Former Glens Falls Mayor Edward Bartholomew, who played a significant role in the growth of sports in the Capital Region and backed numerous projects in his own backyard, died Tuesday at the age of 70.
Bartholomew served two terms as mayor from 1978 through 1985, an era which coincided with the early years of the Glens Falls Civic Center. He also worked for the state Senate, and was president of the Economic Development Corporation of Warren County at the time of his passing.
“I know of no one who loved Glens Falls more than Ed Bartholomew,” current Glens Falls mayor Daniel Hall said in a statement. “I admired his passion and how he dedicated much of his life to the city he loved.”
Bartholomew made it a mission to make the Glens Falls Civic Center a success, and it began with his hiring of legendary local hockey coach Ned Harkness to manage the facility, which opened in 1979.
“He [Harkness] was an experienced hand, and he had connections. He got the Red Wings to come from Kansas City to little old Glens Falls, and that changed everything,” said Mike Kane, who covered the Adirondack Red Wings for The Daily Gazette during their 20-year stay at the Civic Center. “They were a wildly successful franchise in terms of attendance and in the standings. In 20 years, they won four [American Hockey League] championships.”
Kane said the Red Wings showed that a minor league franchise could thrive in the Capital Region, and many more followed, including other hockey teams at the Civic Center and several baseball teams at East Field in Glens Falls.
“Over 40 years, you’ve seen it grow into an active market for sports. You can draw a line to the Glens Falls Civic Center and the Red Wings.,” Kane said. “It all traces back to Ed Bartholomew hiring the right guy. It was a brilliant move. It changed the landscape of sports in the Capital District.”
Bartholomew also pushed for the the Civic Center to serve as host for the New York State Public High School Athletic Association boys’ basketball tournament, which it did consecutively for 36 years beginning in 1981. The New York Federation Tournament of Champions also contested basketball games there in past years.
“He was always thought of as a very important figure in Capital District sports,” Kane said.
The Adirondack Thunder, which plays in the ECHL in what is now known as Cool Insuring Arena, issued a statement, saying, “We are deeply saddened to learn of the passing of former Glens Falls Mayor Ed Bartholomew. Ed was an integral part of bringing hockey to this great town and we will be forever grateful for his contributions. Our thoughts are with his family and friends during this difficult time.”
“Ed didn’t see obstacles, he saw opportunities, and our entire region will forever be grateful for the countless contributions he made,” Matthew Fuller, chair of the board of directors of the EDC of Warren County, said in a statement. “His efforts cannot be replaced. As heavy hearted as we are today, we will carry the EDC torch in Ed’s honor.”
Bartholomew was a 28-year-old lawyer in 1978 when he took office as Glens Falls’ mayor. He was the youngest mayor in New York state at the time.
“As mayor, he built a modern ballpark and brought minor league baseball to Glens Falls,” an EDC of Warren County statement said. “He brought new industry to Pruyn’s Island and an intermunicipal sewage project to the Upper Hudson River. He helped establish the Greater Glens Falls Transit System. He helped set the course for the revitalization of Downtown Glens Falls. Ed reveled in solving the intricate political, financial and logistical challenges of complicated projects to benefit the communities he loved.”
Following his stint as the Glens Falls mayor, and after several years serving in state government, Bartholomew joined the EDC of Warren County in 2013 and almost instantly began to make things happen.
“He secured federal, state and local funding for major public works projects and large and small businesses throughout Warren County, including a $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative Grant for Glens Falls,” the EDC of Warren County statement said. “At the time of his death, he was leading the effort to help local businesses and industries recover from the COVID-19 shutdown and had been working on these challenges virtually around the clock.”
Bartholomew was known to attack projects both large and small with equal vigor.
“There is no one I know who worked harder than Ed,” Hall said. “He could pick up the phone and talk to anyone. He was connected. His knowledge of Glens Falls history and politics, along with stories about his time working in the state Senate made for very interesting car rides.”
U.S. Senator Charles E. Schumer said in a statement, “I am so deeply saddened to learn of the death of my great friend Ed. A lifelong Republican, Ed transcended party and worked tirelessly with anyone who was willing to make his city and his region better. It was Ed who pushed me to fund the South Street project, and lobby the Phantoms to bring hockey back, and get federal money for the Lake George wastewater treatment plant, and dozens of other projects over the years. The Glens Falls region has lost an irreplaceable public servant, but moreover, I like so many of you, have lost a good friend. May God bless Ed and his family.”
Reach Jim Schiltz at [email protected] or @jim_schiltz on Twitter.