Utica is a melting pot of all different nationalities and cultures, and as immigrants moved to upstate New York they bring many traditions along with them. Back in the 1800s, the Scottish introduced the Mohawk Valley to a unique winter sport using granite stones and brooms. As Explore New York continues, Cara Thomas reports on the history of curling in Utica.
UTICA, N.Y. -- To those who play, curling is more than a sport.
"There's a big social side of it," said Utica Curling Club Historian Joel Scherer.
And that hasn't changed since its inception in the Mohawk Valley in the 1800s.
"When it started out it was mostly guys getting together to play on a frozen pond," Scherer said.
A Scottish immigrant named Benjamin Allen was the first to bring curling to Utica. Every winter he'd turn a large gully into a rink and many of the most prominent men of Utica would participate.
They didn't become an official group until 1868 when Allen created the Utica Curling Club.
"It started as a warming shed that they could come into and get warmed up and then that converted into a larger building where he could have the water indoors and they could curl indoors," said Scherer.
Rutger Rink and the gully were located in East Utica, where Quinn Playground and St. Vincent Street are today. The rink was open for 25 years before the city of Utica condemned a nearby bridge in 1915, and purchased the land from the curling club so they could fill in the gully and expand Rutger Street further east.
"That's when the club bought the property on Francis Street and built a club there," Scherer said.
The new clubhouse gave members brand new facilities, locker rooms, a dining hall, kitchen and an indoor rink.
It was where TV Magazine broadcasted the first national telecast of U.S. curling and became the official host of the Mitchell Bonspiel.
Unfortunately, in 1995 the building was destroyed in a fire, but luckily many of their historic mementos were saved.
"All the trophies were saved and you can see the trophy cases in the back, the glass wasn't even broken, but the whole ceiling caved in," Scherer said.
Today, nearly 150 years later, the Utica Curling Club lives on at a facility in Whitesboro with 250 members, some who travel from as far as Binghamton to play.
"I think what attracts so many people to it is, in its basis, it's a very simple game and probably a lot of people say, 'Well I can do that.' And the fact is, you can," said Scherer.
It's a sport for those seeking competition and camaraderie, two things members say will never get old.