A Lunch SignBy John R. Greenwood
|The Van Raalte Company 2013|
As I approached the facade of this beautifully renovated knitting mill I was magically transported back several decades. I swear I could hear the methodical rhythm of the huge knitting machines as they reeled off yards and yards of finely crafted fabric. I could smell the machine oil that soaked the wide planked floors for almost a century. As I entered the front door I expected to see my aunt Ann sitting there waiting for me. She also worked there for many years. I visualized my grandfather standing there speaking to one of the machine operators about an adjustment they needed to make on Machine # 1. I almost expected to see Clem's sisters, Eunice and Elizabeth seated at a table together making alterations to a vintage pair of gloves. I was in a time machine and it was stuck in gear.
Back to reality. I wasn't in the door more than ten feet and to my right I see this framed gloved on the wall. I'm instantly drawn to it and thrilled to see the artifact.
Mary Ellen politely directed me to the upstairs office where I completed my business transaction. When I was done I returned to her desk in the lobby and asked if there were any more photographs of the original mill. It was at this point I began to divulge my attachment and interest in the place. She explained that although she had only lived in the area for about fifteen years she had acquired a keen interest in the city's deep rooted history. It's almost impossible to even drive through Saratoga and not be absorbed by it.
I asked about a spring I remembered being inside the building some forty years ago. Her eyes lit up as she confirmed my memory. She went on to explain that the Empire Spring was piped outside and was still working. Presently it was sealed off for the winter. She then told me about an Empire Spring bottle that she had purchased. She kindly offered to get it from a storage closet and show it to me. She had hopes of being able to display it in a curio cabinet in the future. I have seen a lot of Saratoga bottles. In fact I have a few of my own, but this was the most beautiful spring water bottle I have ever seen. This is why I never even go to the mailbox without my camera. Mary Ellen graciously allowed me to take a photograph of the gorgeous green bottle. After a few more minutes of exchanging business cards and some ideas about sharing some additional Van Raalte history, I thanked her profusely for her kindness and headed back to work. As I left the building I looked off to the right. There you can see the sloping remnants of the road that used to curve down alongside the mill. I'm not certain the year they closed off that street but seeing it covered in grass and dotted with snow gave me mixed feelings. Progress and preservation can work together when they want to. I have witnessed a city go from one extreme to the next in the last fifty years. It is always heartbreaking to see old buildings come down. Preservation is expensive and sometimes impossible. I think Saratoga Springs and its citizens have done a good job compared to other cities throughout the state. You always hope for more but time waits for no one, including Saratogians. You do the best you can and hope that along the way we have recorded our history well enough that someday when my great-great grandchildren visit High Rock Park they gaze off to the east and say, " I think I remember reading something about a Greenwood descendent who worked in that mill back in the 1900's. Let's walk over to the library and check it out."