1902-1912: A tale of three junkyards

Sepia Saturday 584. Tenth in a photo blog series on my maternal Italian ancestors from Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y.

In the last post, I included a detail from a 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the Gloversville, Fulton Co., N.Y., home of my great-grandparents Peter and Mary (Curcio) Laurence, who lived with Mary’s parents — and my second great-grandparents  — Antonio and Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio.

Main and Fulton Streets, Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1900). This vintage post card shows the commercial area of Gloversville in its heyday. The Curcio-Laurence Junk Yard at 128 E. Fulton Street was located blocks away on the outskirts of town — so far out that it was not included on Sanborn maps until 1902. Source: Front Page Gloversville

Behind the house at 128 East Fulton Street in 1912 was the outline of the A. Curcio Junk Yard, where Peter worked — which was owned and operated by Mary’s father. But I wondered, had it always looked this way?

So back I went to the digital Sanborn maps to see how the house and family business had changed over time — and what else I might learn about my direct and collateral Italian relatives.

The 1912 map

Detail from a 1912 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the one-story Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back.

The Sanborn map from 1912[1]Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1912. Map 15. Detail: A. Curio Junk Yard at 128 E. Fulton Street, Gloversville, N.Y. … Continue readingis the most recent rendition of the house and junkyard on the family property — prominently labeled A. Curcio Junk Yard. Here’s what the map tells us:

  • All images are yellow, indicating they are wood-framed structures with either a slate/tin roof (o), a shingle roof (x) or a composition roof (dark dot).
  • There are three dwellings (labeled D) along Fulton St. at the top of the image: A 2-story barber shop, with dwelling above, at 126 1/2 ; the 1-story Curcio-Laurence home at 128, with a dotted line indicating a front porch and a large eat-in kitchen at the back; and a 1-story cobbler shop, also labeled as a dwelling.
  • There is a set of scales between the Curcio home and the cobbler shop — enabling items to be valued by weight.
  • There is a 2-story building labeled Junk at 128 1/2, which likely held the business’s recyclable items.
  • The back of the lot is labeled Scrap Iron Yard.
Detail from a 1907 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the one-story Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back.

The 1907 map

The Sanborn map from 1907[2]Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1907. Map 28. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Yard, 128 E Fulton St., Gloversville, N.Y. … Continue reading shows the home and junkyard five years earlier. Much is similar — the woodframe dwellings, the barber shop, the cobbler shop, the scales.

However, the 2-story woodframe recyclables repository is labeled Junk Shop — and there is no scrap iron yard at the back.

Was the scrap iron yard an innovation added by my great-grandfather Peter once he joined the business? Or was it merely a logical expansion of the junk business as automobiles and other large metal items became more commonplace?

Detail from a 1902 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map showing the one-story Curcio home at 128 East Fulton Street — top center with a letter D for dwelling — with the junk yard at the back.

The 1902 map

The earliest 1902 Sanborn map[3]Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1902. Map 20. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Shop at 128 E. Fulton, Gloversville, N.Y. … Continue readingshows a much less developed property at 128 E. Fulton Street:

  • No upstairs dwelling above the 2-story barber shop — nor are there any additional buildings/sheds behind it.
  • No scales between the Curcio home and the cobbler shop.
  • The Junk Shop is the same at 128 1/2 — but A. Curcio’s name does not yet appear, and it is colored green on this map as a “special” building.
  • No scrap metal yard yet — nor anything else at the back of the property.

The tale of three junkyards

My Italian immigrant great-grandfather Peter D. Laurence (nee Pietro di Lorenzo) joined the Curcio household when he married my great-grandmother Mary circa 1901.  So when the 1902 Sanborn map of Gloversville was created, Peter was new to the Curcio family business.

By 1907, however, he’d been working for Antonio Curcio & Co. for five years — and a set of scales had been added to the property to value items by weight.

After another five years, in 1912, a Scrap Iron Yard became part of the family business — creating an additional revenue stream.

A place for Antoinette’s brothers?

Another item of interest on all three maps is the cobbler shop, which was also a dwelling. Could this have been a residence and/or place of employment for Antoinette (Del Negro) Curcio’s brothers — Michael and Vincenzo “Jimmy”  Del Negro?

Both brothers gave their occupation as “boot black” in several censuses and — as discussed in the last blog post — Michael and his family were enumerated in censuses with the Curcio household at 128 E. Fulton St. in 1905 and 1910. Did they actually live behind the cobbler shop? Did he and Jimmy work there? More questions — and new research to do!

Up next: The Del Negro brothers of Gloversville, N.Y. Meanwhile, please visit the blogs of this week’s other Sepia Saturday participants.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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References

References
1 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1912. Map 15. Detail: A. Curio Junk Yard at 128 E. Fulton Street, Gloversville, N.Y. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_006/. Accessed 12 Aug 2021.
2 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1907. Map 28. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Yard, 128 E Fulton St., Gloversville, N.Y. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_005/. Accessed 12 Aug. 2021.
3 Sanborn Fire Insurance Map from Gloversville, Fulton County, New York. Sanborn Map Company, Oct, 1902. Map 20. Detail: Antonio Curcio Junk Shop at 128 E. Fulton, Gloversville, N.Y. https://www.loc.gov/item/sanborn05951_004/ Accessed 12 Aug. 2021.

12 thoughts on “1902-1912: A tale of three junkyards”

    1. Thanks, Marian. I recently attended a webinar on Sanborn maps, which gave me new insight into how they can complement genealogy research to tell the family story. Hoping to utilize them in future for other family branches.

  1. This is a terrific post to compare the details found in these maps. Last week I spent some time looking up the Sanborn map’s legend to interpret the colors and and marks. I’m still unsure about the Xs, and the Os. I thought the Xs indicated doors, or maybe chimneys, but they are not consistent. For fire insurance purposes, the Xs may be wood fire stoves and Os for oil stoves.

    In any case they are very small buildings to contain both a family and a business too. Years ago I took a trip to Naples and was amazed at how tiny the dwellings in the city were, often incorporating a shop. In the evenings people opened their doors and windows and ate their meals almost al fresco as tourists like me strolled by so close I could smell their delicious food.

    1. Thanks, Mike. I actually summarized details from the Sanborn map legend that explains the markings: “All images are yellow, indicating they are wood-framed structures with either a slate/tin roof (o), a shingle roof (x) or a composition roof (dark dot).” But like you, I was most amazed by the small size of the house given all the family members who lived there — although perhaps not that small to my Italian immigrant ancestors who were used to Neapolitan-sized edifices back home.

  2. That’s the way of research in general: The more information you turn up, the more questions there are to be answered. 🙂

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