Place’s Grocery and Saloon, the Erie Canal and the West Shore Railroad
Recently, a couple of photos were posted to Facebook that we thought warranted further research and explanation. This post is an attempt to clarify and provide more information as well as sources for additional study.
The first picture below gives an excellent view of the West Shore depot and immediate area. The right side of the photo shows the West Shore freight house and to the left is the backside of the depot. Immediately in front of the buildings are the Erie Canal and towpath. In the middle is the Mohawk River with the old covered bridge to the left and the New York Central Railroad round house on the opposite shore.
GinThe line ran from NJ to Buffalo, NY first as the West Shore and Buffalo Railroad, then as the NY Central, Penn Central and CONRAIL’s West Shore.
The second image is a lovely watercolor painted circa 1907 by Leila Ogden Burgin, sister of Mrs. George C. Butler, St. Johnsville. The watercolor shows the grain elevator, grocery story and saloon owned by G V Place and located on the old Erie Canal opposite St. Johnsville, west of the West Shore train depot. Also shown are photographs from the library collection depicting Place’s with a docked Erie Canal boat. From the St. Johnsville Enterprise and News, October 11, 1922, when the building was destroyed:
“Fire Destroys Old Landmark; Ancient Warehouse and Canal Terminal Gone. Place Building Near West Shore Burns Quickly, was Built in 1830. The empty warehouse near the West Shore depot was consumed by fire on Thursday evening. It was a large two story wing extending along the deserted Erie Canal on the south side of the river. In the building was some property placed there for storage and a quantity of hay. Originally it was constructed by the Cox family and was designed as a warehouse and terminal for canal shipping. The flames were especially fierce, and with a slight wind blowing from the west, burning embers were scattered over nearby residences, and at one time threatened the West Shore station, fully 200 feet away.”
As an aside, 10 year old Nellie Place was killed Christmas Eve, 1897 at the New York Central Railroad crossing. A Milo Nellis scrapbook yielded this clipping;
“Nellie Place, who met with an untimely death at the Central crossing at this station last Friday night, was an exceptionally bright and pleasant little one. She was the pride of her parents and all her friends. Taking prominent part in the Christmas cantata here she carried her part through in a manner which would have done credit to many an older one, and to thus be taken words hardly be expressed as to the sorrow which this sad calamity brings, not only to the bereaved family but to a large circle of sympathizing friends.” Forever young Nellie Place rests in the St. Johnsville Cemetery.