Category Archives: Albany

Postcard Week: Pierce Hall, Albany

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Pierce Hall, Girls' Dormitory. N.Y. State College for Teachers, Albany, N.Y.This undated postcard depicts Pierce Hall, “Girls’ Dormitory, N.Y. State College for Teachers, Albany, N.Y.” The obverse describes Albany but says not a thing about Pierce Hall, which opened in 1935 as a women’s residence hall and still stands today as part of the SUNY Albany downtown campus. SUNY Albany itself grew out of what was variously called the State Normal School or the State College for Teachers. This lovely structure is named for Anna E. Pierce, an 1884 graduate of the Normal School and the college’s first Dean of Women.

Sometimes I wonder how different Albany would be if Stanford University were located here, as it was intended to be, or if SUNY Albany had developed around its downtown campus instead of on an isolated parcel on the far end of town.

Postcard Week: City Hall, State Hall, Public High School

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City Hall, State Hall, High School postcard“View from the Steps of the State Capitol, showing City Hall, State Hall and Public High School, Albany, N.Y.”

This postcard, mailed in 1909, gives a view that isn’t too much changed a little more than a century later. City Hall is still the same. “State Hall” is now home of the State Court of Appeals, but was originally opened in 1840-42 as offices to relieve the crowding in the old Capitol building. The Court moved in 1916-17. And just visible to its left is the grand old Albany High School.

Noticeably missing from this postcard view is the statue of Philip Schuyler in front of City Hall.It wasn’t put up until around 1925.

Sender Bryant didn’t have much to say to Charlie Etts of Far Rockaway. Just “Greeting. Albany.”

Postcard Week: Also Albany High School

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Albany High SchoolSo before that other Albany High School, there was this Albany High School, the first one, at the corner of Eagle and Columbia streets. This postcard was sent in 1910 from Mabel to Miss Alice J. Paterson over on Avenue B in Schenectady.

Dear Alice

Thank you for letting me know about Aunt Libbie. Ada has been very kind to. She has written several times to keep me posted. It is too bad that things turned out just as they did, and you and Anna did not have the restful time you looked for, but Aunt Libbie is fortunate to be recovering at all. Come down when you can.

With love,
Mabel


Postcards of this era overwhelmingly report regret at not having written, and some sort of ailment or malady that has the writer down.

This fabulous pile of bricks, sadly long gone, stood where the Albany County Courthouse is today. What is now a little pathway with stairs down to Lodge street was apparently a full-fledged street at the time, the upper end of Steuben. The buildings off to the left are still standing.

Postcard week: Albany High School

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Albany High School postcard

It’s postcard week here on Hoxsie. Back in 1916, Delia sent her niece Georgia Tarbell of East Wallingford, Vermont, a postcard depicting the then-new Albany High School. She wrote:

Well Dear Georgia
Just a card this time as I am not extra well. have been haveing the grip for a week past. have not done much. (?) so gaining slowly does a little. but we have such changeable weather. hope you are all well. please write if but a card how you all are with love am sending a calendar such as the Albany Hardware get out.
from aunt Delia

The building still exists, part of the SUNY downtown campus. It’s a lovely, representation of what a school should look like. Can’t say the same for the current high school.

To the Manor born

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If you want to see the original walls and doors from the Van Rensselaer Manor house, the home of Stephen Van Rensselaer II, the eighth patroon of Rensselaerwyck, circa 1769, you’ll need to take a trip down to New Amsterdam (even old New York was once New Amsterdam) to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, where big chunks of what was once the grandest home in Albany are preserved in the galleries. I think it’s worth a peek next time I’m in town.

(Yes, I’m aware the phrase is “to the manner born.” Yes, I correct other people who get it wrong.)
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Where’s there’s beaver, there’s beaver crime

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Munsell’s fourth volume of the “Annals of Albany” begins with various records from the Courts of Assize, generally a criminal court. In the early days of Beverwijck, when the fur-bearing mammal was the main item of trade, there was a considerable amount of beaver theft, unfair beaver trading, and sundry other beaver-related crimes, as these entries from the 1640s indicate:

  • “Decreed that Van Der Donck has no longer any further claim on the beavers. . . . “
  • “Symon Volckertsen, old 20 years declares and confesses voluntarily that Anthony Peters some time past assisted him in stealing four beavers from the shallop of Egbert Van Borssum, which he enveloped in a blanket, carried on shore and offeed for sale to Martin Crieger . . . .”
  • “By Bastiaen Jansen Crol was at Fort Orange arrested 16 beavers, of which the proprietor could not be discovered. . . “
  • “I undersigned declare to owe on sight of this, forty three and a half beaver. . . .”

What’s going on, 1670

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Screen Shot 2012-06-24 at 8.46.25 AM.pngJoel Munsell’s “Annals of Albany” was a ten-volume opus published during the 1850s that was a magnificent mixture of history, biography, and just plain copying of things that happened in Albany’s history. It’s the copying that’s of interest this week, as he took it upon himself to set down, verbatim, a number of records from the Court of Assize. Most of these were orders of the colonial governors, and in 1670 that was Francis Lovelace. These orders were of infinite variety: gubernatorial pardons, establishing schoolmasters, naming midwives, granting a license to butcher.

  • A Pardon graunted to Jan Roeloffs — In 1665, Jan Roeloffs “by an unhappy accident in shooting of a Gunne at unawares in one of the streets of the Towne of Albany” shot Gerritt Verbeeck, who later died of his wound. Before dying, Verbeeck forgave and acquitted Roeloffs of any malicious intent, and an inquiry found  the two “had not any private Grudg or former difference upon any occasion between them as also that the Gunne was not known by the said Jan Roeloffs to be loaden when he shott it of.” Therefore Roeloffs was pardoned.
  • The Governor’s License, granted unto John Shutte, for teaching of the English Tongue at Albany. English was still very much a second language in Albany in 1665. This was signed by Lovelace’s predecessor, Richard Nicolls.
  • An Order for Trentie Melgers to be a profest sworne Midwife at Albany. She had already been in practice 14 years when Governor Lovelace named her as a one of the “profest sworne midwives.”
  • An Order for Dirck Theunissen to have ye priviledg of Cutting and gelding of horses. I’m not entirely sure I’d call that a privilege.
  • William Hoffmeyer appointed Corne Meeter at Albany. It was thought convenient and very necessary that some person should be employed as a “sworne Corne Meeter at Albany to measure all manner of Graine or Corne” that was moving down the river. Today we’d spell it “meter,” but the idea’s the same. It was his job to measure all corn being loaded on boats and sloops at Albany. 
  • An Order for John Povey & Juriaen Jansen to be Pablique Butchers at Albanye. It was thought convenient that someone should be licensed as “publique” butchers to “slaughter & kill such beasts & cattle for the use of the Towne as are Etable and in good condition.” Povey and Jansen were said to have good knowledge of the trade of butchers, and therefore were given the privilege to “slaughter & kill any sorte of beasts & cattle in good condition fitt to be killed & usually vendible. . . .” By the same token, no one else could act as a public butcher.

Charter School, 1670

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English: Francis Lovelace (1621-1675)

English: Francis Lovelace (1621-1675) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In 1670, Albany’s Schoolmaster Jan Jurians Beecker was having a hard time. Despite the fact that Colonial Governor Richard Nicolls had granted him the right to keep the Dutch school “for ye teaching of youth to read and wryte,” there were some freelance teachers horning in on the business. “Several others not so capable do undertake ye like some perticular tymes & seasons of ye yeare when they have no other Imployment,” according to an order by the next governor, Francis Lovelace, “where by ye Schollars removing from one Schoole to another do not onely give a great discouragement to ye maister who makes it his businesse all ye yeare but also are hindred & become ye more backwards in there learning. . . .” Therefore Lovelace decreed that Jan Jurians Beecker, “who is esteemed very capable that way” would be the schoolmaster for instruction of youth at Albany and parts adjacent “& that no other be admitted to interrupt him.” It was “presumed that ye said Beecker for ye youth & Jacob Joosten who is allowed of for ye teaching of ye younger children are sufficient for that place.” 

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Measure for measure

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Dutch roof line

Dutch roof line (Photo credit: carljohnson)

In 1669, New York had been under British rule for five years, but the colony, her cities and her customs were no less Dutch (nor would they be, according to many reports, until the eve of the Revolution). As one way of establishing control, the British Governor of the Colony, Richard Nicolls declared on November 4th, 1669 “That ye Lawes relating here unto (uniformity of Weights & c,) shall be put in execution.” This meant that on January 1, 1670 in “New Yorke,” Long Island and places adjacent, and on April 1 in Albany, Rensselaerswijk, “Schanecktade,” Kingston, Esopus and parts adjacent, “all persons that sell either by weight or measure are to be provided with weights and measures according to ye English standard of which ye Officers in each respective place are to take care, & that no person shall presume to sell by any other weight or measure.” So presumably bread, wheat, ale, and whatever else might be sold by the schepel, ell or morgen would now be sold by the bushel, foot or acre. Simple enough.

Except that in the last known instance of government acting before society was ready, the Governor found there was a problem, and some time later issued an order. “But finding it very difficult & Inconvenient to putt ye said Acte in practice at ye tymes & places prescribed for want of a sufficient quantity of weights and measures of ye English standard to be disposed of and disperst throughout ye Government,” he was forced to determine that it would still be lawful “to sell and buy by ye same weights and measures they have been heretofore accustomed unto untill ye Country can be supplied with such other weights & measures as in ye said Acte of Assizes are required . . . ” The order does go on to warn that whether you chose to use English or Dutch measures in the interim, there should be “no fraudulent or sinister dealing.”

(If you don’t know it, you should: “ye” is pronounced “the” because the ‘y’ isn’t a ‘y’ at all, it’s thorn.)

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Romantic Albany

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The Northern Traveller, from 1844, relates an earlier,
uncredited, positively gushing description of the capital city on the Hudson:

“The younger race of fashionables and semi-fashionables know
Albany, or affect to know it, merely as a big city-looking place, full of
taverns and hotels, where they land from the steamboat, on their way to
Saratoga, Niagara or Quebec. Another set of less locomotive good folks,
especially in New-York and Philadelphia, have no notions about it, but those
derived from old traditionary jokes about its ancient Schepens and Schoutens,
its burly  Burgomasters, ‘its lofty spires glittering with tin, and hospitable
boards smoking with sturgeon.’

“But in honest truth, there are few cities of the size any
where, which can exhibit a greater or a more agreeable variety of society and
manners. In Albany may be found talent and learning, accomplishment and beauty.
The towns of Europe of the same size and relative importance, can in this
respect bear no sort of comparison with it. Then, too, its situation, the
prospect from its higher grounds and streets abound in scenes meet for romantic
fiction.”