Port Leyden NY in Postcards
 by Larry Myers

I’m no historian, but I did live in Port Leyden for 3 years when I was a child, so, in a sense,  it’s my hometown.  Here’s an aerial view of the village, taken by Burt Green.  Burt tells me that it was probably taken in the 1950's when he flew out of the Boonville Airport.

The picture starts with the road coming down from Leyden Hill, (that’s at the bottom of the picture) and makes a sharp turn at the right side of the picture(where the cannon and the Episcopal Church are located), and then goes down Upper Main Street past the Congregational Church, by the RR Depot (here’s another view), and down across the river.
Now Port Leyden is not on a bay or a lake, so where does the “Port” come from?  Here’s a clue.  In this picture of Main Street, there is a bridge.  It’s a bridge across the Black River Canal.  So Port Leyden was an important “port” along that canal.  Maybe you can see the canal in front of the Knitting Mill, as it appeared in 1911.  Here’s a better view of the canal as it appeared back then a few miles south of Port Leyden.  Speaking of the Knitting Mill, here is a July 4th, 1911, postcard showing the Knitting Mill’s float for the Independence Day Parade.
Let’s get acquainted with downtown.  The building in the foreground in this picture was a clothing store. Later, it was a theater when I lived in Port Leyden.  Now it’s a feed store.  The awning under the overhang on this building reads, “Geo. Niece, Dry Goods.”  When I lived in Port, it was Joe Dunn’s Grocery Store.  Here’s another view of that store in the background with the “Rite-Prices-Store” on the right.
A photographer from Canton took this picture of the depot and hotel and labeled it “T.”  Here’s one of Main Street, showing a gas station., and another one from farther back, probably taken from the corner of Lincoln St.  Still another one from the Canton series that shows the Drug Store.  Here’s a view from 1919 that shows the interior of the Drug Store.
Let’s get acquainted with Hotel Brunswick; just a small sign on the lamp to identify it in this picture.  Here’s a second picture taken later (the tree on the corner is bigger), with a postmark of 1918.   E.E. Kellogg, Photographer, Port Leyden, took this picture of the Port Leyden Firemen in front of the “Brunswick.”  The man in front holds a bouquet of flowers, and each fireman has a flower on his lapel.  Here’s another view of the same group, this one was postmarked 1908.

We mentioned the Congregational Church earlier.  Here’s another picture showing the interior.  We’ve already seen the Episcopal Church in another view.  Here it is as taken by Photographer Beach.  Here’s a rare view of St. Martin’s Catholic Church.  I’ll bet you never knew that Port Leyden once had a Methodist Church.  Here’s the same building later on as the Masonic Temple, with the new Port Leyden school across the street.  Here’s the old school from a postcard mailed in 1913, and another view of it from a card mailed in 1910.

This house is identified as the residence of  F. Whitten.  Until recently, it was the home of Al Ward.  Al is quite a historian.  I visited him at Sunset Nursing Home in Boonville to get information on these postcards, so that I could sound like an expert in my descriptions.  But the expertise is Al Ward’s.  Al’s house was on the corner of East Main and Lincoln.  The Koster residence is located farther down Lincoln.  This picture puts it more in perspective.
I’ve accumulated a few postcards showing buildings that I am unable to “locate”.  This was one of those buildings, which was identified as the Jacobi Home in Port Leyden.  Laura Mekkelson was kind enough to call me and identify it as 7620 North St.  I couldn’t place where Geo. Holmes’ Blacksmith shop was, but Laura said it was on Mechanic St., so my wife, Mary, and I drove down to the village that day and talked to Lynette Ripp, who now uses it as a garage.  Sure enough, it's the same building.  The writer of this card, “O’Delia” identifies it as “Our Bungalow at Port Leyden”. It is still unidentified.  Here's a card more recently acquired; it's by E.E. Kellogg, Photographer.  Mailed in 1908 by "N.T." of Port Leyden, and addressed to Uncle Mike & Aunt Julia Reardon of Constableville, it says, "This is our house and Grandma on the porch."  Mary and I were finally able to identify the house as the one currently owned by the Bassetts near the end of Douglas Street.
The writer on the back of this card, Calvin Beals, states that this picture of Gould’s Mill and dam was taken from his front porch.  A history of Port Leyden that pre-dates postcards would include “The Old Furnace.”  This picture shows the Electric Power Dam which is near the old furnace.  This one has me scratching my head as to where it is.  Taken by Photographer Kellogg, it shows the Lake View House.  The livery barn at the left sports a sign that advertises Hanford’s Balsam Myrrh.  At the corner of the barn is an “outhouse” that is labeled “Gents”.  On the right of the Lake View House is a smaller building with another, slightly larger “outhouse”, presumably a two-seater.
Photographer Kellogg considerably enriched the history of the Port Leyden area with his work. This portrait of 4 youngsters was Kellogg’s work.  Unfortunately, they are not identified.  The PLHS Class of ‘08 is pictured here, all 10 of them.  The girl in the middle is Altsie Wilcox.  Altsie actually mailed this postcard to someone in Syracuse.  She remarked, “I look like an old fudge.”
If  I were a young man in 1911, I would have wanted to take up badminton and catch something (one) in a net.  Sorry, the girls are unidentified.    Bless the soul who owned this postcard.  They identified: Everett Williams, Adah Wilcox, Mary Lord Johnston, Mrs. Bibbins, Mr. Wilson, Rolland Harris, Mrs, Harris, Mrs Harris Shell, and Mr. Shell.  No identities for the “Summer School” of Port Leyden, but they sure look interesting.
A rare and unusual advertising postcard features Bibbins & Wilcox good bread made from Campbell’s Olden Flour.  Portrait time:  Rev. & Mrs. J.M. Thomas.  In this one, it’s the fashionable ladies Pearl Burdick, Mande Miller, Beatrice Holt, and Mary Swartzman.  The driver in this Kellogg photo is not identified, and sorry, I can’t read the name on the radiator.  This must have been quite a picnic that Kellogg recorded on July 2, 1912, accompanied, of course by a ballgame, same place and time.
Weather report, November 14, 1911: SNOW!  Picture onePicture two.  Calvin Beals mailed both cards, stating on the second one that two feet of snow had fallen on Nov. 13th.  Altsie Wilcox mailed this Nov.14, 1911 storm postcard to someone in Syracuse.  This picture features an earlier snowfall from 1908, showing the bridge across the river.  Another winter scene shows the Scoville & Wilcox Livery downtown. And here’s how you got to the Firehouse.  Here's a more modern (40's or 50's???) card showing firemen fighting a fire at the Lane apartment in Port Leyden.
It's our good fortune that some image owners have made available historic pictures from their own collections.  This picture of the Port Leyden Depot in winter was made available to us by William Hamblin.  Since that time, Judge William Hamblin of Port Leyden, (pictured here as he was when he worked at Lyons Falls Paper Mill) has made available to us images from his private collection of family pictures.  Here are some of them:

Rhaue's Bakery Counter in Port Leyden
The Lunch Counter at Rhaue's Bakery in Port Leyden
World War I William Hamblin
Lunch for friends in Port Leyden
Erving and Roy Hamblin
A gathering at the Hamblin property
Maud Delight Hamblin
Camp "Twin Sister" with a group of Port Leyden residents
The Hamblin barn and property on Pearl St, Port Leyden
The Port Leyden class of 1933
The bear at Hamblin's on Pearl St.
The storm of March 3rd, '47 in Port Leyden
Port Leyden Congregational Church Choir
Boy Scout Troop 41 Charter
Troop 41 Court of Honor
Wm. Hamblin, Scoutmaster behind candles, Edwin Smith presenting awards
PLCS Graduating Class of 1944
Photo #1 of  Port Leyden OES
Photo #2 of Port Leyden OES
Photo #3 of Port Leyden OES

Margaret Drake Freeman, who grew up in Port Leyden, was kind enough to lend us this "J. Fynmore" photograph of
Businessmen of Port Leyden.    I'm estimating the date to the late 30's or early 40's.

If anyone else has sharp, real photo pictures of yester-Port Leyden they'd like to loan me for scanning, please email me.

Email Larry Myers 

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