Category Archives: Albany

Salamander and Albany Fire Brick Works

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Palmer, Newton & Company’s Salamander and Albany Fire Brick Works provided the specialized brick needed for stove linings, furnaces, and various manufacturing processes. That they were located on Rathbone St. (now no more than an alley footpath, and appropriately named for any one of a number of the stove-building Rathbones) is no surprise; they would have been adjacent to some of the big stove-makers of Albany.

Bishop’s “A History of American Manufactures from 1608 to 1860” (Volume 2, mind you) speaks well of this enterprise:

To obtain linings that were good conductors of heat, and yet strong enough to bear transportation without fracture, has long been a desideratum of Stove and Range manufacturers, and judging from the extent of their business, we infer that this firm has attained the desired result. They supply not only the foundries of Albany and Troy, but the extensive Range manufacturers of Boston and Providence, and also many dealers in New York, Baltimore, and other places. Among the specialties of this firm’s manufactures, we might mention fire Brick Grates for Thompson’s patent furnace for burning wet tan. This improvement is of immense value to tanners, enabling them to use as fuel the tan which was heretofore an encumbrance to them, and thus save not only the expense of its removal, but of purchasing other fuel.

This billhead from the Biggert Collection dates to 1863 and depicts the factory with that industrial age enthusiasm for smoke-filled skies. The letter’s author is sending bricks for a stove that he acknowledges will not fit, and suggests that perhaps the recipient could cut them down. I’m not sure what tool I would use here in the 21st century to cut down firebrick, but whatever it would be, I’m betting it wasn’t around in the 19th century.

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S.H. Ransom – again with the stoves

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Somewhere along the line one of the partners in the Rathbone family stove business was S.H. Ransom. John Rathbone and Samuel Ransom were only partnered from 1841 until 1844, when they split into separate firms. Ransom made stoves and hollow ware in their foundry on the south end of Broadway. The business remained until 1881, when it was sold to Clarence Rathbone, who despite his Rathboniness continued the Ransom business name.

This receipt from the Biggert Collection is from December 1863, when a Mr. M.L. Filley bought of S.H. Ransom & Co. one dozen regulator knobs and a D valve. The view here of Albany’s working waterfront is fabulous; click to see it larger.

Rathbone, Sard & Co. – The Acorn Line

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Rathbone Sard and CoThe first Rathbone in the stove business in Albany, Joel, was highly sucessful; his country estate, Kenwood, later became a Catholic convent and girls’ academy. His nephew John also went into the stove business, and with Grange Sard manufactured the Acorn line of stoves and ranges. Not only can you find their advertising ephemera through a quick Google search, you’ll also find some of the stoves are still available. The firm dated back to 1830 with various other names partnering up with a Rathbone. It became Rathbone, Sard & Co. in 1873. Howell, writing in 1885, mentions that the North Ferry Street factory, near the canal, had were five modeling floors, five cupola furnaces, 90 tons of iron melted daily, and 75,000 stoves a year produced.

Grange Sard didn’t do too badly for himself, either, the son of a tailor who quickly became a partner in an established stove business, ultimately becoming its president, and who had his city home, familiar to anyone who was walked State Street near the park, built for him by H.H. Richardson, who usually spent his time on things like the State Capitol and Albany City Hall.

Not entirely clear what was going on in this 1887 correspondence from the Biggert Collection, though it would appear that Mrs. Luke Tower wrote directly to the Rathbone, Sard factory, perhaps trying to get around the local Youngstown, NY distributors of William Ripson and Son.

R.C. Reynolds Furniture

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R.C. Reynolds was once a major furniture store in both Albany and Troy, selling carpets, stoves, upholstery, china, glass, etc. When Mr. I.H. Vrooman of 294 Hamilton St. in Albany picked up 5-1/3 yards of linoleum remnant in 1914, Reynolds had stores at 36-38 N. Pearl Street in Albany and in the landmark McCarthy Building on Monument Square in Troy. One of Don Rittner’s great Arcadia picture books of Albany shows Reynolds in the building that now houses the 74 State Street boutique hotel.

R.C. Reynolds was a citizen of note. he was a director of the Troy Trust Company. He was on the board of the Troy Automobile Club in 1908, when there were 270 auto owners in Troy. He was an honorary vice president of the Mohawk and Hudson Humane Society. He was actively involved in maritime interests, and served on the Atlantic Deeper Waterways Association. A local ferryboat, built in 1896 and running from Maiden Lane to Troy, was named for him. That was possibly ironic, as a 1903 Troy fire that started on the steamboat pier burned his building and several others on River Street. He opened his new store in 1904 and 10,000 people attended the grand opening, which was recounted in the American Carpet and Upholstery Journal:

“The store is a five-story structure . . . with a polished
terra-cotta front . . . An interesting feature is an unique Oriental room
finished in Moorish style and richly furnished with Oriental draperies and
furniture. The upholstery section is fitted with the latest display devices,
while in the rug department the track system, which displays eighty rugs at the
same time, is in use. A large space on the north side of the main floor is
devoted to an artistic combination of furnishings in a model five-room
apartment house, consisting of a parlor, reception-room, library, dining-room
and bed-room. The parlor is noticeable for its flowered tapestries and carved mahogany
furniture, the reception-room in gold, the library with its golden oak outfit,
the weathered-oak dining-room suite and the bedroom with heavy brass bed,
complete lace bed set and bird’s-eye maple furniture.”

Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co.

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Another wonderful billhead from The Biggert Collection, this one from 1855 showing the venerable establishment of Pruyn, Vosburgh & Co., No. 39 State Street, importers of hardware.

In 1829, John Pruyn, hardware merchant, gave over his business to Lansing Pruyn, Isaac Vosburgh and Abraham Wilson.

In his 1866 “History of the County of Albany, ” George
Rogers Howell tells us that Isaac W. Vosburgh was born in Albany in 1801 to a
father of old Dutch stock and a Scots mother. He began his business career in
the hardware store of George Humphrey on State Street. “here he applied himself
assiduously to business and familiarized himself with the hardware trade as it
then existed.” The firm of Pruyn, Wilson & Vosburgh was formed, and
continued in business for more than thirty years, doing business at No. 39
State Street.

Their ad in the 1843 New York State Register advertised them
as importers of hardware, cutlery, steel &c. “Also, constantly on hand,
Ruggles’, Nourse & Mason’s superior Ploughs, of different sizes and
patterns, manufactured at Worcester, Mass. Together with Sub-soil and Side-Hill
Ploughs, Cultivators, Straw-Cutters, and other Farming Utensils.”

Included on this receipt: slates, pencils, brass kettles, thumb latches, fish hooks, and 3 (or 4) kegs of nails. These were sold for the princely sum of $28.09 to Jacob Settle, a merchant of Berne who is well-known and well-regarded in Amasa Parker’s “Landmarks of Albany County”:

Jacob Settle was engaged in mercantile business in Berne from 1812 to 1864, in which he was uncommonly successful. He was prominent in public affairs, held the offices of justice, supervisor, member of assembly, and was for thirty five years postmaster. It was largely through his influence that the plank road was constructed through this town from Schoharie, and connected with the Albany road. He was in every way a public spirited and valuable citizen.

39 State Street would have been about across from Jack’s Oyster House. The building is long gone, likely subsumed by the Museum Building.

Price & Weatherhead

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This billhead from The Biggert Collection is from the first year of operation of Price & Weatherhead, dealers in brandies, wines, cigars, ale and porter. Not to mention family groceries, fine teas, java coffee, oliv oil, foreign pickles, sauces, preserved fruits, and Mumm and Heidsick champagnes. Constantly on hand!

According to Howell’s “Bi-Centennial History of Albany,” Frederick Vine took over the store of E.R. and E. Satterley in 1840 and moved to 7-9 North Pearl Street in 1856. He sold out to Joseph J. Price and Hilon L. Weatherhead in 1862, who moved the business up the street to 19 North Pearl. This only lasted until 1866, when the partners went their separate ways and opened competing stores.

At the time, people still weren’t sold on the spelling of “cigar,” which is spelled on the letterhead as “Cigars” and written on the receipt as “Segars.” Major Frederick Townsend was laying in some supplies, having just returned from the Civil War battlegrounds to serve as acting assistant provost marshal general.

Taking a close look at that vignette, I’m pretty sure the building still stands, either expanded or with its cornice joined to its old neighbor, which wasn’t an uncommon practice.

Letters from Keeler’s

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Yesterday Hoxsie got so wrapped up in Keeler’s story of ice and fire that I didn’t get to focus on the letterhead from the Biggert Collection.

This letter on hotel stationery from 1901 sends Friend Hatcher some directions:

“I get to write you today to say that I will not be at home until the last of the week Friday or Saturday Expect to be there Friday if all works right. Did you see C.M. [?] Sumner and send those dowel rod down they should be 3/4 inch diameter and are for the trus[s] back of the Board. I suppose he has them in length long enough for two rods up the back of the board. . . .” And there our fascinating conversation about dowels ends.

Keelers letter.jpgA later letterhead gives us a better impression of exactly where Keeler’s stood, showing the streetcars on Broadway and the Capitol in the background. This note from 1917, just a bit more than a year before the end of Keeler’s, smacks of corporate intrigue:

“Dear Sir: He says he has no objection It don’t make any diff. if he has as long as the vote is three to one. If there is nothing doing on this deal I shall employ Amesbury [?] lawyer and have him sell, so as to get my share no matter what it costs. A case of have to with me.”

Keeler’s Hotel

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For a long time, Keeler’s was the hotel in Albany, even among other highly respected establishments such as The Kenmore and The Ten Eyck. As Dr. William Henry Johnson wrote in 1900, “Keeler’s Hotel, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, is one of the finest hotels in the State, complete in every particular.”

Keeler’s was on the west side of  Broadway at Maiden Lane, about where the Arcade Building is today. William Henry Keeler was born in 1841. According to the Albany Rural Cemetery website, “In 1863, he opened Keeler’s Oyster
House at State and Green Streets, which soon became the most popular and famous
oyster house in upstate New York.  He
sold the oyster house to his brother in 1870.  In 1886, he opened a restaurant at 26
Maiden Lane.  In 1890, he purchased
the property from his restaurant through to Broadway and built Keeler’s Hotel.” He died in 1918 and is buried, like any good Albanian, in the Rural Cemetery.

Possibly unique among Albany hoteliers, Keeler had his own supply of ice, a vital necessity in the days before electric refrigeration. An article from the January 1906 edition of the perhaps not widely read “Cold Storage and Ice Trade Journal” reported that that winter’s prospects were “very favorable for Mr. Keeler’s filling his ice houses from his ‘Maceland Kill,’ as it is called, with from 10 to 12 inch ice. Mr. Keeler supplies a large city patronage, aside from his hotel needs. The Maceland Kill, which was formerly the chief supply of the water reservoir that for many years was utilized as the main supply of Albany’s drinking water, is situated about a mile and a half north of Albany and about 2,000 feet west of the river.” The article refers to the Maizelandt Kill (sometimes “Maiselandt”), which was indeed a part (not the chief supply) of the Albany Water Works as it was made up in 1850. keelers.jpg

All that ice didn’t help on June 17, 1919, when Keeler’s Hotel burned spectacularly to the ground. The New York Times wrote:

“The interior of Keeler’s Hotel at Broadway and Maiden Lane, one of Albany’s landmarks and a hostelry known throughout the country, was completely destroyed by fire in less than two hours early today. The 226 patrons, all men, escaped. One fireman was buried beneath falling walls and killed. The loss is estimated at more than half a million dollars. The fire was one of the most spectacular in the city’s history. Parts of the building had stood on the present site for generations and offered fine material for the flames. The blaze, of unknown origin, was discovered soon after 3 A.M. in the cabaret, a building which adjoins the sleeping quarters on the south. For a time it was confined to this building. This gave opportunity to arouse the patrons, many of whom gathered, scantily clad, in the main lobby of the hotel, only to be driven out into the street. Others who remained in their rooms to dress were later forced to throw their suitcases from windows and make their exits by way of the fire escapes.”

As can be seen in the marvelous image of Keeler’s from the Library of Congress Collection and here reproduced very large by Shorpy.com, finding a fire escape was not a problem.

Note that right next door to Keeler’s was Cotrell and Leonard, the firm that invented the American cap and gown.

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John G. Myers

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John G. Myers’s dry goods store was one of the long-time anchors of the North Pearl Street shopping district in downtown Albany. The store was founded in 1870 and was rivaled only by Whitney’s. Today it’s probably best remembered for its terrible collapse in 1905, which killed at least 13 people. The store was rebuilt, and in 1917 merged with Fowler’s of Glens Falls.

On this billhead from 1882, a J.C. Hughson of “1 Lumber Dist.” bought 85 cents worth of lace — 5-1/2 yards worth. The address, not a real street address, makes one wonder if Hughson was outfitting curtains for an office window, but perhaps it was for one of the small residences that did exist down in the lumber district.

Gloeckner & Co. Furniture

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Another glorious billhead from the Biggert Collection, this one from B. Gloeckner & Co., Inc., a furniture dealer at 81-83 South Pearl St. in Albany. It would appear that on Feb. 24, 1915, Mr. J.H Vrooman, Jr. of 294 Hamilton Street bought a refrigerator (#942) for the princely sum of $28.00.

In 1870, the firm of Gloeckner & Wolf, at 115 S. Pearl St., were listed as manufacturers and retailers of furniture, “their stock of Mattresses, Spring and Feather Beds is of the best quality.”

According to the Albany Rural Cemetery’s site, Bernard Gloeckner was born in 1842 in Darmstadt, Germany. He came to the U.S. and served in the Civil War at age 19. He later was chairman of a committee to raise funds for a monument to Civil War General Adolph von Steinwehr at the cemetery. Gloeckner died in 1911 and is buried in the cemetery.

The building, sadly, is long-gone, but was most likely right around Market Street, where the South Mall Expressway construction took out a couple of blocks of once-vital business district.

Here’s an ad from Gloeckner and Wolf in the 1870 Albany directory:

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