Bellevue relic from GE’s past suffers at the hands of vandals

Sharon Dunlap of Campbell Avenue in Schenectady sits on a bench with the former GE pavilion in the background in Fairview Park Thursday, July 7, 2022.

Sharon Dunlap of Campbell Avenue in Schenectady sits on a bench with the former GE pavilion in the background in Fairview Park Thursday, July 7, 2022.

SCHENECTADY – Between Campbell and Fairview avenues sits a quiet gazebo that’s historic charm stands out among the surrounding towering trees – all that’s really left of Fairview Park along with a dwindling historical connection to the General Electric workers of the 1900’s.

The gazebo served as a bathhouse with full plumbing for GE workers to wash up on their way home from the plant.

The showers have since been removed, but the structure still stands and catches eyes with its brick exterior and old-timey charcoal black window grilles, contrasting its white and dark green paint detailing.

But upon closer inspection, dark graffiti stains the vast area of brick. Slight fading suggests attempts made to rid the structure of the vandalism. But the damage goes beyond its exterior.

Just past the unlocked door, piles of red Solo cups litter the concrete floor, beside empty beer cans and trash bags. Sometimes dirty lawn chairs are left behind, the remnants of illegal gatherings inside the place. Other chairs appear to have been left behind for future use by interlopers.

Whatever the exact purpose of the chairs and the mess, Campbell Avenue resident Sharon Dunlap has had enough. 

Dunlap, who can see the gazebo some 100 feet from her front porch, used to enjoy the relaxing view of the park. But a few years ago, it slowly turned into the dreary sight of an abused gazebo that’s seen better days.

“It’s a shame, it’s a nice building,” she said. “We don’t find stuff like this anymore.”

In fact, there are not many discernible testaments like this left that reflect the once-booming time in GE history that gave Schenectady the moniker of the Electric City.

The old bathhouse became even more significant in echoing this distant past when the GE Subway — the underground walkway linking Bellevue with the plant — was filled with concrete years ago.

Dunlap, like many other area residents, has ties with GE. She worked at the facility herself for some time, as did her father and brother.

Another neighborhood resident painted the structure and others have tried to wash off the graffiti. But these good samaritans have been unable to keep this kind of defacing from happening over and over again.

One Saturday, Dunlap had to call the police on the noisy trespassers. She urged for someone to come and make the partiers go home. Almost an hour later, authorities arrived and told them to leave. But according to Dunlap, once the police left, the intruders – apparently juveniles, she says –  just came right back.

The teens have made the gazebo especially accessible to themselves time after time by breaking off the lock authorities have placed on the door.

Dunlap is employed as Ladybug the Clown and used to utilize the space as a place for entertainment.

“I did a bunch of [birthday] parties here for the neighbors’ kids and it was perfect. That was before they had to lock it up,” Dunlap said.

Dunlap also pointed out that an overhead light was installed in the ceiling of the structure as an attempt to deter trespassers from wanting to enter at the risk of being seen. But that didn’t stop them.

“They can’t leave things alone. It’s not hurting anybody, it’s pretty,” Dunlap said.

Alex Sutherland, director of operations in the City of Schenectady, says the activity at the gazebo is something the city is very much aware of. Sutherland said The Office of General Services has dispatched city carpenters some 5 times just this summer to re-secure the door.

Dunlap is also disheartened by the state of Fairview Park as a whole, expressing that there used to be many picnic tables scattered throughout the woodland, but they all disappeared, as well as the tennis courts that were once present.

“I used to love it in the summertime — to listen to them [tennis players] early in the morning play tennis, you hear the ball going back and forth,” Dunlap said.

Between the increasing mischief within the historic gazebo and the neglect of the park, these days Dunlap is simply left wondering “Why?”

According to Sutherland, behind the scenes plans have been in the works to restore life to the parks of Bellevue for some time now, but the pandemic delayed these plans.

“The city and the county have been working with the Bellevue Preservation Association over the last couple of years to fund upgrades to the tennis and basketball courts at Hillhurst Park and Fairview Park,” Sutherland said.

Sutherland said the City plans to put these park improvement upgrades out to bid later this summer, with funding support from Schenectady County. 

“The goal is to at least get that work underway later this year. It’s something that has been a long time coming with the city, the county and the neighborhood,” Sutherland said.

But there are no plans for the gazebo within that scope of work.

For now, the gazebo stands as a representation of General Electric’s waning old-time memories, but one that’s threatened by late-night shenanigans – a circumstance that Dunlap is sad to see.

“Things change, but not always for the better,” Dunlap said.

Categories: News, Schenectady

VINCENT J RIGGI August 8, 2022
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    Since this building has outgrown it usefullness as far as a storage building for the now defunct annual “Bellevue in the Park” which originated back in 2000 when the Bellevue preservation Assiciation was formed, its time to clean it out once more and have the city masonary crew brick in the doorways to match the exterior, so it can be appreciated for it’s astectic value and not be a nuisence for the immediate neighbors. I was involved for many years with the property and also with the formation of the B.P.A. along with the rehab of this bathhouse in the late 1990’s. I only mention this since I don’t see any viable reason for the inside useage of this building in the future except to attract vandals along with people looking to find a place to sleep for the night. I am also an immediate neighbor since 1974, but do not witness nor hear the problems that Ms. Dunlop is experiencing since she is directly across the street and I am 2 homes away to the side, and have the huge trees to buffer this problem. I believe the annual picnic has ceased over the last few years for lack of worker interest, and believe me it did take a lot of work from dedicated volunteers to make it happen.

John Pierce August 8, 2022
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My Great-Grandfather, Ernest Harris, lived on Auther Street and was the caretaker of the bathhouse for a time. I also am disapointed in what it has become.