The Elm Trees Along the Old Plank Road





















This is the only picture I have found that captures both the elm trees along Brewerton Road and the Hollywood Theater, which opened in 1934. It comes from page 120 of Helen Burnham's book. The view is looking north along Brewerton Road (the old Cicero Plank Road) from the intersection at Molloy Road. As far as the lens of the camera can see there are two rows of majestic elm trees shading Brewerton Roads. In some places the canopies of the trees can be seen to touch, providing continuous shade for that entire stretch of road.


Starting at the left side of the picture this is the northwest corner of Brewerton and Molloy Roads. The first building is the Mattydale Dry Cleaners. Just to the left of the cleaners, just out of the picture was a small gas station. Proceeding north from the cleaners is Beagle’s Liquor Store and then an Amoco gas station. The south wall of the two-story Hollywood Theater building can be seen rising above the Beagle Liquor’s sign. At the time of this photo the theater had one of those extended, three sided marquees, like those found up and down Salina St. Today, and as far back as I can remember (early 1950s) there has always been a flat marquee on the front of the building, just over the doors.


Next to the Hollywood Theater there was a Five and Dime store called Ben Franklin’s in the 1950s, later it was a dry cleaners. Across the private driveway there were three private residences. These three houses belonged to three of John Kirsch’s children. At the time of the 1930 census Emanuel Kirsch owned the first one, Henry Kirsch owned the second and Leo Kirsch owned the third. Around 1950, Mary Kirsch turned the first house into a small tavern and sold it in 1952 after which it became Cam-Nel’s Restaurant. The second house became a Real Estate office in the 1950s and remained so for as long as I can remember. At some point Leo Kirsch moved out of the third house and it became a rental. In the early 1960s the DeJohn family lived there. One afternoon I was helping Danny DeJohn clean out the attic above the garage for his mother. During the process I found an old driver’s license from 1917 that had belonged to Leo Kirsch. I have always liked old things so I kept it. Over the next 45 years…that really makes me seem old when I see it written down - but I don’t feel that old. Anyway, for the next 45 years that license traveled with me from NY to Texas, back to NY and then returned to Texas once more. In the course of researching material about Mattydale I became acquainted with members of the Kirsch family. In early 2007 I was able to return Leo Kirsch’s 1917 driver’s license to his son Arthur. According to Art’s wife Velma, Helen and Richard Burham owned Leo Kirsch’s house in the late 1960’s and used it for Richard Burnham’s law office.


Another lot or two north of Leo Kirsch’s house, as seen between two of the elms, is a one-story white colored building that during the 1950’s was the Mattydale Superette and then later became Wizard Electronics. The Superette was run by “Am and Em” but when I was young I thought it was named after the “M&M” candies. “Am” was actually Americo Fratamico. My father would shop there for groceries, back when all our groceries for the week could be packed into two or three old boxes from a pile at the back of the store and the total cost was less than $20. Am was later the head custodian at Bessie B. Riordan School, until it merged with Roxboro Road Elementary School in the late 70s.


Rising above the superette, in the background of the photo, is the roof of the old St. Margaret’s Church that was built in 1929. It was demolished in late 1992 and replaced by a modern church that is set back a little further from Kirsch Drive. It is still in use today.


There are some other interesting things to note in this picture. The bottom three or four feet of the telephone poles were painted white to serve as impromptu guard posts to warn night drivers where the edge of the road was located. This portion of Brewerton Road had two-way traffic on it at the time of the picture, whereas today this side of the road is only used for south bound traffic. The spare tire can be seen on the back of the single car in the right hand lane, indicating that it was heading north, away from the camera.


On the right hand side of the picture, looking between the first two telephone poles, some kind of “roadway” can be seen. It seems too narrow to be Mattydale Drive that was running along in that direction and which ultimately became the north bound lanes of Brewerton Road. It is closer in size to, and it is located approximately where the Electric Trolley had been running up until 1939. Since this trolley ran out in the open, a powered third rail wouldn’t have been a safe way to deliver electric power to the car. Therefore there should have been some kind of superstructure paralleling the right of way of the trolley for the purpose of delivering electric power to a metal contactor on the top of the trolley. There seems to be no sign of any such superstructure. The only conclusion is that there was no more trolley at the time the picture was taken - hence the picture was taken after 1939.


And what about that car with the door open? Could that have been the car belonged to the photographer? Could he have stopped his car in the median, where the trolley used to run, got out, left the door open and then snapped a couple pictures.


If only the photographer had stepped back a little further from the intersection or had he used a wide angle lens, he might have captured the northeast corner of the intersection. On that corner, just out of view of the camera was Frank Matty’s house and a little further north, set back from the road was his famous double barn. Part of the barn roof had collapsed on March 19, 1940, and by early 1942 the barn was probably demolished after the Mattydale Volunteer Fire Department moved out of the barn and into their new building on the northwest corner of Mitchell and E. Molloy. In January 1942 the firemen were testing a new air raid signal from their new firehouse. Clifford McKinley purchased Frank Matty’s corner property and opened McKinley’s Market on that corner in April 1947 and for a while was living in the upper level of Matty’s old house. Knowing whether there was still a double barn there, just a little out of the frame of the picture, would have helped date the photo.