Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Little History of a Missing Building

Last week Gossips admitted the error of reporting that the two successive Hudson River Bank buildings stood on the site of what is now Thurston Park. Of course, that raised the question of what did stand in that spot.

The western edge of the building that once stood at 233-235 Warren Street can be glimpsed in the pictures of the two bank buildings, but a picture of the entire building has not been discovered. According to one Gossips reader, it was destroyed in a general alarm fire sometime in the middle of the 20th century.

The building that stood on the site had two storefronts with living space above. A hundred years ago, Thomas Connelly, who was an alderman representing the First Ward, lived at 233 Warren Street and had his bakery on the ground floor. In the 1940s, the storefront of 233 Warren Street was the headquarters of the Salvation Army, and the commander, Helen Ortt, lived upstairs.

The search into the past of the upstreet half of the building has yielded somewhat more information. In 1898, George Holsapple had a grocery store at 235 Warren Street. In 1912, there was still a grocery store at that address, but Charles Ball was the proprietor. Research has not discovered when Ball took over from Holsapple or if some other business occupied the space in between, but in January of 1913 the grocery operated by Charles F. Ball closed. For the next year or so, the space was occupied by James J. Connelly, "the well known cigar manufacturer." On May 1, 1914, Rosenfeld Clothing and Gents Furnishing moved to 235 from its previous location at 227 Warren Street. The proprietor, Isaac Rosenfeld, was a Russian immigrant, who filed a petition for naturalization on September 28, 1915.

In the 1940s, Rev. Ernest Johnson, the pastor of Shiloh Baptist Church, ran a shoe store and store repair shop in the storefront at 235 Warren Street and lived above the store. On June 12, 1941, the Hudson Evening Register reported that Johnson, "apparently suffering a nervous breakdown from overwork," was "placed under the care of a physician after he discharged a shotgun twice in his apartment at 235 Warren Street." The article reporting the incident described Johnson as an "exceptionally industrious middle-aged man who holds the respect of all the community" and concluded by saying: "Two Hudson doctors will give Rev. Johnson a mental examination this afternoon."

Unfortunately, Johnson's mental health problems and misadventures with shotguns seem to have continued. On July 2, 1943, the Evening Register reported that he had been apprehended trying to break into a house in Hamilton County and fractured the arm of the deputy sheriff who arrested him "with an unloaded shotgun." Johnson, the report indicated, was "being held in jail pending transfer to the Mercy hospital in Utica." The next year, the Evening Register reported that Johnson "died suddenly in a Utica hospital" on June 12, 1944.

The most illustrious tenant at 235 Warren may have been Edward Kells, whose testimonial for Doan's Kidney Pills appeared regularly in ads for the product throughout 1910 and 1911. Kells' statement was always introduced by this copy:

The constant aching of a bad back,
The weariness, the tired feeling,
The pains and aches of kidney ills
Are serious--if neglected.
Dangerous urinary troubles follow.
A Hudson citizen shows you how to avoid them.


  1. What you may not know.
    This is from as they say "the horses mouth".
    I grew up living on Warren St. in the 50's & 60's & as mentioned in earlier comments my family (Grandparents, Uncles, Aunt, & Father owned & worked in their businesses on Warren St. mainly at 255 Warren)
    Sam Johnson, commonly referred to as, Mr. Johnson, was a kind & joyful man both at his business & in meeting with him on street, in a store, etc.
    Although you mentioned of few of Mr. Johnson's setbacks in your article it is important that you know the other 99% of him.
    Next door to Mr. Johnson's, going West, was a Restaurant, Soda & Ice Cream Counter, & most important a popular hangout for young adults.
    The business was owned & opeated by Nick Murell & his wife.

    1. Not to question what comes "from the horse's mouth," but it seems we're talking about two different people--father and son. According to Ernest Johnson's obituary, he was survived by his wife and four sons, one of them named Samuel L. Johnson, who was then in England (it was World War II), serving as a corporal in the Army.

  2. Ah, you are correct.

    I'm referring to Sam Johnson.
    Unfortunately he may have suffered from some mental issues at times too.

    I was 100% incorrect in my comment, as you were commenting on the Father & I the Son, Sam.