Walter Dillard, "who had the delicate airs and ways of a small town Beau Brummell", is far from a member of Fonda's smart set. Although he poses as a student of merchandising men's furnishings, the "socially ambitious" Walter, who is actually the son of a failed drygoods merchant, eakes out a living as a store clerk in Dreiser's fictional city of Lycurgus, NY. His major entrepreneurial plan is to ingratiate himself with his boardinghouse mate, the equally ambitious but smoother Clyde Griffiths, distant cousin to a Lycurgus collar manufacturing magnate.
Dreiser used the industrial village of Fonda as a stage for several scenes of betrayal. Early in the novel, Clyde and his sweetheart Roberta Alden take the electric car from Lycurgus to Starlight Park at the village's edge to avoid the attention of Roberta's puritanical and plain cousin and best friend. But this intrigue ends in heartbreak when the couple are sereptitiously observed by some other girls from Roberta's boardinghouse, who teasingly expose her lie at the breakfast table in front of her cousin. Later, Clyde meets the pregnant Roberta on the Fonda railroad station platform for their trip to Big Bittern Lake, which Roberta believes is an elopment and Clyde the cover for murder.
Fonda is still a village county seat bisected by the four pairs of rails that once carried the New York Central's Great Steel Fleet through the Mohawk Valley. But today even the Utica local is extinct. The little stone station where Roberta stood "illy-dressed in the blue traveling suit and small brown hat" was torn down in 1964. The trolley which Clyde rode to his rondevous with Roberta was replaced by bus service in 1932.
But one reminder of the days when Main Street Fonda was the local commercial hub are several intact "business blocks". Reversing the usual trend, some of them have been converted to residential use. In spite of the unmatched window replacement, the Main Street block above has retained its basic symmetry.
Another reminder of the days when Fonda station was a portal to the Adirondack region to the north are the old hotels by the depot. Although Maze's Hotel and the Hotel Cadillac (ironically an auto parts store until recently) were likely bitter competitors for the travelling men and glove buyers en route to the mills in Gloversville, each building shares the same sawtoothed window line and arched cornice topped by a sheetmetal fleur-de- lis.