The Physical Development of Pulteney Street
Despite the presence of the Colleges, physical improvements to Pulteney Street south of Hamilton Street were slow to occur, especially before the 1920s.
In 1886 Pulteney Street was gravelled from St. Clair to Chase's packing ground, and in 1888, a water main was put in from Castle to Jay.
In the summer of 1894, the village of Geneva ordered the property owners on the east side of Pulteney Street to lay "three-plank walks" along the street. The village itself would lay crosswalks at the intersection of Pulteney and St. Clair. In comparison, plank sidewalks had been on each side of Pulteney Street north of Hamilton Street since 1851.
In 1895 the town agreed to place one street light between Jay and St. Clair streets, and in 1896, the town trustees decided to place another streetlight at the intersection of Jay and Pulteney, where the streetcar line ended. However, after some discussion, the streetlight at St. Clair was simply moved to Jay in 1897.
The paving of Pulteney Street was also slow in coming.
The issue was first brought up in the Geneva newspapers in February 1902, and the Geneva Advertiser wrote that Pulteney needed to be paved in order "to keep the mud off the streets that are paved." In June, the Geneva Advertiser-Gazette announced that the section of Pulteney Street from High Street to Jay Street would be paved last.
In 1905, Pulteney Street between Hamilton and Jay was still not paved. A student in the Hobart Herald described the path from Medbery Hall to Pulteney Street as a "serpentine, disconnected, open-jointed walk." Students attempting to traverse it in the dark would stumble, fall, and frequently step in the thick mud.
In March 1907 the Geneva Advertiser-Gazette wrote that the paving of Pulteney Street "won't be reached right away, but it will come in time." However, by November, the town had decided to build a new city hall and the paving was "not likely to come in some years yet."
The situation was made more prominent with the opening of Smith Hall on the other side of Pulteney Street. An editorial in the Hobart Herald in 1909 read, "...we desire to call attention to the deplorable condition of the crossing on Pulteney Street on the way over to the Science building. Mud, water, a few ashes and pieces of board bridge the miry clay of the roadway. But then it is quite interesting to estimate whether you will hit the foothold you leap for, or go over shoe in mud- good sticky mud."
In addition to the condition of the street, the lack of sidewalks was also an issue. In 1912 the editorial below was published in the Hobart Herald.
In 1915, E. A. Robbins, the Associate Editor-in Chief of the Hobart Herald wrote:
The students of Hobart College are compelled to walk in mud! Also anyone who has business with the college finds it necessary to drive their vehicles or automobiles through a street which the greater part of the year is a mud-hole, and which during the rest of the year is as rough and impassable as a plowed field.
The only reason for that condition of affairs is that Pulteney Street has never received the slightest attention from civil authorities or those who dwell thereon, in the way of paving or otherwise improving it as a Street. A few years ago a sidewalk was placed on the west side of the street, but the east side was neglected as though it did not exist. About a year ago some cinders were placed in the mud in the road itself, which made things worse than before.
There is absolutely no argument on this question. The road and the cinder-path in question both see a sufficient amount of service to warrant their being paid some attention. The Herald believes this matter ought to be made one of college pride. Such a mud-hole existing between the two halves of the college is a disgrace, and the Herald suggests that the administration take the matter up with the civil authorities.
Finally, after some negotiations between the city and the streetcar company, Pulteney Street was paved for the first time in the fall of 1922. The same year, poplar trees were planted along Pulteney and St. Clair Streets, "suggesting to those who have seen them the tree bordered roads of France."
Yet, in 1933, the walkway west of Williams Hall was still a muddy mess. M. R. Harter, a Hobart student, wrote to the Hobart Herald, "Along with rains there is always one thing that is connected in the lives of students who traverse Pulteney Street. The path to the west of Williams Hall is ever a stream of mud and water and is most disagreeable as a byway in wet weather."
As late as 1949, mud was still an issue. Student Molly Wroth wrote, "The mud the boys who live in the barracks have to contend with is abominable and, we think, unnecessary. And we all are familiar with the morass we have to go through to get to Strank's. (Morass: if there's anymore mud it will be up to our ankles)." Her editorial was titled "Mud Be Our Destiny."
Pulteney Street Reconstruction
During the summer of 2017, Pulteney Street was completely reconstructed between Hamilton and Jay Streets. The project included new water, gas, and sewer lines, and the installation of new pavement, curbs, and sidewalks.
Pulteney has always been a public street running through a college campus and this has led to traffic safety issues. One issue was parking. There were spaces on the east side of Pulteney Street. However, people often parked illegally on the west side, making it difficult for cars to pass and for cars parked correctly to get out.
In September 1950, the article above was published in the Geneva Daily Times. Students, faculty, and residents all complained that Pulteney Street lacked both crosswalks and signage. Junior Anne Stouffer said, "The street is lined with parked cars of businessmen and students. In order to look for oncoming cars you have to stand practically in the middle of the road." Senior Alan Katz said, "Students jump over puddles and land in the way of cars whose drivers are not warned to be cautious."
The following January a student was struck by a car crossing Pulteney Street and suffered a dislocated hip. "Negligence on somebody's part, whether it be the Geneva police or the College administration, both forewarned, has already resulted in one accident. How many more shall we wait for before some preventative measures are established?"
In response the Colleges' Board of Control took action and contacted the police department, bus line, and taxi company to discuss the crossing "which is used by nearly every student each day."
The parking spaces on Pulteney Street were removed in 1976.
In an editorial from 1989, a student wrote, "...for those of you that speed down Pulteney Street: 'Slow down jerk, you'll be lucky if you only hit a dog.'"
In 2004, of the 18 issues brought up by the annual Campus Safety Tour, two of them were requests for yield to pedestrian signs and lights at the crosswalks on Pulteney Street.
During the planning stages of the 2017 Pulteney Street reconstruction project, Hobart and William Smith Colleges proposed making Pulteney pedestrian-only between Hamilton and St. Clair, for which they would contribute half of the funding. This plan was abandoned due to community opposition.
Instead the Colleges paid for raised speed-table crosswalks and improved signage, increasing pedestrian safety.