Friday, October 7, 2011

Bagg's Square West

Well, with roof repaired, hopefully the leaks are banished for one more winter!

Bagg's Square-for many Utican's, Bagg's Square is just a name from the past. They don't remember the Bagg's Square that I do, although rather murkily. Most of the important buildings and infrastructure of the "Square" was leveled in the early 1970's for the North Genesee St. overpass.

For almost 170 years before the DOT decided to wipe away an entire section of downtown, the commercial district of Utica was bookended by Bagg's Square to the north and Oneida Square to the south. In between, the social, cultural and commercial epicenter of our region-downtown-was the economic driver that almost everyone had a connection to.

But Bagg's Square, that was where the real power was located. In the 19th century, Bagg's Hotel stood on the site next to the present day Children's Museum. A grand Greek revival ediface, it had elegant ballrooms and a genteel lobby that welcomed such notables as Charles Dickens. Eventually purchased by the Proctor Brothers, it was demolished by Maria Proctor during the depression to create jobs for unemployed Utica men.

Mrs. Proctor had a small memorial building erected on the site. It's trim was designed by Tiffany, with the pyramidal shaped roof topped by a cast bronze eagle-a favorite theme of the Proctor's! It was ment to hold the records of 130 years of thge Hotel's operations. Unfortunately, these disappeared shortly after it was completed.

Bagg's Hotel was not the only Hostelry located on the square! There was also the Hotel Yates, on the West side of Genesee St. It was a more simply designed structure, catering to businessmen and travelers on the Erie Canal.

The Long Block or the Marble Block, as it was sometimes called, was also on West Genesee. It's  facade of white marble gave it its name, but that impervious material could not guarantee its survival. It was destroyed in a spectacular fire that would be the same fate for several other magnificent buildings on and around Bagg's Square.

Today, only a trace of the original neighborhood survives. But withinin those historical and storied buildings, new life is emerging. Bagg's Square West is alive with activity and is destined to become a hip, funky and cool new-old place to be!

Many years ago, I found myself on Hotel St. How I got there was anyones guess, for along with destroying everything they could, the DOT also made it virtually impossible to get to Bagg's Sq. W.
I was flabbergasted! Here was an intact remnant of the glory days of the city. It had the feel of a place that needed to be discovered. It was waiting.

 Twenty-Five years later, it's still waiting. But, little by little it is being discovered. And the people who are discovering it are the ones it needs the most.

Take, for instance, Lynne Mishalanie. The under-appreciated, creative genius behind Utica Monday Nite bought her building almost 15 years ago. Covered in green cement, the facade was waiting to be exposed. After peeling back the veneer with the distinctive "Utica Rubber Works" lettering, lynne set about creating a gorgeous storefront building to house UMN and a gallery that has featured works from local artists.

Today, Frank Elias has done the same thing at his "Utica Roasting" location. It's contagious. Chris Talgo, of Varick Street's "Nail Creek" has purchased a building in between Frank and Lynne. He is going to open a hip storefront restaurant.  The kind of place we have to go to NYC or Boston to enjoy.

You see, Utica can change. We can move ahead. This city can be as good or as bad as we choose to make it. It's all in the way we think.

We need more Lynne's, Frank's, and Talgo's! And, if some of the other stories unfolding within the walls of the buildings on Bagg's Square West are told, we will have them!

1 comment:

  1. Bobby -- despite setbacks with 294 Genesee Street, HSBC, Hobart Arms impending demo, and the DOT debacle for rebuilding the Arterial (wiping out Fay St.), the future for Utica Preservation looks brighter than it has in a while. Those that you'd mentioned, plus Gerber's, Black River Systems, 1001 Miller Street, the two stunning houses on the SW corner of Park at Hopper Sts., Pier's & Blake, the former trackside, Varick St., the Roundabout at Oneida Sq. that should generate new life into that area...and, of course, RUTGER PARK! The list goes on!