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Cudmore: Healey’s Park, the cannon at Fairview Cemetery and other 2017 highlights

Cudmore: Healey’s Park, the cannon at Fairview Cemetery and other 2017 highlights

Old electric plant structure still standing
Cudmore: Healey’s Park, the cannon at Fairview Cemetery and other 2017 highlights

In 1924, Amsterdam barber Thomas A. Healey and his wife, Edith, bought land on Route 30 in Perth where foxes had been raised for fur. They built a pond for swimming and a pavilion for dancing and called the facility Healey’s Park.

According to Perth historian Sylvia Zierak, Sunday concerts were held with musicians seated on a raft in the small lake. Healey ran a shuttle bus to the park from Amsterdam. When Prohibition was repealed in 1933, Healey opened a dance hall bar. 

In 1934, several men were charged with trying to burn down the dance pavilion. The pavilion became a roller skating rink in the 1940s. 

Edith Healey died in 1942. Healey's Park closed in the late 1940s or early 1950s. Thomas Healey died in 1966. Eventually the park was bulldozed and its trees cut down for lumber.

THE CANNON AT FAIRVIEW CEMETERY

A large cannon that marks the veterans’ plot at Amsterdam’s Fairview Cemetery was forged during the Civil War.

City historian Robert H. von Hasseln wrote, “It was born in 1864 in the fires of the cast iron forges of Builders Foundry in Providence, Rhode Island.”

In 1877 the cannon was converted into an eight-inch rifle, probably at the West Point Foundry in Cold Spring, New York.

The gun saw service on the USS Monongahela, Pensacola and Essex. When Fairview Cemetery was established off Steadwell Avenue in 1899, members of the Grand Army of the Republic, a veterans’ organization, decided to create a veterans’ plot at Fairview as they had at Green Hill Cemetery in Amsterdam.

In 1906, the Rev. Putnam Cady of Emmanuel Presbyterian Church on Guy Park Avenue gave a talk about his world travels to raise funds to ship and mount the gun. 

THE BEAUTIFUL POWER PLANT

One striking architectural landmark in our area is a former coal-burning power plant on the Mohawk River/Barge Canal in the town of Florida east of Amsterdam.

Dave Northrup has written an illustrated booklet called “Adirondack Power and Light: Amsterdam Steam Generating Station.”

Work began on the facility in 1920. The architects were McKim, Mead and White of New York City. 

At first the steam plant had two smokestacks. In 1923 the building was expanded to its current size with four smokestacks.

The best view of the structure is from Route 5 or the railroad tracks in Cranesville on the other side of the Mohawk River. 

Because of increased reliance on hydroelectric power, the plant stopped generating electricity in 1950. The facility was purchased by Cranesville Block Company in 1964 and is used for manufacture and storage of stone products.

REID HILL’S FAVORITE TEACHER

Florence Dabrowski Collins lived most of her life in the house where she grew up on Amsterdam’s Pulaski Street. Born in 1911, her family had come to America from Torun, Poland, birthplace of Copernicus. 

Her given first name was long and, according to her son, she decided to call herself “Florence” because of a neighbor woman who had that name.

Florence worked 40 years as a fourth- and fifth-grade teacher at Vrooman Avenue Elementary School.

In 1939 she married Henry Paierski. Henry died in 1943. Florence married her second husband, postal worker Andrew Collins, in 1951. Their son David became a pediatric anesthesiologist. 

Teaching reading was one of her specialties. One high point in her career was in 1955 when she and her class produced two programs on the Eskimos of Alaska on WRGB television. 

Collins retired in 1976. Before her death she moved to a facility in Pennsylvania near her son and daughter-in-law. She died April 8 at age 105.

Bob Cudmore is a freelance columnist. Opinions expressed in his column are his own and not necessarily the newspaper’s. Anyone with a suggestion for a Focus on History topic may contact him at 346-6657 or bobcudmore@yahoo.com.

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