Closson’s Cafe at 64 Congress Street in Troy (corner of Third and Congress) closed February 2, 1966 when bartender Mike Gallagher drew the last glass of beer and then abruptly, and without notice to the public, closed the doors.
The land on which the building sat was originally owned by Derrick Vanderhyden, and was deeded to Jane Vanderhyden in 1811. Gardner Rand Sr. purchased the property in 1839 and the brick building that would later house Closson’s was erected that year, part of what became known as Morris Place, a kind of early shopping gallery which included the many businesses at 48, 50, 52, 54, & 62 and 64 Congress.
Morris Place Hall, later Rand’s Concert Hall, was originally located next door. The upper story was used for entertainments; the first story for stores, the middle story for offices – the whole complex of six buildings was owned by Gardner Rand, Sr. who built Rand’s Opera House there in 1853, and expanded it considerably in 1866.
Among the visitors to the original Morris Hall was P.T. Barnum’s Traveling Circus in 1848. In the 1830s and 40s an “intelligence office” was operated in a second saloon at 52 Congress. This served as a kind of employment office for women, run by a man who was convicted several times (and later pardoned) of crimes related to prostitution (which was still largely legal in Troy).
In the 1880s, William H. Closson, father of Everett and Chester, leased the existing saloon at 64 Congress. In 1925, Maude Rand Frothingham and Estelle Rand, daughters of Gardner Rand, along with Edith Rand, widow of Harry Rand, son of Gardner Rand, sold 62 and 64 Congress Street to Security Properties Co. who resold it to the Closson family that same year.
Although women were not allowed in the saloon, Mrs. Frances Closson, wife of Everett, was originally listed as owner, while the saloon was operated by Everett and Chester. During intermissions at the Opera House men went over to Closson’s for a “quickie.” When the curtain was about to go up for the second act the “opera bell” was rang signaling they should return to their female companions at the show.
On the west side of the cafe were the bowling alleys, which began with duck pins, and by the 1960s were famous regionally for their bowling leagues and skilled bowlers. In the 20th century, according to one local newspaper, “Ball players, from ping-pong paddlers to the national past-time, baseball, congregated at Closson’s. The banquet room was on the second floor. Food was hoisted up on a dumb-waiter. Some of the greatest figures in the world of sports ate at Closson’s at some time in their lives. The Newswriters Show had its inception at Closson’s Cafe.”
The building was razed for the construction of the Rensselaer County Courthouse Annex.