In the early morning hours of July 4, 1919, a fire alarm was sounded in the village of Corinth, Saratoga County. Many residents thought some kids were celebrating Independence Day a bit early, but when the International Paper Mill fire whistle sounded everyone knew it was real.
The popular German-American Club next to a creek on lower Pine Street was ablaze.
The Club was built in about 1890. In the last quarter of the nineteenth century many German immigrants had come to Corinth to work in the Hudson River Pulp and Paper Company (which became part of International Paper Company in 1898).
Settling along Pine Street near the mill, the Germans who formed the Club created a stock company that provided health insurance for their members. Their three-story wooden club house housed an opera hall, bowling alleys, a billiard parlor, a basketball court, and rooms to rent. It became the social center of German immigrants and their friends in the community – picnics were held under pines on the spacious lawn.
In 1896 dancing instructions were offered with both stage and ball room lessons on Monday afternoons and evenings. Participants could ride an omnibus to and from the club house. Bowling and shooting matches were held here, too, with prizes ranging from oil paintings to boxes of cigars and beer. The Germania Glee Club and Germania Quartet gave grand concerts there. Community organizations held events at the club house, including the Republican Party which held a grand rally there in support of William McKinley. The local fire companies held dances and festivals at the club house too.
The Irish immigrants that lived on nearby lower Palmer Avenue (known as Cork Town) frequented the club house where Fitzgerald’s ale and lager were on tap. Before the First World War, the property was acquired by Patrick Brady, and by the time of the fire Edward Flynn owned the building and William Flynn managing it. In 1914 as animosity against Germans in the lead up to the war in Europe increased, the German-American name was dropped in favor of “G. A. Club House.”
In November 1917, John Flynn was arrested for serving two men who claimed they were looking for work at the paper mill. The men asked for something to drink and were given “near beer,” then the strongest legal beverage in New York State. When the men asked for something stronger, they got liquor. The men then identified themselves as state troopers. Flynn was arrested and charged with a violation of New York’s wartime prohibition statutes.
On the evening before the fire William Flynn had locked up the empty building before going to Glens Falls Hospital to be with his wife and sick infant. It was suspected the fire had begun in the stock room from a defective electric wire and spread to the rest of the building.
Local fire companies kept the from spreading to other buildings, but the large clubhouse could not be saved. The loss was estimated at about $15,000, though there was some insurance coverage.
The fire helped lead the community to purchase new fire fighting equipment, and improve the system used to alert the volunteer hose companies.
Rachel Clothier is historian for the Town of Corinth, operates the Corinth Museum, and is retired from Crandall Public Library in Glens Falls. Photo of Corinth German-American Club ca 1910 courtesy Corinth Museum.