What are the ten nicest spots to visit in Amsterdam, NY? By nice, I mean places that will make you say to yourself “Hey self, this is a really nice place to visit, I need to come here more often!” In this fifth Amsterdam Top Ten Bonus List, I attempt to identify ten such locations. In the next few weeks I’ll e-mail the completed list to everyone who has purchased a copy of my new book of 50 Amsterdam Top Ten Lists. I’ve previewed three of the spots that made the list below.
St. Stanislaus Church – The splendor of this particular “nicest Amsterdam place to visit” is sort of disguised by the fact that from the outside it looks kind of ordinary as far as “houses of worship” go. But when you get inside, it’s a whole new ballgame! When you sit in the pews and gaze at the architectural features of the sanctuary of St. Stanislaus Roman Catholic Church on Amsterdam’s Cornell Street you can’t help but be at least a bit awestruck. Having researched quite a bit of this city’s history, I can appreciate the structural and decorative splendor of this house of worship even more because I know the place was built 120 years ago and the construction technologies that were employed were archaic by today’s standards. The complex ornately decorated series of arches that support the ceiling of the church are stunning. Just as impressive is St. Stan’s magnificent altar, topped by alcoves of gilded arches, each containing pairs of beautifully painted images of Catholic saints. The multi spired original back altar reminds me of a cathedral in and of itself. Every nook and cranny of this amazing Church seems to draw both your vision and your spirits upward towards heaven and serves as evidence of the strong faith and devotion of the people who built and maintain it. You don’t have to be Catholic or even believe in God to be knocked flat over by the beauty of St. Stanislaus’s interior but seeing this place may just convince you to rethink both.
World War I Veterans’ Memorial Park – In his book “Annals of a Mill Town” the wonderful Amsterdam historian, Hugh Donlon wrote about how Rug City residents during World War I supported their soldiers from home. One such effort was called the “War Chest” in which over 10,000 Amsterdam residents contributed a quarter a week. All those hard earned quarters added up to over $380,000 by the war’s end and there was enough cash left over to have the majestic $35,000 Veteran’s Memorial designed and constructed on a beautiful setting at the western tip of the city. The Park, which sits at the intersection where Guy Park Ave, Division and West Main Streets meet, was dedicated on July 17, 1925, just seven days after my Dad was born. It was built as a tribute to Amsterdam’s World War I Veterans. As soon as it opened, it became one of the West End’s favorite places to visit, play, flirt and take wedding and family photos. I have a slew of black and whites from the 1940’s showing my dad, his two sisters and my grandparents posing in and around this venue. If you lived west of Henrietta Street growing up and especially on Guy Park Avenue by the time the 1960s rolled around, that Veteran’s Memorial Park was your all-everything playground. It was our baseball field in the summer and our tackle football field in the fall. We’d race our bicycles around the base of the monument and use the park’s silver painted Spanish-American War-era cannon to conduct war games and defend Amsterdam from an invasion by an imaginary foreign army. My brothers me and our friends spent large chunks of our childhood doing all these things in that park. I still remember the thrill of hitting my first home run over the head of the giant bronze soldier that stood atop the memorial. You quickly learned how to hit a baseball straight-away because if you pulled it to left or right fields there was a real good chance the hard ball would smack into the windshield of one of the stream of cars traveling west toward Fort Johnson. A large cast-iron urn that used to be located smack in the middle of the park added an element of danger to our end-of-the-city football games. Getting smashed by former Giant linebacker Lawrence Taylor paled in comparison to getting unexpectedly blindsided by that damn urn. In the 1980’s I brought my own four children to this park and today I bring my grandkids. The ballplayers and bike racers have disappeared and the place is usually forlornly empty. After a period of neglect and thanks to the efforts of concerned area veterans spearheaded by retired Amsterdam postal worker Tom DeLuca, the site was spruced up and continues to be well-maintained. A bubbling fountain has replaced the infamous urn, the silver cannon was repainted gold and they erected a huge flagpole where the imaginary pitcher’s mound used to be. But I still love going there as do the grand-kids. They sit up on that cannon, lobbing imaginary shells at the enemy approaching from the west. They race around the monument and usually stand on the granite benches that are molded into it as we read the names of the brave Amsterdam men who fought in the first World War, which are engraved on the memorial’s six giant plaques. If you’ve never been there I urge you to pay this place a visit. The reason it was built, how it was financed, and the memories it generates are all worth remembering forever.
The new Pedestrian Bridge connecting the Watefront Park to Bridge Street on the South Side has created a three-part destination that currently is the nicest place in Amsterdam to visit. During a Summertime Saturday evening, when there’s a concert going on in the Park, there’s absolutely no better place in town to be. You can drive down to the south side, park your car and then have dinner followed by a relaxing picturesque stroll across the Mohawk, reviewing some local history and passing by Amsterdam’s beautifully done 9/11 Memorial along the way. The concerts themselves are always outstanding and if you are younger and more energetic than me, when the music stops playing you stop for a nightcap before getting back in your car and heading home. I can almost guarantee that during that ride home someone in your car will make the following statement “That was a very nice evening, we need to do this again!”
Hundreds of Amsterdam residents have already experienced what I’ve written above for themselves. The question this City needs to answer is “How can we motivate folks from outside the community to do the same?”
Remember, if you’ve purchased a copy of my new book; Fifty Amsterdam, NY Top Ten Lists, I will be e-mailing you a copy of this completed list within the next few weeks. If you’d like to order a copy of the book so you can also receive all the additional bonus lists I’ll be distributing during the next 12 months, you can order your copy here.
I already have the e-mail addresses of all the folks who purchased the book online or directly from me. If you purchased your copy from Liberty Fresh Market, the Book Hound, or this year’s Festival of Trees please e-mail me (firstname.lastname@example.org ) with your e-mail address so I can send you the new Top Ten lists I continue to compile.