Category Archives: Albany

A neighborhood gone: The Brewery, 1951

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Schaefer Brewery 06-12-1951

We were originally going to just skip over this aerial of the Schaefer Brewery from 1951 (from the New York State Archives) because Hoxsie is a temperance site and others are far more interested in Albany’s brewing history. But then we zoomed in and, holy cats! is there a lot here. Dead center of the shot, sandwiched between North Ferry on the left and North Lawrence on the right, just a block east of Broadway is the mammoth complex that was once Quinn & Nolan’s Beverwyck Brewery, now better remembered for the short time it spent as the Schaefer Brewery. (It was Beverwyck from 1878 to 1950, and Schaefer for a scant 22 years after that. Seems unjust to remember it as Schaefer.)

Most of the brewery is gone today; a few of the more modern buildings in this shot, beyond the railroad tracks, still stand. But more than that, nearly everything else in this picture is also gone. Incredible.

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Boating down the Hudson, 1938

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For those of us who never got to experience the glory days of the Hudson River Day Line (or the Night Line), here’s how it looked back in 1938. The scenery is virtually unchanged, though a couple of bridges have been added along the way. 10 years later, the original Hudson River Day Line would be out of business. The name and the ships were sold and used for shorter excursion trips, mostly further downriver.

If you want a better sense of the sounds of the great ships that used to ply these waters, the Sound & Story Project of the Hudson Valley has a great collection of sounds from Hudson River steam ships. And where is the Alexander Hamilton, the hero of this watery road movie, today? Resting in several feet of water in New Jersey.

(Yes, this entry was previously featured on our somewhat-of-a-predecessor site,

Albany Law Journal, 1876

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A few notes of interest from the Albany Law Journal, 1876 :





You could still carelessly place a bust on a balcony without fear of legal repercussions.







Apparently traveling on Sunday was still a no-no. But if so, why then did the trains run? I’m confused.

Albany Medical Center from the air, 1951

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Albany Medical Center June 12 1951From the New York State Archives, another brilliant aerial view of Albany, this one focusing on the Albany Medical Center, June 12, 1951. Unlike some of the other aerials we’ve looked at this week, this one doesn’t look so terribly different in the present day. Of course, Albany Med has sprawled, and the foreground on this side of New Scotland Avenue has completely, and recently, changed. The land just beyond the hospital on the left, which was once home to the Bender Hygienic Laboratory and the second iteration of the Dudley Observatory, is now the home of the Capital District Psychiatric Center. But the neighborhoods beyond are largely unchanged today.


Albany Medical Center 2015

This is the Google Earth view today.

Bender Laboratory

This was the Bender Hygienic Laboratory, about which Hoxsie keeps intending to write more. The laboratory was formed in 1895, the building completed by Albany architects Fuller & Wheeler in 1896. It served a role as an important public health laboratory for decades, and was the center of significant research.

Building behind AMC

Directly behind the medical center – anyone know what this building was?

Greenhouse and farm across from AMC

And across the street, on the northeastern corner of New Scotland and Holland: greenhouses and farming. This mystery was solved with disappointing speed – these were city greenhouses to provide plants for Washington Park and beyond. Makes sense, given that this land was actually originally held by Washington Park. More photos of the city greenhouses on the Albany…The Way It Was Flickr site.

Familiar territory: Albany from the air, 1948

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Another view from the sky, courtesy of the New York State Archives’ Fairchild Aerial Surveys collection. Thanks to the presence of a number of notable landmarks, an awful lot of this view from June 2, 1948, looks just like Albany today. And a lot of it does not.

Albany - The Capitol and beyond

Yeah, so that looks familiar. Front and center, the Alfred E. Smith Building, from this angle all but obscuring the State Capitol. To the left of that, the majestic State Education Building, which from nearly all angles obsures (intentionally) the Episcopal Cathedral of All Saints to its left. Just to the right and beyond the Capitol is the New York Telephone Building (here revealed to have an interesting jog in its structure, now obscured by its own annex). Beyond that, if you zoom in you can see the sign of the DeWitt Clinton Hotel, and the old Mobilgas sign just beyond that; but those are gone. On down the way, next to the river, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad headquarters (now SUNY headquarters); that’s still there. Go ahead, click on the picture and zoom in … it’s the gift that keeps on giving.

Dunn Memorial Bridge

For starters, there’s the Dunn Memorial Bridge. The real one. The one that opened in 1933, replacing the previous Greenbush Bridge, and was blown up in 1971 to make way for a soulless replacement that was meant to be part of an expressway that never happened.

Maiden Lane and Roundhouse

To the north, another bridge that is gone: the Maiden Lane Bridge, which carried rail traffic between East Albany (later Rensselaer) and Albany. It opened in 1871, five years after the first bridge (which now needed a name, and became the Upper Bridge, and later, the Livingston Avenue Bridge). As far as we can figure out, the bridge was torn down about five minutes after the last passenger train left Union Station in 1968. To its right on the other side of the river, the Rensselaer Roundhouse, completed for the New York Central in 1903. Ernie Mann’s book says the roundhouse was demolished in 1955. (If you wanted to reconstruct it, pretty detailed plans are available here. Get cracking.) The site later became the home of the Rensselaer High School, and is once again awaiting redevelopment.

Union Station and Riverfront

Just north of that, Union Station and the associated train sheds. The station, happily survives, but all of that track and shed area came down for the development of I-787 and Water Street, which is a long highway ramp that pretends to be a city street in that stretch. Directly north (left) of Union Station are buildings that were probably torn down around the time the rail lines were, and the lot sat empty for many years until the DEC building was built there, opening in 2001. Directly in front of the station are buildings that used to be the heart of rail commerce, but at some point they came down and the rubble-strewn lot was redeveloped into Tricentennial Park.

One Commerce Plaza site

Yeah, these buildings across Swan Street from the State Education Building aren’t there anymore. They were replaced by One Commerce Plaza.

Empire State Plaza site

And, of course, all this is now the Empire State Plaza.

Veterans Administration Hospital

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Albany’s Veterans Administration Hospital is nearly complete in this aerial view from June 12, 1951, from the Fairchild Aerial Surveys collection of the New York State Archives.

VA Hospital 6-12-1951

The new hospital rose on the site of the former Albany Penitentiary, which had moved twenty years before; when its buildings came down is not clear.

The view, with Holland Avenue at the bottom and Washington Park to the upper left, contains some great details.

For instance, it has been some time since there was a gas station at the northwest corner of Madison and Lark, where a Dunkin’ Donuts has been located for quite a long time. On the northeast corner was the historic Clark Tavern, only recently reduced to rubble.

Corner of Lark and Madison Corner of Lark and Madison today

The hulking pile in this detail was School No. 24, built in 1893 by architects Fuller & Wheeler. Below it was the Albany Fire Alarm Telegraph Building, where the central alarm signals were received and relayed to firehouses. School No. 24 is gone, replaced by the Boys & Girls Club building, but the telegraph building survives as a senior citizens center, if a bit more crowded in than previously.

School No 24 Delaware Ave School No 24 Delaware today

The neighborhood beyond the VA hospital hasn’t changed a lot, in physical terms, though of course the changes wrought just to the left of the overall view in recent years have been very controversial.

Morton Avenue Neighborhood Morton Avenue Neighborhood today

This view is familiar enough, with the Washington Avenue Armory in the center, except for the “Mayfair” sign on the other side of Lark Street, and the now-gone Harmanus Bleecker Hall.

Armory and Bleecker Hall

I’d love to know what this building was. It appears to have been on Monroe or Orange Street or thereabouts. I can’t quite get it up to the resolution to read the sign.

Unknown factory

Albany Waterfront 1946

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A reader pointed out that the aerial photo of the Bayer pharmaceuticals and General Aniline Works in Rensselaer that we posted last week also affords some tremendous views of the southern Albany riverfront in 1946. So here are some of the best crops I could make from it.

Aerial view of Bayer and General Aniline factories in Rensselaer. Columbia Turnpike in the foreground, Albany port across the Hudson River
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The Bab-O Factory and Beyond

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B.T. Babbitt's Bab-O Factory, Broadway, Albany

B.T. Babbitt’s Bab-O Factory, Broadway, Albany

The New York State Archives digital collection includes a great number of aerial photographs of New York State locations from the ’40s and ’50s, including this shot that centers on the factory of B.T. Babbitt, Inc., makers of Bab-O. This was taken on June 12, 1952, before just about everything in the picture changed. (Click on the picture to see it larger.)

So, front and center and flanked by silos painted to look like cans of Bab-O cleanser are the three buildings of Babbitt’s factory. Benjamin T. Babbitt did some manufacture of some sort in Little Falls before opening up a soap factory in New York City in 1836. He died in 1889, leaving no evidence that we’ve found of an Albany connection, so it’s unclear just when this Albany industrial landmark opened or closed. But oddly, it’s one of the few things that remains.

Bab-O Factory DetailIn this detail, you can see the three buildings close-up. Broadway is in the immediate foreground, separated from the river by scrub lots. To the south (left) of the factory complex, some long quonset huts. Directly behind it, the railroad tracks. On the left just beyond the tracks, you can see the H.S. Stuart coal yard, looking to already be abandoned. The street coming right down the center of the photo, going under Babbitt’s impressive factory skybridge, is Fourth Avenue. The next to the right is Plum Street, then Bassett Street. It’s all a familiar-looking mix of industry and old houses and places where things used to be, even in 1952.

Bab-O Factory Google Earth 2015Through the miracle of Google Earth, fast-forward 63 years or so, and about the only things that are still there are the Babbitt buildings and the railroad tracks. And some of the scrub along the river’s edge. The northernmost building appears to be a bus garage, with more buses parked across Broadway. The center building was recently converted into a self-storage facility. The quonset huts appear to have been replaced by other buildings of the temporarily permanent variety. Some of the railroad tracks remain, but beyond them, the overhead portion of I-787 soars over what used to be neighborhood, and to the west of that, dozens of houses were taken to be replaced by high-rise low-income housing projects. Here and there, an isolated building survived, more of them as you get closer to South Pearl Street, but the rest of it was just leveled, and replaced with something considerably less.

In the detailed view, some familiar buildings can be seen:

Schuyler Mansion, still standing today.

Schuyler Mansion, still standing today.

Howe Library, also still standing.

Howe Library, also still standing.

St. Joseph's and St. Ann's Church, still at Franklin and Fourth.

St. Joseph’s and St. Ann’s Church, still at Franklin and Fourth.

School No. 1, which still stands without its distinctive crennellation.

School No. 1, which still stands without its distinctive crennellation.

Railroads on both sides of the river

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NY Central Rail Depot Albany 1876

Location of the New York Central Rail Depot in Albany in 1876

Amtrak knows you have choices in rail travel and appreciates … oh, wait, no you don’t. If you want to travel by rail in this country in 2015, other than commuter rail, you’ve got precisely one option. In 1863 Albany, things were very different.

Remember that the Livingston Avenue Bridge, the first bridge across the Hudson at Albany, didn’t open until 1866. Before that, travelers had to get to one side of the river or the other, by ferry, to get to the railroad of their choice. (Alternatively, they could ride up to Troy and cross the river there.) But choices there were. Some of these specialized in freight, of course.

One thing worth noting, though – in certain circles there is frequent carping that the train station should never have left Albany and been moved to Rensselaer. The reality is that trains were leaving from Rensselaer, in far greater numbers than they left from Albany, long before the fondly remembered Union Station was even built.

On the Albany side, the rail options were:
Albany and Susquehanna Railroad Nearly complete in 1863, it ran from Albany to Binghamton. The office was at 73 State Street. Ezra Prentice was the President; today his name is mostly remembered with a Albany Housing Authority complex on the south end, but he held a number of political posts in the 19th century, including President of the New York State Agricultural Society. Would you like to read some poems written about the Albany and Susquehanna? Of course you would. It was absorbed into the Delaware and Hudson in 1945.

Albany and Vermont Railroad The Albany and Vermont was a successor to the Albany, Vermont, and Canada, which was a successor to The Albany Northern Railroad Company. Its board included Erastus Corning and Lansing Pruyn. It ran from Albany through Cohoes to Waterford and then to Eagle Bridge in Washington County. It’s not clear that it ever actually reached the Green Mountain State; an 1880 article on its sale to interests in Troy noted that it ended at Eagle Bridge. It was leased and actually operated by the Rensselaer and Saratoga Railroad company, and trains left from the New York Central depot which, as noted on the map, was on Montgomery Street, east of Broadway, just north of Maiden Lane. (Montgomery Street still exists, but only as alleys/sidewalks behind the buildings facing Broadway.)  Its president was Thomas W. Lockwood.

Albany and West Troy Horse Railroad This one was led by A.A. Dunlop, President and Treasurer, and Peter Hogan, Secretary and Engineer. West Troy at the time was what is now Watervliet (and Watervliet at the time was what is now the town of Colonie). When construction of this road was awarded in 1862, it was announced that it would run from the South Ferry in Albany, up Broadway, thence on the Troy road to the north of the village of West Troy. It was double-tracked most of its distance.

New York Central Railroad The big kahuna. Its general offices were in the Exchange Building, and the location of the depot is shown on the map above. An 1879 map of the NY Central and Hudson River Railroad can be found here, but it’s a bit confusing as it shows the line passing through East Albany, not Albany; that would seem to only reflect the Hudson River Railroad’s route.

The rest of these railroads, even the ones with “Albany” in their names, departed from a depot in East Albany, which was a part of what later became Rensselaer:

Albany and West Stockbridge Railroad Dating to 1836, this one left from Greenbush, went south through Schodack Depot on a path of tracks that I believe still exists, through Niverville to Chatham and then turned west toward Massachusetts. In 1863 it was listed as leased and operated by the Albany and Boston Railroad, and its directors were some of the grand Albany names: Thomas W. Olcott, John V.L. Pruyn, Chester W. Chapin, Volkert P. Douw, and others.

Harlem Railroad This one had an office in Maiden lane at the corner of Dean street, but trains left from the depot in East Albany. It proceeded on the Albany and West Stockbridge tracks to Chatham Four Corners, and then continued south to New York City.

Housatonic Railroad This one also left from the depot in East Albany. How it connected with the Albany and Boston and the Albany and West Stockbridge is for better minds for minutiae than mine, and it ended … well, somewhere in Connecticut. You go figure it out.

Hudson River Railroad This railroad also had an office at Maiden and Dean, but left from East Albany and traveled south to New York City. Smith Briggs was its general agent, and Robert G. Cruttenden its ticket agent. In 1863, it was just about to come under the control of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and it would be merged with the New York Central in 1869.

Troy and Greenbush Railroad This ran from East Albany / Greenbush north to Troy, and would become a part of the Hudson River Railroad.

19th Century Railroads: Unsafe at Any Speed

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Rairoad train heading west  just past northern boulevard albany ny c 1900

In 1865, every railroad in the state made a report to the railroad commissioners of the State of New York. There are lots of facts and figures about capital stock, funded debt, length of road laid, numbers of passenger cars and snow plows, etc. They even give the average rate of speed and the average weight of full size cars. Fascinating. But what’s really interesting are the detailed descriptions of the dozens of ways that passengers, employees, and ordinary citizens trying to cross the tracks were parted from life and limb, quite literally. Here are just a few examples from Albany area railroads, that don’t even begin to touch on the dozens of horrific ways people were killed or maimed by the iron horse that year.

Albany Railway
1864. Sept. 14. John T. Siegmann, of New York, in leaving the front platform of car No. 2, descending State street, opposite Tweddle Hall, without proper notice to the conductor or driver, was thrown down and his right arm so injured as to require amputation. The conductor and driver were exonerated from blame.
Oct. 21. John Mooney was injured in a drain excavation in the Bowery [renamed Central Avenue in 1867] by the falling of the horses of a car. No fatal result occurred.

Albany and Susquehanna
April 26, 1865. John Van De Bogart, a brakeman, while standing on the steps of a passenger car, was struck by the bridge near Guilderland, and instantly killed.

Albany and West Stockbridge
1865. Feb. 19. A boy by the name of John Kildan, in trying to get upon a stock train at Chatham fell between the cars, was run over and killed.
Aug. 30. A man by the name of John Kiley, in trying to get upon a freight train at Greenbush, fell between the cars, was run over and killed.
Sept. 22. A man by the name of Michael Behan, of Pittsfield, in trying to cross the track at Shaker’s Village, in front of a train, was truck by the engine and killed.

Hudson and Boston
1865. Sept. 9. Jacob M. Rivenburgh was struck by the morning train from Chatham while driving his cattle from the track in Ghent; being aware that a train was coming, and supposing at the time that it was a Harlem train until it was too late for him to escape, the engine struck him, injuring him fatally; he lived about five hours, perfectly rational, blaming no one but himself for the accident.

Hudson River Railroad
1864. Oct. 2. John Bowman jumped from the cars near Troy, and was run over and severely injured.
1865. January 31. Anson Norcutt, brakeman, stepped from his train, near Castleton, on to the opposite track, and was struck by a down train and killed.
March 9. An express train, going south, was thrown from the track near Stuyvesant, and a brakeman, named O. Jenkins, had one of his legs broken.
March 15. George Comstock, while walking on the track near Castleton, was struck by an express train, and so severely injured as to cause his death.
May 29. Patrick Kennedy, employe, while riding on a hand car between Catskill and Hudson, came in collision with a locomotive and was seriously injured.
[Many other accidents up and down the Hudson were recorded.]
Most of the accidents which have occurred are attributable to the carelessness of the persons injured, particularly to their walking on the track.

New York Central
1864. Nov. 5. Christian Shilling, a laborer, in attempting to pass from a car of a wood train to the engine, while the train was in motion near West Albany, fell upon the track, was run over and killed.
Dec. 16. John Rahill, an employe, while shoveling snow from the north track in the rock cut east of West Albany, in order to avoid a gravel train moving west, passed over to the south track just in front of the Buffalo express train moving east, was run over and killed.
1865. Feb. 25. Andrew Smith, a brakeman, was killed by striking against the Johnstown and Fultonville bridge, under which his train was passing.
March 30. Thomas Merritt, an employee, got off an engine on the north track at West Albany, and while passing across the south track, was run over, by an engine backing, and killed.
April 3. Mathew Kennedy, an employe, jumped from a moving engine at West Albany car shops, fell upon the track, was run over and injured in the leg so as to render amputation necessary.
April 14. Timothy Dewelly, a brakeman, fell from a freight train moving east, about five miles west of Albany, and was killed.
May 13. Joseph Myers, while walking on the track, about a mile west of Schenectady, was struck by the engine of a moving freight train, and had one of his legs broken.
July 5. Stephen Bush was found dead on the track near Crescent Station. It is supposed he was run over the night previous by the New York mail train moving west, blood having been found upon the pilot to the engine of that train.
August 24. Baltus Flesh, a boy aged six years, got upon the tender of an engine backing, in Railroad avenue, in Albany, and while attempting to get off, fell upon the track, was run over and killed.
September 2. Matthew Smith, a baggageman, was killed near Centre, between Albany and Schenectady, by the baggage car being thrown from the track by the breaking of an axle.
September 3. Ferdinand Netterman, was found dead near the track west of Schenectady. It is supposed he fell off the Cleveland express train moving east.
September 21. Patrick Dollan stepped upon the track at Schenectady, in front of a baggage car that was being slowly moved in making up a train, was run over and killed.

Rensselaer and Saratoga
1865. Sept. 3. A lad, name unknown, at play in the rear of a freight train at Schenectady, was squeezed against the bumper post and instantly killed.
Sept. 23. Charles Lambert, an employe of the Company, while at work on a car on the track at Green Island, was so seriously injured by a train backing against the car on which he was at work, that he died in a few hours.

Troy and Boston
1865. March 21. A woman named Kulchan walked on to the track at Walloomsac Station just as the up express train was passing, was struck by the engine and instantly killed.
July 6. Roddy Godfrey, while intoxicated, fell from platform of accommodation train up, when near Schaghticoke, and was so seriously injured that he lived but a few hours.
Aug. 11. William H. Stephens, a freight conductor, fell from his train near Hoosick Junction, receiving injuries from which he died the 21st of same month.
Aug. 19. John Kent, a man known to have been drunk an hour before the accident, was run over by a freight train near Eagle Bridge; when first seen by the engineer he was lying across the track.