The Hawk Street Viaduct

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The Viaduct was a long (almost 1,000 ft) cantilevered bridge that ran from Clinton Ave. to Elk St., opposite the Capitol across Sheridan Hollow. It connected Arbor Hill with Downtown and the area that is now the Empire State Plaza and Center Square, without having to walk down Clinton Ave. to N. Pearl St.

It opened in spring 1890 and was demolished in 1970. By then, it needed enormous repair, which would have been at great cost, and the newly constructed arterial highways eliminated the perceived need for the Viaduct. There was a discussion of building another bridge from Clinton to Swan in the late 1960s, but that never happened.

It was a curious structure, since the bottom of part of the bridge wasn’t far from the roof tops on Sheridan Ave. (In 1890, that was Canal St.- the name changed c. 1900).

I always thought it was narrow (19 ft.) and I was raised on stories (from a Gram who grew up in Arbor Hill) of the perils of walking across the Viaduct in the early 1900s, when it was not uncommon for both automobiles and horse drawn wagons and carriages to share the bridge with pedestrians on the sidewalks of the bridge. Apparently the car motors and speed (and horns) would make the horses shy and buck.. and you hung on to the railing, out of the way, clinging for dear life or tried to outrun the horse. The Arbor Hill kids were, of course, forbidden to walk across the Viaduct by themselves, and of course, they did. Dangerous Viaduct crossings became the stuff of childhood legend.

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Samuel Schuyler – Afro-American Riverboat Captain

Samuel Schuyler was born in 1781, but very little is known of his early life, though it has been speculated that he was related to THE Albany Schuylers,.

Like many other African-Americans of his era, Samuel began his working life as a laborer on Quay Street, along Albany’s thriving waterfront. By 1810, he had his own boat to haul lumber, produce, and other goods. He would expand his business interest to real estate, owning a substantial number of lots along South Pearl Street and adjoining streets.

Sometime prior to 1805, he married Mary Martin-Morin; the couple would have eleven children. Several sons would join him in business, as partners in a flour and feed store and, later, they would establish the Schuyler Towboat Company. His oldest son and namesake owned the large house at the corner of Ash Grove and Trinity Place; it was the younger Schuyler who added the distinctive cupola with fine views of the Hudson River, the primary source of the family’s fortune.

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The elder Captain Schuyler died in 1842 and was buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery. An anchor carved on his monument does double duty a symbol of faith and hope and a nod to his career.

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It’s interesting to note that, when his son and namesake died in 1894, the New York Times obituary made no mention of the family’s African-American heritage and referred to his ancestors as “the early Dutch settlers of Albany.”

James C. Matthews – First Afro-American Judge … from Albany!

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James C. Matthews, born in 1844, was the son of a barber who moved to Albany around 1850 from New Haven. A brief biography from the late 1880s says, “.. he encountered great difficulty, owing to race prejudice, in being permitted to enter the public schools, but subsequently, through the efforts of a Democratic member of the Board of Education (William Rice), joined school 4 and took high rank as a scholar”. In 1860 he entered Albany Boy’s Academy on scholarship and graduated in 1864, winning the Beck Literary Medal for the best English composition.

At some point while he was at the Academy or shortly thereafter his parents died and he was taken under the wing of William A. Dietz, a wealthy and prominent local Afro-American. (They were both delegates to the National Convention of Colored Men in Syracuse in 1864.) In 1866 Matthews became a clerk for Adam Blake, another Afro-American, at the Congress Hotel (Blake would go on to establish the Kenmore Hotel), while he also was studying with Jacob Werner, a prominent Albany attorney. Several years later, while still working for Adam Blake as his personal book-keeper, Matthews entered Albany Law School and graduated in 1871.

One of the first cases Matthews worked on was for Mr. Dietz, who sued the Albany school board to permit his children to go to a non-segregated school. The result of that suit was desegregation of Albany public schools in 1872.

In 1885 he was nominated by President Grover Cleveland (previously NYS Governor) to fill the position of Recorder of Deeds of the District of Columbia, a position being vacated by Frederick Douglass. The appointment was blocked by the Republican Senate – apparently a partisan issue, but it appears to be been an ugly fight.

In 1895 he was elected by the residents of Albany as Judge of the Recorder’s Court as a Democrat. At that time national newspapers and magazines said, “It was the highest judicial office ever held by a man of his race in this country.” Matthews served in that position for 4 years until 1899, when the first Republican ticket in 20 years in Albany was elected.

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He returned to the practice of law, and continued until the early 1920s. For many years he lived at 334 Clinton Ave, but on his death in 1930 his residence was listed as 22 Peyster St. in Pine Hills.

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Eight short stories recalling the lives of African Americans buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery

 

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Mention the Albany Rural Cemetery and the most common response is, “Oh, that’s where President Arthur is buried!”

Its 467 acres contain the graves of governors, mayors, soldiers, actors, bankers, and poets, as well as works of monumental art by Erastus Dow Palmer, Robert Launitz, and Charles Calverley.

Buried here, too, are dozens of prominent figures in Albany’s African-American history — from slaves to doctors.

Here are the stories of some of those Albany residents…

Born Before The Revolution

An Albany Daily Evening Times article from 1873 reported on the death and funeral of a woman named Diana Mingo who, at 106 years (or, according to some sources, 105 years and 6 months), was said to be the oldest person buried in The Rural to date. Born in Schodack as the slave of Matthew Beekman, she was reportedly freed before New York State’s gradual emancipation began in 1799. For a time, she worked as a cook for the Van Rensselaer family at their manor house in Albany.

Mingo was well known among her friends and neighbors for her vivid recollections of the Revolution and Lafayette’s celebrated visit to Albany in 1825. She died on July 25, 1872 and her funeral was held at the African Methodist Episcopal Church on Hamilton Street. Attendance was so great that mourners overflowed the pews and sat on the pulpit steps. She was buried on the cemetery’s North Ridge in a lot owned by her niece, Mary G. Jackson. Her grave is not marked. (Lot 8, Section 99).

Soldier of the Revolution

Benjamin Lattimore, a leading member of Albany’s post-Revolution African-American community and founder of the A.M.E. Church, was born a free man in Weathersfield, Connecticut in 1761. He was living in Ulster County, New York at the beginning of the Revolution and helped his family operate a ferry there. The fifteen-year old Lattimore enlisted in the Ulster County militia in September 1776. He took part in the battle for Manhattan and, a year later, was captured by the British at Fort Montgomery near West Point. Relegated to the role of a servant by British officers, Lattimore was recovered by the Americans in Westchester County and returned to service in the Continental Army. In 1779, he visited Albany for the first time when his regiment, en route to the Schoharie and Mohawk Valleys, was forced by ice to remain in the city for two weeks.

In 1794, Lattimore settled in Albany and found employment as a licensed cartman. Within five years, he had purchased several lots in the area of South Pearl Street, as well as a two-story brick home at 9 Plain Street (an area now covered by the Times Union Center). Described as a man of “irreproachable character for integrity and uprightness,” Lattimore became a pillar of early Albany’s middle class black community; he was a founding member of the Albany African Temperance Society, the first black school. This veteran of the Revolution died in April 1838 and was buried at the State Street Burying Grounds. His remains were moved to the Church Grounds section of the Rural Cemetery during the mass disinterment of the Burying Grounds in 1868. His headstone, and that of his wife are now missing. (Lot 14, Section 49)

The Two Adam Blakes

Beginning in slavery, the first Adam Blake’s life spanned from the Revolutionary War to the middle of the Civil War. Born in New York City around 1773, he was brought to Albany while still young, where he was a servant to Stephen Van Rensselaer III. As an adult, he would become manager of the household staff at the Van Rensselaer Manor. Until it was abolished by the city in 1811, he presided as the master of ceremonies of the popular Pinkster celebrations held by Albany’s black community each spring on what is now Capitol Hill. He also took part in the grand ceremonies welcoming Lafayette on his return visit to Albany in 1824, shielding the elderly French patriot from the sun with an umbrella at all times during the procession through the city. He was also one of the first depositors on record with the Albany Savings Bank after its founding in 1820. Adam Blake married Sarah Richards in 1803.

When Blake died at the age of 94 in 1864, the first Adam Blake was remembered as a “remarkable man” who “commanded respect by that high order of good breeding and courtesy to all, for which he was proverbial.” Stephen Van Rensselaer IV sent a message to his funeral at the Old Dutch Church to express regret that his own ill health preventing him from paying his respects in public.

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The younger Adam Blake would found the Kenmore Hotel on Pearl Street in 1880.

According to his obituary, the younger Adam Blake was an adopted son. Raised at the Van Rensselaer Manor, where he received his early schooling alongside the Van Rensselaer children, he would later be regarded as one of the most successful black businessmen of his era. Described as “a born hotel owner” who took to the profession as instinctively “as a fish takes to water,” he first went to work as a porter in the famous Delavan House and was eventually promoted to head-waiter there. He rapidly built his reputation as a restaurant proprietor with the opening of his own establishment on Beaver Street in 1851. Well-known as “a first-class caterer for the public,” he became the owner of Congress Hall, a notable Albany hotel heavily used for lodgings, meals, and meetings by countless politicians during the state’s legislative sessions. Congress Hall, which stood at the corner of Washington Avenue and Park Street near both the old State Capitol and City Hall, ranked with the Delavan House as one of the leading Albany hotels of its era.

In 1878, Congress Hall was demolished by the state to make way for the construction of the new State Capitol. With the money he received in compensation for the building, Blake established the Kenmore Hotel at the corner of North Pearl and Columbia Streets. Designed by architect Edward Ogden, Blake’s new hotel would be described as “the most elegant structure on the finest street in Albany.” He managed the hotel until his death in 1881. Known as a generous man “who never turned away a stranger or neighbor in need, he left an estate valued at $100,000 when he died. And his widow, Catherine, successfully managed the Kenmore herself until 1887. Adam Blake II was buried in his family lot at the Rural Cemetery and memorialized with a stained glass window at the Israel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Hamilton Street. (Lot 22, Section 42)

The Riverboat Captain

Albany Rural Samuel Schuyler marker

A towering marble monument on the Middle Ridge overlooking the Cemetery chapel is carved with large anchors which, in this instance, symbolize both faith and the deceased’s profession — Samuel Schuyler was a successful riverboat captain. He was born in 1781, but little is known of his origins or of his connection (if any) to the family of General Philip Schuyler.

Samuel Schuyler worked as a laborer along the city’s riverfront before operating his own towboat on the Hudson. Widely respected as a captain on the river, he also invested well in real estate in what is now Albany’s South End, eventually owning much of a two-block parcel between South Pearl Street and the Hudson River. With his sons he established a hay and feed business, Samuel Schuyler & Company at Franklin and Bassett Streets, as well as a coal yard.

Captain Schuyler died in 1842. His sons would continue doing business on the river with the founding of the Schuyler Towboat Company. (Lot 66, Section 59)

A Physician and Inventor

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During the years prior to the Civil War, Elkins — who lived at 186 Lumber Street Avenue (now Livingston Avenue) — was active with the Underground Railroad in Albany as member of its Vigilance Committee. At the time, the home of Stephen and Harriet Myers, just a half dozen houses away at 198 Lumber Street, was a center for Underground Railroad and abolitionist activity in Albany.

According to the Bicentennial History of Albany, Dr. Elkins served as a medical examiner attached to the 54th Massachusetts regiment during the Civil War. He also traveled to Liberia, bringing home a collection of minerals, shells, and other artifacts. The location of those relics is now, unfortunately, unknown.

 

An inventor as well as a doctor, Elkins patented a special refrigerator for the cold storage of corpses, as well as a large piece of furniture which combined a toilet or commode with a washstand, bureau, mirror, chair, bookshelf, and table. In a similar vein, he also patented a combined quilting frame, ironing table, and dining table. Elkins received a “certificate of highest merit” from the New York Agricultural Society for the refrigerator and a “certificate of merit” for the combination table. He was also one of only two African-Americans to be pictured in Albany’s Centennial Historic Album and served as vice-president of the Albany Literary Association.

Dr. Thomas Elkins died in 1900 and his funeral, presided over by the canon of the Cathedral of All Saints, was attended by a large number of prominent local citizens. (Lot 97, Section 100)

Lost At Sea

In a lot just a few feet from the grave of Dr. Elkins, a tall, simple marble shaft plot bears the name Jacob F. Benjamin, the phrase “LOST AT SEA,” and a date — December 25, 1853. It was on that Christmas when the San Francisco, a vessel from the Pacific Mail Steamship Company, encountered a terrible gale and foundered near Charleston. The ship had left New York and was bound for Panama. Aboard were both soldiers (the ship was transporting the Third Regiment of the United States Artillery) and civilian passengers, including women and children. The decks were swept with wind and water, the smokestacks toppled, the boats lost. Reports of the total casualties varied, but some contemporary newspapers reported about 300 casualties and 150 saved.

Among those reported dead that night was a man simply identified as “The barber, colored, washed overboard.” It was Jacob F. Benjamin who, that same year, had been listed in the Albany city directory as a barber residing at 111 Knox Street. His body was not recovered, but his name was carved on the marble shaft in a family plot deeded to his wife, Abigail. At the time of his death, they had five children who ranged in age from an infant (his father’s namesake) to 11 years old. Jacob was thirty-five when he was lost to the waves. His daughter, Catherine, would marry the younger Adam Blake. (Lot 94, Section 100)

A Civil War Veteran Honored

The Storming of Ft Wagner lithograph by Kurz and Allison 1890
A lithograph of the 54th storming Fort Wagner. / via Wikipedia

Among over 900 Civil War soldiers buried at Albany Rural are several men who served in the 54th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry, the unit depicted in the 1989 film Glory. One of them was William A. Francis, whose grave remained unmarked for 112 years.

There are very few details of Francis’ life, though records show he was an Albany waiter, about 30 years old, married, and the father of a two-year old son when he joined the 54th. He would take part in all of the unit’s battles, including the bloody 1863 clash at Fort Wagner in South Carolina. He became the 54th second highest ranking black member, second to Master Sergeant Lewis Douglass (son of abolitionist Frederick Douglass).

William Francis returned to Albany and again took work as a waiter. He died on December 2, 1897. In 2009, thanks to the efforts of local historian Mark Bodnar, funds were raised by Civil War re-enactors to mark Francis’ burial place with a military headstone. (Single Grave, #, Tier 4, Section 111).

Others

Albany Rural marker Dick Slave of John Pruyn

Other African-American residents of Albany buried at the Albany Rural Cemetery include Stephen and Harriet Myers, leaders of Albany’s Underground Railroad community (Lot 2, Section 98), Arabella Chapman Miller and family, subjects of a University of Michigan research project, (Lot 448, Section 104), William H. Topp, a tailor active with the Vigilance Committee ,  the Temperance Cause and staunch advocate for women’s suffrage in the mid 1800s (Lot 25, Section 11), and Dick, whose grave marker describes him as a slave of the well-known merchant John F. Pruyn (Lot 14, Section 49).

A Presidential Postscript

In 1853, Elizabeth Jennings Graham, an African-American teacher and church organist, was refused a seat on a lower Manhattan omnibus operated by the Third Avenue Railroad Company. When she refused to get off the horse-drawn streetcar the conductor had her removed by the police. Graham filed suit against the company which owned the streetcar. The jury found in her favor, awarded her damages, and the Third Avenue Railroad Company immediately desegregated its streetcars. Her lead attorney was future President Chester A. Arthur.

Written by Paula Lemire (significant Friend of Albany History) and appeared in Allover Albany.com  in February 2016.

Mark Twain and Albany

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His first major nationwide lecture tour began in 1868; near the end of that tour he made his first appearance in Albany on January 10, 1870, at Tweddle Hall (the northwest corner of State and N. Pearl). At the last minute, Twain changed the subject of his lecture to his favorite: “Our Fellow Savages of the Sandwich Islands”, based on his stay in Hawaii.

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The lecture was part of a subscription series in Albany sponsored by Union Veterans to raise money for the widows and orphans of dead Union soldiers. In his letter of January 10 to the love of his life, Olivia (who was to become his wife less than a month later) he says that he expects the lecture’s audience to be the largest of season’s tour.

Twain appeared in Albany several more times; lecturing in 1871 and testifying before the NYS Assembly on behalf of the osteopathic profession in 1901.

One more Twain/Albany delicious tidbit: Twain’s first novel, “Innocents Abroad” (1869) lampoons American tourists in Europe and the Holy Land, and is based on a trip Twain took in 1867. One of the characters, The Oracle (a know-it-all windbag who spouts all sorts of wrong information at the drop of a hat with great authority), was modeled on Albany’s Dr. E.Andrews, a passenger on the trip. Maybe that’s why he switched the topic of lecture?

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(BTW: Twain was, for many years, fast friends with Albany’s own Bret Harte, writer of “The Outcasts of Poker Flats”, and other wonderful short stories, but in the 1870s that friendship foundered on money issues. More about Bret at a later date.)

The Albany Army Relief Bazaar for Civil War Aid and the Emancipation Proclamation -1864.

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In February and March 1864, as the Civil War raged on, the Albany Army Relief Bazaar opened to raise money for the U.S. Sanitary Commission to aid sick and wounded Union soldiers. Stationary and field hospitals were nightmares; understaffed and with limited medical supplies and decent food.

While the leadership of the Commission was largely male, it was the women across the Union who did much of the work and fundraising. Fairs and bazaars were one way for the women on the home front to play a role. The first fair opened in Chicago in late 1863; others followed shortly thereafter.

The Albany Bazaar was held in a large temporary structure in Academy Park (about the size of a football field). There were such crowds each day, that although it was intended to close at February’s end, it continued into early March. It raised over $100,000 for the Sanitation Commission, a huge sum at the time. Everyone in Albany and surrounding towns (Kinderhook, Troy and Saratoga) pitched in, donating their time, services or goods. Behind the scenes there were carpentry, housekeeping, laundry and dish washing committees, comprised of people of little means who wanted to help. Before the Bazaar started, these committees raised nearly $500 out of their own pockets. In the lead up to opening there was a frenzy among the women of community- knitting, crocheting, quilting, lace making and basket weaving; no Victorian craft was left behind if it could sell at the Bazaar. Almost every merchant in Albany donated good and services; items ranged from hams to pianofortes.

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Untitled militraOn opening day there was a wide array of booths – including English, Irish, Japanese, Swiss (each competing to raise the most money), exhibits and services, a dining room and even a post office selling special Bazaar stamps. These were staffed by volunteers, ranging from society women, to members of the Afro-American community to the Shakers. If there was any way possible to make money, the Bazaar did.. Local photographers took pictures that were sold to attendees. There were concerts, raffles and an art exhibit. The Bazaar even had its own newspaper, “The Canteen” (for sale, of course).

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bazzarOffsite there were balls, banquets, and, my favorite, a “Grand Billiard Soiree”. And when the Bazaar closed even the decorations and the building were sold to raise more money.

 

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But the high point of the Bazaar was a lottery for the first draft of the Emancipation Proclamation by Abraham Lincoln in his own hand. William Seward, then Secretary of State and former NYS governor and U.S. senator, persuaded Lincoln to donate. 5,000 tickets were sold at $1 each. The winner was Gerrit Smith, a well-known abolitionist and member of the lottery organizing committee, who donated it back to the U.S. Sanitary Commission. After a series of protracted high stakes negotiations following Lincoln’s death, the Proclamation was purchased for $1,000 by the NYS Legislature, with the proviso it remain in Albany. As a result of a fire in Chicago in 1871, the Albany Emancipation Proclamation is the only surviving Lincoln original. (Thankfully, it was rescued in the great Capitol fire of 1911.)

 

bazzar proclamation

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What was there? Madison and So. Swan – Oh how Albany has changed!

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1. Madison Ave. Second Reformed Church, built 1881- destroyed by fire 1931* Prior to that, vacant land, when Madison Ave.was known as Lydius St.

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2. The first Central Market (Price Chopper) supermarket in the city of Albany. Built 1941. Demolished c 1963 for Empire State Plaza

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3. Empire State Plaza 1970 Agency Building #1

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* One of the oldest artifacts in Albany, a weather vane that dates back to 1656 on the First Dutch Church, survived the fire and is now atop First Church on N. Pearl St.

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Why Stanford University isn’t in Albany

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Leland Stanford was born in Watervliet in 1824 (the area that is now part of Colonie). His father was a tavern keeper on the Schenectady road, who later ran the Elm Grove Hotel in Roessleville.

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Leland left home at 17 to study in Clinton and Cazenovia. He apprenticed in law in Albany, was admitted to the bar in 1848 and eventually married Jane Lathrop, the daughter of a prominent local family.

He briefly practiced law and politics in Wisconsin. But his brothers had followed the gold rush to California, and Leland soon joined them. He established a retail store in Sacramento, but stayed active in politics and was elected governor of California in 1861. That same year, he and some other Sacramento businessmen founded the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which proved to be of much greater interest. He served only one term as governor, but remained president of the Central Pacific for many years, becoming one of the richest men in the United States.

The Stanfords had only one child, Leland Junior, and they were grief-stricken when he died suddenly of typhoid at the age of 16 during a family vacation in Europe in 1884. Despite their huge success and influence in California, they wanted their son buried where their families were from. The Troy Press wrote in 1891 that, “at the same time he had in mind a disposition of his millions that should forever celebrate the name of his son and that should be useful to the public.”

 

A university, for instance. The Press reported that Stanford began negotiations with the Albany Rural Cemetery Association to purchase a site for a mausoleum, and at the same time looked to buy 350 acres of land, including his birthplace, just west of Albany in order to build Leland Stanford, Jr. University.

So how did Stanford University end up in Palo Alto instead of Albany?

If the Troy Press is to be believed, it may have been the greed of the cemetery association, whose officers “it is said, knowing Mr. Stanford’s great wealth and his greater grief, seemed to be of the opinion that they could get from him a little more for the mausoleum site than a person of ordinary means would be asked. The sum which it is said they endeavored to extort was $75. . . .” [about $1,700 in today’s money].

Stanford may have been fabulously well-to-do, but apparently he didn’t like being taken advantage of. The Press says that on discovery of this fact, “He shook the dust of Albany from his feet and went back to California, where he immediately entered upon the development of his university project.” He endowed the new university with $20 million. And he put his son’s mausoleum on his own unfinished new estate, which became the home of Stanford University. After Leland died in 1893, Jane led the development of the university.

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The family did not entirely break their ties with Albany, however. In 1886, before the university’s cornerstone had been laid, Mrs. Stanford established a building on the site of the old Lathrop mansion in Albany, near the Fort Orange Club, as the Lathrop Memorial Home for Children, intended as part day care (“for children of working mothers”), part orphanage. The building stood until 1933.

Albany would have to wait until 1962 before it finally had a university.

by Carl Johnson 10/1/2010 from Alloveralbany.com
Update: an 1891 letter editor to the Albany Morning Express by Leland himself denying it all has just been found by Paula Lemire. Hmmm.

The Schuylers, Guy Beattie, and Albany’s Forgotten Park

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This was the mansion at The Flatts , after the Dutch “DeVlackte,” later called Schuyler Flats and Schuyler Farm. It was situated on the west bank of the Hudson in what is now Menands (then West Troy), opposite Breaker Island (formerly two islands called Culyer and Hillhouse). For a century, from about 1711-1806, the main public road from Albany to Saratoga ran between the mansion and the river.

The Flatts was (were?)  owned and occupied by the Schuyler family for 250 years.

Because its history is so complex, and the Schuyler family history so confusing (how many of them were named Peter and Philip?!), I’ve broken it down into a chronology. Info gleaned from many sources. Please excuse the lack of annotation, I didn’t set out to write a term paper.

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Arent Van Curler

1630 – Arent Van Curler, a cousin of the first Patroon Van Rensselaer, arrives with the first colonists of the manor,  and is soon after made superintendent. He marries in 1643, and after a brief honeymoon in Holland, returns to work the farm.  He establishes the Flatts as the heart of the area’s fur trade.

1660 – Richard Van Rensselaer, a son of the Patroon, occupies the property.

1666 – He builds the main house.

1668 -The house’s roof caves in.

1670-  Richard VanRensselaer returns to Holland. The Flatts is sold to Col. Philip Pieterse Schuyler. Schuyler repairs the old house and cellar, and builds an additional structure to the north. This begins a long Schuyler lineage in the area.

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Col. Pieter Schuyler

1683 – Upon the elder Schuyler’s death, his son, Col. Pieter Schuyler (later the first mayor of Albany), inherits The Flatts.

1690 – General Fitz John Winthrop  sends the first detachment of his army from Albany for the invasion of Canada to the Flatts. The Flats become a staging ground for troops engaged in the French and Indian War, and many of their officers find entertainment. Here the gallant Lord Howe spends the night, and eating his breakfast on the march under Abercrombie to attack Ticonderoga. Here, the the barns are turned into hospitals for the defeated forces of Abercrombie.

1695 – Pieter leases it to his son Philip.

1711 – Col. Peter Schuyler, now married to Maria Van Rensselaer, the sister of Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, moves to The Flatts.

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1720 – Philip Schuyler marries Margarita Schuyler, his cousin, whose father had for a number of years been the mayor of the City of Albany. Margarita is known during the latter part of her life as “Madame Schuyler.”

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Philip Schuyler

1724 – Upon the death of Col. Peter Schuyler, his eldest son Philip P. Schuyler becomes the owner of the Flats and the mansion.

1752- A serious fire nearly demolishes the mansion, which is then rebuilt by British soldiers.

1758 – Col. Philip Schuyler dies, survived by his kindhearted widow, by now known as  “Madame Schuyler” or “Aunt Schuyler.” The property is willed to her until her death when it is supposed to be passed on to her nephew, Peter Schuyler.

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“Madame/Aunt Schuyler”

Aunt Schuyler’s home becomes the place of gathering both men and supplies because it’s at the head of deep navigation of the Hudson and is convenient for those coming from New England either by way of Bennington or Kinderhook.

During this period, a large (100′ x 60′) barn that had been used for troop lodging and staging is torn down.

1771 – Peter Schuyler dies, his will naming his grandson, Stephen Schuyler, as eventual heir to The Flatts.

1774 – At The Flatts, Major  Peter Schuyler forms his plans for the Revolutionary War invasion of Canada.

1782 – With the passing of Margarita “Madame” Schuyler, The Flatts becomes the property of Stephen Schuyler, who has lived here since the 1740’s.

1808 – Philip P. Schuyler dies and is buried in the family plot.

1820 – The death of Stephen Schuyler leaves the property to Peter S. Schuyler , husband of Catherine Cuyler.

1832 –zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzto-let-1839b

Peter S. Schuyler leaves it to Stephen R. Schuyler. I’m not certain Stephen Schuyler lives in the mansion. In fact, this 1839 newspaper ad offers the place for lease. Not sure if there were takers.

(Year?) Stephen R. Schuyler leaves it to Richard Philip Schuyler.

1898 – Richard P. Schuyler dies. His widow, the former Susan Drake, remains in the house twelve more years.

1910 – Drake vacates The Flatts, ending the Schuyler era. She rents the place to Guy Beattie, a farmer who had been working the land for a while. Over the years, various parcels of the estate have been leased to farmers and loggers.

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Guy and Mary Ann Killough Beattie, with their granddaughters Rosamund Patricia Beattie and Linda Beattie. 1945.

1910-1948 The land is leased for farming and carnivals (Beattie’s Field”).

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Guy Beattie oversees circus setup. Photo from Brian Abbott’s website.

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The Flatts, 1942. Photo from Brian Abbott website

1948 – The Beatties sell the contents of their home and retire to Florida. Rivenberg opens the mansion as Sunny Crest Nursing Home.

1949 – Carnival operator James E. Strates buys Beattie’s 30-acre farm for $60,000. Schuyler Flats become the area’s home for the Strates Shows.

1957 – The State Chapter of the National Society of Daughters of Founders and Patriots of America, and Albany County Historical Society team up to recognize the historic site with a plaque. It’s affixed to the house, now painted white. Present at the unveiling are Susan Schuyler Cornthwait, 11, daughter of Mr & Mrs Schuyler Cornthwait, Hyde Park, Vermont, and Catherine Rhodes, 11, daughter of the Rev. James R. Rhodes and Mrs Rhodes of Slingerlands, both descendants of Richard P. Schuyler, last of the direct family line to occupy the house. The historical societies express hope that James E. Strates, who owns the property, might donate the house to the state. They neglect to ask him, though, and when interviewed, Strates admits no one even told him about the plaque.

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Plaque on the mansion, 1957. Photo from Brian Abbott website.

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In The End... All You Really Have Is Memories

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1967 -When Cohen Construction fails to deliver its part of the deal, Murray-Simon sues. Development plans go on hold, and the land is put up for auction.

1968- William A. Wells of Buffalo purchases the 50-acre plot for $600,000, the only bidder at a public auction for the land. He expresses a desire to build an office complex, apartment houses and commercial buildings.

1968 – In drawing up plans for the I-787/NY-378 interchange, the Department of Transportation makes accommodations to avoid the historic Schuyler site. It opens in 1970.

1970 – Colonie Town Board hearings proposes rezoning from business E to commercial-multiple housing. The potential developer wants to integrate apartment housing and a shopping center. Archeological surveys conducted on a proposed sewer line result in a more thorough excavation of the Schuyler House by Paul Huey, historical archaeologist for the Office of Historical Preservation. His discoveries cause a flurry of local media attention, and Colonie’s Town Historian, Jean Olten, lobbies for its purchase.

1975 – The Town of Colonie buys 2.5 acres to preserve for an historic park.

1990 – Albany County transfers an additional nine acres.

1992 – The National Park Service designates the site a National Historic Landmark.

1992-2002  -Spearheaded by Paul Russell, Conservation Officer with the Town of Colonie, the idea for a park moves from a concept to reality, The Open Space Institute funds acquisition of another twenty-odd acres.  The Town and the Hudson River Greenway contribute additional funds.

2002 -Schuyler Flatts Cultural Park opens. The plaque, rescued from the 1962 fire, is rededicated.

2016 – The remains of 14  unidentified Schuyler slaves found  on Flatts land were re-interred in St. Agnes Cemetery.

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Website for the park:
http://www.colonie.org/historian/historical/schuyler.htm

A descendant of Guy Beattie created a webpage about his great-grandfather’s tenure at The Flatts. It includes some wonderful photos.
http://brianabbott.net/projects/family-photos/then-and-now-photos/schuyler-flatts

The New Netherland Institute has a wonderful, multi-page article on excavations at The Flatts:

http://www.newnetherlandinstitute.org/history-and-heritage/digital-exhibitions/arent-van-curler-and-the-flatts/the-story/rediscovering-the-flatts/

There’s a nicely detailed article about the Schuyler burial ground at The Flatts here:

https://albanychurchgrounds.wordpress.com/the-schuyler-flatts-burial-ground/

Trivia:

  • The channel that formed Breaker Island was filled in by the construction of exit 7 of Interstate 787 with NY Route 378. The Hudson River remains on its east bank, with various creeks, ponds, small lakes, and marshes on the west side.
  • The Schuyler house was the prototype of the Vancour Mansion in Paulding’s “The Dutchman’s Fireside.”
  • Some think the arsenal was built at Watervliet because Troy was an important iron-producing city, but it’s quite possible that location was chosen because of Schuyler Flatts’ history as a strategically-situated arsenal.

Mrs. Anne Grant wrote a book about Madame Schuyler, called “Memoirs of an American Lady.”
In this passage she describes the interior of the mansion:

“It was a large brick house of two, or rather three stories (for there were excellent attics), besides a sunk story, finished with exactest neatness. The lower floor had two spacious rooms, with large, light closets; on the first there were three rooms, and in the upper one four. Through the middle of the house was a wide passage, with opposite front and back doors, which in summer admitted a stream of air peculiarly grateful to the languid senses. It was furnished with chairs and pictures like a summer parlor. Here the family usually sat in hot weather, when there were no ceremonious strangers.

“ One room, I should have said, in the greater house only, was opened for the reception of company; all the rest were bedchambers for their accommodation, while the domestic friends of the family occupied neat little bedrooms in the attics or the winter-house. This house contained no drawing-room — that was an unheard-of luxury; the winter rooms had carpets; the lobby had oilcloth painted in lozenges, to imitate blue and white marble. The best bedroom was hung with family portraits, some of which were admirably executed; and in the eating-room, which, by the by, was rarely used for that purpose, were some Scriptural paintings.

“ The house fronted the river, on the brink of which, under shades of elm and sycamore, ran the great road toward Saratoga, Stillwater, and the northern lakes; a little simple avenue of morella cherry trees, enclosed with a white rail, led to the road and river, not three hundred yards distant.”

[Note: All corrections are welcome. I am not a historian, just a curious researcher. Most of this information was completely new to me, so forgive me any lapses or errors.]

From Al Quaglieri’s blog Doc Circe Died for Our Sins

The Keeler Restaurants of Albany

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This is the Keeler’s that many of us still remember fondly, providing fine dining on State Street for 85 years. In 1884, brothers William and John Keeler opened this 56 State Street location at the southwest corner of State and Green Streets. Beloved by generations of Albanians, it was also popular with government officials: regular guests included Governor Alfred E. Smith and state senator (and later New York City mayor) James J. Walker. In O Albany!, William Kennedy provides a star-spangled list of occasional visitors, including Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa, Mary Garden, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison. 

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The restaurant stayed in the Keeler family until 1955, then went through several owners, and closed without warning in November 1969. It ended its 85 years at that location ignominiously as Keeler’s Steak & Goblet, featuring “All the draft beer you can drink and all the salad you can eat.”

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** Keeler’s Restaurant, 56 State Street

** Keeler’s Hotel and Restaurant, .480-492 Broadway and 76-78 Maiden Lane, southwest corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. At a May 1912 dinner there, the guests of honor were “Buffalo Bill Cody” and two Lakota Indians who starred in his show, Iron Tail and Lone Bear. Iron Tail is remembered as one of the three models for the so-called Indian Head Nickel.

** Keeler’s Hotel Annex, 507-509 Broadway, east side, a few doors north of Maiden Lane

** Keeler’s Restaurant 582-584 Broadway (across from Union Station)