipps & Co. I can’t find the connection between the hardware and the clothes.) In 1907 they added to their location in Troy, had a location in Hoosick Falls, two stores in Oswego, and opened their Syracuse store in the Betts Block on South Salina Street (it still stands).
With the renovations, their store in Troy had 80 feet of frontage on both River and Front streets. “The showcase equipment of the store commands admiration. Another innovation is the most modern type of the electric cash carrier system with six stations. The electric lighting is provided for by an entirely new plant formed by Nernst lamps. Large mirrors on all sides enable customers to get a full view of their new suits from head to foot. Toilet rooms are also among the conveniences provided for patrons. The room set aside for children is a very handsome apartment. The doors and drawers of the cabinets and cases require no more than the touch of a little finger to move them.”
I suspect its location was probably where the Uncle Sam Atrium parking garage is today, directly across from Frear’s Cash Bazaar; I’d love to hear from someone who knows.
Thanks to a posting over at the Nostalgic Syracuse Facebook page, we were twigged to another piece of the Massachusetts connection. George B. Dowley, who began with a clothing store in Hyde Park, went to Worcester, Mass., and bought out the venerable Ware-Pratt Company, Worcester’s oldest and largest clothing store. According to the “History of Worcester and Its People,” Dowley “bought the Wells-Coverly company and incorporated the business, April 1, 1914. This company operates stores in Troy, Syracuse, and Oswego, New York. George B. Dowley is the president of this corporation and his son is treasurer. Mr. Dowley added to his strong of clothing stores by purchase, May 2, 1918, another place in Springfield, Massachusetts, which will be run by the Ware-Pratt Company of Springfield.”
Of interest, here in 2015, we happened across an antiques shop in New Hope, PA, that had a number of printing related items, and among some cast-off lead type cuts was this logotype for Wells & Coverly:
Or not, because look at that disease. I’ve posted this image from an 1860-something Albany directory before over on My Non-Urban Life, but it deserves a second look. I don’t know what’s wrong with
the eye on the right, but I’ll say this: I don’t want it. Also, whatever
the surgical cure would have been in the time of the Civil War, I don’t
want that, either. Catarrh (excessive buildup or discharge of mucus in the nose or throat) was practically a blessing compared to the other ailments that Dr. Liston treated in his offices on Grand Street. I’m not saying he wasn’t a good doctor, I’m just saying there may have been a reason he had the largest selection of artificial eyes in the country.
In 1862, he was located on the main business block on State Street between South Church and South Ferry. It wasn’t until the turn of the century that the downtown we know, between the filled-in canal at Erie Boulevard and Crescent Park, began to form.
At the time of this ad, James Walker was near the end of his run. In the 1870 census, he was listed as a 61-year-old retired merchant, living with wife Mary, with real estate worth $40,000, and another $40,000 in personal estate. (Depending on how you calculate it, that might be a comfortable $8 million to $18 million today.)
Oh, steam! Is there nothing you don’t make better? I’m not sure exactly what they actually milled at Eureka Steam Mills, which was at Broadway and Division Streets (possibly where the defunct Adirondack Trailways terminal is), but they were one of a number of dealers in coffee, spices, cream tartar, mustard, &c. in downtown Albany in 1862.
It seems to me that in a time when everything was run by steam, Albany was at its most prosperous. Nowadays, with steam mills and steam crackers impossible to find, times aren’t so good. I’m just saying, maybe it was the steam.
Bears in the news? Nothing new. The Cohoes Cataract, 1849, reported on a resolution of the trustees of the village of Cohoes:
“Complaint having been made that Wm. H. Bortell has a bear near his house which is not safely secured, therefore Resolved: That the police constable be, and he is hereby ordered to direct the said Bortell in the name of the village to secure the said bear or remove him so as children and passengers shall not be exposed any longer.”
As I’ve said before, if you wanted to show that your product was the height of modernity in the 19th century, it had to be made by steam. Witness Fred Carr & Son’s Greenbush Steam Cracker and Biscuit Manufactory. It had previously been J. Whiting’s cracker factory, at Second Avenue and Washington in what is now Rensselaer. These weren’t your old-fashioned crackers, baked with coal or perhaps boiling vats of offal – these were STEAM crackers! An impressive variety, too – oyster crackers, milk biscuits, ginger snaps, graham crackers, soda wafers, saltines and more.
Frederick Carr’s home at 15 Second Ave., Rensselaer, still stands.
Imagine how ticked off Fred Carr and son must have been when Shredded Wheat started touting its electric baking process, using the power of Niagara Falls. Hey, steam was good enough for you people all these years, it should be good enough now!
Once, it might have been the most important transportation intersection in the United States: the spot where the Erie Canal opened into the Hudson River. Here, barges carrying grain and hundreds of other products from the Great Lakes region had to be lifted from mule-drawn packet boats the plied the canal and moved onto sailing ships and steam vessels that would carry the goods down to New York harbor. And imported goods that had arrived in New York, or any of its many manufactures of the time, had to be manually loaded onto canal boats for their journey west. In the days before the railroads, and even for decades after rail reached over the Appalachians, the water level route was the commercial lifeblood of our nation.
And we still remember it today, with preserved pieces of the original canal scattered here and there throughout the Capital District, noted by the blue-and-yellow markers. But this particular spot, once the busiest harbor in the state outside of New York City, is now a riverside park with no hint of its industrial past. Now part of the Corning Preserve, the site has a bike path, a boat launch and lots of parking, but only a lonely historical marker gives any indication of its former importance. You have to follow the filled-in canal quite a way up the aptly named Erie Boulevard before you can find the first trace of old canal infrastructure, unmarked and forgotten, a little bit of lock wall right in front of the Huck Finn’s Warehouse.