It’s a shame that one of Albany’s oldest streets, Green Street, is barely known today. Other than the LaSerre restaurant, it is primarily a street of parking lots. It wasn’t always so. In fact, it was on Green Street, in the home of Gov. John Tayler, that Alexander Hamilton uttered words that gave rise to his fatal duel with Aaron Burr.
Joel Munsell gave Green Street a thorough going-over in 1876:
“As I am now speaking of matters pertaining to the present century, I may, with propriety, mention that Gov. John Tayler lived on the corner of Green street, and that after his death his house was removed and a portion of the lot taken to widen that street, about 1832. Gov. Tayler died in 1829, aged nearly 87. He had filled a large space in the political history of the state, and was the first president of the State Bank, where his portrait may now be seen.
“Green street was early spoken of as the Vodden markt, that is, the Rag market, and later as Cheapside. It was finally named Greene street, in compliment to Gen. Greene of the revolution, and raising a point in orthography it should on that account be written with a final ‘e’. Some of you will remember when it was a narrow street, merely enough to allow the passage of a single vehicle; and the city then being thronged with stage coaches — for at that period travelers were taken to every point of the compass by stage, and there being then three famous taverns, before they came to be called hotels, and Bement’s recess there also — it was often so blocked that passage could be made but one way, and that was usually to the south.
“There was the old Stone tavern, kept by James Colvin, and on the corner of Beaver was Dunn’s coffee house, while on the upper corner of Green and Beaver was the City tavern, kept by Peter Germond, and previously by Hugh Denniston, known in colonial times as the King’s Arms. The ancient sign of this house bore the effigy of King George, and one of the early outbursts of patriotism in the revolution spent its fury in wresting that obnoxious emblem of royalty from its hangings, and it was burnt in State street.
“The mansion of Gov. Tayler, on the lower corner of State and Greene streets, is still dimly remembered, a broad two story house with a hipped roof, the front door divided in the centre into an upper and a lower door, like most of the old doors, the stoop provided with a bench on each side of the door, where he often sat in pensive contemplation after the manner of early times.
“On the opposite corner of Green street, is still standing the store of the renowned William James, the merchant prince of the time, but less imposing in appearance now than when surrounded by one and a half story gable enders, and when five-story edifices were unknown. Mr. James died in 1832. His conspicuous position among the merchants of Albany, and his almost unparalleled prosperity in those days of lesser things, can hardly be appreciated by the younger portion of merchants.”