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A house is not a home

August 27, 2011
By HOWARD RILEY , Adirondack Daily Enterprise

The title of this column is the title of a best selling book by Polly Adler and in that name lays this tale. The Adler name has sort of, column-wise, painted me into a corner. I have a copy of that out-of-print edition purchased at the Saranac Lake Free Library many years ago. The story was set in the 1920s.

There is a new edition of the book by Ruth Rosen; the old edition tells about a Lexington Avenue house of prostitution, "a major site of New York underworld activity and a social club for New York gangsters".

The new edition says it is a "vibrant and compelling story of immigrant life and a social history of Jewish life in New York City."

Article Photos

From the Plattsburgh Sentinel, Friday, May 6, 1904

This complicated state of affairs has all been brought about by Professor (The Inseide Dope) Seidenstein who fills this space on Friday. I recently published items from the local police blotter of August, 1944 about a fellow renting a room at Phil Adler's Hotel on Dorsey Street and while he was snoozing someone stole his 1934 black Chevy two-door.

So, of course, I had to go on in that column and tell how the good Professor had heard rumors for years and years that Phil's Hotel was a house of ill repute and then I went on even more about remembering the house, blah, blah, blah!

New information

Following that column my phone starts to ring and Ray Stark, an acquaintance from many years ago when we served in the National Guard at Fort Drum (Ray later served in the Marine Corps) says, "you know I think Phil's wife wrote a book about prostitution because her name was Polly Adler and that would be too much of a coincidence to think they were not husband and wife or at least related."

Now here the plot really thickens. Joe Ratelle, another pal from Fort Drum days, calls Ray and says, "do you remember what happened to Phil and his wife? I was coming back from Rochester with my mother early one morning, it must have been 1952, because my mother was driving a 1951 Ford Victoria; when we came to the state bridge on Route 3, Ray Brundage's wrecker was hauling a pickup truck out of the river on the Tupper Lake side of the bridge. Everyone at the time said the truck belonged to Phil Adler, the woman with him, said to be his wife, shot him in the head and they went into the river; the woman was found in the truck but a fisherman found Phil's body weeks later caught on a buoy downriver."

I called Joe to verify his story as he remembered it. Wow, what a story! A trip to the Saranac Lake Free Library and I assigned the Chief of my research team, Michele Tucker, to solve the mystery as I plowed through the accident/murder files in the Adirondack Room.

Even newer information

Well, here is what Michele came up with:

"Enterprise, May 7, 1947 - Funeral services will be held tomorrow afternoon in Albany for Phil Adler, 78, a resident of Saranac Lake for more than 50 years, who passed away in this village Monday night?

"Mr. Adler died at the Bickford Nursing cottage on Olive Street where he had been a patient for a few days. He was stricken with a heart condition several weeks ago and a few days ago were released from the General Hospital.

"He was born March 12, 1869, in Albany, the son of Simon and Fannie Swartz. During his younger years he was a prominent boxer and sportsman.

"After coming to Saranac Lake Mr. Adler opened a restaurant on Dorsey Street which he operated until his illness. He is survived by two sisters, of whom one is Mrs. H. Rosenberg of Albany and two brothers."

Now Ray, as far as Polly Adler is concerned, my research does not connect her to Phil Adler, or find that she ever visited Saranac Lake.

She was born in Yanow on the Russian/Polish border in 1900 and died in California in 1962.

So did Phil Adler's Hotel get a bad reputation because of Polly Adler's book? Probably not, since he died in 1947 and Polly's book was not published until 1953.

But hey, it got me back into the murder file at the library; Joe knows what he saw that day at the state bridge and now I have to try and solve that mystery.



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