Rewind: October 1, 2018 – “Fall of a GIANT”

The following article comes from the Fall/Winter 1985/86 issue of the magazine Glens Falls Today, A Regional Commentary. The article by Nora Nellis starts on page 21 of the magazine. Although we have done several columns on the Glens Falls Insurance Company, this article provides an interesting look at the company at its height of importance in the community. It is reported here as it appeared in the magazine with some minor editing.

Demolition begins on the Glens Falls Insurance offices
Demolition begins on the Glens Falls Insurance offices

Fall of a GIANT

In 1976, at the age of 64, the old Glens Falls Insurance Company building died. It took several weeks during the summer for the wrecking ball and demolition experts to do their job – and a piece of history was gone.

Behind the building, the new Continental Insurance Company structure already dominated the skyline – 10 stories high.

The old building had served its purpose well, but no modern use could be found for it. The heating system was antiquated and could not be drained. Heating alone cost the Continental over $300,000 while they looked for alternate solutions. And none could be found. It would have cost over $500,000 just to put the building into compliance with occupancy requirements, and there was still not guarantee of a buyer.

When it opened in March 1913, it was one of the most modern ideas in architectural design. The entire structure cost $300,000 – them same amount it cost to maintain it from 1973 to 1976. The December 16, 1912 issue of the Glens Falls Daily Times states, “The progress of the work on this building has been watched with interest, not only by residents of Glens Falls, but by those of nearby places. It is generally admitted that, when completed, the building will, from the standpoint of architectural beauty and completeness of detail, surpass all others in the northern section of the state. It will be a building of which the city will be proud and will give a suitable home for the Glens Falls Insurance Company, a corporation in which the city takes great pride. In its sixty-three years of existence the Glens Falls Insurance Company has carried the name of Glens Falls from the Atlantic to the Pacific, from Canada to Mexico, and even to foreign climes.”

The building that housed the company prior to 1913 had been given to the Masonic Hall Association and moved. While awaiting construction of the “new” building the Insurance Company was housed in City Hall.

Plans for the building were drawn by George D. Post & Sons of New York City, who were one of the most well-known firms in the nation at that time. They had designed the capitol building in the state of Wisconsin.

Over one thousand tons of steel was used in its construction as well as more than 5,000 barrels of Glens Falls Portland Cement. The walls of the fifth floor were entirely of brick four feet thick and the lower floors were of brick of varying thickness. Fireproofing blocks, which were tremendously expensive, were piled in the Finch lot until they were ready for use. Carload after carload of foreign marble, costly even in those days, was used on the exterior and in the lobby. Mosaic tile graced the hallways of the upper floors. The metal doors were stained mahogany, and an artist was employed to make each appear different in graining. The building was termed fireproof in every aspect.

Space was ample for the company operations, and offices were leased for professional purposes. Gradually, however, increased business necessitated the use of all available space. By the late 1950’s it was apparent an addition was needed and in 1960 construction began. Additions were made to the third, fourth and fifth floors and an entire sixth floor was added.

There were no further structural changes until 1976 when demolition operations began. The building had been called “a veritable fortress defying fire and the elements, beautiful in architectural design and suitably built,” but it could not defy the wrecking ball. For days and weeks it groaned and fell like some huge dying animal. A thin coating of marble dust covered much of downtown and its surroundings. Out of the rubble emerged a park – it might almost be called a memorial. Somehow the park appears much smaller than the building that occupied that site. It was such a big part of Glens Falls and its history.