Imagine this: you have purchased a more than century-old historic building in a small town. It’s a great buy, but, with all old buildings, you’ll need to do some renovations and remodeling to make the space appropriate for today’s standards of living. Once in the thick of this process, your contractor explains to you that he has uncovered a series of strange metal circles on the floor of the second-floor kitchen–and that these metal circles seem to have once supported a candlepin bowling alley!
Yep, you read that correctly, a literal bowling alley was apparently operating on the second floor of this historic building; and the future owners had no idea when they bought the property.
One of the owners, Sue Hansen, told Schenectady’s The Daily Gazette that she had been using the space “just for storage,” as the rest of the building was purchased for her husband’s dental practice which operated on the first floor.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hansen was flabbergasted by the discovery in the Ballston Spa landmark. “[The building] has been a lot of things through the years, but I never imagined a bowling alley and restaurant,” the building owner said.
After doing some digging, Hansen learned that her building was once owned by a Ballston Spa businessman and entrepreneur by the name of Herbert B. Massey during the turn of the century, right within the 1910 era. In fact, if you look in the tiny village’s 1910 directory, you can still find listed ‘The Masset Cafe and Restaurant’. Under the name is its slogan: “Bowling Alleys for Ladies and Gentlemen.”
According to city records, Massey first opened the cafe and bowling alley way back in 1909, and they were a mainstay in the town until his death in 1917.
After researching much about the original owner’s antics around the small Upstate New York village, including many of the ‘questionable’ variety, Hansen came to her own conclusion. “[Herbert B. Massey was] such a character,” Hansen said. “He was kind of on the edge of being illegal, but at the same time from what I’ve read he bordered on being a neat freak.”
While having a bowling alley on the second floor of a historic building might seem like an oddity, apparently, it was standard procedure in New England during the time. In fact, you can still find remnants of candlepin bowling alleys from Maine to Maryland, with many having peaked in popularity just before WWII. You wouldn’t believe it, but there was actually ANOTHER small bowling alley in Ballston Spa at the same time as Massey’s, situated just two blocks away.
We don’t know about you, but this type of history really lights us on fire; isn’t it incredible to think that some buildings have these unique hidden stories?
To learn even more about this amazing bowling alley renovation find, be sure to watch the video below. We want one in our house!
We’d love to hear your thoughts on this story! Have you ever found anything hidden in your home before? If so, what was it? Have you ever visited one of these historic bowling alleys before?