Patterson Businesses


In the early 21st century, the talk is of mega malls featuring big box stores coming to Patterson. But Patterson has always had some thriving commercial areas throughout its history. During the colonial years, a tavern and inn was located near the present intersection of NYS Routes 311 and 292, which was the early center of the village of Patterson. With the coming of the railroad, the town center moved east towards the railroad tracks. The commercial strip was located on Railroad Street, now known as Front Street, and on Main Street, now known as NYS Route 311. According to the 1842 edition of Spafford's Gazetteer, a government authorized publication, Patterson was the second largest village in Putnam County, second only to Carmel. Patterson, according to the Gazetteer, had 15 dwellings, and was commonly known as "the City". The railroads also helped to create the hamlet of Towners, which had a post office, an inn, and other commercial establishments. In the 20th century NYS Route 22 became a primary north/south roadway connecting New York City to Canada, bringing vacationers to ski areas and summer resorts along eastern New York State and western New England. Several restaurants and other businesses - and even a few tourist attractions - were established on Route 22 to cater to the needs of travelers passing through Patterson on their way to and from other vacation areas in the region. Then, in the 1930s, the summer community of Putnam Lake was built, and a new commercial area was created to service the lake community.

Patterson was the first town in Putnam County to require that peddlers be licensed. The law went into effect in August, 1932, and did not affect the sales of farm produce within the Town. This legal notice from the May 12, 1933 edition of the Putnam County Courier indicates that the fees were $25 per year.

The decline of Patterson's retail shopping areas may have begun as soon as the automobile was priced within the financial reach of the average Patterson family. The automobile and improved roads allowed Patterson families to shop outside of Patterson. The first large shopping center in the area was the Beach Shopping Center in Peekskill, New York, which opened in 1957. A closer and larger shopping center opened in Baldwin Place, located on the Putnam/Westchester County line, in the mid-1960s. These shopping centers brought large department stores like Masters and Sears within a short drive of Patterson. An even closer shopping center opened in the neighboring town of Carmel in May, 1970, when the Putnam Plaza Shopping Center opened. Putnam Plaza brought a large Grand Union Supermarket and a Barker's Department Store, a discount chain, within a short drive of Patterson. These stores offered a greater variety of merchandise than Patterson's small retail stores, at lower prices that the small, independent stores in Patterson could not match. In August, 1971, a large enclosed shopping mall opened in Jefferson Valley in nearby Westchester County. The mall brought chain stores like the Abraham & Strauss Department Store within a convenient driving distance of Patterson. In June, 1974, the Westchester Mall opened a short distance from Jefferson Valley. In October, 1980, the Ames Department Store chain opened a new discount outlet in Pawling, a mere few minutes from the Patterson commercial strip. During these years, the area roadways were not as clogged with traffic as they are now, and the trend in America was away from local "downtown" shopping areas and towards large, regional shopping malls filled with national chain stores. Patterson's community of small business owners could not compete. "Main Street" shopping areas around the country declined, and many fell into urban blight.

The Patterson Chamber of Commerce

On October 19, 1948, a meeting of Patterson business owners was held at the American Legion Hall to discuss the formation of a chamber of commerce for the businesses in the town of Patterson. The participants discussed the goals and needs of the proposed organization, and committees were formed to study various the various aspects of creating a chamber. Max Grand, owner of a drug store on Front Street, was elected president of the proposed organization. Fred Dill of "Dain & Dill" was elected vice president, Robert Segelken was elected secretary, and Charles Greenburg was elected treasurer. Grand then appointed a committee to study the legal and practical process of forming the chamber. Jesse Starkman was appointed chairman of the committee, and was joined by Samuel Lipman, Robert Kuenzle, Fred Dill, and Ralph Outhouse. Each businessman donated $1 for a startup fund to provide supplies for the group.

The new group discussed topics considered important to the business community in Patterson. Among those needs was a bank in the village area, and more road signs to identify boundaries of the township to give the Town an identity. The group also wanted better transportation into and out of the village, and a uniform look to the storefronts. It is ironic that the look of the Front Street businesses remains a discussion topic in the 21st century. A follow-up meeting was held on October 26, with further discussion on these topics. Tentative plans for holiday projects were also made.

Business Map Business Map
The businesses and shops of the Patterson village from the 1867 Beers Atlas. (click on any portion of the map to zoom in on that portion of the map)
A turn-of-the-century panorama photo of Railroad Street (Front Street) in Patterson taken from Main Street (NYS Route 311). The Judd Building is the white building in the center. The Judd Building was the home to various stores as well as the home of the Patterson Weekly News, the Patterson Post Office, and the local telephone switchboard. The Patterson Depot of the New York Central Railroad is slightly to its left. A boxcar can barely be seen at the Depot. The large white building on the extreme right was the Sheffield Creamery and is now the site of Benfield Electric. The side of the Putnam Cigar Factory, the white building overlooking the two structures to the left of the Depot, can be seen at the left of the photo. The photo is from a postcard published by John E. Carey, a Patterson shopowner who owned a grocery and confectionery store on Railroad Street.
An annotated panorama photo of Railroad Street (Front Street) in Patterson. The photo is undated, but was probably taken in the 1920s or 1930s. (Judy Kelly)
An annotated panorama photo of Front Street in Patterson, from the film "Our Town - 1960".
Patterson was a popular tourist site in the late 1950s and early 1960s, with several major attractions located along NYS Route 22. A locator map identifies the approximate location of each attraction.

The new chamber worked swiftly on its ideas. Another meeting was held in the middle of November in the office of the Patterson Town Clerk, and Priscilla Pfahl, acting as chair of the Christmas decorating committee, gave a report on its plans. A Christmas program was planned on December 22 around the Town Christmas tree, and Patterson school children were to participate by making posters. Town residents were encouraged to decorate their homes and to compete in a contest for the best decorated home. Three non-Patterson residents had been recruited to act as judges to select the contest winners. First prize was $25 and the second prize was $10. Residents were assured that the actual style or size of the house would have no bearing on the competition, only the decorations. Frank Woron headed a committee to prepare holiday sale flyers for the member merchants. Ray Inserra reported that he had contacted a Poughkeepsie firm about holiday street lighting for the village area. All merchants were asked to decorate their stores to attract more shoppers.

A growing town wide littering problem was also discussed, and the chamber suggested that "no dumping" signs be erected. The chamber also wanted trash receptacles to be placed along Front Street. Littering remains a town wide problem in the 21st century.

A new Chamber was organized and incorporated in June, 1961. A group of interested businessmen from Patterson, Putnam Lake, Holmes, and Ludingtonville met to form a Chamber of Commerce for the Town. The response was enthusiastic, and a committee was appointed to create by-laws. Frank Mulligan was appointed acting secretary until officers could be elected.

In 1971, the Chamber sought to increase the visibility of Patterson and its merchants by sponsoring a "Miss Patterson Chamber of Commerce" pageant, which was intended to be an annual event. Local merchants were encouraged to sponsor contestants, and the pageant winner was awarded a college scholarship funded by the Chamber. Seven young women from Patterson participated in the first competition. They were introduced to the community at a public meeting of the Chamber held at Patterson Town Hall in June, 1971. Competing were:

The winner was announced at the PTA Family Fun Fair held on July 4 at the Patterson Town Park. The first "Miss Patterson Chamber of Commerce" was Sharon Rutledge, who was crowned by Diana Blanford, the American Cancer Society's "Miss Hope 1969". Miss Rutledge, whose family resided on NYS Route 292, planned to spend her summer working at a camp for mentally handicapped youth in Brewster, and then planned to enter the Harlem Valley School of Nursing in the fall. She was awarded a $1,000 scholarship from the Chamber. Judging the event were Diana Blanford, lifelong Patterson resident Henry W. Burton, and Rae Taylor, who judged the contestants in categories such as beauty, school performance, talent, poise, and charitable and civic activities in the community. The young women presented their talents, which ranged from oration, art, dressmaking, and song.

Miss Aquarius Lounge, Sharon Rutledge, is crowned the first "Miss Patterson Chamber of Commerce" by Diana Blanford, the American Cancer Society's "Miss Hope 1969". Looking on is second place runner-up, Norma Petteroe, Miss Carl's Lawn Service, on the left. On the right is the first place runner-up, Joanne Banzille, "Miss Obie's Restaurant". The photo was published in the June 30, 1971 edition of the Putnam County Courier.

The Chamber also sponsored a raffle, won by little Jean McEkeron. Her prizes were a pony and its newborn foal, and a saddle. The Fair closed as Chamber balloons were released.

While parking has always been a problem in business and commercial districts, this article published in the November 2, 1900 edition of the Putnam County Courier indicates that the problem existed in Patterson even before the introduction of the automobile. The interior of a Patterson grocery store in the early 20th century. Although it is not certain which store this is, the store is typical of the full service markets that serviced the Patterson community at the time. The 1976 Patterson Chamber of Commerce members celebrate America's bicentennial, in this ad from the June 30, 1976 edition of the Courier.
The Patterson Chamber of Commerce used this group ad and the theme, "You will be surprised what you will find in the beautiful town of Patterson," in a campaign published in the February 28, 1979 edition of the Courier.

This topic is divided into the following sections:

Next: Businesses in the Village of Patterson A - C