Author Archives: carljohnson

Postcard Week: Albany City Hall

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Albany City Hall postcardA closer view of Albany’s beautiful City Hall, designed by famed architect H.H. Richardson, who also designed part of the new Capitol and a State Street home for stove magnate Grange Sard. City Hall opened in 1883.

This postcard was sent in 1916 to Miss Helen H. Hallan (?) of Wappingers Falls, whom we can presume wasn’t quite yet capable of reading it:

Dear Helen:

I hope you will say Da Da by the time I come home.



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,

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.

Happy Fourth of July week

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Thelma at Wallace's

When the Fourth of July falls in the middle of the week, America can’t decide which other days to take off, so pretty much the whole week is shot. Hoxsie has things to do this week, and is taking a couple of days off to get them done. In the meantime, the ladies of the Wallace’s luncheonette, gathered here in the parking lot behind the Schenectady department store, wish you a happy Fourth of July.

The passing of Troy Savings Bank

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Troy Savings Bank

Troy Savings Bank (Photo credit: carljohnson)

Weise’s 1886 “The City of Troy and its Vicinity” recounts the early history of the Troy Savings Bank, which was incorporated by law in 1823. The board of managers first met at Platt Titus’s inn on August 1 of that year. The by-laws provided that the bank “should be opened on every Saturday evening, from 6 to 8 o’clock; that deposits of $1 and of larger amounts should be received; that no interest should be paid on sums less than $5; and that no fractional part of a dollar should be accepted.” The bank began business within the Farmers’ Bank on the northeast corner of First and State streets, “receiving from the first depositor, Martha Jefferson, a colored woman, $20.” The next year the bank moved to the Bank of Troy, on the northwest corner of the same intersection. In 1832, deposits were accepted at the office of the bank’s treasurer at 53 First Street, and then later at 8 First Street. In 1845, the Troy Savings Bank erected the Athenaeum Building on the east side of First, between River and State; the property would later be owned by the Troy Young Men’s Association. In 1846, the Savings Bank was in the banking room of the Commercial Bank, within the Athenaeum Building. In 1850, it took its own space on the south side of the hall. Finally, in 1875 (according to Weise; others say 1870), using $435,000 in accumulated earnings, the Troy Savings Bank moved into the lovely granite structure on the northeast corner of Second and State streets that we today associate with the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall. Even after the Savings Bank was subsumed into First Niagara in 2004, banking continued on the first floor, until about a month ago, when the bank vacated the space. The last vestige of the old Savings Bank, which had a 181-year run, is gone.

The Music Hall, fortunately lives on, renowned for its magnificent acoustics. What will become of the first floor space is unknown at this time. Perhaps the bicycle club could move back in.

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Lost and found, 1923

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In the age of Craigslist, the weird old charm of perusing the classified ads in the newspaper is gone. Once we depended on them to find jobs, apartments, cars, and weird odds and ends. And nothing was odder than the lost and found, where people paid to list items they had been parted from. In the Schenectady Gazette in 1923, we had an interesting collection of lost items:

  • Two stock certificates for the Centrifugal Cast Iron Pipe Co.
  • The trousers from a full dress suit.
  • A pair of tortoise shell rim gold bow glasses (“Please leave at 4-1/2 Congress st. barber shop”)
  • A Remington shotgun “from fender of auto on Rexford or Jonesville rd.”

And not exactly lost:

  • “Party who took fur choker from side entrance 105 Park pl., seen and recognized. You are advised to return same at once to avoid trouble.”

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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. . . .”