New Year’s Eve: no pernicious discharges allowed

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New Year's Eve.pngA gentle and timely reminder from your friends at Hoxsie: Chapter 81 of the Laws of 1785 was passed to restrict your New Year’s Eve celebration options:







“Whereas great dangers have arisen, and mischief been done, by the pernicious practice of firing guns, pistols, rockets, squibs, and other fire works on the eve of the last day of December, and the first and second days of January; for prevention whereof for the future . . . .” Therefore it was enacted by the State of New York “that if any person or persons whomsoever, shall fire or discharge any gun, pistol, rocket, squib or other firework, within a quarter of a mile of any building, on the said eve, or days beforementioned, every such person so offending . . . shall for every such offence forfeit the sum of forty shillings with costs of suit, to be levied by distress and sale of the offenders goods and chattles . . . . “

In other words, fire a gun between Dec. 31 and Jan. 2, have one credible witness rat you out, and the man can sell your stuff to raise the fine, in the neighborhood of $200 in 21st century money.

Also, there was something about a “moiety.”

Danker, the Maiden Lane Florist

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Not many businesses from the 1905 Albany Directory are still around. Danker Florist has been around since 1898. Amazingly, they outlived Maiden Lane, once one of Albany’s most important commercial streets, the gateway to the docks and a hive of commerce for all kinds of goods that came by boat. Now only a short strip of Maiden Lane survives between Pearl and Broadway, best known for being a hive of sandwich shops. The rest of its path was pretty much lost until the pedestrian walkway over I-787 was built. Why that’s not called the Maiden Lane Bridge (instead of “Hudson River Way,” which no one calls it) I’ll never know.

In fact, in a typical act of orneriness, I’m calling it the Maiden Lane Bridge from now on.

Why does every waterfront community have a Maiden Lane? I’d like to know.

Earl & Wilson

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Earl & Wilson Building

From Arthur Weise’s “The City of Troy and Its Vicinity,” 1886, comes this description of a long-forgotten factory that once employed thousands, the Earl & Wilson Company:

“The senior member of this widely-known firm, William S. Earl, in 1848, entered the linen-collar and shirt-bosom manufactury of Jefferson Gardner, at No. 16 King Street, to acquire a knowledge of the business. In 1850, he began making similar goods at No. 51 North Third Street, and, in 1851, as a ‘manufacturer and wholesale dealer in ready-made linen,’ moved to No. 11 King Street. In 1856, he and Edwin D. Blanchard formed a partnership under the name of Earl & Blanchard, linen manufacturers, and occupied a part of the Manufacturers’ Bank Building, at the corner of River and King Streets. On the death of Edwin D. Blanchard, in 1859, the business was discontinued. In 1867, the firm of Earl & Wilson was formed, having its manufactory at No. 5 Union Street; Washington Wilson being the second member of the firm. Gardner Earl, son of William S. Earl, was admitted a partner in 1873, and Arthur R. Wilson, a brother of Washington Wilson, in 1881.

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One of these things is not like the other.

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Thomas Samuel Vail house.jpg

I’m always delighted when I find that some great old building that’s in the Historic American Buildings Survey still exists on our city streets, so when I ran across this lovely edifice, listed as the Thomas Samuel Vail house at 46 First Street in Troy, I was pleased to learn that it not only exists, but serves a dignified role as the residence of the President of the Sage Colleges. The house was originally built by George Vail, an early merchant and industrialist in Troy who had his hands in banking, steamboats and railroads. He built this house at the corner of First and Congress streets in 1818, and it survived the great Troy fire of 1820. At some point it must have passed to Thomas Samuel Vail (the relationship is not clear).

So knowing that it’s still there, I did what I always do and went to Google Street View to check it out. At first I thought, well, it sure looked darker and dingier in the old days. And, I realized, brownstonier. And then I realized that the entire facade is, in fact, different. I’m not sure when the brick was added, or when the lintels were painted, but it gives a strikingly different appearance today than in George Vail’s time.

The ironwork, happily, appears to be original (or at least dates to the undated photo). There’s a picture of the lovely curved interior staircase at the Library of Congress.

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North Greenbush’s one-room school

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district school 1.jpg

It is claimed that District School No. 1, now called The Little Red Schoolhouse, is the only one-room schoolhouse operating in New York State. Built in 1861, it’s just south of Troy near Hudson Valley Community College; this school is the North Greenbush school district. Its survival in the age of school consolidations is remarkable, though it should be noted that it is now only two grades, kindergarten and first. I suspect there was a broader spectrum when this photograph (from the Library of Congress) was taken; it’s undated, alas. I also suspect that most of the studies involved finding the perfect distance from that stove in the winter months. Too close and you were no doubt singed, too far and your toes were frozen.

More on its history here.

Water tower with bells on

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Meneely bells.jpg

It figures that if I’d trip across such a thing as a water tower that has, inexplicably, bells, there would be some kind of local connection. It appears that in 1902, a millionaire in Scituate, Plymouth County, Massachusetts, wasn’t going to be pleased with the local water tower ruining his view, and so he commissioned something much, much more elaborate, now known as the Lawson Tower. And unlike any other water tower I’m aware of, it has bells. Bells from one of the most famous foundries of its day, the Meneely foundry of West Troy, NY. West Troy is now known as Watervliet. This photograph is from the Library of Congress, via the Historic American Buildings Survey. The bell carillon not only still exists, but was recently refurbished.

Hoxsie’s all a-Twitter

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Hoxsie rooster.pngHoxsie has grown and grown since I launched it earlier this year as a (nearly) daily collection of pictures and snippets relating to the local history of Albany, Schenectady, and Troy, and a few other parts of the Capital District as well. I’m happy to have a few hundred daily readers who aren’t just spambots, and appreciate the support of other local sites like All Over Albany, even though I end up neglecting writing for them in favor of Hoxsie.

It’s easy to keep up with my daily nonsense, either by coming to this site, or picking up the RSS feed, or if you’re one of those twenty-first century types, Hoxsie’s on Twitter: @HoxsieAlbany (can ya believe regular old Hoxsie was taken?) And if you’re wondering, “Why Hoxsie?” the answer is here.

Comments are always welcome, but not easy, I’m sorry to say. That’s because of the spambots.

Troy-built Starbucks

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Starbuck Iron Works

I suspect that, armed with a little bit of information, one could find bits of Troy’s manufacturing history in every state of the union. Here from the Library of Congress is a view of the base of a cast iron tower on the Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge & Stone Toll House, near Lake Oroville in Butte County, California. The casting was made by the Starbucks Iron Works of Troy for what was, in 1856, the first suspension bridge west of the Mississippi. Apparently the structure was originally at the fork of Feather River, then moved to the Oroville site. When the site was inundated for a new reservoir in the 1960s, the 100-year-old structure was dismantled and warehoused, then reassembled in 1977 overlooking the reservoir.

The Starbuck brothers were pioneers in Troy’s stove manufacturing industry in the 1820s, and it is they for whom Starbuck Island is named.  That’s the island that the Green Island Bridge actually connects to; Green Island itself is no longer an island.

Follow the link for contemporary views of this lovely bridge, along with its full history.