NISKAYUNA — In 1942, a restaurant that had been out of business for some years was brought back to life and, for a brief time, provided a unique and welcome respite for Niskayuna residents and travelers passing through on the Troy Schenectady Road — Route 7.
The Galley, as the name implies, offered a seafood-themed menu as well as other refreshments.
Located on the Troy Schenectady Road about halfway between the eastern and western ends of Rosendale Road, the restaurant’s designated location was known as "Stop 13-1/4." This designation was a remnant from the days when the Schenectady Railway Company operated a trolley line between Schenectady and Troy along what is now Route 7. The numbered trolley stops were a convenient system for identifying locations along the line.
Set back from what was then a mostly rural, two-lane highway, the Galley was a neat bungalow-style building with a wraparound porch, fronting on Troy Schenectady Road and flood-lit at night. The face of the building advertised many of the specialties of the house, including fish fries, chips, clam chowder, fried chicken and boiled lobster.
The Galley’s patrons were served in a cozy dining room paneled in dark wood. Period photos show a small bar in the corner that made beverages (and cigars) available to the diners. A small beer was a nickel, a large beer a dime and frosty pitchers of cold beer were fifty cents.
Diners who wished to enjoy a boiled lobster dinner were charged a whopping 85 cents, the same price as a fried chicken dinner. A sign hanging over the bar announced: "Ye who enter here on refreshment bent, shall welcome be and forth with blessings sent.”
The Galley had been closed for some time when it was reopened in 1942. John Henry Sutliff (1883-1950) purchased the roadside restaurant and soon had it up and running.
Sutliff was originally from Berne, where his family operated a farm and owned a local tavern. Sutliff’s wife Sara was a nurse in Schenectady and he relocated the family to Niskayuna, opening the Galley.
John Sutliff’s family had been in the tavern business in Berne, making him well-suited to operate a restaurant in Niskayuna.
A tale about the Galley prior to Sutliff’s ownership has been handed down. It said the Galley, prior to Sutliff’s ownership, was once vandalized by a Molotov cocktail in the mistaken belief it housed a speakeasy. According to the tale, story the speakeasy was actually located in another building nearby.
Regrettably, the Galley under Sutliff’s ownership had a short life. The advent of World War II presented several a number of difficulties for the restaurant, including shortages of both supplies and employees. By the end of 1943, the Galley was out of business.
The Galley was converted to a single single-family residence in 1944. John Sutliff subsequently divided his time between the family farm in Berne and the home in Niskayuna, where his wife continued her career in nursing.
Today the building still exists as a single family home, still graces Troy Schenectady Road. It is owned and occupied by Charles W. Lester III, who is John Sutliff’s grandson.
Many thanks to Mr. Lester for sharing photos and stories about a part of Niskayuna history that deserves to be remembered.
Editor's Note: "Gleanings from the Corn Flats," written by members of the Niskayuna Historical Committee, examines town history. The article runs the first weekend of the month in Your Niskayuna. The Niskayuna Historical Committee encourages any past or present town residents to contact the Niskayuna Town Historian at [email protected] regarding any information, resources, or stories they might like to share about Niskayuna’s distinctive history.