Gloversville

DRI: Eccentric Club project aims to bring events back to Gloversville

Gloversville Downtown Development Specialist James Hannahs speaks about the city’s DRI projects in downtown Gloversville on Monday.
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Gloversville Downtown Development Specialist James Hannahs speaks about the city’s DRI projects in downtown Gloversville on Monday.

One of the proposed projects for Gloversville’s $10 million Downtown Revitalization Initiative aims to quite literally revitalize a long dormant asset once crucial to the city’s late 19th century picturesque downtown.

The Eccentric Club “Public Event Space” project seeks to use between $100,000 and $200,000 of the $10 million state grant to help jump-start a $600,000 renovation of the 3,000-square-foot third floor at the corner of Spring and 109 North Main streets. The 1908 vintage social club was designed by F.L. Comstock.

The club, which has about 150 members, has stayed in continuous operation as a business professionals organization for more than a century. Its name appears to have come from an homage to the spirit of the literary character Phileas Fogg, repeatedly described as “eccentric” in Jules Verne’s 1873 novel, “Around the World in Eighty Days. There have also been at least several unaffiliated organizations called the “Eccentric Club” in London, England, but none of them have maintained a physical clubhouse.

The social club was built by its founding members, a collection of wealthy industrial leaders, including some names that still resonate in Gloversville more than a century later like former Gloversville mayor Edward Parkhurst and the famous philanthropist and congressman Lucius Littauer. It has been expensive to maintain.

Geoff Peck, the current president of the Eccentric Club’s Board of Governors, said in recent years the club’s members have paid for a $100,000 renovation of the building’s bar area, a $70,000 project to rebuild the building’s glass portico and a $65,000 project in 2021 to install a new HVAC air filtration system.

More from our look Sunday at Downtown Revitalization Initiatives and Gloversville:

“It’s not like we’ve let the building fall down. We’ve continually spent a lot of money on the building to keep it kind of a beacon in downtown,” Peck said.

Bringing back into operation the building’s third floor ballroom, however, will take a much larger investment. Peck said the ballroom was shut down sometime in the 1970s when it was determined the building would need a new fire escape and other improvements to bring it up to modern safety standards. Since then, it’s been used for storage.

“It looks like a time capsule up there,” Peck said. “Like something out of [the film] “Dirty Dancing. “You have a 1960s, big, plush, padded bar, and it has a dance floor and a band stand at one end. It’s a time capsule from the 1950s and 1960s.”

Peck said the Eccentric Club needs to first replace its roof, which he estimates will cost $250,000, and then begin fundraising for the money needed to build a new fire escape that can enable safe egress to the ground, unlike the building’s current fire escape that leads to the roof of the second floor bar.

“If the bar’s on fire, it wouldn’t help you much, if you were on the third floor,” Peck said of the current fire escape.

The Eccentric Club is also looking to create a nonprofit foundation arm of the organization that its members could leave legacy gifts to, Peck said, and could enable the club to pursue government grants associated with preserving the building’s historic architecture. The $600,000 project to restore the third floor event space at the Eccentric Club would restore downtown Gloversville’s capacity to host large events, he said, something that hasn’t been possible in more than 40 years.

“Our second-floor dining room is fine for small to medium size gatherings, 70 to 80 people, but it’s not appropriate for large gatherings,” Peck said. “If there’s a resurgence of business and activity in downtown Gloversville there will be a need for a large event space, and we’ve got that space in the club, so we’d like there to be more public access to use that space for public events, weddings, banquets, for whatever else. They would still be member-sponsored activities, but there would be a lot more public access. We just need a new roof to start it.”

More from our look Sunday at Downtown Revitalization Initiatives and Gloversville:

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