Category Archives: Albany

State Normal School, 1909

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State Normal School 1909.jpgWe’ll wrap up what turned into “School Fortnight” with this 1909 view of the State Normal School. These are the three buildings, Administration, Science, and Auditorium, that started the school’s first true campus, after a long history of moving from one Albany building to another. Today, these are Draper Hall, Husted Hall, and Hawley Hall, and the State Normal School, once devoted to the training of teachers, is the SUNY Albany Downtown Campus.

Albany institutions: where are they now?

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In addition to the numerous public and private schools listed in the Albany Chamber of Commerce’s guide to “Education in Albany” in 1922, the guide included a number of institutional schools, private schools, a fairly broad definition of colleges, and many places to learn nursing. Many of these remain; many are forgotten.

Institutional Schools
Lasalle Institute.png St. Vincent’s Male Orphan Asylum, 391 Western Avenue. This was an elementary school of 169 run by the Christian Brothers. Their history states that Christian Brothers Academy was opened in 1866 in part to help pay for the asylum. In 1923, the asylum would be renamed The Lasalle Institute
Not Cathedral School.png St. Vincent’s Female Orphan Asylum, 106 Elm Street. This was an elementary school of 156, run by the Sisters of Charity. It appears likely this stretch of Elm Street was lost to Empire State Plaza parking; it was likely near the Cathedral.
St Ann's School of Industry.png St. Ann’s School of Industry, West Lawrence Street. While the guide listed this as an elementary school with 25 students under the direction of the Sisters of Good Shepherd, at the corner of West Lawrence and Bradford Streets, it was a bit more than that. Its full name was “St. Ann’s School of Industry and Reformatory of the Good Shepherd,” and the State Division of Probation’s annual report indicated that “destitute girls and fallen and wayward women from 12 to 60 years of age, free from disease and of sound mind, are received from parents or from magistrates.” The building still stands, and The St. Anne Institute still serves the community.
St. Catherine's Center.png Infant Home School, North Main Avenue; an elementary school under the charge of the Sisters of Charity, this school was part of the A.N. Brady Maternity Hospital. The building that was originally the hospital is now part of St. Catherine’s Center for Children.
Sacred Heart Academy.png Sacred Heart Academy, Kenwood. This was then a college with an enrollment of 111, under the “Religious of the Sacred Heart,” on the Kenwood estate of stove magnate Joel Rathbone. It later became the Kenwood Academy and merged with St. Agnes School to form Doane Stuart.
Saint Rose Hall.png College of St. Rose, 979 Madison Avenue. In 1922, this Sisters of St. Joseph school had an enrollment of 50. Saint Rose Hall, now Moran Hall, was the entire college then.
Private Schools
Albany Academy.png Albany Academy. The Chamber guide didn’t even feel the need to give the address of the Albany Academy, though it did note that its building “is architecturally perfect, the work of Thomas Hooker.” In 1922 it had 333 boys and 20 teachers.
Girls Academy.png Albany Academy for Girls. It moved to the building shown in 1893, having left a building at 280 N. Pearl Street where it had been since 1834. It had an enrollment of 132 girls, with 17 teachers, in 1922. But where was this building? Tweet me the answer, @HoxsieAlbany. ‘Cause I’ve got no clue.
Thanks to @AlbanyArchives for placing this building at 155 Washington Avenue, about where the SEIU building is now. I’m sure the new building has its charms.
Not St. Agnes School.png St. Agnes School, Hawk and Elk Streets. This Episcopal school had 178 girls. Today, it’s a hideous parking lot.
Milne School, Draper Hall.png Milne High School. “In 1911 the school previously called the Normal High School became the High School Department of the State College for Teachers, and only received its present appropriate name in 1916.” The Milne High School, a training school for the State College for Teachers, had 206 pupils, 7 supervising teachers and 52 student teachers. The State College for Teachers, previously known as the Normal School, eventually became the basis for the State University of New York at Albany. For an institution I’ve never heard of before, Milne High School certainly does have a history. It appears to have originally been housed in the building that would later be called Draper Hall, on what is now the SUNY Downtown campus; Milne Hall was built in 1929.
Professional Schools and Colleges
State College for Teachers.png New York State College for Teachers was just beginning its growth on its new campus, with 1560 students. The Administration Building (now Draper Hall), the Science Building (Husted) and the Auditorium (Hawley) were the three buildings on the campus. All still stand.
Albany Business College.png Albany Business College, 79-87 North Pearl Street. This was a member of the Bryant and Stratton chain. It had an average of 500 students at any given time. Its building still anchors the corner of Pearl and Columbia.
Not Albany College of Pharmacy.png Albany College of Pharmacy, 43 Eagle Street. The old building, which ACP rented from the Humane Society, is long gone; it was perhaps on the corner where the DeWitt Clinton stands, or perhaps across Howard Street. In 1922 there were plans for a modern building “on a site affording ample grounds for the development of a botanic garden which will be open to the citizens of Albany.”
Albany Law School.png Albany Law School, 239-245 State Street. There were 305 students in what seems to be an incredibly small building. I can’t resist showing the building that was lost; it was in a former church, probably about on the west end of the site for the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building.
Not Albany Medical College.png Albany Medical College, Eagle Street between Lancaster and Jay Streets. Yeah, that’s not there. But there’s an historical marker!
Dudley Observatory.png
Not Dudley Observatory.png
Dudley Observatory, in its second location, South Lake Avenue near New Scotland. It was included here although it did not have resident students; “all the work done is of a research nature.” It’s now the site of the Capital District Psychiatric Center.
Bender Laboratory.png Bender Hygienic Laboratory, South Lake Avenue. This was a training school for medical graduates seeking experience in pathology. Also gone, also the site of the Capital District Psychiatric Center.
State Education Building.png New York State Library School, part of the New York State Library with 35-55 students a year. By this time, the State Library was in the State Education Building. Yeah, that’s still around.
Training Schools for Nurses
Albany Medical Center.png Albany Hospital Training School for Nurses, New Scotland Avenue. By 1922, the nursing school, with 82 students, was at the Albany Hospital’s relatively new digs. The original building is still there, if you squint.
Not St. Peter's.png St. Peter’s Hospital, Broadway and North Ferry Street. Forty nurses were trained there in 1922. Yeah, that’s a parking lot today.
Not Albany Homeopathic.png Homeopathic Hospital, 161 North Pearl Street. Hoxsie has already written of the need for napkin rings and plain underclothing for these nursing students, 38 in 1922. The building is long since gone, on the site occupied by the O’Brien Federal Building.
St. Catherine's Center.png Brady Maternity Hospital and Infant Home, North Main Avenue. The hospital provided a three-month course in obstetrics for senior nurses in other registered hospitals. There were 20 students. This is now St. Catherine’s Center for Children; I’m uncertain which of the buildings was the original hospital.

Albany Parochial Schools, 1922

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Our exhaustive review of the buildings that housed Albany’s schools in 1922 only included the public schools. Parochial schools (as far as I can see, all Catholic) abounded throughout the city.

Not Cathedral Academy.png The Cathedral Academy, 105 Elm Street. This Sisters of St. Joseph school had an enrollment of 175 in 1922; it would appear the building is now a vacant lot, or it may have been across Eagle in what is now a parking lot for the Empire State Plaza.
St. Joseph's Academy.png St. Joseph’s Academy, North Swan Street, corner of Second Street. In 1922 this only had an enrollment of 100, but the hulking ruin that stands there today must have seen many, many more students than that.
Not St. Ann's.png St. Ann’s Academy, Franklin Street, corner of Plum Street, an enrollment of 44. While St. Ann’s church still stands, it would appear that the school’s location is now a vacant lot.
773 Madison.png Vincentian High School, 773 Madison Avenue, had an enrollment of only 59. It was separate from the Vincentian Institute building that still stands on Madison Avenue; it appears to have been in this building that now houses the Healthy Schools Network.
Centennial Hall.png St. Mary’s School, 7 Pine Street. This Sisters of Notre Dame elementary school had an enrollment of 214. Its home, Centennial Hall, still stands and was recently renovated.
St. John's School.png St. John’s School, Dongan Avenue, corner S. Ferry Street. This Sisters of Charity elementary school enrolled 458 students. I think the building may be the one that today houses Equinox.
Not Holy Cross School.png Holy Cross School, 48 Philip Street. A Sisters of Notre Dame elementary school enrolling 100. This would appear to be parking today.
Not Cathedral School.png Cathedral School, 130-136 Elm Street, a Sisters of St. Joseph elementary school with 640 students. This stretch of Elm Street was lost to Empire State Plaza parking; the building was probably lost at the same time.
Our Lady of Angels School.png Our Lady of Angels School, 143 Sherman Street. Sisters of St. Francis ran this 259 student elementary school. I’m not sure if the old building that still stands was the school building. The site is now home to Sherman Preparatory Academy, part of the Albany City Schools.
Our Lady of Help 2.png Our Lady Help of Christians, 3 Krank Street. Sisters of St. Francis ran this 182 student elementary school. It still stands and is used as St. Peter’s Addiction Recovery Center.
St. Patrick’s Institute, Sherman Street near North Lake Avenue. A Sisters of Mercy elementary with 600 students. I’m not sure of the exact location, and don’t believe the building still exists.
Not St. Ann's.png St. Ann’s School, Franklin Street, corner of Plum Street. Sisters of St. Joseph in charge of 455 elementary school students. I don’t believe the building remains; it’s likely it was in the same building as St. Ann’s Academy.
St. Anthony's.png St. Anthony’s School, 8-10 Elm Street. A Sisters of St. Joseph elementary with 134 students. This beautiful building still stands.
St. Casimir.png St. Casimir’s School, 309-313 Sheridan Avenue. Sisters of the Resurrection in charge of an elementary school with 331 enrolled. This building remained as St. Casimir’s School until 2009.
Blessed Sacrament.png Blessed Sacrament Institute, 607 Central Avenue, a Sisters of Mercy elementary with 331 enrolled. It would appear that although Blessed Sacrament still remains, the building has been replaced.
Vincentian Institute.png Vincentian Institute, Madison Avenue, corner of Ontario Street. This had an enrollment of 495 under the care of the Sisters of Mercy. The building still stands and is in use as a community center.
Not Christian Brothers.png Christian Brothers Academy, 41-43 Lodge Street. The Christian Brothers had 247 students (all boys) at this location. This was one of many locations for the school; it was here, in the former Normal School on the northwest corner of Lodge and Howard, for 51 years. The building was demolished in 1949. It is nothing but a parking lot now.
Academy of the Holy Names.png Holy Names Academy, Madison Avenue and Robin Street. The Sisters of the Holy Names were in charge of an enrollment of 190. This grand building still stands and is part of Albany Medical Center. The school still exists but has decamped for the suburbs.

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Schools of Albany, 1922: Where are they now?

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By 1922, the “new” Albany High School on Lake Avenue, which had only opened in September 1913 at a cost of a million dollars, was already “taxed beyond its capacity so that ‘double sessions’ are necessary,” according to the Chamber of Commerce’s helpful report on “Education in Albany.” At that time, four new elementary schools were being planned, and one was under construction. “These are of the most modern type and will cost approximately one and one-quarter million. The high school is crowded beyond its capacity and plans are under way for relieving it by constructing two junior high schools at a cost of approximately another million and a quarter. In the near future two and one-half millions will be spent for public school improvements.”

(Some of these had changed from a similar inventory that was done in 1894.)

Education has changed a lot in the past 90 years, but many of these old schools remain. The high school remains as part of the SUNY downtown campus, as many folks know. But how many of these other buildings are still remembered as schools?

High School Lake Avenue.pngGirls Vocational School, in the High School Building. This school had an enrollment of 68 and offered “Elementary and first two years academic; Cooking; Millinery; Dressmaking.”

196 Morton Avenue.png Boys Vocational School, 196 Morton Ave. This school had an enrollment of 74 and offered “elementary and first two years academic; Printing; Woodworking; Drawing; Machine Shop Practice.” The building is still in use as apartments today.
Not Part-Time School.png Part-Time School, Broadway and N. Lawrence Street. This school, of which no trace remains, had an enrollment of 894, and offered courses in “Bookwork; Household Arts; Industrial Arts; Electrical Work; Sheet Metal Work; Commercial Subjects; Dressmaking; Printing.” Today: no matter which side of N. Lawrence it was on, it’s a parking lot today.
School No 11.png Ungraded School, In School No. 11, 409 Madison Avenue. This was an elementary school with an enrollment of 43, inside School 11. Today, it’s a lovely condominium building.
Public School No 1.png School No. 1, Bassett Street, corner Franklin Street. A primary school with enrollment of 414. The building still stands.
School No. 2, 29 Chestnut Street. A grammar school with enrollment of 363. It’s hard to be certain how the addresses worked; this may be where 90 S. Swan St. is, or may have been on the part of Chestnut Street eliminated by the Empire State Plaza.
School No 3.png School No. 3, Watervliet Avenue, corner Hunter Avenue. This was a primary school with enrollment of 337. This is now the Henry Johnson Charter School.
School No. 4, Madison Avenue and Ontario Street. A grammar school with enrollment of 166; the booklet notes it as “(Burned).” I’m not clear on the location; the Vincentian Institute was already on one corner of that intersection, so perhaps School No. 4 had been across the street?
School No 5.png School No. 5, 206 N. Pearl Street. This was a grammar school with 405 students. The building, from 1882, still stands as the Quackenbush condominiums.
School No. 6, 105 Second St. A grammar school with 632 students. The building is gone, the site is now occupied by the Metropolitan Baptist Church.
School No 7.png School No. 7, 165 Clinton Avenue. A primary school with 253 students. The building still stands, home to New Covenant Christian Fellowship.
Not School No 8.png School No. 8, 157 Madison Ave., a primary school with 323 students. The building is gone, a parking lot between Madison and Van Zandt.
School No 9.png School No. 9, 333 Sheridan Avenue, a primary school with 218 students. This building still stands, home to Albany Community Action Partnership.
School No 10.png School No. 10, N. Lake Ave., corner of Central Avenue, a primary school with 226 students. Still there, still a school: Brighter Choice Charter School.
School No 11.png School No. 11, 409 Madison Ave., a grammar school of 336 students. As mentioned above, there was another school within this one. Today, it’s a lovely condominium building.
School No 12.png School No. 12, Robin Street at Western Avenue, a grammar school of 496. Recently converted into lovely apartments.
School No. 13. Just kidding! Of course there was no School No. 13. Even in the 21st century, I worked in a building that skipped numbering the 13th floor.
Its exclusion from this listing may mean that the old P.S. 13 was closed by then; originally it was in the old State Arsenal building at Broadway and Lawrence streets, which dated to 1799.
School No 14.png School No. 14, 69 Trinity Place, a grammar school of 998 students. This incredibly beautiful building still stands as the Schuyler Apartments.
Not School No 15.png School No. 15, Herkimer Street, corner of Franklin Street. This was a primary school with an enrollment of 565. Today this appears to be nothing but park space on one of the pretty streets of the Pastures.
Pine Hills Elementary.png School No. 16, 41 N. Allen Street, a grammar school of 686. This is now the site of the Pine Hills Elementary School; I don’t know if any of the original building elements were retained in the reconstruction that took place in 2005.
School No 17.png School No. 17, Second Avenue and Stephen Street, a grammar school of 466 students. This building still stands, sadly derelict.
Delaware Community School.png School No. 18, Bertha and Hurlbut Streets, a grammar school of 578. This lovely old structure was recently replaced by a thoroughly modern school building for the Delaware Community School. I understand why, the interior was almost completely unsuited to contemporary schooling. But I’m kicking myself for having lived directly across the street from it and never having taken a picture.
School 19.png School No. 19, New Scotland Avenue, a primary school with 254 students. This building remains in use as an Albany City School, the New Scotland Elementary School.
School No 20.png School No. 20, N. Pearl and N. Second Streets, a grammar school of 446 students. Still in use as a city school, the North Albany Academy.
Not School No 21.png School No. 21, 666 Clinton Avenue, a grammar school of 739 students. (Apparently, while “13” is an unacceptable number for a school, “666” is a perfectly acceptable address.) The site would appear to be a vacant lot today.
School No 22.png School No. 22, 292 Second Street, a primary school of 312 students. Sadly, another decaying hulk.
School No 23.png School No. 23, Whitehall Road, a primary school of 264. Still a city school, home to the Albany School of Humanities.
Not School No 24.png School No. 24, Delaware and Dana avenues, a grammar school of 379. The building is gone; today the site is occupied by the Boys and Girls Clubs of Albany.

Finally, an Albany High School

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As noted previously, in its earliest days Albany wasn’t exactly overrun with schools, and most of the first schools required tuition or patronage of some sort. In 1796, the Common Council passed an ordinance authorizing free schools, and then promptly did nothing about creating any. Joel Munsell’s Annals of Albany indicates that there were still no public schools in the city before 1810, when the idea of a Lancasterian school was apparently first raised. But there was some kind of academic explosion going on, as there were many individual teachers, both male and female, who were listed as teaching in Albany in 1813. They included Widow Catherine Goheen, Widow Esther Bedford, Widow Martha Wilson, several apparent non-widows, and a number of men, the health of whose spouses was not reported.

Howell, in his “Bi-centennial History of Albany,”  wrote that “From 1830 to 1866, we can say little in commendation of the system of Public Schools in Albany. The importance of the subject does not seem to have been considered by the citizens. They kept pace neither with the growth of the city nor the demands of the times.” He noted that in 1833, there were 6,277 children of school age in the city, “of which number, 3,578 had been taught by thirty-four teachers.” A system of nine school wards in the city was created, and eight new school buildings were opened in 1838, but there was still a charge. “The children of those who were too poor to pay tuition were called charity scholars, and this degrading distinction prevented many from attending the schools. The right of free education was not recognized till 1862, when the odious system of school rates … was abolished.” Around this time, there were seventy private schools (many instructing only a few pupils), 13 public schools, and the academies. In 1857, the Wilberforce School opened with accommodation for 143 “colored children,” but ceased to be exist as a segregated school in 1874, when African American students were admitted to all schools.

Albany High School.pngStill, all of these schools were essentially grammar schools. “The inadequacy of the schools was clearly manifest, yet the opposition of the public to enlarge the school facilities by the expenditure of any large money, at a period of financial uncertainty consequent upon the close of the war, and already suffering under heavy taxation, was particularly strong.” Sound familiar? After some legal wrangling, the Board of Public Instruction opened the Free Academy, the city’s first version of a high school, in Van Vechten Hall on State Street in 1868. (Van Vechten had been built as the freight and passenger station for the first railroad, the Hudson and Mohawk.) The academy grew rapidly, and in 1873 came under the control of the Regents of the University and was renamed Albany High School.

A new building was erected in 1876, which Howell wrote stood “87 feet front on Eagle street, 135 feet 4 inches on Steuben, 120 feet on Columbia, and 92 feet and 7 inches wide on the rear. It comprises sub-cellar, basement and three stories above the basement. The superstructure is of Philadelphia pressed bricks, with light stone trimmings, interspersed with courses of black stone and white bricks, presenting an outward appearance singularly attractive and pleasing to the eye. Fortunate in its location, beautiful in appearance, and complete in all its appointments, it is one of the most perfect of its kind in the State.” It was designed by the Albany architects, Ogden & Wright, and cost about $140,000.

“The High School is still under the direction of John E. Bradley, its principal, a discreet manager and an able instructor. He is assisted by eight male instructors and twelve female teachers. In 1885, there were 608 scholars. The language studies pursued consist of Latin, Greek, German, French and English. The other branches are mathematics, chemistry, physics, drawing, vocal music, rhetoric and elocution, and the various English branches.”

The building continued in use until a new high school was constructed around 1915. While the Albany County Courthouse that replaced it in 1916 is certainly no econo-box, it’s hard not to lament the loss of this lovely Ogden structure.

The first academies in Albany

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In April, 1779, a number of Albany inhabitants petitioned for the creation of a seminary under the protection, direction and care of the aldermen, who agreed and recruited George Merchant of Philadelphia to be the first principal. The academy opened November 16, 1779, in a house known as Vanderheyden Palace, near the southwest corner of North Pearl Street and Maiden Lane. In 1789, a writer looked back: “Seven or eight years ago a competent English teacher was scarcely to be found. Now we have an academy, which flourished under the direction of Mr. Merchant, a gentleman who has always given such proof of his abilities as to render encomium entirely superfluous.”

Albany Medical College.pngAnother school was founded in 1812, known as the Lancasterian School because it followed the educational principles of England’s Joseph Lancaster. In 1817 the school of 400 pupils moved into a new building at Lancaster and Eagle Streets, built by order of the Common Council. It cost $23,918.93, could accommodate 450 students and “a large infant school,” and provided a residence for the principal. The Lancasterian school lasted until 1834; in 1839 the building became the first home of Albany Medical College.

Early schooling in Albany

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Race with the Schoolmaster, illustration from Sword and Pen by J.A. Owens.pngThat last post was dry toast even by Hoxsie’s standards, so here’s something a little less factual and figural.

The earliest settlers of Albany did without a system of education until 1650, when the congregation of the First Church built a school house and chose Andrass Jansen as the teacher, who instructed the children of the school’s patrons. Schooling continued in Dutch until the English took control of the colony. In 1665 Governor Nicolls proclaimed that “Whereas the teaching of the English tongue is necessary in this government, I have therefore thought fit to give license to John Shutte to be the English Schoolmaster at Albany; and upon condition that John Shutte shall not demand any more wages from each scholar than is given by the Dutch to their Dutch Schoolmasters. I have further granted to the said John Shutte that he shall be the only English Schoolmaster at Albany.”

Important as Albany was to trade and commerce in those early days, it was still a very small town, and even some decades later the city was only in need of a single schoolmaster, as the Common Council expressed in 1721:

“Whereas it is very requisite and necessary that a fitt and able schoolmaster settle in this city for teaching and instructing of the youth in spelling, reading, writeing and cyffering and Mr. Johannis Glanssdorf haveing offered his service to settle here and keep a school if reasonably encouraged by the Corporation, it is therefore Resolved by this Comonalty and they do hereby oblige themselves and their successors to give and procure unto the said Johannis Glanssdorf free house and rent for the term of seaven years next ensueing for keeping a good and commendable school as becomes a diligent Schoolmaster.”

By the time of the Revolution there appear to have been multiple schoolmasters in Albany, but it wouldn’t be until 1779 that a true academy of higher learning would be established.

Albany education facts and figures

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The Albany Chamber of Commerce’s 1923 booklet on education in Albany laid out an impressive and highly confusing set of facts and figures to relate the importance of education in the city, to show that “as a business, education here surpasses, both in investment and in the amount of its payroll, that of any other single enterprise.”

First, it tallied up the capital investment in public, parochial, private and professional schools, then added in the $6 million value of the State Education Building just for good measure and to nearly double the value of all school buildings to $13 million. Then it asserted that the combined capital of the 382 industries in the city amounted to $39,529,000, meaning that the investment in education was “approximately one-third as much capital as is invested in all industries, or to reverse this form, one dollar is invested in property producing education for every three dollars producing a commercial product.”

It then broke down payrolls to make a similar point, that one dollar was spent for education to every $5.80 spent in industry; if you only looked at teachers’ wages, it was a dollar for every $4.67. Adding to that was the value of students coming from other places.

In case you wondered, the annual budget for the city of Albany in 1922 broke down like this:

Education $913,331.00
Police 395,461.50
Fire 392,230.00
Other items 1,315,037.63
Total $3,016,060.13

Education in Albany, 90 years ago

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Education in Albany.pngIn 1923, the Albany Chamber of Commerce put out a booklet promoting “Education in Albany: An Opportunity and a Business.”

“What educational opportunity will be possible for my children?” the booklet asked. “This is the most important question a man asks who is seeking a home. Albany answers this question with a completeness hardly realized even by her own residents. It is possible for a child to spend seventeen years here in regular public school courses – kindergarten one year, grades eight years, high school four years, and State College four years. That is, this city says to the prospective resident, ‘Here your child may be taken at five years of age, trained for seventeen years without expense to you and at a total cost of $1258.79 to the city and $1000 to the state, according to the present budget, a total gift of $2258.79.'”

That wasn’t even the full extent of educational opportunities in Albany a century ago, of course. There were private and parochial schools. In the public schools, special classes were provided for the “mentally retarded, for the anemic, tuberculous and deaf and for those of poor vision.” There was a vocational school and a continuation school that cared for “one thousand working girls and boys by giving them the type of education for which they are best fitted, – mechanical, commercial or domestic arts.”

In addition, there were evening classes, with 2150 students in the previous year, ranging from “first English for the foreigners who wish to learn our language” to advanced science and mathematics.