Wells & Coverly

Wells & Coverly Troy 1895.pngThe 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:
Wells & Coverly logo cut

7 thoughts on “Wells & Coverly

  1. I’ve been researching the history of buildings and places depicted in artwork by Edgar Holloway from the collection of Rensselaer County Historical Society. One of the watercolors, painted in 1974, shows Monument Square, and at far right is an awning sign for Wells & Coverly. The 1974 city directory places Wells & Coverly at 257 River Street at that time, which appears to be the flamboyantly decorated building with the arched window two doors southwest of the Arts Center of the Capital Region (265 River).
    Thanks for sharing information on Troy’s history! Entries such as this one have provided additional context (and interesting reading) for the Holloway project.

  2. I worked at Wells and Coverly for4 years, 1971 to 75. they had a store that ten fronted on River Street and Third Avenue in Troy, NY. In 1973 the original store was knocked down as part of the short sighted urban renewal projects of the rust belt cities and was temporarily located at 251 River Street in Troy, NY. It was then relocated to the Uncle Sam Atrium in downtown Troy where it resided until finally going out of business around 1981. In the early 70s the Dowlings who owned W & C purchased Mcmanus and Reilly’s two Albany stores, downtown Albany and in Stuyvesant Plaza. They also had stores in Worcester, MA, Syracuse and Baldwinsville, NY. . They continued to carry high end Men and Boys clothing to the very end.
    A boy could register his birthdate and receive a pie through the Tiny Tim club on his birthday at the store.

    1. Thanks for adding to the story! I was surprised to find the Worcester connection a few years back, but it wasn’t uncommon for small chains to be in Albany, Troy and Syracuse.

  3. I’m doing a thing about 70-72 State Street. W&C had a store there that opened in 1973. This is where i love track, as I can’t access the library’s directories. Any idea how long that one lasted?

    1. Wow! I had no idea. Very late to be expanding department stores into downtown cores. I’m not going to be of immediate help, Al, but will see if I can turn anything up.

  4. Just a minor correction to the location mentioned by Charles Thomas. The store I knew in the 1950s fronted on River Street and Fourth Street, not Third Avenue. (Third Avenue in Troy is in Lansingburg)
    The north end of a three story parking garage now is on the site. River street used to angle in a straight line Southwest down from Franklin Square to Third Street which begins at Fulton Street (East/West). Fourth Street is still in place as a North/South street but River Street has been rerouted closer to the Hudson River but still meets Third Street at Fulton. (Google earth might help this make sense)

    Oh, and I clearly remember the lemon meringue pies for my birthdays, and my salesman “Rip” Riley of the Eighth Street Riley Neighborhood Park fame..

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