Christian Weeber was an inventor and tinkerer who built a variety of things in his Albany shop in the early part of the last century: handbuilt automobiles, some of the earliest automobile mufflers, gasoline-powered electric generators, a type of railroad rail. And with his brother Emil, he made and sold bicycles. Weeber had a variety of locations for all his ventures, which were going on at the same time: 170-172 Central Ave., 47-53 Bradford Street, 250 Sherman Street.
Unfortunately, this jack of all trades is forgotten today.
In Dr. Morse’s American Geography published in 1789, he says, “Albany is said to be an unsociable place … To form a just idea of the manners and customs of the inhabitants, we must confine ourselves to the Dutch, who being much the most numerous, give the tone to the manners of the place.”
in 1795, the Duke de la Rochefoucault-Liancourt visited Albany, and gave his views of the inhabitants as follows: “I was by no means displeased at leaving Albany. The Albanians, to speak generally … are the most disagreeable beings, I have hitherto met with in the United States.”
In 1800 Gorham A. Worth writes, “Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch. The buildings were Dutch – Dutch in style, in position, attitude and aspect. The people were Dutch, the horses were Dutch, and even the dogs were Dutch.”
(Proceedings of the New York State Historical Association, Volume 10: “Real Burial Place of Lord Howe” 1911)
Or not, because look at that disease. I’ve posted this image from an 1860-something Albany directory before over on My Non-Urban Life, but it deserves a second look. I don’t know what’s wrong with
the eye on the right, but I’ll say this: I don’t want it. Also, whatever
the surgical cure would have been in the time of the Civil War, I don’t
want that, either. Catarrh (excessive buildup or discharge of mucus in the nose or throat) was practically a blessing compared to the other ailments that Dr. Liston treated in his offices on Grand Street. I’m not saying he wasn’t a good doctor, I’m just saying there may have been a reason he had the largest selection of artificial eyes in the country.
Oh, steam! Is there nothing you don’t make better? I’m not sure exactly what they actually milled at Eureka Steam Mills, which was at Broadway and Division Streets (possibly where the defunct Adirondack Trailways terminal is), but they were one of a number of dealers in coffee, spices, cream tartar, mustard, &c. in downtown Albany in 1862.
It seems to me that in a time when everything was run by steam, Albany was at its most prosperous. Nowadays, with steam mills and steam crackers impossible to find, times aren’t so good. I’m just saying, maybe it was the steam.
Once, it might have been the most important transportation intersection in the United States: the spot where the Erie Canal opened into the Hudson River. Here, barges carrying grain and hundreds of other products from the Great Lakes region had to be lifted from mule-drawn packet boats the plied the canal and moved onto sailing ships and steam vessels that would carry the goods down to New York harbor. And imported goods that had arrived in New York, or any of its many manufactures of the time, had to be manually loaded onto canal boats for their journey west. In the days before the railroads, and even for decades after rail reached over the Appalachians, the water level route was the commercial lifeblood of our nation.
And we still remember it today, with preserved pieces of the original canal scattered here and there throughout the Capital District, noted by the blue-and-yellow markers. But this particular spot, once the busiest harbor in the state outside of New York City, is now a riverside park with no hint of its industrial past. Now part of the Corning Preserve, the site has a bike path, a boat launch and lots of parking, but only a lonely historical marker gives any indication of its former importance. You have to follow the filled-in canal quite a way up the aptly named Erie Boulevard before you can find the first trace of old canal infrastructure, unmarked and forgotten, a little bit of lock wall right in front of the Huck Finn’s Warehouse.
I don’t have a date for this postcard, which features the first Dunn Memorial Bridge, a lift bridge dedicated August 19, 1933, replacing the Greenbush Bridge. By the opening of the Dunn, Greenbush was a memory, consolidated along with Bath-on-Hudson and East Albany into the City of Rensselaer. This is the approach to the bridge as seen from Rensselaer; at the time it connected directly to Third Avenue, with Broadway crossing underneath the Albany-bound ramp. The ramp is lovely. On the Albany side, the bridge connected to Ferry Street. The site in this view has a long history as bridge ramp, as it still connects traffic to the new Dunn Memorial Bridge, several hundred feet to the north.
The building on the left stood until sometime in the 1990s; when I moved here it was home of the now-defunct Yankee Doodle Bikes. The building on the right, with some changes to its roofline, is still there.
The Albany skyline has changed a bit in the years … at this time the most distinctive elements were the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building and the New York Telephone Building. Because of terrain and interceding buildings, the State Capitol is generally not very visible from the Rensselaer side.
Albany and Rensselaer did not get a second vehicle crossing until 1968, when the Patroon Island Bridge, carrying I-90 across the Hudson River, was opened. This bridge, also seen in this postcard view, blew up real good in 1971.
The first bridge to carry non-rail traffic across the Hudson between Albany and what was then called Greenbush wasn’t built until 1882, some years after the upper (Livingston Avenue) and lower (Maiden Lane) railroad bridges were constructed. Like the bridges that came before it, it was an article of contention, opposed by those who feared it would obstruct navigation and by the ferry owners. Even after the first bridge was built, its successors were also opposed. You can find more about that bridge here.
You can order your coal by telephone! Imagine: no more dispatching orphans down to the coal yards, crying for anthracite and striking a less than advantageous bargain with the local collier. No more waiting to learn of the bargain while the orphan is distracted by games of pitch-penny or roving tobacco gangs. You simply pick up the telephonic instrument, scream the complicated three-digit calling number at the girl, and in minutes you’re connected with the main office. Will the wonders of this new century never cease?
Jessica Pasko at All Over Albany wrote last year about how Albany is the home of rolled, perforated toilet paper. She didn’t, however, investigate whether our hometown was also the pioneer in toilet paper holders, but it seems likely. Now you’ve got a roll where you used to have a pile of papers; it couldn’t have taken long to realize that toilet paper wanted to be hung up. A year’s worth of toilet paper and a nickel-plated holder for only a dollar may have seemed a tremendous deal in 1907, but then again, the Sears catalog was free. Apparently, if you didn’t live east of South Dakota, you’d better hope you got the Sears and Montgomery Ward’s catalogs, because the Albany Perforated Wrapping Company’s offer was not for you.
38 Colonie Street, by the way, is currently as dead-end as a dead-end can be.
No doubt this factory on the edge of the lumber district produced slightly more modest bedsteads. Rufus Viele was president of the Albany Mechanics Institute, and of the YMCA. He lost ten bedsteads, a crib and a cradle in the fire at New York City’s Crystal Palace in 1858, where he was among the many exhibitors at the Fair of the American Institute.