Category Archives: Troy

Knowlson’s Butter of Cocoa Suppositories

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knowlsons pharmacy.pngIn 1886, Arthur Weise proclaimed that Troy was home to about 37 places where drugs and medicines were sold. Among them, he gushed about the establishment of Alexander M. Knowlson at 350 Broadway. “He possesses one of the most attractive drug, medicine and prescription stores in the city. Spacious, well-lighted, tastefully furnished, it presents those admirable features comporting with the business which he has so long and successfully conducted. His first predecessor, Charles Heimstreet, began it at No. 10 State Street, in January, 1836.” Weise goes on through several ownerships and locations; Knowlson bought the business at 1 First Street in 1864 and moved to Broadway in 1871. “Besides having all the conveniences of a judiciously arranged pharmaceutical establishment, the store contains a large and expensive stock of drugs and medicines. Knowlson’s 4711 cologne, tooth-wash, aromatic dentifrice, glycerine jelly, quinine hair-tonic, and other special toilet preparations sustain the high commendation bestowed upon them. In the prescription department the best and finest drugs are used, and the compounding of them is done only by registered pharmacists. In the manufacture of butter of cocoa suppositories by the cold process, which secures an equal distribution of the medicinal ingredients, Knowlson’s patent suppository machine is used. Being equal in weight and uniform in shape, the Knowlson suppositories are superior to those differently made. The mineral waters of Saratoga can be obtained on draught at the store in the natural condition in which they were taken from the different springs, being hydrostatically drawn from block-tin lined barrels by an automatic apparatus devised by Prof. D.M. Greene of Troy. A.M. Knowlson also has for sale an exceedingly large collection of choice and rare roses and other cut flowers from numerous green houses in the vicinity of Troy and New York City. His command of any number or kind of flowers is almost unlimited, and persons desiring any for weddings, receptions, dinners or other entertainments, can obtain them at short notice by leaving orders at the store or by transmitting them by telephone. Bouquets and floral designs are made by an artist specially employed by him for such work.”

The building is long gone, on the Broadway side of the Uncle Sam Atrium. Several across-the-street neighbors of similar style remain, however.

Albia seems like it should be in a palindrome

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Able was I ere I saw Albia? Albia is a neighborhood of Troy that is a vital little urban fragment, the right mix of homes and shops, a neighborhood that seems to get by. Weise’s 1886 “The City of Troy and its Vicinity” has a listing for Albia:

“Albia, in the fifth ward, is about 2-3/4 miles southeast of the court-house. A map of the village was made in February, 1813, by William McManus. In Spafford’s Gazetteer of the State of New York of 1824, Albia is described as ‘a scattered village of some 40 houses and about 200 inhabitants, 2-1/2 [miles] from the city, in the 5th ward.’ The Albia Cotton Factory was then ‘an extensive and growing establishment, having 1,700 spindles and 30 water power looms in operation, with a bleach.’ Below Albia village was ‘another bleaching establishment,’ where cloths were ‘bleached, dressed, callendered and neatly done up for 6 cents a pound, 1 to 2 cents a yard, on common cotton goods.’ The Pawling Avenue Methodist Episcopal Church, the Third Presbyterian Church, and the Troy & Albia Horse Car Company’s depot, are on the north side of Washington Street. The engine house of the Hope Steam Fire Engine Company, No. 7, is on the south side of the street, near the Grist-mill road. Horse cars run to Albia half-hourly in the day-time from the intersection of Congress and River streets.”

Albia’s Hope No. 7 firehouse remains as a community center.

Yes, Virginia, there was a City Hall

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Troy City Hall.png

Troy seems to be an anomaly these days, a city without a permanent city hall. For years it was in an atrocious ’70s style concrete abomination, now torn down to make way for riverfront redevelopment. For now it’s in a different atrocious ’70s style concrete abomination, with plans to move it back to Monument Square. There has been much squabbling in the interim. Squabbling about City Hall seems to be a long-standing Troy tradition.

This beautiful structure was once Troy’s City Hall, at the southeast corner of Third and State. It was also the product of much squabbling. The first city hall, authorized in 1869, was to have been a joint venture with the Troy Savings Bank, which would have owned the building jointly with The City-Hall Company of the City of Troy. That project was abandoned when the Savings Bank decided to build a banking house on the northeast corner of Second and State Streets. It’s still there today, of course.

Mayor Edward Murphy, Jr., in his first message to the common council in 1875, said “If there is any public building our citizens need, it is a city-hall.” There was then a movement afoot to purchase the Athenaeum Building for the purpose, which Mayor Murphy opposed. He preferred the site of a former burial ground at Third and State then held by the Vanderheyden family. “the land was originally donated to the city for a burial-ground, but as it is now no longer used for that purpose, it seems to me to be a most eligible location for the erection of a suitable public building to be known as a city-hall.” The common council went the other way, ordering a special committee to buy the Athenaeum Building on First Street, in which the city already had offices. The mayor vetoed the $60,000 purchase. The council seems to have acquiesced, for shortly after, on May 21, 1875, an act was passed authorizing $120,000 for a new city hall. The Third Street Burial Ground was selected in June, and architectural plans adopted in July. The remains of 208 persons were removed to Oakwood and other cemeteries at the expense of the city during the summer, and the cornerstone was laid on November 15, 1875. The building was completed and occupied in October, 1876.

Arthur Weise relates the details: “The edifice is 150 feet long and 83 wide, built of Philadelphia pressed brick, with sand-stone and iron trimmings. The common council chamber, on the second story and north end of the building, is 60 feet long and 40 wide. The public hall, on the same story, at the south end of the building, has a gallery, and will contain 1,100 people. The total cost of the city hall, including its site and furniture, was $119,761.61. The clock was placed in the tower, August 1885.”  The clock represented an additional expense of $1,300. Made by the Howard Watch and Clock Company of New York, it began running August 21, 1885. “The east and west dials are 8 feet in diameter; the north and south, 6 feet. The dials are illuminated at night; an automatic attachment turning the gas on and off at set hours.”

City Hall burned down in 1938. For the next three decades or more, Troy continued to exist without a real city hall, sharing space with the police and fire departments on Sixth Avenue. The old site became Barker Park. Other sites were proposed and abandoned. In the early 1970s, when Troy had a city manager, a new building was constructed at the west end of Monument Square, right along the river. That was torn down this year. City government is currently housed in a similar concrete and brick abomination, the former Verizon telephone building, which is supposed to be a temporary solution.

Frear’s Troy Cash Bazaar

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Frear's in the Cannon Building

William H. Frear, at Cannon Place, has the personal distinction of possessing and conducting a larger retail dry-goods business than any merchant in a city of the United States of the same population as that of Troy. The patronage of “Frear’s Troy Bazaar” is not wholly local, for its fame attracts customers from all the cities, villages and rural districts of Eastern and Northern New York, Vermont, and Western Massachusetts. The people daily thronging the spacious salesrooms of the well-regulated establishment are not the only evidence of the magnitude of its business. More than twelve thousand letters and packages are received and transmitted monthly through the post-office. Four, and sometimes eight, wagons are engaged in delivering goods to purchasers in the city and its vicinity. From two hundred and fifty to three hundred persons are employed in the different departments of the large store. The annual cash sales of the retail departments exceed $1,000,000. The main salesroom, on the first floor, has a frontage of 100 feet on Washington Square, and a depth of 119 feet. The part extending to the Second Street entrances has a width of 44 feet and a depth of 130 feet. On the second floor are the cloak, shawl and suit departments, the upholstery department, and the kitchen furnishing department. On the Second Street third floor is the counting room. In the basement are the goods-receiving, the carpet, and the wholesale departments. In February, 1859, William H. Frear came to Troy, and, on March 1, entered as a salesman the dry-goods store of John Flagg, at No. 12 Fulton Street. On February 11, 1865, he and Sylvanus Haverly formed the partnership of Haverly & Frear. On March 9, that year, they opened a dry-goods store at No. 322 River Street. By articles of agreement drawn on January 29, 1868, John Flagg became a copartner on March 16, 1868; the firm taking the name of Flagg, Haverly, & Frear. On April 9, that year, the firm occupied the store-rooms Nos. 3 and 4 Cannon Place, vacated by Decker & Rice. On January 2, 1869, Sylvanus Haverly withdrew, and the firm-name was changed to that of Flagg & Frear. On the expiration of the partnership of Flagg & Frear, on March 1, 1874, William H. Frear came into possession of the business. In 1875, ’76, ’80, and ’84, he enlarged the establishment by renting and refitting adjoining rooms, so that at present he occupies Nos. 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 Cannon Place, and Nos. 13 and 15 Second Street.
     — “The City of Troy and Its Vicinity,” Arthur James Weise, 1886. 

Of course, Frear’s later moved from the still-standing Cannon Building up to Third and Fulton, where its palatial home with the magnificent iron staircase still stands.

Grab your two-wheeler

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Troy Bicycle Club 1886

From Weise’s “The City of Troy and its Vicinity”:

“Troy Bicycle Club, organized November 4, 1881, purchased the spacious Coliseum Building, on the south side of Federal Street, between Sixth and Eighth streets, in the early part of 1886, and fitted it for the purposes of the association. The clubhouse, built of brick, has a frontage of 93 feet and a depth of 101 feet. The riding room, adjacent the club-parlors, is 80 by 100 feet.”

Before they took over the Coliseum Building, long since gone, they met in the basement of the  Troy Savings Bank Music Hall:

1883: “The Troy Bicycle Club have
furnished handsome apartments in the basement of Music Hall, and justly
claim that their quarters are excelled by those of few similar
organizations in the country. There are a large wheel-room and parlor,
divided by a handsomely designed oak railing, a commodious toilet-room,
with baths, two large dressing-rooms, and a janitor’s room. The floors
are all of Georgia pine, finished in shellac, and varnished, and the
ceilings are in hard finish. The parlor is elegantly furnished with
ebony chairs and tiles upholstered in figured brown silk with
crimson silk trimmings, besides two elaborately wrought centre-tables,
one in polished oak and the other in ebony with marble top. An upright
piano graces one corner of the room, and walls are adorned with the
portraits of famous wheelmen, and with tasteful engravings. In one of
the dressing-rooms is a handsome and costly sideboard.”

When a house burned down

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Becks Pocket Guide of Troy NY 1935_Page_046.png

From Beck’s Pocket Guide to Troy, 1935, Andrew J. Smith wants to make sure you’ve got enough insurance to keep the neighborhood from talking behind your back. Note that in 1935, people wouldn’t think of going to a fire without a proper hat, and that for a summer fire, a straw boater was considered appropriate.