Classic Tales of Old Dorp: Businessman Fuller shared his success

Richard Fuller, a fourth-generation Schenectadian, made a name for himself in the city. Former Gazet

The Daily Gazette is reprinting excerpts of the late Larry Hart’s long-running column, “Tales of Old Dorp.” The Fuller name has always been linked to the Schenectady of pre-Revolutionary days; historians know Samuel Fuller, the renowned architect who did much to alter and improve the old Holland style of building in Schenectady. Richard Fuller, a fourth-generation descendant of Samuel Fuller, also made a name for himself in the city. Hart tells his story today, in an excerpt of a column that originally appeared July 23, 1974.

Richard Fuller built a sumptuous home for himself and his new wife, the former Margaret Rowe, at the southeast corner of Union and Church streets, about 1880. It was a beautifully gabled, typically Victorian style home for the well-to-do.

Fuller had been successful even as a young man who was interested in real estate. He was instrumental in having constructed the Fuller Building, more popularly known as the Wedgeway Building, which borders on the west side of Erie Boulevard between Liberty and State streets.

He was treasurer for the Vale Cemetery Association and had an office on the second floor of the Fuller Building at the State Street end. Dances were held regularly in a large hall on the second floor of the Liberty Street corner.

Canal workers in the Erie Canal days patronized a saloon on the ground floor at the same corner.

Watching the time

Time, and the use of it, was a matter of precision with Fuller. The large solid-gold watch tucked inside his vest pocket was not there as an ornament. It was hauled out constantly by the attached gold chain that looped to a vest button, and if ever he was late for anything, it was not by that watch.

The late Mrs. Helena Fuller Crooks of Scotia, who died in 1962, had many fond memories of her father — and that familiar gold watch figured in many of them.

She recalled one day when her father said to her: “I’m riding up to the college terrace this morning, Helena. If you care to go along, I’ll be leaving in 10 minutes.”

Somehow, in primping for the ride to the other side of town, she took a few minutes beyond the allotted time and found that her father’s carriage had left without her.

And there was a time a salesman stopped at Fuller’s office. It had been an especially busy day and Richard Fuller was growing impatient at the man’s insistence that he be allowed to discuss the worth of his product.

“If you will just give me one minute of your time, Mr. Fuller, I’ll prove to you what a bargain this is,” said the visitor. As the drummer launched headlong into his sales pitch, he failed to notice that Fuller had removed his gold watch from his vest pocket and placed it on the desk before him. Suddenly, he clapped the watch cover shut and turned to the paper work before him.

“Now, you’ve had your minute, sir. Good day,” Fuller said. The salesman left.

Sharing tradition

Mrs. Crooks also remembered from her childhood that there was a family tradition of sharing good fortune with others. On Christmas morning, the candlelit tree in the north corner of the living room was made even more attractive by the fine toys purchased weeks before at Schwartz’ toy shop in New York City. But they were not all for the only child of the Fuller family.

The rule was that the toys were hers first, but that she must share them with children of less fortunate families. Mrs. Fuller would already have seven or eight baskets filled with food. All that was needed now were the toys that Helena selected from under the tree. Mrs. Fuller then rang the servants’ bell to the barn and James Harbison, the coachman, brought the carriage or sleigh around to the front.

A good part of Christmas morning was spent in calling on families along Frog Alley and College Street.

Fuller died in 1902 and his wife in 1913. Both were buried in Vale Cemetery.

Categories: Life and Arts

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