On This Spot: 262-268 Broadway
Written by Carol Godette photos Provided
Nicknamed the “Madison Square Garden of Upstate New York,” this site hosted a myriad of sporting events from boxing to basketball; concerts ranging from Victor Borge to Liberace; and most notably hosted NYS political conventions. Theodore Roosevelt, FDR and Thomas Dewey were all nominated for NYS governor on the floor of the well-known hall.
Convention Hall flourished for 72 years. In April of 1965 the Saratoga Springs Jaycees published a report favoring the demolition of the structure for a newer, more modern convention site. Local preservationists opposed the move and it was briefly tabled for a few months until fate took over.
Sunday, November 14, 1965 was a cool 39 degrees with winds gusting up to 25 mph. Early that afternoon, two teenage boys decided to sneak a cigarette smoke at the vacant, abandoned Columbian Hotel.
High School senior Pam Stone and her friend Dianne Murray were walking thru the Woolworth’s Plaza when flames from a round metal trash barrel behind the Columbian Hotel caught their attention. The Columbian Hotel was in a mass of fire. In a matter of minutes, they witnessed flames from the Columbian Hotel literally jump across the street to the roof of Convention Hall, burning the landmark to the ground in 35 minutes.
Several factors led to the destruction of the historic building-most notably the lack of water pressure. Then Public Safety Commissioner John T. Roohan described the water pressure as being “so low it was not as much as from my garden hose.”
As early witnesses on the scene Pam and Diane, like many others, watched the spectacle in disbelief. They recalled all the special high school basketball games they had attended in the historic center. “No other school in our area had that kind of arena. It was special,” stated Pam.
The interior of Convention Hall had seating for 5,000 people. Credit- Beatrice Sweeney postcard collection.
Jeri Janicelli’s daughter Hannah and grand daughter Dillon look
at the pond of Congress Park from their 5th floor condominium.
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