Biography of Professor Walter L. Curtis
Oneida County, NY Biographies





Professor Walter L. Curtis, head of the Curtis Dancing School of Utica, was born at Ballston Spa, Saratoga county, New York, on the 10th of September, 1869, being a son of Sanford H. and Cornelia (Fox) Curtis, also natives of Saratoga county.

Reared in the county of his nativity, Walter L. Curtis was educated in the public and high schools, being graduated from the latter institution. After the completion of his education he entered the editorial offices of the Daily Saratogian. Under the guidance and supervision of the different members of the staff, he soon became quite proficient in newspaper work. The training he received there Professor Curtis deems to have been of inestimable value to him in the later experiences of life, and while he liked the work, it did not appeal to him strongly enough to make him feel that he cared to devote his life to it. Going to New York city he placed himself under the instruction of Professor William B. DeGarmo, unquestionably the greatest master of dancing in America, whose studio is located on Fifth avenue. There he remained for five years, striving to master every phase of the art he had elected to follow. A wonderful sense of rhythm, with an artistic appreciation of the harmony and symmetry of motion readily enabled him to perfect the technique of dancing, with a full realization of its emotional development and temperamental significance. A finely developed artistic and musical nature with a keen instinct for the estimation of dramatic values has enabled Professor Curtis to originate some very unusual features in rythmic expression. At the earnest solicitation of some of the leading society people of Saratoga he returned to that city after the expiration of his period of study and organized a dancing club. During the first season the assemblies were held in the ball rooms of the various members of the club, the year after, however, they had a hall of their own. He remained there for seven years, when he came to Utica where he has ever since resided. During the first ten years of his residence here he conducted his classes in Oneida square, then removed to Oneida Hall, where he remained for four years. Subsequently he purchased the Kingsley property at the corner of Cornelia and Aiken streets. In 1910 he there erected one of the most beautiful buildings in Utica. It is a three story brick structure, built in accordance with his design at an expense of sixty thousand dollars. It contains two ball rooms, with conveniently arranged dressing, rest and smoking rooms. The main ball room is fifty-two by ninety feet with a ceiling thirty feet high, and a balcony running around three sides of the room. It is so arranged that it can be decorated elaborately without any suggestion of stuffiness or a sense of being too compact. It is a favorite place for banquets and public functions of various kinds, being so much in demand that during the social season it is engaged for many weeks ahead. There has not been a kermiss or carnival held in central New York for the past sixteen years, either a charity or social function, which Professor Curtis has not managed. For five years he had charge of the Floral Fetes Balls in Saratoga, originating for these as well as balls held at Utica, Herkimer, Amsterdam and other cities features which were afterwards copied at prominent functions of a similar nature in New York and other cities. He also had entire charge of the Faxton Hospital Dancing Kermiss held for one week in May, 1899, one of the most widely discussed affairs of the section for years. His beautiful halls are entirely devoted to club dances and his private classes, which are composed of the most exclusive representatives of society in the city, memberships being maintained from year to year.

Amsterdam, New York, was the scene of the marriage of Professor Curtis and Miss Anna E. Becker, a daughter of N. Clark Becker, a wholesale druggist. By this union there have been born four children: Walter L., Jr.; Margaret Becker, Clark Sanford and Helen Louise.

The family affiliate with the Westminster Presbyterian church and take a prominent place in the social life of the city. He is a member of the American Society of Professors of Dancing, of which he was secretary for seven years, thus keeping in touch with the other members of his profession. Professor Curtis has made a financial as well as artistic success of his work and in addition to his property here owns a very pleasant summer home at Ballston Spa.

From:
History of Oneida County, New York
From 1700 to the present time
of some of its prominent men and pioneers.
By: Henry J. Cookinham
The S. J. Clarke Publishing Company
Chicago 1912


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