It was obvious voters had confidence in his administrative abilities and he probably would have been elected to a fourth term, but he decided to step down. He said: “After a long term of public service, I feel that I have given the municipality a full measure of public service and that it is time to step aside.”

Frederick Gillmore (mayor, 1910)

Frederick Gillmore was known as a “dangerous candidate” in that he was difficult to defeat. Voters liked him and loved him. He was a popular public figure in Utica and engaged in public service for more than 40 years, including mayor for three terms – 1910-11, 1924-25 and 1926-27.

In November 1909, Democrat Gillmore defeated incumbent Republican Mayor Thomas Wheeler, 7,276 to 6,354. Gillmore did not run for re-election at the end of that term, but in November 1923, he entered the mayoral race again and defeated Republican Charles W. Wicks, 13,269 to 11,717. He was re-elected in November 1925 when he defeated Republican John T. Buckley, 17,277 to 11,074.

It was obvious voters had confidence in his administrative abilities and he probably would have been elected to a fourth term, but he decided to step down. He said: “After a long term of public service, I feel that I have given the municipality a full measure of public service and that it is time to step aside.”

But voters would not let him go. In November 1932, he was elected city treasurer. They re-elected him in 1934 and 1936. He died in 1938 while city treasurer.

The election of 1937 is proof of Gillmore’s immense popularity. Incumbent Democrat Mayor Vincent R. Corrou won re-election by about 1,500 votes. City Treasurer Gillmore, on the ticket with Corrou, won re-election by nearly 11,000 votes.

Years earlier, in 1906, Gillmore had surprised local political pundits by being elected sheriff of Oneida County when the county was overwhelmingly Republican.

Frederick Gillmore was indeed a “dangerous candidate.”

HIS EARLIER YEARS

He was born in Utica on Feb. 23, 1873, son of Charles and Mary Lewis Gillmore. He attended local schools and then, at age 16, he got a job with the wholesale clothing establishment of John F. Calder & Company on Whitesboro Street.

He received $3 a week and earned every penny of it. He later wrote: “My place was in the cutting department where I was kept busy for 10 hours a day carrying bolts of cloth about the place, cutting, lining and doing various jobs.”

In 1891, he got his first job with the city in the office of the surveyor (the office later evolved into the city engineering department). In 1905, he was elected to the Board of Assessors and a year later he was elected county sheriff.

MAYORAL TERMS

During his years as mayor, Gillmore inaugurated many measures of reform, progress and improvement.

In 1911, the city purchased land on the corner of Elizabeth and Burnet streets in downtown Utica and erected a central fire station. The magnificent Parkway was extended from Elm Street to Mohawk Street, then later to Welsh Bush Road.

The list of other accomplishments while Gillmore was in office is a long one. It includes: the Automobile Club of Utica was formed in 1910; New York Central Railroad opened in 1911 a large freight yard behind the depot on Main Street (today Union Station); the old Erie Canal was filled in, paved and in 1925 opened as Oriskany Street; in 1927, the Utica Gas & Electric Company opened its six-story office building at 258 Genesee St. (the southwest corner of Genesee and Court streets); the busy, 10-story Hotel Utica added four stories; in 1927, construction amounting to $3.5 million began in the city, including the Roosevelt Apartments, the Uptown Theater and the Stanley Theater.

Also in 1927, work began on the new Post Office and Federal Building at John and Broad streets; and in May, Mayor Gillmore, shovel in hand, broke ground for the new $215,000 police headquarters and courthouse on Oriskany Street West and Pine Street.

While all this was going on, the 18th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution had ended the legal sale of liquor and in Utica – as in hundreds of other cities – there was a great demand for illegal liquor. Utica, in the “Roaring Twenties” – had more than its share of bootlegging (the distribution of illegal liquor) and speakeasies (places where one could buy illegal drinks).

HIS PASSING

Gillmore was city treasurer when he died of a heart attack on Feb. 11, 1938 at age 64 in his home in the 1900 block of Sunset Avenue. The city was shocked. The Common Council issued a statement that read, in part: “Frederick Gillmore was Utica’s most popular public servant. No man in Utica had a wider acquaintance and now that he is gone, we hold many tender moments of his life in our midst.”

The Utica Observer-Dispatch wrote: “Throughout Mr. Gillmore’s public life, he was quiet, affable and sincere. The conscientious service he brought to public office extended through City Hall. The city will miss him greatly.”

Gillmore – whose name lives on at Gillmore Village – was survived by his wife, Anna M. Hickey Gillmore, and their three children – Charles, Grace and Mary Alice. Funeral services at his home were conducted by the Rev. Charles M Dodge, pastor emeritus of Bethany Presbyterian Church. The funeral procession to Forest Hill Cemetery was led by 10 police officers and 10 firefighters.

Frank Tomaino is the Observer-Dispatch historian and he also serves on the board of the Oneida County History Center. Contact Frank at ftomaino@uticaod.com.