The Little Book Shop On Arsenal Street, Watertown NY
For all but the Little Book Shop’s first two years, the small piece of land next to the Arsenal St Fire Station No. 1 had been home to Margaret Devine‘s business. First started on nearby Benedict (now Sherman) Street by Thomas Devine, Margaret’s Brother, the store would relocate to its Arsenal Street location in 1936. Margaret would help her brother run the store until his death in 1945, taking over the operation from there.
With newspapers, magazines, comics, candy, and soda, amongst other things, it was the perfect location for the school-aged kids with the St. Patrick’s School and Arsenal Street School within a hop-skip-and-jump as well as the neighboring A&P grocery store.
Even after the closure of the nearby schools, Miss Devine continued to operate in the same location until Mercy Hospital acquired the property and forced the closure of the store in 1975. As reported in the Watertown Daily Times August 27 edition–
A letter from the lawyer of the Baldick estate, owners of the property, has informed the proprietor, Miss Margaret J. Devine, 413 Coffeen St., that her business must be closed by Oct. 1. The Baldick estate is selling the property to Mercy Hospital.
“The letter took me by surprise,” Miss Devine said, but she added “I have no hard feelings.”
As the deadline loomed, Maggie would slowly begin clearing the items from the shelves of the Little Book Shop. At least one concerned citizen, Mrs. Horace C. Montgomery, went so far as to have her own lawyer on stand-by to work out an agreement to have the land deeded to Maggie, thus resolving liability issues at the heart of the matter of her operating there.
Alas, the effort did not come to fruition. In the September 19th edition of the Watertown Daily Times, Maggie would reveal her quiet struggle–
“It’s kind of heartbreaking. I try to keep back the tears,” Miss Devine said this morning.
“I’m going to miss my firemen. I’ll miss the policemen, doctors, nurses, lawyers, priests, and all my jolly friends who stopped by every day. There are a lot of people who hate to see me go. Sunday all my people were downhearted,” she said.
Asked what her plans were, Maggie said, “Stay home… It’s going to be a long day. It’s heartbreaking when you’re used to being out and around.
In a final tribute, Mrs. Montgomery would write a letter to the editor and include a sketch of Maggie. Mrs. Montgomery would state–
This is the sketch that I made of Miss Margaret Devine on her last day in “The Little Book Shop” on Arsenal Street next to the fire station. The room was bare, except for the cash register and the antique table it stood on, which had been given to Maggie many years ago by the firemen.
About six months after the store closed, The Watertown Daily Times would report the unfortunate news in April 1976 that Maggie had been recovering the last month at Mercy Hospital after having a leg amputated for unspecified reasons.
Maggie would pass away nearly four and a half years later at the age of 71 in September of 1980, shortly after entering the Madonna Home, a short distance from where the Little Book Shop stood for all those years.
Mercy Hospital would ultimately receive the same fate a few decades later in 2013 when COR Development Company LLC bought the property and razed the long-struggling hospital with plans to build a mixed-usage development that never came to fruition. The property was most recently listed for sale at $2.5 Million in 2021.