1906-1914: Picturing the Del Negro Brothers’ Worksites

Sepia Saturday 588Fourteenth 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.

Kasson Opera House (later Memorial Hall) on N. Main St. in Gloversville, N.Y. (circa 1907). 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 St. in the building before that awning — with a darker awning of its own. Photo: Front Page Gloversville.

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.

Kasson Opera House and North Main Street commercial district, Gloversville, N.Y. (1908). Uncle Mike’s parlor was located off camera — past the white building on the right.  The colorful awnings and pedestrian traffic indicate this was a great location for his boot black shop. Photo: cinematreasures.org

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 Kingsborough hotel at 34 S. Main St., Gloversville, N.Y. (undated). James Del Negro was a shoe shiner at this hotel in the Gloversville business district.

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.

The Kingsborough Apartments, Gloversville, N.Y. The former hotel, where Jimmy Del Negro shined shoes from 1909-1911, has been converted into a modern apartment building. Photo: apartments.com

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.

Storefront at 2 S.Main St, Gloversville, N.Y. (2019). 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. Photo: Google Maps/street view

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.

Windsor Hotel, Gloversville, N.Y. (Undated). In this vintage photo, the railroad ticket office where Uncle Mike worked was located in the yellow building at the far right. Photo: Pinterest

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.”

http://frontpagegloversville.squarespace.com/pictoral-history/hotels/
Windsor Hotel, Gloversville,N.Y. (Undated). The railroad ticket office where Uncle Mike shined shoes was located at street level in the building labeled “Crockery.” Photo: Front Page Gloversville

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.

© 2021 Molly Charboneau. All rights reserved.

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13 thoughts on “1906-1914: Picturing the Del Negro Brothers’ Worksites”

  1. Another splendid history! Like Sue, I also want to know more about the opera house as I’m sure the entertainers who played there had their shoes repaired and shined at your Uncle Mike’s shop. I’d also bet that there was a photographer in the building or on the block. Your post last week sent me on a virtual stroll around Gloversville Main and Fulton in Google street view and I spotted that shop and wondered if it might be the same location!

    The history of clothing is usually about the consumer side, like the trends in women’s fashions and styles. But it’s been fascinating to read how a small city built itself as a center of manufacturing one kind of garment accessory (or piano part too). I have a number of photos of company bands that were made up of workers from one factory or industry. I’ll add Gloversville to my search.

    1. Thanks, Mike. Gloversville is such an interesting town to research — and thanks to land-marking, some of the best buildings have avoided the wrecking ball that took down the Windsor Hotel. There were more than 150 glove factories in the Gloversville- Johnstown area in its heyday, and even some of those are still standing. More on the Kasson Opera House can be found here: http://cinematreasures.org/theaters/8621/photos

    1. Thanks, Diane. The maps and photos worked well in tandem and helped me identify the exact buildings where Uncle Mike and Uncle Jimmy worked.

  2. What a different theme – I had never thought of exploring where my ancestors worked, and it was wonderful that you had vintage postcards to illustrate the places. My favourite was the coloured image of the Kasson Opera House – with my musical interests, I would love to know what performances took place there in the early 20th century.

  3. Finding photos of the places our ancestors lived and worked is the icing on the cake of research. I am always thrilled when it happens. I feel a greater connection and understanding of their lives. These are wonderful.

    1. Totally agree! My Curcio-Laurence (di Lorenzo) direct line ancestors worked outside of town, so I have not yet found any photos of their worksite. So I was thrilled to find so many for my collateral Del Negro relatives.

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