The Albany-Rensselaer Bridge

Published by:

The Approach to Albany Rensselaer bridge postcard.jpgI 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.

We’re proud of our shoddy work!

Published by:

Troy Waste Manufacturing Co. 1895.pngNot surprisingly, in its heyday the Collar City (and neighboring Cohoes, the Spindle City) generated a lot of waste fabric. But in 1895, very little waste was allowed to go to waste, and the cast-off cotton and wool of the collar and shirt bosom industries was collected up for a variety of uses. Paper, for instance, was not always from tree cellulose, but often had a high cotton (“rag”) content. Cotton batting was not made from freshly processed yarn, but from cast-off materials from other manufacturing processes. And wool fibers that were too short for weaving or felting would be reclaimed into a cheap material called “shoddy.” (Today, Google finds this so hard to believe that even if you search for “wool shoddies,” it will first return you results for “wool hoodies,” making it clear you can’t be looking for what you think you’re looking for.) Although shoddy became a synonym for something that would quickly fall apart, even shoddy wool was longer lasting than cotton, and in an age when even ditch-diggers wore some form of woolen suit, shoddy was in high demand. (And I imagine if you were the foreman of the ditch-diggers, you might distinguish yourself with a high-class merino shoddy.)

The Troy Waste Manufacturing Company was a major dealer in cotton and woolen waste, batting, paper and shoddy stock. If you wanted something shoddy, they were the place to go. If you wanted another go-round at the joke, you might say they were proud of their shoddy workmanship. Their building still stands, by the way, though as its plaque indicates, the current building is from 1909. A shoddy fire burned down the previous building in 1907.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Trojan Bowling

Published by:

Becks Pocket Guide of Troy NY 1935_Page_018.png

In 1935, the bowling and billiard hall that Erve managed was in the Hall-Rand building on the northwest corner of Congress and Third Streets in Troy. This was the former Rand’s Hall, later Rand’s Opera House, expanded in 1872 as a concert room, lecture hall and place of exhibitions. How Rand’s Hall became “Hall-Rand,” or how an opera house became a bowling alley, I don’t know. I also don’t know how “Erve” is pronounced. Sadly, it’s long gone, and a  former chain restaurant building housing a fast food buffet occupies what should be a prominent corner of the city.

Guy Bull’s location for wrapping paper and twine is a residential neighborhood on the edge of Knickerbacker Park.

How to make Bosoms of Superior Quality in your own home

Published by:

Childs Renss County 1870 00104.png

The other day we mentioned that Ketchum’s Gentlemen’s Furnishing Store was, in addition to being a purveyor of shirt bosoms of superior quality, an agent for the Wheeler & Wilson sewing machine. It shouldn’t be any surprise that there are numerous advertisements for sewing machines in the Collar City’s directory for 1870 — sewing was practically the official occupation of Troy. Andrew Aird and Bros. were the local agents for Wheeler & Wilson of Watertown, CT, one of the leading sewing machine manufacturers of the day (eventually they were absorbed by Singer).

Andrew Aird was a native of Scotland who lived in Green Island and had a number of interests in Troy. In addition to selling and repairing sewing machines at 380 River Street, he was also listed as a provider of collar manufacturers’ tools at 480 River. His brothers John and Henry were also in the business. In 1875, Andrew Aird opened his jewelry and watchmaking business in the Mansion House Block, and remained in that business at least through 1900. He was also listed as a machinist at the same address.

Your great great grandma’s pottery

Published by:

Child's Gazetteer Rensselaer County 1870 90.png
Today Troy’s Pottery District is a combination of history and artisans, and there are a number of people in the area creating distinctive works for sale in the River Street shops. But in 1870, “Troy Pottery” meant something else entirely. We’re talking sewage. But clearly W.J. Seymour’s yard at the corner of Ferry and William in Troy was the place to go for drain pipe of all shapes and sizes, and had been since 1809.

The Carl Company

Published by:

Carl Co. 1914.png

Well of course I couldn’t talk about Wallace’s without mentioning its across-the-street complement, The Carl Company. One of Schenectady’s home-grown department stores, it opened in 1906 and was owned by the Carl family until 1984. Defying the trend of amalgamations and consolidations, it managed to survive into the early ’90s with a number of suburban locations adding to its downtown flagship store, immediately adjacent to Proctor’s Theatre. When the company decided to close down, it was done with typical class and many of us were sad to see the last of the local department stores disappear.

This ad was from 1914, when Carl’s already had another location in Troy – people didn’t travel very far to do their shopping in those days. Carl’s was also one of the stores that had a stamp-collecting premium program, Gold Bond Stamps, which were given with every purchase. Every now and then my mother would pull out all the Gold Bond Stamps she had collected and we would paste them into the redemption books, which could then be turned in for discounts against purchases. This was what entertained kids when there were only three channels. I only wish there were a picture of the Uncle Sam hats they were giving away this August Saturday, and can’t help but wonder if their supplier had missed the Fourth of July rush.

Today, its space has been taken over the Proctor’s, which uses it for its iWerks theatre and coffee shop, the 8th Step performance space, and Underground at Proctor’s.

In some sense, the Carl Company is still doing good things for Schenectady – its Carlilian Foundation supports grants to promote child health and welfare in Schenectady County, and is a major supporter of the Central Park Rose Garden.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Where to go for Bosoms of Superior Quality?

Published by:

1862 Schenectady Directory Ketchum Gentlemen's Store.png

Why, Ketchum’s Gentlemen’s Furnishing Store, of course. In case you thought he was going to up and quit the business at any minute, A.M. Ketchum “would respectfully inform the citizens of Schenectady and vicinity that he will continue the manufacture of shirts, collars, bosoms of superior quality, and keep constantly on hand a general assortment of gentlemen’s furnishing goods.” From the age when collars and cuffs were detachable and replaceable (much to the benefit of our own Collar City, Troy), I’ve always heard the term “shirt waist.” But apparently “shirt bosom” was also in use and did not provide the kind of grade-school tittering that such a phrase would occasion today (and Google and Zemanta are essentially fifth-grade boys, because it’s being suggested that a related article to this would be “Chest Vibrator Increases Breast Size.” That’s quantity, not quality, Zemanta).

Ketchum was located on State Street just below South Ferry. He was also an agent for Wheeler & Wilson, one of the earliest sewing machine companies, at a time when that domestic miracle was still relatively new.

Wallace Company Department Store

Published by:

Wallace department store postcard.jpgWallace Company was a downtown Schenectady mainstay from 1892 until 1973, when all the great downtown department stores (H.S. Barney, W.T. Grant, S.S. Kresge) seemed to collapse within a few years of each other, leaving only Woolworth’s and the venerable Carl Company behind. Wallace’s was owned by Forbes & Wallace of Springfield, Massachusetts, and also had branches in Poughkeepsie and Kingston. It loomed large in my childhood, not only because I spent endless hours as a bored little boy stuck waiting for my mother in the fabric department (remember when there were fabric departments?), but because Wallace’s may have been the reason I exist in the first place. My grandmother was a waitress in the luncheonette (every department store of any kind of class had a luncheonette), and she noticed a young man who was working in the parking lot – they parked your car for you in those days, in the lot that opened onto Liberty Street – and somehow thought that her daughter should meet this young man. I can’t imagine why she thought that a young man who had never been to high school and was parking cars for a living, two years older than her possibly college-bound daughter, should be a good catch; maybe the only explanation is that it was the ’50s. My father graduated to delivering furniture for Wallace’s, and my mother worked there, too, making clothes for the mannequins (I know that makes no sense in the modern age, but back when people made their own clothes and pattern sales were huge, the stores would have someone make sample clothes and put them on the mannequins). Eventually (or about two months after she graduated high school), they married, and a couple of years later, both working at Wallace’s, they had me. My mother stopped working full-time because that’s what was done then, though she still sewed on the side and sometimes waitressed at the drugstore a few blocks from our home (yes, drugstores had waitresses then). My father went on working for Wallace’s until maybe 1967 or ’68, when he went to work for Central Markets as a local delivery truck driver. (Later on, Central Markets would change their name to Price Chopper.)

The Wallace Co. building, constructed in 1892 and expanded in 1910, still stands on Schenectady’s main commercial block.

Enhanced by Zemanta