A Dutch Reformed Church building erected in 1800 in Veddersburg, the original name for Amsterdam, was torn down and moved twice and served purposes ranging from religion to entertainment for just over 100 years.
The founders of the Veddersburg church had split off from the Dutch Reformed congregation that had built a church in Manny’s Corners, a more remote section of the town of Amsterdam.
The 1800 church was built at what today is the corner of Market and Main Sstreets in the city of Amsterdam. It was described as a wooden frame structure put together with braces and bents. The now split congregation did not fare well and by 1812 the members became Presbyterians and reunited with what also had become a Presbyterian congregation at Manny’s Corners.
In 1832 the Presbyterians began building a larger building where a Presbyterian church is still located, the corner of Church and Grove streets in Amsterdam. The 1832 structure was torn down in 1869 and a larger brick and limestone church was built that was called Second Presbyterian Church. That building burned down in 2000 and has been replaced by another structure called United Presbyterian Church.
Methodists acquired the Market and Main building that the Presbyterians left in 1832 and tore it down. The parts were re-assembled and the building expanded at a different location, West Main and Wall streets, on land donated to the Methodists.
The building was torn down a second time in 1845 and some of its timbers used in building a new Methodist Church at number 54 on the west side of Market Street, near the intersection of today’s Guy Park Avenue. The building was expanded some years later so it could seat 700 people.
The Methodists built an even larger brick edifice in 1883 on Division Street, across from St. Ann’s Episcopal Church. That building was torn down in 1972 when area Methodists built their current church on Golf Course Road in the town of Amsterdam. A Masonic Temple was constructed on the Division Street site.
The building at 54 Market St. was sold in 1883 and became the Potter Opera House.
Historian Hugh Donlon wrote that the Potter Opera House flourished in the 1880s, “For roller skating, fairs, carnivals, plays and concerts, for about everything but opera.”
Donlon said that police sometimes shut down what local leaders thought were immoral presentations at the Market Street entertainment hall.
One such incident took place in 1889. Rev. John McIncrow of St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church and Rev. Donald Sprague of St. Ann’s Episcopal Church called on Mayor John Dwyer to stop the pending performance of the Rose Hill Company, a burlesque show that had played to wide acclaim in other cities, including Ithaca. The show did not go on in Amsterdam.
In 1891 the Potter Opera House was sold to the Y.M.C.A. A gymnasium was created in the basement and religious activities took place in the auditorium of the former opera house.
By 1900 the building was getting run down and in 1902 merchant Jacob Wagenheim bought the structure and tore it down for the third and last time.
Wagenheim built the Wagenheim Block, a two-story brick commercial building on the site. The architect was C.B. Machold. The Recorder newspaper stated “the new structure will be a marked improvement to the appearance of the street.”
This story was researched by historian Jerry Snyder, co-founder of Historic Amsterdam League. This month the League conducted bus tours focusing on Amsterdam’s architecture. A booklet on that subject (Architecture is History Written in Stone) is available through the league’s website. www.historicamsterdam.org.