Albany: close to everything!

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Where in the United States of America is there a city from
which so many summer resorts can be reached so quickly, easily and cheaply as
from Albany? Did you ever think of it? Saratoga, Lake George, the Adirondacks,
the Catskills, the Helderbergs, Howe’s Cave, Cooperstown, Sharon Springs,
Ballston Spa, Round Lake, Kinderhook, the Berkshire Hills. Yes, and the great
seaside pleasure grounds at Coney Island, Rockaway and the Jersey coast are all
within a few hours of Albany, with perfect means of transportation; and there
is always the beautiful Hudson and beautiful Washington Park.

— The New Albany, 1891

And at that time, you could (in fact, almost had to) get to them all by public transportation.

What a world of solemn thought their monody compels!

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Bells, that is. Those words are Poe’s, these are Arthur Weise’s in 1886, describing Troy’s then world-famous bell industry:

The fame of having tens of thousands of church bells ringing round the earth made in her foundries is realized by Troy. In the distant missionary fields in Africa, along the fertile borders of the Nile, beyond the ruins of Ninevah, near the jungles of India, around the pagodas of China, over the heathen-inhabited islands of the Pacific, in every part of the wide extent of the United States, the sound-waves of Troy bells billow and break.

The fame came from a number of companies, including Julius Hanks (succeeded by his brothers and then his son), who first cast bells, surveying instruments and cannon in Gibbonsville, which became West Troy, which became Watervliet, before moving to Fifth and Elbow (now Fulton) in Troy in 1825. There his firm cast church-bells ranging from 100 to 3,000 pounds. Then in 1852 Jones & Hitchcock began manufacturing church bells at First and Adams streets, becoming the Jones & Co. Troy Bell Foundry in 1873. But by far the most famous was the Meneely Bell Company, which was on the east side of River Street between Washington and Adams. It was originally formed in 1869. Weise writes:

The company’s constant reception of orders from different parts of the world for church-bells is an honoring attestation of their excellence. Their shape, weight and tone are based upon the combination of so many essentials that the business is one which obtains its distinction from the adaptation of bells to the places and purposes for which they are intended. The company’s foundry is fitted with all the necessary appliances for moulding and casting bells of different weight and size. The quality of a bell’s sound or sonorousness depends on its shape as well as on the metal used in casting it. Copper and tin are the best materials for making clear-toned bells. The most approved proportions are 78 parts of copper and 22 of tin. Not unfrequently the company receives jewelry to be melted to form a part of the composition of gift-bells . . . The company have recently sent chimes to churches in Boston, Worcester, Salem, Mass., Darien, Conn., Albany, Geneva, Chautauqua, Mamaroneck, N.Y., Montgomery, Ala., Gambier, Ohio, Chicago, Ill., St. Louis, Mo. and other cities. Two bells were sent to the west coast of Africa, twelve to missioner schools in the interior of that country, four to Constantinople, three to Shang-Hai, China, and several to England, Bulgaria, Persia and India. Many of the bells sent to foreign lands bear inscriptions in the language of their inhabitants.

It really makes me want to know if any Troy-made bells still ring in Constantinople. Oh wait, it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople. If you’ve a bell in Constantinople, it’ll be ringing in Istanbul.

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Bath-on-the-Hudson (on, not in)

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Arthur Weise has one of the few descriptions I’ve found of the former village of Bath-on-the-Hudson:

“Bath-on-the-Hudson, the first station on the Troy and Greenbush Railroad, three miles south of the city [of Troy]. It derived its name from several mineral springs, discovered about the close of the last century, near the village. John Maude, an English traveller, in June, 1800, visited the place; which he described as a ‘town lately laid out by the patroon,’ and having ‘about thirty houses,’ ‘The medicinal springs and baths, at one time so much vaunted, are now shut up and neglected; yet, as a watering place, it was to have rivaled Ballstown, and, as a trading place, Lansingburgh and Troy.’ The manor-house, north of the village, was built about the year 1839, by William P. Van Rensselaer. The village was incorporated May 5, 1874.”

Weise wrote that in 1888. The City of Rensselaer was incorporated in 1897, absorbing Bath, Greenbush, and East Albany. Rensselaer’s website describes the boundaries of the old Village of Bath-on-the-Hudson as “Hudson River (west); Washington Avenue and peripheral street (north);
Quackenderry Creek gorge (east); Catherine Street vicinity (south).”

The other Troy Armory, and the undetected corpse

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New York State Armory Troy.png

If you think of the old State Armory in Troy, you probably think of the one on the RPI campus, which is now known as the Alumni Sports & Recreation Center. It’s a big old brick pile in a fortress style, somewhat less decorative than some other armories of its day. But it had a much grander predecessor, down on the southeast corner of Ferry and River Streets. I don’t know when it was torn down, though today its location is a ’60s-vintage public housing project and a ramp to the Congress Street Bridge.

This beauty’s cornerstone was laid July 4, 1884 on the former International Hotel property. Arthur Weise reports, “The metallic box placed in the cavity of the corner-stone contained histories of the military companies present, a copy of the act appropriating the money to erect the armory, a lithograph of the building, a history of its site, copies of the city newspapers, and a volume of the History of the city of Troy, 1876, by A.J. Weise . . . . The building was completed and occupied in March, 1886.”

Weise goes on to give the history of the site, once the homestead of Jacob D. Van der Heyden and passed on to his son, Derick, in 1803, who removed the old ferry-house and built a two-story dwelling. Derick moved to the island of Santa Cruz in the West Indies “to recuperate his failing health, but he was not benefited by the change of residence, and died there, February 1, 1818. To transport the body to Troy on a vessel without detection, the corpse was suspended in a hogshead filled with rum. It reached its destination, and was transferred in one of the rooms of the dwelling to a coffin.”

That wouldn’t be the last corpse on the site. A third story was added to the dwelling and it took the name of the National Hotel. “A man and a woman, representing themselves as married, took rooms and board in the house. A week afterward they were found dead in bed with their throats cut. The unknown people explained in a note that extreme poverty had caused them to commit suicide.” Some years later, in 1866, it was renamed the International Hotel, and so it remained until was demolished in 1884 to make room for the new Armory.

The Cohoes Cataract

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I my self this last Summer, saw a Cataract, three Leagues above Albany, in the Province of New York, upon Schenectada River called the Cohoes, which they count much of there; and yet that is not above 40 or 50 Foot perpendicular. From these Falls also there rises a mighty Cloud, which descends like small Rain, that, when the Sun shines, gives a handsome small Rainbow that moves as you move, according to the Angle of Vision. The River at the Cohoes is to 40 or 50 Rods broad, but then it is very shallow Water, for I was told that in a dry Time, the whole River runs in a Channel of not more than fifteen Foot wide.

In my Journey to Albany, 20 Miles to the Eastward of Hudson’s River, near the middle of a long rising Hill, I met with a brisk noisy Brook sufficient to serve a Water-Mill, and having observed nothing of it at the beginning of the Hill, I turned about and followed the Course of the Brook, till at length I found it come to an End, being Absorb’d, and sinking into the Ground, either passing through Subterraneous Passages, or soaked up with the Sand; and tho’ it be common in other Parts of the World for Brooks and even rivers thus to be lost; yet this is the first of the Sort, I have heard of, or met with in this Country.

An Account of the Falls of the River Niagara, taken at Albany, Octob. 10, 1721. From Monsieur Borassaw, a French Native of Canada. By the Honourable Paul Dudley, Esq.; F.R.S.

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Who was who, Albany, 1900

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Someday soon I’ll relate the fascinating story of Dr. William Henry Johnson, a free black man who long ran a highly respected barber salon on Maiden Lane in Albany, from which he made contact with all the leading figures of abolition and the Underground Railroad. He led groundbreaking changes in New York State law, and worked tirelessly for equality for African-Americans. But for today, I just want to share his recitation, under the title “Business Notice,” of some of the leading businesses of the day in Albany in 1900.

John G. Myers’ princely department store on North Pearl street rivals anything of its kind here or elsewhere. Wm. W. Williams & Son’s is the place to find diamonds. A.B. Van Gaasbeek carries a first-class stock of mattings, oil cloth, rugs and carpets. Mrs. Harriet Chapman, 136 South Swan street, has one of the best and well-equipped boarding-houses. G.H. Mayer, 48 North Pearl street, deals in furniture and wall paper of every description. Talmadge, the Tailor, 42 Maiden lane, is first-class in every respect. Marsh & Hoffman, 79 to 83 North Pearl street, carries a fine stock of jewelry and bric-a-brac. Tebbutt & Sons, funeral directors, 84 and 86 North Pearl street. J.R. Nangle, 93 Second street and 67 and 70 Quay street, coal and wood dealer. For fine cigars and tobacco, “Payn’s,” corner Maiden lane and James street. Winchell & Davis, 504 and 506 Broadway, and 25 James street, wholesale wine and liquor merchants. Killip & Marks, 1 to 5 North Pearl street, carry a full line of men’s furnishing goods. The Cigar Smoker’s Headquarters is located at 23 Steuben street. The Thompson Cottage, 61 Hamilton street, Saratoga Springs, N.Y., first-class boarding, Mrs. Eva T. Marshall, proprietress. St. James Café, 6 James street, Peter A. and Fred P. Elliott, proprietors. W.H. Sample, 40 South Pearl street, carries a full line of cutlery. Jas. D. Walsh, plumbing and sanitary engineer, 40 Sheridan avenue. Frank Smith, druggist, Clinton avenue and Lark street. William E. Drislane, North Pearl street, carries a full line of groceries. White & Griffin, tailors, 523 Broadway. John Doyle, 12 James street, plumbing and draining. William Blasie, hot and cold baths, 389 Broadway. George A. Bailey, 112 State street, represents the Equitable Life Assurance Society, of New York. C.G. Craft & Co., clothiers, corner Maiden lane and James street. Henry Russell, the flour merchant, 42 State street. Walker & Gibson, wholesale druggists, 74 and 76 State street. The Ten Eyck is a first-class hotel, located corner Chapel and State streets. The Kenmore, on North Pearl street, affords first-class accommodations. Stanwix hall, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, does a large business. Keeler’s Hotel, corner Broadway and Maiden lane, is one of the finest hotels in the State, complete in every particular. Mr. Douw Fonda, of State street, carries a full line of drugs. G.W. Luther & Sons, anthracite and bituminous coal, 45 Columbia street. Chas. G. Stewart, The Travelers’ Insurance Company, of Hartford, Conn., No. 7 First street, Troy, N.Y. Garry Benson’s Turkish baths are fine, located on State street …

The Albany Business College is a good educational institute. Its methods of education is excellent and commendable. It is a treat to look in to Annesley’s Art Store, on North Pearl street. His accommodating assistants are most courteous gentlemen; none more so than Messrs. David Coleman and A.J. Boylan. The beautiful half-tone illustrations which grace the pages of this little volume is the distinctive work of the Albany Engraving Company, Maiden lane . . .
Captain Slattery’s Arcade Hotel is one of the best in the city. B.W. Wooster’s Sons’ furniture is commended to purchasers. Patrick Maher’s popular smoking and spellbinding emporium attracts general attention. Christopher Keenholtz is a most accomplished guide and lecturer at the State capitol. He will show you and explain everything appertaining to the State capitol without apparent trouble. “Jake” Doyle is a joker, but he does not know it. Gentlemanly Sam Mcalindin is a peach, courteous and accommodating. He has exclusive charge of William H. Keeler’s wine room. Charles Parrott is his first lieutenant. Miss Catherine Riley, principal cashier of that hostelry, is highly esteemed by the patrons of the restaurant. Miss F. Coughlin looks after the cash in the main dining-room. Happy William Stroby is ever present, and has general oversight. Frank Settley has charge of the ladies upstairs ordinary. George Taylor, the veteran, is the general superintendent at night, with Ed. Cooper who looks after the dining-room at night and Miss J. Lyons at the desk. Mr. Keeler is fortunate with the continuous service of his first hotel clerk, Mr. Dexter Brazil. There is no more competent gentleman for that position than he. Mr. Chas. Mann, who has general charge in Mr. keeler’s absence, is a thorough hotel man, and an adept in hotel and business technicalities. Young John Keeler, who is following close in his father’s footsteps, is studying the hotel business, and some day he will be a full-fledged hotel keeper. Bernard Quinn, the “Silver King,” of Maiden lane, is a study and knows all about books and stationery.

It does go on.

For more on William Henry Johnson, look here, here and here.

The Great Commoner loved the Ten Eyck

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Mr. William Jennings Bryan, whilst here the other night, said some good things about Albany, all of which we indorse. Our adopted city is all right and up-to-date, notwithstanding the census takers did not fully take the census here. Mr. Bryan spoke in general of our beautiful hotels, especially the Ten Eyck. He ought to have seen our Washington Park, visited the Pine Hills, promenaded on the Northern Boulevard, through the Rural and St. Agnes’ cemeteries, looked at the new City Hospital, entered and viewed the architectural beauty of the interior of the Capitol, witnessed the nightly drills of the Tenth Battalion, seen the Burgesses Corps on the Fourth of July march to the quick music of Gartland’s Band, in company front, on State street, reaching from curb to curb.”
Autobiography of Dr. William Henry Johnson, 1900

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.