Mohawkville: I Want To Go To There

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1862: “At Mohawkville, in the town of Rotterdam, situated 2-1/2 miles south of Schenectady, one of the healthiest and most splendid locations for a village in the state, is the thread and twine manufactory of Henry M. Crane.

“The number of inhabitants  at present is about 300. The grounds of Mr. Crane are superb, being laid out in parks and magnificent drives of various lengths. Mr. C’s business we find, extends through every state in the Union. Persons wishing a nice drive will be very much gratified and surprised at the beauty which this little village affords, and will always find Mr. C. willing and ready to show them through his grounds.”

Not sure where Mohawkville was, or whether Henry Crane is related to Cranesville (which is on the north side of the river).

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Groceries and Insurance

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Well, I think it’s a little interesting that in 1862, A.F. & G.C. Carley, wholesale and retail dealers in family groceries, actually billed their dealing in wines, brandies, gins, bourbon, Monongahela & magnolia whiskeys above their flour and boneless pork offerings. They had their priorities. And while you were sampling the Monongahela, you might step next door (or maybe it was in the same store) and see to your life and fire insurance.

A House Furnished Complete

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In 1891, Wooster’s of North Pearl Street was offering to completely furnish the residents of Albany homes for a low, low $396.25. That’d be about $9900 in today’s money. And you can see from the detailed listing they weren’t skimping . . . even servants got a mirror, and guests were provided with a comfortable hair mattress. Well, would you let your guests sleep on straw? The live geese feather pillows don’t sound too restful, though, and I’ve heard what happens when you squeeze a goose.

The New Albany, 1891 — No. 4

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Finishing up the wonders of Albany as it approached the 20th century:

20th. The Tweddle building, which rose from the
ashes of the old Tweddle Hall since the decade began.

The Tweddle building is one of those references you see over and over in old Albany papers, and “Tweddle” never stops sounding a little
giggly. John Tweddle was a prominent malt-maker, founder of the Merchants Bank, and benefactor of St. Peter’s Church on State Street. Tweddle Hall, the predecessor of the Tweddle building, was at 81 State Street, at North Pearl. It was reknowned for its acoustics, but it burned in 1883.

27th. The Greenbush bridge and the horse railroad
to the other side of the river, are products of this remarkable decade

The ferry lobby held off the establishment of a bridge
between Albany and Greenbush (you may know it as Rensselaer today) for decades.
The ferry lobby. Not a damn thing ever changes.

keeler.jpg34th. Keeler’s new hotel.

I really need to spend a lot of time writing about Keeler’s, which was at Broadway and Maiden Lane.
Albany had a number of leading hotels, each with its own personality, each a
key to the civic life of the city. Keeler’s burned for the last time in 1919 and was never rebuilt. (And if you want to see that picture in astonishing detail, check it out over at Shorpy.)

These are some of the changes that have taken place and the
enterprises that have been originated in the last ten years – not all, by any
means; only those which have occurred to us haphazard in writing this article.
The list does not include many business blocks, or may beautiful private residences
that have been erected. It take sno note of the great improvements made in the
paving and sewerage in many parts of the city; but it does show that Albany has
made rapid advance sin the past decade. It demonstrates conclusively that a new
and progressive spirit actuates the community; that fresh and powerful forces
are at work; that there is a willingness on the part of our citizens to make
the city desirable to live in; a city of homes where as much is to be enjoyed
as in any other place on earth.

“Accept then, the New Albany as a reality; enjoy, and help
others to enjoy, its fair and beneficent existence.”

The New Albany, 1891 — No. 3

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We’ll skip around the rest of the 38 items on the list of
the new wonders of Albany that emerged in the decade before 1891.

12th. The new Public Hall. A structure which is
the pride of every Albanian, and will be for a hundred years to come. No city
In America has so fine a public hall, theatre and opera house combined in one
spacious, comfortable and perfectly safe building.

I have no idea what or where this Public Hall was, but it
came at a time when every city was proud of its auditorium. Having a place for
enlightening lectures, high-class entertainment and fine music was a
prerequisite for being a city of note. Luckily we still have the Palace
Theater, for surely a denizen of the 1890s who was shown our major public
auditorium, whatever name it goes by these days, would surely think we were
showing him the new penitentiary. Concrete walls, slab and bench seats, and all
the charm of a run-down dormitory? Not what a city would be proud to show off.

13th. The New Armory. Close to the new hall
stands the new armory of the Tenth Battalion, a fitting home for the local
military of which Albany always has had reason to feel proud.

of grand spaces. Luckily this landmark still stands, long after the Tenth
Battalion has gone. That it is primarily the home of roller derby does not
diminish its importance.

14th. The new Protestant Episcopal Cathedral, the
first of its kind, almost the only one of its kind, in the United States.

Norder gave a wonderful history of the Episcopal Cathedral, perhaps the largest
structure ever to be completely overshadowed by another structure. In that
alone, it is definitely the only one of its kind.

17th. The new Executive Mansion, another noble
addition to the state buildings of which Albany has so great a share.

                Still a
lovely structure that somehow should have lifted its neighborhood higher than
it has. Unfortunately, it lacks a great name like “Drumthwacket.” I highly
suggest we take up the task of naming the mansion before another century has

18th. The National Commercial Bank building,
which would be considered an ornament to any city in the Union.

lovely structure that survived. National Commercial Bank and Trust Company was
headquartered in Albany for something like a hundred years. It changed its name
to Key Bank and decided that was more of a Cleveland kind of name, and off it
went. Don’t get me started.

19th. The Albany County Bank, unique, substantial

On this one, don’t get me started for a different reason.
This building was so lovely it just makes me want to cry that it is gone, and
that it has been replaced by a brick and concrete abortion of a plaza from the
’70s. If Marcus Reynolds could see this, he’d never stop stabbing his eyes out.

The ladder truck

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A brief note in the totally wonderful “The New Albany” from 1891:

“The fire in the telephone office, the other day, five stories above the street, gave opportunity for an illustration of the value of the extension truck, by which ladders were speedily run to the upper stories. Its value, where life was in danger, would be incalculable.”

The New Albany, 1891 — No. 2

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City Hall tower 2So, more from “The New Albany’s” list of things that made Albany wonderful in 1891.

6th. Rapid transit. What New York has  been clamoring for these twenty years Albany has well nigh in perfection, in the splendid equipment of the Albany railway. New York still clings to the antiquated horse cars; Albany has banished them to Greenbush.

Okay, so the Big Apple was a little slow on getting its mass transit rolling, but once the subway system opened in 1903, I think they may have had the last laugh. Happy to report, however, that Greenbush has regular diesel buses just like Albany now.

7th. The redemption of State street. Nothing is more striking than the difference between the old, filthy market which so long disgraced the principal approach to the Capitol, and the handsome, well-paved street which, from its breadth and surroundings, is to-day worthy of the majestic building to which it leads.

I’ve written before of the efforts to Elkanah Watson to have State Street paved, and the old Dutch who opposed it.Another century later, things had degraded again, and a new paving was the answer. And just these past few weeks, as yet another repaving wraps up (are they really on a once-a-century schedule?), State Street is again looking lovely and shiny. 

8th. The Market Place. Growing out of this change is the roomy, convenient and well-adapted market place, where producer and customer meet, as is not their privilege in any other city in the country.

Sadly, Albany’s tradition of the public market is lost, reduced to the various farmer’s markets and the Regional Market in Menands . . . nothing like the once-vibrant bazaar downtown. And the space the market occupied is just rubble-strewn parking waiting for a convention center to be plopped down on it.

9th. The City Hall. The handsomest exterior for a public building to be found in America. Richardson, the greatest architect of his time, regarded this as his masterpiece.

Happily, Richardson’s masterpiece still stands, it’s still used for its intended purpose as the seat of city government, and its bells still ring out over the city at lunchtime. Compare this to Troy, which has for some reason decided to be the only city in upstate New York that believes a city hall to be a nuisance, an unnecessary expense, and nothing to be proud of. One of the few things about which Troy is just plain wrong.

10th. Capitol Park. The improvement of Capitol park has changed an eyesore into a beauty spot. Another year will see the eastern porch to the Capitol under way, when for the first time that enormous building will take on the beauty which is yet to make it as famous in the future as its cost has in the past.

No argument there. Both Capitol parks are lovely and fitting for the seat of government of the Empire State.

The New Albany, 1891 — No. 1

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New Albany intro pic.pngIn 1891, the publishers of “The New Albany” seemed to feel the
city needed a pep talk. While extolling the wonders of what then was still one of the larger cities in America, it was clear they were also looking back a bit, bemoaning the loss of industry that had moved west. Even so, Albany was still growing, and rapidly, and changing from an old city of mud and horses into a modern, paved, electric city, which they dubbed The New Albany:

“The New Albany is no longer a mere figment of the brain – another Atlantis, never to be realized or seen by mortal eyes. The New Albany exists. It is not a plant of mushroom growth. The change has, in fact, been so
gradual that far too many of our citizens refuse to recognize or admit that it has taken place. They are still living in the Albany of 1850, or 1830; some of them in the Albany of 1800, with eyes shut to the growth, the development, and the spirit of the last decade.

“And yet, when you stop to think of it, the changes brought about in this city since 1881 are something marvelous.”

“The New Albany” then takes note of a few (way more than a few) of those changes, beginning with the north end. Over the next few entries, I’ll do the same, noting which of these wonders of The New Albany still stand,
which are gone, and which I just can’t figure out anything about.

1st. The North Broadway improvement. Ten years ago the great avenue between Albany and the north was a quagmire. Above Pleasant street there was neither pavement, nor sewer, nor sidewalk. To-day a
noble thoroughfare, with flagged sidewalks, granite block and underneath it a capacious sewer, stretches to the city line.

Well, today North Broadway is mostly the remnants and ruins of the turn of that century. Some of the sidewalks might be the originals, and the sewers definitely are, in this stretch of warehousey wasteland. I like the
north end of Broadway, but it’s no longer the pride of the city.

2d. The Broadway electric road. Ten years ago wornout old horses dragged wornout old cars at a sleepy pace toward Troy, at fifteen cents a passenger. To-day handsome and comfortable cars, swiftly propelled by electricity, carry passengers into the heart of our neighboring city, for ten
cents each.

Well, the electric road is gone, but you can still hop a No. 22 bus five or six times an hour and get into the heart of Troy for $1.50. That’s not bad.

3d. The Broadway viaduct. Ten years ago the upper railroad crossing was frightening horses, and killing, on an average, a man a month. By means of the costly, but absolutely necessary viaduct, the terror is wholly abated.

The viaduct still stands, in a forlorn and neglected stretch of Broadway.  The horses are no longer frightened.

4th. Clinton avenue. Ten years ago Clinton avenue was worse to travel than the rocky road to Dublin. To-day it is as well paved as any street need to be, and over it electric cars make frequent and speedy

Today Clinton Avenue is the secret fast way west out of downtown. It doesn’t have electric cars, but it does have a bike lane.

5th. The Hawk street bridge. Much less than ten years ago Canal street formed an almost impassable barrier between Arbor hill and the central part of the city. To-day a strong and graceful structure spans
the gully, and makes access between the two hills as easy now as it was difficult before.

The loss of the Hawk Street Viaduct just about makes me cry. You can read its full story here. Canal street is now Sheridan Avenue, and “gully” is a word that doesn’t see enough use, probably because modern bulldozers have
made it so easy to fill one in.

More tomorrow . . . .


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What does eating celery have to do with buying wagons at the fair? And who eats celery that way? And who buys wagons at the fair?  And who describes their address as “next door but one to the post office”?

Then there’s relish.

This one makes my brain hurt. Standard Wagon Company, 1891.