Granville Then & Now – Church Street bridge project progressing

The building at 34 Church St. in Granville was demolished this past Monday as part of the Church Street bridge replacement project. (Photo by Village of Granville DPW superintendent Scott Mackey)

By Erik Pekar, Town Historian

A month has passed since the Fall II school sports season ended, and that of spring commenced, but one of Granville’s fall teams in particular is still receiving praise and accolades now. Granville’s varsity field hockey team did well, finishing with a record of 9-1. The team is co-champions in the Adirondack-Wasaren League with the Hoosick Falls team. While Granville lost the first matchup, the team was able to get back with the second matchup. The game’s main four quarters concluded with the score remaining 0-0; the game continued into the first overtime. Near the end, Granville played an offensive corner. Jenna Tooley got the ball to Haley Corlew, who scored, giving Granville a win against Hoosick Falls, their second season with such a win. Granville went on to win its final game of the season against Cambridge-Salem.

There have been awards and recognition. Besides being Adirondack-Wasaren League co-champions, the team was named a Scholar Athlete Team, with several players named scholar athletes. Players were also named to the Fall II Field Hockey All-Star teams. Haley Corlew, Katie McEachron, Raegan Swain and Lexyss Zovistoski were named to the first team; Haylie Barber, Jenna Tooley and Natalie Williams were named to the second team. Lexyss Zovistoski was also named to the New York State field hockey team.

The Granville varsity field hockey team played well this season and should be commended for its teamwork and effort. In recent years, coach Katie Barber has built up the program to a new powerhouse in the league. Congratulations to the Granville Lady Horde varsity field hockey team on a great season. Granville should be proud of its strong field hockey program.

+ + +

Classic vintage cars are the mainstay of Granville’s famed Autumn Leaves Car Show, which traditionally has been held in September since the late 1980s. While classic cars appearing in Granville in September would not be considered out of the ordinary, classic cars appearing at other times of the year always catch the eye.

One such occurrence was on the morning of May 17, 1999, when more than 50 classic cars came through Main Street. These cars were participating in a charity event called the New England 1000. None of the cars were new, even for 1999; the model years ranged from 1932 to 1972. The tour was a 1,000-mile-long loop through New York, Vermont, New Hampshire, Maine, and Massachusetts. A participant who was interviewed by a Sentinel reporter at the time noted that “Some drivers come from as far away as California and Texas to travel New England’s country roads…”

Two Granville residents, Cheryl Hayes and Bob Spaulding, noticed something about one of the parked cars: a blue convertible with a white stripe, with a Tennessee license plate marked “YEE HAW.” Spaulding recognized the license plate and realized the car belonged to country music singer Alan Jackson; he had seen the plate in one of Jackson’s music videos. They talked with Jackson for a time and took a picture with him. Jackson wore a “disguise” of sunglasses and a baseball cap. He went into Scotties to get refreshments, and no one recognized him. Outside, a few others did recognize him, and managed to get autographs. Jackson then returned to his car and drove off to continue on the tour.

+ + +

The beginning of the Church Street bridge replacement project is at last in view. The project has been in planning by Washington County since before it was publicly announced in the spring of 2019. Signs went up on at each end of the bridge on the week of May 24 noting that the bridge would close on June 16 for replacement. The right of way clearance has not been fully finished; as of May 27, there were still a few utility lines crossing the Mettowee River and the bridge. The 34 Church Street building will also be demolished.

The replacement work is planned to take a couple of months. Those who shop at area businesses near the bridge are reminded that the businesses will still be operating as usual during the bridge construction and can be accessed by other streets.

The Church Street bridge replacement will change traffic patterns in Granville for the duration of the project. The current bridge, built in 1920, has been used for a century to cross the Mettowee River at this spot, but its time is nearly done. Once the project is finished, Granville will gain a modern bridge that will be used for many years to come and will be an attractive part of Granville’s infrastructure.

+ + +

As part of the bridge replacement project, the 34 Church Street building, which sits next to the retaining wall on the west side of the bridge’s north approach, was demolished on Monday, June 7. An asbestos abatement crew worked on the building in late May, concluding their work by May 27.

The 34 Church Street building was built before 1920, and after the present bridge was built the building was raised to be level with the new roadway. The room on the main floor closest to the river was remodeled into a store. The 1921 Granville Directory noted the building to have a grocery and barber shop operated by Joseph Thomas. The barber shop was later closed. His son Frank eventually took over this merchant business, which earned him the nickname of “Murchie.” By 1946 he had closed the grocery store and opened a bar.

Around 1952, the bar was sold to Michael Gilbert, who was known to many as “Mickey.” Gilbert named the bar the Knotty Pine Tavern. As the years passed, the bar accumulated sports memorabilia from Granville and others that Granville graduates brought back from their colleges. In a way, it was one of the earliest establishments in the vicinity that could have been considered a sports bar. The bar closed in the 1980s.

Since the 1990s, the building has been vacant and in the intervening years has deteriorated. The former tavern building was acquired by Washington County in late 2017 in preparation for the bridge replacement. The county had the property cleared of any contents soon after taking ownership; the tavern’s memorabilia was removed at this time.

Arrangements were negotiated between several municipalities to allow for the Granville Engine and Hose Company to use the building for training purposes. This began on June 2; Church Street at the bridge is blocked off every evening. The Granville fire company has been joined on some nights by other local emergency services. The municipalities should be commended for allowing this rare opportunity to train for emergencies using a building soon to-be-gone. The nightly emergency training continued until the county demolished the building.

The 34 Church Street building has been demolished: This will be received well by those who have had concerns about the building, whether in aesthetic terms as an ill-maintained unsightly eyesore, or in safety terms due to concerns of collapse. Those who remembered the Knotty Pine and “Mickey” may lament the loss of the building. Granville will gain a modern bridge crossing on Church Street when construction has concluded.