Well, it used to be here….

Most of the staff here at North Country Public Radio are real lifers in the North Country. Some, like our general manager Ellen Rocco, who hails from Manhattan, didn’t come from here. But as anyone who knows Ellen knows, she’s hugely rooted in the North Country and has a depth of memory about the area that belies her southern origins.

That depth of memory is something you run into a lot here. Recently I had occasion to drive to Philadelphia with our news director Martha Foley and web manager Dale Hobson. As we drove down 11 through DeKalb Junction and Gouverneur, Martha and Dale talked about restaurants and stores that used to be along the road, and people they’d known throughout the decades.

Abandoned gas station on Rt. 68 between Canton and Ogdensburg

This used to be a gas station. Route 68 between Canton and Ogdensburg. Photo: Nora Flaherty

As we drove by mysterious, seemingly-abandoned buildings I’d long wondered about, Dale and Martha chatted about what had happened to the people who’d owned those businesses, and in some cases still did (although they only opened them sporadically), how their lives had moved on, and, a few times, the wild times had within.

Some former institutions that come up pretty often include Connie Barr’s in Canton (I just found out it’s Connie Barr’s because the guy who owned it was called Connie Barr, and I’m told by Dale that it’s “memorable for its chili cheeseburger topped with raw onions and mustard, cheap pitchers of beer, and long-lived house softball team”) that used to be where the Nice & Easy gas station and convenience store is now, and the Canton Diner, where the McDonald’s is now.

And our chief engineer Bob Sauter told my husband about a vegetarian restaurant where Canton’s island park is now.

There are also many abandoned buildings in northern New York—places that “used to be” something, and are now just shells. In fact, there’s even a web site devoted to them.

Cascade Inn in Canton

Open for more than 40 years, this still is the Cascade Inn in Canton. Photo: Nora Flaherty

I’m really intrigued by all these “used to be” places, and I’m sure there are many, many more that I’ve forgotten.

As a newbie to the area, I don’t have a lot of “used to be” knowledge about the North Country. But I’m very curious about what used to be in the place where I live now. And in the place where you live now. Can you help? Comment below with your favorite “used to be” place—the weirder, the better. It may end up the subject of future inquiry in this space, and you may end up learning something new about what it used to be.

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10 Comments on “Well, it used to be here….”

  1. Walker says:

    This link to Historic Saranac Lake’s page on our Main Street features about twenty photographs of buildings that no longer exist, along with a larger number of photos of buildings that look almost exactly like they did a hundred years ago. The pages that link to these photos fall well short of giving all of the histories of the businesses that once occupied the buildings, but we’ve made a start at it. There is more of the same at Bunk’s Place

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  2. Josh Clement says:

    Kinville’s Arcade in Saranac Lake was heaven for this prepubescent wild child! I had so many great times there. In fact, I really need to do a piece on it. I know there are many like me who have fond memories of this “moment in time” gem of the Adirondacks. For now, I’ll leave it at…you really had to be there! Cheers NCPR! Great premise!

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  3. Michael Greer says:

    Just south of the village of Hermon, at the next four corners, is a place called Marshville. Thirty years ago, the last remaining piece of Marshvilles history was a dam and sawmill on the bank of Elm Creek. There was a turbine of some sort and a line-shaft under the floor, running the length of the building. All of the machinery in that building was powered by the water. When it broke down, nobody could get up the energy to fix it and pretty soon it all disappeared. Only the old broken dam remains.

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  4. Pete Klein says:

    I’ll try this again.
    You can’t go home again.
    I base this upon having grown up in Detroit, living there from 1942 to 1964.

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  5. Larry says:

    Ever have a positive comment, Pete? You’re like a bucket of ice-cold water.

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  6. Nora Flaherty says:

    Thanks for your comments, everyone! Looks like I have my work cut out for me between this, Dale’s post and the Facebook responses I understand he’s getting!

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  7. Pete Klein says:

    Yes, Larry, but the past is past and that is a great place for it to be.
    I’ve always been positive about the future and don’t see the current times as horrible as many people do.
    In fact, all things considered as they say on NPR, the current times are better than the past.

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  8. nelson says:

    There was the Arlington Hotel on the main drag on the right hand side in the middle of the business section. I remember thinking, I could be living here instead of the dorm and have a cold one when I felt overworked. The taproom was below ground level, nice and cool. Farther up was Billy’s restaurant, sold “meal tickets” and had a below ground bar that sold beer for a 10 cents a glass.

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  9. dbw says:

    Hi Nora –

    Don’t know if you are still checking this, but….

    At the corner of the Beech Plains Rd. and the Russell Tpk in West Pierrepont there was a small general store of the Northwest Corner. It is the place with the porch.

    The Turnpike Tavern on the corner of the Russell Tpk and CR 29 (Stone School house corners was a country store for a couple years.

    Where S & L electric is at the corner of Rt. 56 and the Russell Tpk used to be “Four Ways”– a bar and laundramat.

    In Colton, Lower Main St. was the site of a couple general stores a couple decades ago.

    Frank’s was where the thrift store is, and the second store was closer to the corner of Rt. 56 across from Hepburn library

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