Sepia Saturday 588. Fourteenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.
The last post mapped Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor, where Michael Del Negro — younger brother of my second great-grandmother Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio — operated his small business in Gloversville, Fulton County, N.Y., in the early 1900s.
Yet as fascinating as maps are, it’s nice to see the buildings in three dimensions. So this post will focus on vintage and contemporary images of the Gloversville neighborhoods and buildings where Uncle Mike and Vincenzo “Jimmy” Del Negro (the oldest sibling) worked as shoe shiners.
Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor in context
The photo below shows the Second Empire style Kasson Opera House (later Memorial Hall) on N. Main St. in Gloversville, N.Y., in the early 1900s. Down the block at the right, before the trees, is a small building with a light awning. Mike’s Shoe Shining Parlor, owned by Michael Del Negro, was located at 12 N. Main Street — in the building just before that awning, with a darker awning of its own.
Another view of the Kasson Opera House appears on the 1908 postcard below. The color photo shows how vibrant North Main Street was when Uncle Mike operated his shoe shine parlor there from about 1909 — when it was first listed in the Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory.
Alas, Uncle Mike’s parlor doesn’t appear on the post card — it is off-camera past the white building on the right. Yet the colorful awnings on neighboring shops and the abundance of pedestrian traffic indicate that North Main Street was a great location for his boot black shop.
Uncle Jimmy’s workplaces
While Uncle Mike operated his own parlor, the oldest Del Negro sibling — Uncle Jimmy — was successfully shining shoes elsewhere around town. One of the prominent places he worked was at The Kingsborough, a Gloversville hotel located at 34 S. Main Street and shown on the post card below.
The Renaissance Revival style Kingsborough hotel likely catered to spiffy out-of-town glove buyers and similar travelers — the perfect place for Uncle Jimmy to set up shop. He worked there from 1909 to 1911, according to his Gloversville-Johnstown Business Directory listings — and the hotel structure still stands, converted into the modern apartment building shown below.
One other place that Uncle Jimmy worked was at a parlor in the brick Italianate style flatiron building known as the Heacock Block at Gloversville’s Four Corners — the the former business district, now a historic district, where Main St. and Fulton St. intersect.
I was thrilled to discover that Uncle Jimmy shined shoes in this iconic corner building and that the storefront at 2 S. Main St., where he worked in 1906, is still there — shown below with blue-and-white striped awning.
Uncle Mike’s 1914 workplace
By 1914, Michael Del Negro had apparently given up his shoe shine parlor and was working a block away at 7 S. Main St — also in the Four Corners area and across the street from the flatiron building (above) where Jimmy once worked.
The building is now gone. However, the 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Gloversville shows an Electric Railroad Waiting Room at 7 S. Main St. — right around the corner from the Windsor Hotel, which was demolished in 1977.
In the vintage photo above of the Windsor Hotel, the ticket office where Uncle Mike worked was located in the yellow building at the far right — another great location for a shoe shine stand.
Below is another photograph of the corner hotel and surrounding buildings, with a view up the block toward the ticket office — located at street level in the building labeled “Crockery.”
Contributing to Glovesville’s service economy
The glove industry was the financial driver of the Gloversville economy in the early 1900s — leading to a period of prosperity that can still be seen in the stately buildings that remain in the once-bustling commercial areas.
With this prosperity came a demand for ancillary services — shoe shining, junk collection and similar trades — that allowed my maternal Italian immigrant ancestors to survive and thrive, buy homes, raise families and play their own valuable roles in Gloversville’s community life.
Which makes it such a pleasure to unearth and share their stories!
Up next: More on my Italian great-grandfather Peter Laurence/Di Lorenzo. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other.Sepia Saturday participants.
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