By Erik Pekar, Town Historian
A well-known adage posits that “a picture is worth a thousand words.” Certainly there are quite a few photos of Granville that would convey as much.
One of those photos is this one of an old bridge crossing the Mettowee River on Main Street in the village of Granville. The photo is one of several taken on May 18, 1912 by Granville photographer Fay McFadden. His photos showed the bridge from several angles, looking west and east from the north and south sides of the bridge, as well as a sidewalk view looking east from a vantage point on the south sidewalk just west of the bridge. The photos also happened to show the buildings in the vicinity of the bridge crossing; the picture here shows the J.J. Hayes block under construction.
It is unclear who the photos were intended for, since they were prints. The photos surfaced around 1980 and were donated to the Granville Heritage Society, which stored them away. The organization went through phases of activity and longer phases of dormancy and was formally dissolved in the mid-2010s; the society’s rooms in the Granville Town Hall building were shared in its last decade with the historian’s office. Upon the society’s dissolution, the items and rooms became solely that of the historian. McFadden’s photos of the older Main Street bridge in 1912 were rediscovered last year.
The Main Street bridge crossing was removed within a year and replaced with a steel arch bridge. The new bridge had river flow problems. During the ice thaws in the late winter and early spring, the water and ice coming down the Mettowee would back up at the bridge. Dynamite had to be used to break up the ice jam. To alleviate this problem, another bridge was built in 1933 adjacent west of the 1913 bridge. This new structure allowed for improved river flow and eliminated the yearly ice jam issue.
By 2000, the bridge combo was deteriorating. The state Department of Transportation made plans to replace the bridges. The plan also involved taking a building on the north side of the east approach: the J.J. Hayes building.
In the years since McFadden’s photos, the J.J. Hayes building was completed and had passed through several owners and uses. The building eventually held a bar and pool tables. Larry Hayes built an addition with bowling alleys and building and business were later owned by Michael “Jumbo” Caruso. The bowling alleys eventually closed, and the bar closed by the early 1980s. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Raymond Parker owned the building and ran a Sears Catalog Store there. By the time the Main Street bridge replacement project was started, the building had come under the ownership of Theo Parker.
The reason the DOT had for wanting to acquire Parker’s building was because they believed the building sat on the retaining wall for the 1913 arch bridge. In the photo, the building sits on an older retaining wall that predated the 1913 bridge; as such, the DOT’s reasoning was inaccurate. Unfortunately, no one was aware of the photo’s existence in the early 2000s. As such, there was no reason to contest the DOT on their conclusions.
The DOT acquired the J.J. Hayes building from Parker and demolished it in the spring of 2006 as part of the right of way phase of the Main Street bridge replacement project.
Today, the former location of the building is a vacant lot. The former storefront area along Main Street is now a garden with a few trees, maintained by the Slate Valley Garden Club. The rest is mostly sloping land to the former basement level back of Main Street.
Had McFadden’s photo resurfaced sooner, the photo could have saved a building from being lost, from its owner and from Granville’s Main Street. But the photo did not surface at the time, and the J.J. Hayes building joined the list of those buildings which, whether by fire, demolition, or collapse, are no longer part of the landscape of Granville’s Main Street.