Category Archives: Troy

William Young’s Troy buildings

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William Young's printing house.pngIt tickles Hoxsie’s cockles that so many beautiful, important, historic buildings in Troy are seeing renovation and reuse. Not least of these is the building constructed by William H. Young, bookseller and stationer, which has stood somewhat neglected on First Street next to the Rice Building for too long. Young’s printing and bookselling business was responsible for both of these buildings. Happily, it looks like this one will be saved.

Young’s business descended a long line. It was begun in 1821 by Ebenezer Platt, who partnered with Daniel Platt and formed the Franklin Bookstore, selling books and stationery and named for a bust of old Benjamin Franklin over its doorway on River Street. The business and the partners moved almost ceaselessly. William Young came on the scene in 1842, working with various partners through the years. In 1864, he built this beautiful brownstone at what was then numbered 8 and 9 First Street, which connected to an existing store-room at 216 River Street. In 1871, he built the glorious corner anchor now known as the Rice Building (or at least the first three storeys of it), where he established a book-bindery and printing office.

Writing in 1876, Arthur James Weise, whose work was being published by William Young, wrote that “His spacious store-rooms contain a large collection of American and foreign publications, Bibles and prayer-books, text-books for colleges and schools, cheap and choice stationery, a full line of gold pens and pencils, and the latest specialties in fancy goods. He also manufactures blank books of all styles, from great bank ledgers to pocket memorandum books.”

Troy August 2013 026Here’s how it looks today.

Troy August 2013 073

General Grant’s funeral procession

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Gen Grants funeral Albany nysed.jpgWe all know (we do all know this, right?) that General Ulysses S. Grant finished his military memoirs in a small cottage at Mount McGregor just before dying there on July 23, 1885, a bit more than twenty years after Appomattox. The cottage, loaned him by Joseph Drexel of New York, was subsequently presented to the Grand Army of the Republic and eventually became a New York State Historic Site.

It was some days after his death before a memorial service was held at the cottage on August 4 (and on the same day at Westminster Abbey, London), after which his body came by rail to Albany, where it lay in state in the new Capitol, still very much under construction, and was viewed by thousands. The next day, August 5, the General’s body was escorted down State Street hill, again with thousands looking on, and sent on to New York City, where he had lived prior to coming to Mount McGregor. The city had pledged that he could be buried in any park to his liking, and a huge sum was collected to build his tomb in Riverside Park. General James Grant Wilson, in his “Life of General Grant,” gave a sense of the send-off given to this respected old soldier:

“On Wednesday afternon, the 5th, the body of the great soldier arrived in New York, and was escorted by an imposing body of troops to the City Hall. For three days it lay in state, and was viewed by nearly a quarter of a million of persons, including a large number of old soldiers who had served under him.

“Saturday, August 8th, was the day appointed for his public funeral, the arrangements having been made by General Winfield S. Hancock. A more magnificent demonstration was never witnessed in the New World, attesting the nation’s admiration and respect for the memory of the American soldier. It is supposed that at least a million and a half persons saw the procession. The streets of the city echoed to the tramp of thirty thousand soldiers and veterans who marched with measured tread to the solemn music of a hundred military bands. There were to be seen heroes of scores of battles, and the torn and tattered flags that waved over Shiloh, Vicksburg, the Wilderness, and other well-contested fields. Never but once before and once since in the history of New York have so large a number of armed men marched through its streets. . . .

It was nearly six hours after the funeral cortège left the City Hall that the catafalque, drawn by twenty-four horses, reached the grave on the banks of the historic Hudson, and was placed in the temporary tomb with appropriate ceremonies, in the presence of his family, the President of the United States, his Cabinet, ex-Presidents Hayes and Arthur, his pall-bearers, Generals Sherman and Sheridan of the Union armies, and Generals Johnston and Buckner of the Confederate service, with many of the most eminent men of the country. So, on that bright and sunny August afternoon, he was laid to rest. . . .”

Grant's coffin, Franklin Iron Works, Troy.jpg Worthy of note, with thanks to the Library of Congress: General Grant’s steel coffin was fashioned at the Franklin Iron Works of Troy, a steam boiler maker on Center Island (also known as Starbuck Island), between Troy and Green Island.

The Troy Menands Bridge

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Troy and Menands Bridge Troy postcard BPL.jpgWhile we’re on the topic of bridges, let’s move up the river to this old view of the Troy-Menands Bridge. What was originally a lift bridge, as shown here, was opened July 17, 1933 after several years of planning and the usual Albany-Troy tussles that had gone along with bridging the Hudson for a century or so. The span was designed and supervised by a cast of RPI graduates, working with the Phoenix Bridge Company of Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, whose maker’s plate still adorns the bridge. The lift operations ended by 1966; the lifting towers were removed in 2000, supposedly to reduce inspection costs. The bridge has seen several rehabilitations, and spans were added to connect it to I-787 in 1967, and is currently being resurfaced. This view includes the old tracks of the New York Central and Hudson River Railroad, crucial to the success of Henry Burden’s nearby iron works.

Troy Menands Bridge Troy postcard BPL.jpgHere’s a view of the approach to the bridge on the Troy side. Those lovely entrance towers still stand.

Trojan Hotel, the Elks, and Alling Rubber

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BPO Elks and Trojan Hotel Troy postcard BPL.jpgThere’s been a lot of excitement over plans to bring the old Trojan Hotel building back from the brink. Here’s an undated postcard, posted by the Boston Public Library, with a view looking south down Third Street in Troy. On the left, the Trojan Hotel, its iconic sign already in place. To its right, the home of the Benevolent Protective Order of Elks, and the Alling Rubber Company, a chain selling sporting goods, bicycles and toys. Sadly, both of the Trojan’s neighbors were lost to parking and a wing of what is now the HSBC bank; click here for the street view.

Sometimes, one Liberty Bell isn’t enough

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Suffrage Bell Meneely Troy 1915.jpgA reminder to those who think the forefathers got it all right and a strict reading of the Constitution is all we ever need: they didn’t. The Liberty Bell wasn’t enough.

To call attention to injustice and draw support for women’s suffrage, a “Justice Bell,” an imitation of the Liberty Bell, was cast and sent on tour. “The bell’s casting was commissioned by Chester County’s Katharine Wentworth Ruschenberger, an active member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, which later became the League of Woman Voters. The clapper was chained to its side silencing the 2,000 pound bell.”*

It was cast at a Meneely Bell foundry; this photo and another newspaper story place it in Troy, which would be Clinton Meneely’s foundry; he had broken off from his father’s and brother’s operation in West Troy (Watervliet).

That’s Mrs. Ruschenberger pulling the rope. The bell traveled Pennsylvania in support of the state’s suffrage movement. Eventually it ended up at Valley Forge National Historical Park, where you can see it today:
Valley Forge Oct 5 2014 DSC_1104

*(description from Flickr user Wally Gobetz)

Troy, 1838

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Troy 1838 William James Bennett.jpgFrom 1838, a view of Troy from the west bank of the Hudson River at the United States Arsenal, now known as the Watervliet Arsenal. Click and look at it large, because this lithograph by William James Bennett has everything: boats that are sailed, steam-powered, and rowed. Industry and church steeples. Working horses, working men, fops, and a fop in training. Everything.

RPI admits women, 1942

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RPI admits women.pngIn honor of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s 207th commencement ceremony tomorrow, we’d like to note that it was 71 years ago that the institute determined that having ovaries would not necessarily preclude a person from understanding engineering and science. Today, that “limited number” of women students is as high as 29% of the student body.

Behold Henry Burden’s Horseshoe Machine

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Burdens Horseshoe Machine 1857.pngMargaret Proudfit’s biography of her father, Henry Burden, gets downright giddy over the invention that made his fortune, the horseshoe machine:

Watch this wonderful piece of mechanism at work which in a second of time makes a horseshoe. Before you are two strong frames between which are four revolving shafts geared together and getting their motion from a pulley-wheel. On the shaft most exposed to view, you see three cams, one of which raises a cutting lever, another lifts a bending frame on which is a bending tongue, and the third works the flattening pieces … Observe now the rapid movements of these shafts and their appurtenances. Gliding like a fiery serpent, you see a red-hot bar of iron, moving toward the machine, on the feeding rollers. Already the iron jaws of the monster are opening to catch between its incisive teeth this glowing rib of iron. The end of the bar has passed to the opposite side of the ravenous automaton’s mouth, which is the proper measurement of the length of the intended shoe – the cutter comes up and severs it, and for an instant stops the feed; the bending tongue raises up and is pushed against the cut bar and bends it between two forked cams; it is then caught between the upper and lower dies, taking their impression, the bending tongue falls back, and the side levers close in the heel-ends …

In the [punching-room] are seen a long line of men seated astride of the saddles of the punching machines making the nail-holes through the indented marks previously put in the creased part of the shoes. Thence they are conveyed in hand-cars to the swaging furnaces in which they are placed before they are swaged.

Boys are at work here, taking with tongs the heated shoes from the furnace and putting them singly on the revolving dies of the swaging machine. After the heated shoe is seated upon one of these dies, it is carried to the top of the machine where it is stopped for a moment; a top die descends on it and two side steels swage the sides of the shoe, removing all bulges and making the outside edges of the shoe perfectly smooth …

The shoes when packed for shipping are then taken out, weighed and packed in kegs, in each of which are to be found 100 pounds of perfectly made horseshoes.

Want to know more about Henry Burden? Just follow these links:


The Wonders of the Puddling Forge

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It’s not possible to leave the biography of Henry Burden without relating this wonderful passage, “The Wonders of the Puddling Forge,” which we daresay borders on some sort of gothic pornography:

The chemical elements of pig-iron are such as to render it unfit for any serviceable use in these mills, and it therefore undergoes another process of melting in the puddling furnaces, where it is subject to currents of air and flame while agitated by tools in the hands of the puddler. This manipulation brings it in contact with oxygen, which drives out the carbon in the pig-iron, leaving the metal afterward in a decarbonized condition.

In this temple of Vulcan – the puddling forge – the visitor beholds a scene of stirring activity seldom witnessed elsewhere. Scattered in groups or dispersed singly through this spacious building are hundreds of brawny men, with faces bedewed with perspiration and begrimed with coal dust, nude to their waists, their feet incased in heavy hob-nailed shoes, and their strong hands turning, thrusting, pulling, and piling the molten or fashioned iron in ways innumerable amid the heat, the smoke and the short-lived splendor of a thousand red-hot metallic sparks. Here are sooty-faced men stirring through the open doors of flaming furnaces, glowing incandescent masses of iron that blind one’s eyes with their fervent brilliancy; others again taking great balls of puddled metal from the furnaces in iron buggies and casting them into the devouring jaws of the rotary concentric squeezers, from which, as unpalatable morsels, they are ejected in the shape of compact blooms which are immediately taken up red-hot as they are, and thrust between a pair of revolving cylinders, placed one above the other, and furnished with grooves of various sizes through which the blooms is run forward and backward, until it is shaped into a long bar of crude iron. The bars which have already cooled are then carefully tested by placing the end of each one on an anvil, where it is cut and bent before it receives its classification. These are then carried on cars to a great pair of iron shears, where they are cut as if they were ribbon, into pieces about three feet in length. These pieces, a number of them called “a pile,” are again placed in furnaces, where they are reheated and again taken out and passed through the roll-trains, whence they issue, like long fiery serpents, in narrow bars, and passed to the horseshoe machines.

Want to know more about Henry Burden? Just follow these links:


What Burden’s works looked like

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Burden Factory Maps overlaidSo here’s an attempt to show just where the Troy Iron and Nail Factory and the rest of Burden’s burgeoning Upper Works were, which should give you an idea of just how much this tiny corner of Troy has changed and changed back — from wooded vale to center of industry to pleasant steep little street along a nearly forgotten set of falls. Click on the map for a larger view of an old map of the works overlaid with the current Google map. You’ll see that the Wynantskill has been straightened out a bit, with the removal of that oxbow on which much of the works was built. Burden’s Pond remains, as does the Woodside church just above the Oxbow. Factory buildings once lined the kill, but barely a trace of them remains today. And the only reminder of the greater water wheel that once powered all this is a mural on a concrete retaining wall at the bottom of the hill.

Burden's Works from SIAThis diagram by the Society for Industrial Archeology from 1971 reconstructs the works. It’s oriented upside-down from the map above. You can see that the buildings were built right up against the creek, with bridges across it for access. This is the only diagram I’ve found that has a precise location of the Burden water wheel, which was a landmark ruin for longer than it was a functioning wheel, but of which no trace is found on the grounds alongside the kill today.

Want to know more about Henry Burden? Just follow these links: