In the spring of 1897, the pale blue sky shone above the citizens of Plattsburgh as they strolled downtown on cobbled streets to do their shopping at Woolworth or the five and dime shop. The high-pitched whistle of the nearby train station, along with a steady hum radiating from the steamboats floating around Lake Champlain added to the daily morning noises. The electric street car line advanced steadily, transporting people to stores, restaurants, and factories to pick up necessary supplies. Philip J. Blair, clad in business attire, headed to his job as owner of a restaurant he recently bought: the café located on Protection Avenue.
Philip J. Blair, a bartender from Worcester, Massachusetts, purchased this restaurant, from E.R. Burton on April 2, 1897. In 1898, the place was reopened along with its new name, the Monopole café. According to the pamphlet, "The Monopole Legacy: A Continuing Tradition of Elegance," the name may have come from Champs Elysee, Paris, but is it uncertain. Nearby was the Delmonico Hotel and Restaurant, Bernard St. Louis Lunchroom, and several other eateries that have since faded away.
“The Monopole café was a premier steakhouse, very similar to Butcher Block today,” explains Corey Rosoff, current owner of Monopole
In the early 1900's, Blair didn't like having the word café in the title because he felt it was an incorrect business heading but still kept it for many years afterwards. The popularity of the place caused Blair to expand its boundaries and the title was renamed as, “Monopole Café and Restaurant.” In 1912, Blair gave the restaurant to Napoleon Pinsonnault and left town for four years.
In 1916, Blair returned to Plattsburgh and in the 1920's, during the years of Prohibition, the restaurant went under the new title as “Monopole Lunch and Sea Grill.” When it first opened, the eatery was located on the first floor but, at this time, the Monopole was further extended to include the entire building as it looks today.
As the years passed, Monopole was witness to the great changes that occurred downtown. It saw the car line disappear, and automobiles emerge as new transportation. Local stores and restaurants began to vanish, giving way to more department stores. New fashion trends of an evolving culture stirred and Monopole was along for the ride.
Blair left the restaurant to Richard Duquette in 1941. Monopole had developed into a tavern, attracting tourists, lawyers, and professionals. One rumored guest was Jack Dempsey, a champion boxer, as well as other wealthy people. Filled with intellectual conversations about politics, wars, and sports, this atmosphere lasted for twenty years, according to the pamphlet.
In 1949, Monopole came under the hands of Thomas J. Finnan, and by the time he left, it was called, “Monopole Grill.” Today, at the top of the narrow wooden stairway to the second floor, the name P.B. Finnan is painted in gold lettering in memory of the two past owners Phil Blair, and Thomas J. Finnan.
Over the years, the power elite customers were replaced by college students. This transition began in the 1960's and grew tremendously into the 1970's. The reasons why this happened include its location downtown and the addition of music, according to Rosoff.
Under the ownership of Brett Heiss, renovations were done in the 1970s. “The upstairs was redone, but the downstairs still has the original flooring, woodwork, and stained glass from when it first opened. The appearance of bands began in the early 1980's and the upstairs became a happy hour; filled with life and music,” Rosoff explains. The music eventually brought more performances of bands on the small stage located on the second floor.Rosoff believes the reason for Monopole’s survival is its diversity. “Monopole has appealed to so many different clientele over the years,” he states. “From blue collars to white collars to college students, it attracts all kinds of people.”
The furnishings of the downstairs area are strong reminders of a time long gone. Its humble beginnings are shown with dull bricks cemented on the walls, hardwood panels encircling the interior, and framed photographs, creating a traceable link to the past.
At the top of the stairs, the doorway to the right opens into a room containing a small platform stage. Beyond a doorway to the left, are remnants of a dining room where a pool table now lies.In the center is a bar that stretches across two rooms. Above it in red stained glass is the word, “Monopole.” The bulbous orange lights present a dim, yet intriguing sight on students who are shooting pool, playing darts, watching television, tinkering with the foosball table, or just sitting and talking with friends in a place that has thrived for over a century.
The back room now features flat screen tv's and a 140" large screen carrying all of the directv sport packages. We get great crowds on football Sunday as we show every game on the big screens!