Focus on History: Summer stories through the years



A steep grade, human error and a wet night contributed to an appalling accident on the Mountain Lake Electric Railroad near Gloversville on July 4, 1902. 

Fourteen died and sixty were injured. Most victims were Gloversville excursionists who had traveled up Bleecker Mountain to Mountain Lake and its resort hotel for a day of fun capped by fireworks.

The brakes failed on one trolley coming down the mountain. That car struck the rear of another trolley and both cars hurtled down the tracks. As a last resort one trolley was thrown into reverse. That blew circuit breakers plunging both cars into darkness as both derailed.

The Mountain Lake Electric Railroad had opened in 1901. Lawsuits bankrupted the company after the accident.  t was reorganized as Adirondack Lakes Traction but people were wary. The hotel at the lake was destroyed by fire in 1908. The trolley line closed in 1918.    


In the 1890s and early 1900s, there was horse racing during the summer meet of the Amsterdam Fair and Driving Association.

The Association had a half mile track at McClary Park on the south side of the city. 

In 1896 the opening of the Amsterdam racing season took place Saturday, May 30th.

The afternoon began with three trotting races. There was then a men’s running race followed by something called a “peg race.”  The last event was a one-mile bicycle race for the Montgomery County championship. 

In the 1930s the neighborhood where McClary Park used to be off Race Course Street and Grieme Avenue became known as Califano Heights. 

From 1903 through 1907, carpet tycoon Stephen Sanford invited the people of Amsterdam to the Sanford Matinee Races at his huge Hurricana thoroughbred horse farm on the Sunday closest to Fourth of July. 

Trolleys ran up Meadow and Market Streets. From there, horse drawn wagons took people to the farm. Automobiles went to the farm as well but were not admitted to the grounds. Some 15,000 attended the event’s last year.

Remnants of the farm, later called Sanford Stud Farm, still can be seen amid today’s extensive commercial development on Route 30 north of Amsterdam city.


Amsterdam hosted a reunion of Civil War veterans in the summer of 1886. Company C of the 115th New York Regiment gathered on Brookside Avenue. Also that summer the Clerical Wheelmen reached the city, pastors who had taken up bicycle riding.  

The West Shore Railroad did a thriving business in the early 1900s transporting pilgrims to the Roman Catholic Shrine of the North American Martyrs in Auriesville.  The shrine marks the spot where three Jesuit missionaries were martyred and where Saint Kateri Tekakwitha was born in the 1600s. 

So many people came to the Auriesville station in the 1930s that rail sidings were occupied for miles with passenger trains waiting to take the pilgrims home. 

Ten thousand pilgrims were at Auriesville Shrine in August 1925. Hundreds of Amsterdam residents were among those making pilgrimages. Every Sunday, two big washtubs at the Shrine were filled with coins by the faithful.  

On warm summer evenings in the 1940s, the streets of Amsterdam’s West End were sometimes deserted.

To supplement food available under wartime rationing, the mainly Italian-American residents were tending vegetable gardens on the fertile flat land south of their homes between the railroad tracks and Mohawk River/Erie Canal.

They built poles for pole beans and lattices to keep tomatoes off the ground. They grew lettuce, zucchini and dandelions, much as their ancestors had done in southern Italian communities such as Pisciotta in the province of Campania.





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