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Warren County Historical Society Presents …
The Digital Version “REWIND”
June 16, 2015
Fire at Riverside Destroys Riverside Distributing Company, April 26, 1915
The Post Star reported that a fire at Riverside destroyed the Riverside Distributing Company. The fire started at 3 o’clock in the afternoon on April 26, 1915. It started in an icehouse owned by the distributing company. Five buildings ended up in ashes, and the same fire started a forest fire, which spread over Carpenter Mountain. The loss as reported in The Post Star was $50,000.
Riverside Bottling Works Ca 1900.
The fire’s origin was unknown but no suspicion of arson was evident. From the ice house the flames spread to a large barn and then to the bottling works, a large two story structure. With no fire fighting equipment in the hamlet, the fire was fought with the aid of a bucket brigade. One report stated that the fire was started by a spark from the smokestack of the bottling company, which lodged in the shingle roof of the adjoining ice house building. Five buildings were destroyed in the fire, including the homes of William J. and Jerry McCarthy.
Rebuilding after the fire, Riverside Distributing Company’s new bottling works was completed in April 1916. The new plant would have a bottling capacity of 30,000 bottles and would be the most modern and up-to-date plant in Northern New York. The buildings were constructed of concrete, thus fireproof.
There was a bottling works business established in Riverside in the 1880s. It was operated by Frank Albro who had been operating a bottling works at Chester in June of 1880. The D & H Canal Company’s Upper Hudson Valley Business Directory for 1885-86 listed E. Drury as the bottler at Riverside, and in 1892-93 it was Luke Martin. Luke and William McCarthy were partners in 1898 and by 1904-06 ownership was listed under Martin & McCarthy, the Martin being Joseph, nephew of Luke, and Jeremiah, brother of William.
The Riverside Distributing Company – undated photo.
The name of the company changed several times, but it was first known as ‘McCarthy Brothers and Martin’ sometime before 1910. In that year it incorporated as Riverside Distributing Company, Incorporated. The company bottled its own soft drink line (birch beer, orange, sarsaparilla, cream soda, etc.), and had the bottles and cases embossed with the company name.
A spark from the smokestack landed in the shingle roof of the ice house and started a fire that destroyed five buildings. They included the large main building, a large barn, the icehouse, and the two homes of William and Jerry McCarthy.
Sparks also were carried by high winds across the river to Carpenter Mountain where about fifty cottages were endangered, but were saved through the efforts of a large body of fire fighters.
The flames started about 3 pm, and when it looked like the McCarthy homes were in danger, the furniture was hastily removed and placed across the street. ‘This proved of no avail as the greedy flames spread not only to the houses but across the street to the furniture and consumed most of it.’
In the bottling plant business, two of the partners took active roles. Joe Martin was the bottler. He could be found working from early morning to late into the evening. Jerry McCarthy was more into the sales and had a delivery route. Will was the consummate business man who spent most of his time buying and selling pulpwood, bark and land.
Riverside Bottling Works Sign prior to 1915 fire.
In the early 1930s, Riverside Distributing acquired a Coca Cola distribution franchise for the Adirondack area. Utica Club Beer and Schreiber Ale as well as ginger ale were trucked in from Utica, NY. A license to sell beer and wines wholesale, not to be consumed on the premises, was granted in July 1933.
On April 1, 1948, Riverside Distributing celebrated its 46th anniversary in business. On that date in 1902, Jeremiah McCarthy, Joseph Martin, and William J. McCarthy started bottling soda at the original site of the plant.
Four bottles from the Riverside Bottling works: a green, plain, and brown bottle with a clear soda bottle. Photo courtesy of Judy Melkonian.
It was reported in The Warrensburg News that “Luke Martin has sold his bottling business, coal business, and all of his property here to Jeremiah McCarthy and Joseph Martin, and will remove to Johnsburg Corners, where he will conduct the hotel of which he was formerly the successful landlord for a number of years.”
William McCarthy and his wife, Mary, built a home on Route 8, north of Riverside, where he died in 1938. Jeremiah (Jerry) McCarthy retired around 1949 and died in 1953, at age 78. His wife, Kathleen Jordon had died in 1936. They had an infant son die in 1915, and they are buried in St. James Cemetery in North Creek.
A close up of the green bottle. Each of the bottles has a stopper that does not come out. On each bottle, it says, “McCarthy Brothers & Martin, Riverside, N.Y., Registered.”
After the deaths of the McCarthy brothers, William and Jerry, Joseph Martin became the sole owner of the company. He continued to operate the business until May 1957 when he sold out to Callahan Distributing Company. After 50 years in the business, Joseph Martin retired at age 80.
Mary Elizabeth and F. Jordon McCarthy. Jordon was the son of the company owner, Jeremiah McCarthy.
Article prepared by Judy Melkonian for the Warren County Historical Society.
© June 16 2015, Warren County Historical Society
Rewind maintained by Gary Evans 16 June 2015