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History
What you need to know for 01/20/2017

A sense of place: Recalling buildings that have changed or vanished over time

A sense of place: Recalling buildings that have changed or vanished over time

People in the Capital Region might remember the Fabian Plaza Theater at 617 State St. Or the Union-F

Sometimes, the face is familiar.

Other times, the place is familiar.

People in the Capital Region might remember the Fabian Plaza Theater at 617 State St. Or the Union-Fern furniture store at 260 State — both left Schenectady’s downtown scene decades ago.

The Plaza was an ornate place to watch movies, first opening during the late summer of 1931. There were seats for 2,500 people on the ground floor and balcony levels. In addition to movies, musicians from New York Philharmonic and Philadelphia orchestras performed on stage.

The theater, across from the Schenectady County Courthouse (near the current Veterans Park) was demolished in 1964. The photo was taken during the late 1940s; two 1947 films, “Good News” and “Always Together,” were featured attractions. Opera and concert baritone John Charles Thomas was the guest visitor when the camera clicked.

Union-Fern used to be a big name for furniture in Schenectady. The firm started in Troy, and opened its Schenectady business in 1921. By the mid-1950s, there were 13 Union-Fern stores operating in New York and New England. By 1961, the company had closed its Schenectady, Albany, Amsterdam and Troy stores and announced plans to open a central store in Menands.

During its glory days, Union-Fern ran a daytime Christmas parade in downtown Schenectady during the late 1940s. For the 1948 edition, 35 giant balloons were the stars of the shows.

Other Schenectady buildings remain. The First United Methodist Church at State and Lafayette Streets is a longtime landmark. People always spot the 190-foot-tall steeple at 603 State St.; the current building is the third since First United’s first congregation met in 1789.

The Ritz Restaurant building still stands on Van Vranken Avenue. It last operated as R.J.’s Ritz Terrace. The Pattersonville Furniture Store remains open on Route 5S. Clyde and Reba Stein opened the business in 1936, and the couple’s daughter Patricia and her husband Wallace McKee took over the business in 1968. The McKees’ nephew Greg Welsh and his wife, Betsy, have run the business since 1994.

Welsh said the Tydol “Flying A” service station near the furniture store was run by Clyde Miller, the nephew of Clyde Stein. “They were in the same building at the same time,” Welsh said of the Stein and Miller arrangement.

The station was in operation for many years until it moved to another location on Route 5S — the current site of the Mobil service station in Pattersonville.

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