Boats on the loose and the Livingston Ave. Bridge – Albany NY (January 25, 2019)

Photo by Lori Van Buren – Albany Times Union
Photo by Lori Van Buren – Albany Times Union
Photo  by Lori Van  Buren  – Albany Times Union
Photo by Lori Van Buren – Albany Times Union

Photos from  earlier today (mostly from Times Union newspaper – Lori Van Buren) of boats that broke loose from the Troy docks., due to weather conditions)  and ended up at the Livingston Ave. Railroad Bridge.

It was the first bridge built over the Hudson at Albany.


The bridge was opened in 1866, after decades of wrangling. It was built by Titan of the Gilded Age Commodore Cornelius Vanderbilt who saw the future in transcontinental railways and divested himself of his shipping concerns to buy up railroads.

AND then.. he denied bridge access to several other RR lines, which denied them access to NYC, until they caved. All part of his plan to create a New York Central Railroad monopoly. Crafty devil. In a matter of days he controlled 40% of rail lines in the U.S.

5 years later the Maiden Lane RR bridge was built (demolished circa 1971 after train station moved Rensselaer).

(Passenger rail lines were in bankruptcy or on the brink across almost all the country by the late 1960s. AMTRAK, a quasi governmental organization, was created in the Nixon Administration to salvage what was left and keep passenger trains running.)

The Sturgeon are coming! The Sturgeon are coming!


Click on the link below for a wonderful story from about the return of the endangered Atlantic Sturgeon to the Hudson.

From about 1770 to 1870 Albany was sometimes known as “Sturgeontown” or “Sturgeon City”” even “Sturgeondom”. We were even called “Sturgeonites” Albany harvested sturgeon for local consumption and there was a huge industry around salting and packing in kegs and shipping all over the country. It went over the Erie Canal and then in the wagon trains heading west, and it was a U.S. Army staple, supplied to soldiers in the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 and the Mexican-American War.

Sturgeon collagen, a form of gelatin, was used in making lighting oil, beer making (Albany was a BIG beer town), jellies, glue and medicine. That gelatin was known as isinglass. (from the Dutch “huusblase” (huus=sturgeon + blase= bladder). Many businesses in the City thrived on the annual sturgeon catch from April to September.

There was even a Sturgeon Lane, between Westerlo, Church and So. Ferry, just above the dock near the South Market where most of the fishing boats arrived with their hulls full of sturgeon. But the fish were so plentiful, they could be caught by net in the Foxenkill, that ran through what is now Sheridan Hollow.

But by the 1880s the supply in the Hudson was increasingly depleted, and in the early 1900s, there were NYS laws regulating sturgeon fishing. Despite the shortages, it remained an Albany favorite into the 1930s, although quite expensive.


Copyright 2021  Julie O’Connor

More local connections to Alexander Hamilton and his wife, Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler

President Fillmore’s wife, Abigail, died not long his term ended. In 1858, Millard Fillmore married charming widow Caroline Carmichael McIntosh. Her late husband, Ezekiel McIntosh, was a wealthy merchant and president of the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad. In 1844, Ezekiel McIntosh had purchased the Schuyler Mansion from John Bryant (whose old 1824 property marker can still be seen at the edge of Academy Park) who, in turn, had purchased the Mansion from the heirs of General Philip Schuyler. So Millard Filmore married his second wife in the exact same parlor where Alexander and Eliza had married seventy-eight years earlier.



An Albany Family Story; a Rise to Fortune from Slave to Hotel Mogul.

2Adam Blake Sr. was born about 1773 in an area south of Albany (possibly New York City) and brought to Albany as a slave by a local merchant Jacob Lansing as a young boy to serve the Van Rensselaer estate. (In the NYS 1790 census, there are 15 slaves listed on the estate.) As an adult, Blake was manager of the household staff at Van Rensselaer Manor, home of the Stephen Van Rensselaer III (the “Last Patroon”). In 1803 he married Sarah Richards in the Dutch Reformed Church (now known as the First Reformed Church) on North Pearl St. (Notably, this was the same church attended by Alexander Hamilton while he was in Albany and there is no doubt their paths crossed.)

The relationship between Van Rensselaer and Blake appears to have been more than slave and master. Blake was a trusted confident, yet Van Rensselaer didn’t free Blake until about 1811 or later, despite the fact that Blake had married a young woman, Sarah Richards, probably another Van Rensselaer slave in 1803. In later years Van Rensselaer confessed deeply regretting his failure to free Blake at an earlier date, but made no explanation.) Nonetheless, when Van Rensselaer died, Adam Blake led his funeral procession.

After becoming a free person of color Blake continued in the employ of Van Rensselaer although his obituary refers to connections with Governor DeWitt Clinton. Blake enjoyed a position of esteem throughout the Albany community, among both White and Afro-Americans citizens; he was, by all accounts, a very elegant (he was called the “Beau Brummel of Albany”, intelligent and charming man.

3He and his family lived in the 100 block of Third St. between Lark and S. Swan, on land that was previously part of Patroon holdings (probably given to him by Van Rensselaer) and owned several adjacent lots (107, 109 and 111). Blake was a major figure in the Afro-American community in Albany, involved in the first African school in Albany in the early 1800s. He was immersed in abolitionist activities; he was one of the notable speakers during the 1827 Albany celebration of the abolition of slavery in New York State and was a key figure in the National Colored Peoples Convention held in Albany in 1840.

Blake’s son, Adam Jr. was adopted – we know nothing of his birth parents or antecedents. He was raised at the Van Rensselaer Manor, where he received his early schooling by the side of the Van Rensselaer children. He would become one of the most successful businessmen and entrepreneurs in the 1800s in Albany of either race. While in his 20’s he worked his way up to the position of head waiter at the famous Delavan House on Broadway. Blake rapidly built his reputation as a restaurant proprietor with the opening of his own restaurant on Beaver and Green Streets in 1851. Over the next 14 years he opened two more establishments, first on James St. and the next on State St., each one more upscale. His restaurants were favorite haunts of the young swells, NYS legislators, and diverse governmentos of all stripes. He catered private parties, assemblies, balls and picnics. Young Blake appears to have been a naturally genial, gracious and discreet host. We have a vision of a man who could cater an elegant reception for Albany’s society women or organize a back room dinner for politicians with equal ease – the “prince of caterers”.




6In 1865 Blake secured the lease for the Congress Hall Hotel, adjacent to the Old Capitol on the corner of Park St and Washington Ave. This was a fabled landmark (Lafayette stayed the night during his 1824 Albany visit), but fallen on hard times. . He acquired 3 adjacent buildings (Gregory’s Row) combined them with the Hotel, and spent a large sum furnishing it in a sumptuous fashion, The Hall was a lucrative concession – its location was favored by legislators and other politicians for lodgings, meals, receptions and meetings.

In 1878 the Hall needed to be demolished for the new Capitol building; Blake received $190,000 compensation from New York State. He used the money to open a large hotel on N. Pearl St. that remains today. The hotel was built for Blake by the son of the late Dr. James McNaughton (former president of the Albany Medical Society) on land they owned; it was named the Kenmore after the small village in Scotland in which McNaughton was born. The hotel was designed by the Ogden and Wright, leading Albany architects, and no expense was spared

7Not one to let the grass grow under his feet, while the Kenmore was under construction, Blake took over the management of the Averill Park Hotel across the river for the summer of 1879.




McNaughton’s willingness to build the Kenmore for Blake to his specifications speaks volumes about the general estimation of his business acumen and confidence in potential for its success. While he benefited greatly from his father’s connections and those of the Patroon, he clearly had natural and innate ability.

9The Kenmore Hotel opened in 1880. It was Adam Blake’s dream- a marvel of modern technology and comfort; it was called “the most elegant structure on the finest street in Albany”. It was wildly successful, not only for its convenience, but for its level of service. It included hot and cold running water (and new-fangled water closets), an elevator, telephones and, of course a fine and palatial dining room.





Throughout his life Adam Jr. moved easily among both the Afro –American and white communities, and was as widely respected as his father had been. He apprenticed a number of young Afro-American men who went on to manage major hotels throughout the New York State, including the Clarendon Hotel in Saratoga Springs; Leonard Jerome and family were guests (daughter Jenny would marry Lord Randolph Churchill and give birth to Winston.) While James Matthews (the first Afro=American judge elected in the U.S.) was in Albany Law school, Blake employed him as a bookkeeper in the Congress Hotel. He used his community standing to advance Afro-American causes whenever possible. In the early 1870s he hosted and promoted an appearance by the Fisk Jubilee Singers, a choral group that toured to raise funds for one of the first Afro-American college in Tennessee. Several years later he worked diligently in the fight to desegregate Albany’s public schools.

He was known as a generous man “who never turned away a stranger or neighbor in need”. In 1881 beautiful stained glass memorial window was dedicated in the Israel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Hamilton St (the oldest Afro-American church in Albany, established in 1828). Adam Jr.’s activities in the Abolitionist movement are not documented as are his father’s, but the Blake family houses on Third St. we’re situated directly behind that of Stephen Myers on Livingston Ave., leading figure in Albany’s Underground Railroad, and at one point Blake lived at 198 Lumber St. (now Livingston), 2 doors away from the Myers’ house at 194 Lumber. It is improbable to think that neither father nor son was not involved in the Railroad. Upon the dedication of the church window, Dr. William Johnson delivered a speech commemorating Blake, in which he said:

“He loved liberty and abhorred slavery. He believed in the equality of all, in the manhood of all and in the common brotherhood of all. He was identified with Frederick Douglass, Stephen Myers, Drs., Smith and Pennington and their compatriots, in untiring efforts tending to the overthrow of slavery…. he took active part in state and national councils of the oppressed and served in honorable official capacity in the Equal Rights League of the state….”

Unfortunately, Blake died an untimely death in 1881 at the age of 51. He didn’t really get to revel in his success. At the time of his death his private fortune was estimated in excess of $100,000, an astonishing sum for anyone, let alone the son of a slave. For the next seven years the Hotel was managed by his widow, Catherine, who was equally good at business, accumulating real estate all over the Albany, including 2 row houses on Spring St. near Lark St. that stand today When the lease on the Kenmore Hotel expired in 1887, Catherine left the hotel business, selling the furnishing and the Hotel’s goodwill for a tidy sum to the new owners. While the Blakes were involved with the Kenmore, they lived on Columbia St., but when Mrs. Blake gave up the Kenmore, she moved to First St to an elegant townhouse (that also remains today), between S. Hawk St. and S. Swan St., taking her place among the other wealthy families of Albany, just above the Ten Broeck Triangle.

Thanks to Paula Lemire and her contributions to the research on the lives of both Adam Sr. and Jr.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The Celtic Cross influence in Albany Rural Cemetery

In the mid- 1850’s there was a revival of interest in Celtic art that started in Dublin. The impetus for the movement, which came to be known as the Irish Renaissance, was Irish nationalism. But the beauty of the traditional Irish forms worked their way into the Arts and Craft movement spearheaded by William Morris in England in the late 1800s

In the U.S the aesthetics of the Irish Revival heavily influenced our most influential designers of the late 19th and early 20 century. Louis Comfort Tiffany used the Celtic cross motif in his his stained glass windows , his Tiffany jewelry and, yes, in Tiffany designed grave markers. Gustav Stickley, this country’s leading practitioner of the Arts and Crafts movement, adopted traditional Irish design elements like the cross and the knot in his designs for all things useful and beautiful – furniture, fabric, lamps.

Albany Rural Cemetery’s Alexander Hamilton Connections

“We rowed across the Hudson at dawn.”

The Hamilton-Burr Duel took place on this date – July 11, 1804. While Hamilton is buried in Manhattan’s Trinity Churchyard, the Albany Rural Cemetery has several ties to the infamous duel.

Alexander Hamilton was, of course, married to Elizabeth (Eliza) Schuyler, daughter of one of Albany’s best known historical figures. General Philip Schuyler, who lost his 1791 Congressional re-election bid to Aaron Burr, died just four months after his son-in-law was killed. After having his grave moved several times over the years, he was laid to rest at Albany Rural in Lot 66, Section 29.

Eliza’s sister, Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler eloped with the young Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer. She died at the age of 42 in 1801. She is buried in the Van Rensselaer vault in Lot 1, Section 14. Fans of the musical, Hamilton: An American Musical sometimes leave notes, flowers, and coins on the monument.

John Tayler, who served as Governor of New York for four months in 1817, and his son-in-law, Dr. Charles D. Cooper, are both buried in a family plot in Lot 15, Section 19. The comments by Hamilton which ultimately led to the duel were made at a dinner at John Tayler’s home and were reported to the Albany Evening Register (and reprinted in the New York Post) in a letter by Dr. Cooper. General Schuyler, who was also at the dinner with Hamilton, refuted the remarks in his own letters to both papers, but it did not prevent the duel.

Two decades after the duel, Aaron Burr resided in the mansion-turned-boarding house which today houses the Fort Orange Club. At the time, it was owned by the Soulden family. They are buried in Lot 22, Section 61.

General Philip Schuyler, Lot 66, Section 29

Margaret “Peggy” Schuyler Van Rensselaer, Lot 1, Section 14

John Tayler and Dr. Charles D. Cooper, Lot 15, Section 19


From Paula Lemire’s Facebook Page  Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves

Have You Seen Her? The Missing Statue of Bertha Cleveland


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz20767679_1249469675161649_279148446338013339_In the southern part of the Albany Rural Cemetery, a fine monument towers over the intersection of Linden and Cypress Avenues. Atop the monument, a marble angel looks towards Heaven with a little child in its arms. Small granite headstones are arranged below it Lot 1, Section 108. A closer look, however, reveals that something is missing from this lovely family plot. The base of the monument has an empty pedestal and a pair of small iron spikes meant to secure a statue in place.

Bertha Isabel Cleveland was born on September 28, 1875 to Frederick W. Cleveland and his wife, Gertrude Van Vranken. Her father, in partnership with his brother George, had become wealthy as the owner of Cleveland’s Superior Baking Powder Company (which was eventually sold to the Royal Baking Powder Company for half a million dollars).

In 1872, Frederick Cleveland used his wealth to built a mansion for his family along what is now Van Rensselaer Boulevard. The beautiful home (called Greyledge), unfortunately, had a deadly flaw which would claim the lives of two of the Cleveland children. Unknown to the family, sewage had seeped into the mansion’s water supply.

In May of 1882, two-year old Edith Cleveland began gravely ill with what was described by the doctors as “malignant diphtheria.” She in her father’s arms on May 10 and was buried at Albany Rural a day later. The child in the arms of the angel represents little Edith. Only six months later, seven-year old Bertha also fell ill with nausea, fever, diarrhea, and delirium. Despite the efforts of three doctors, her condition deteriorated quickly. On November 3, 1882, she promised to buy Christmas presents for her loved ones and then said, “I want to rest, let me rest” before passing away with her mother at her side. She was buried at Albany Rural the next day. It was only after a third child fell in that the family was advised to move from Greyledge temporarily and the source of the illness discovered in a contaminated well.

The Clevelands commissioned a beautiful statue of their little Bertha to grace the family plot. The marble figure was based on photographs and wonderfully detailed, depicting the girl in a pretty dress with high-buttoned shoes and books in her hands.

The marble likeness stood watch over the graves of the Cleveland family until 1993 when, one night, it simply vanished. At the time, Albany Rural and other local cemeteries had been hit hard by thieves who would target statues, stained glasses windows, and urns to sell to out-of-town antique dealers and collectors. Others stole ornamental metal objects to sell as scrap. Along with the statue of Bertha Cleveland, a massive marble bench (recovered) and bronze eagle from the nearby monument to General Adolphus Von Steinwehr (still missing) were taken. The prime suspect in these thefts was Gary Evans, a serial killer and native of Troy who was well known for antique thefts. After his arrest in 1998, he admitted to five murders and numerous thefts in local cemeteries (including Albany Rural and neighboring Saint Agnes). If he indeed took the statue of little Bertha, he also took that secret with him when he died in fall from the Troy-Menands Bridge during an escape attempt on August 14, 1998.

So, the whereabouts of Bertha Cleveland’s touching portait in marble remain unknown. Though the story of the missing statue appeared in local newspapers, it’s possible that the statue was transported and sold to an antique dealer or collector who was unaware of its true provenance. Little Bertha might still be out there somewhere, waiting to be returned to the Cleveland family plot at Albany Rural Cemetery.

If you recognize this statue or have any information on where it might be, please contact the Menands Police Department (518- 463-1681), the Albany Rural Cemetery office (518- 463-7017), the Historical Society Town Of Colonie, New York (518-782-2601)or   send a message to  Paula Lemire’s Facebook page  Albany Rural Cemetery -Beyond The Graves





The Un-Dutching of Albany

“Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch.”

But even the dogs changed their accents.

The following is from “Random Recollections of Albany: From 1800 to 1808” (published in 1866).. It was written by Gorham A. Worth, a banker who had lived here during his 20s and then went on to make a lot of money and impart upon the world his recollections of multiple places, including Hudson and Cincinnati.

Anyway, there’s an interesting section early in Worth’s book that recalls a significant change in Albany: the shift from Dutch culture to a more English/American/Yankee culture. Spoiler: Albany wasn’t a fan of change
“The Yankees were creeping in. Every day added to their number; and the unhallowed hand of innovation was seen pointing its impertinent finger at the cherished habits and venerated customs of the ancient burgers.”
It’s a fun and interesting read, so we clipped it…
Worth’s recollection of Albany in 1800 is of a city that he regarded as a kind of backwater — but, um, in a good way. “Nothing could be more unique or picturesque to the eye, than Albany in its primitive days. Even at the period above mentioned, it struck me as peculiarly naive and beautiful. All was antique, clean and quiet.”
He continues a little later on…””Pearl street, it must be remembered, was, in those days, the west end for the town; for there the town ended, and there resided some of the most aristocratic of the ancient burgers. There, a little after sunrise, in a mild spring morning, might be seen, sitting by the side of their doors, the ancient and venerable Mynheers with their little sharp cocked hats, or red-ringed worsted caps (as the case might be), drawn tight over their heads. There they sat, like monuments of a former age, still lingering on the verge of time; or like mile-stones upon a turnpike road, solus in solo! or, in simple English, unlike anything I had ever seen before. But there they sat, smoking their pipes in that dignified silence, and with that phlegmatic gravity, which would have done honor to Sir Wonter Van Twiller, or even to Puffendorf himself. The whole line of the street, on either side, was dotted by the little clouds of smoke, that, issuing from their pipes, and, curling around their noddles, rose slowly up the antique gables, and mingled with the morning air; giving beauty to the scene, and adding an air of life to the picture. But the great charm was in the novelty of the thing. I had seen a Dutch house before, but never till then had I seen a row of Dutchmen smoking in a Dutch city.

Albany was indeed Dutch, in all its moods and tenses; thoroughly and inveterately Dutch. The buildings were Dutch–Dutch in style, in position, attitude and aspect. The people were Dutch, the horses were Dutch, and even the dogs were Dutch. If any confirmation were wanting, as to the origin and character of the place, it might be found in the old Dutch church, which was itself always to be found in the middle of State street, looking as if it had been wheeled out of line by the giants of old, and there left; or had dropped down from the clouds in a dark night, and had stuck fast where it fell.

All the old buildings in the city — and they constituted a large majority — were but one story high, with sharp peaked roofs, surmounted by a rooster, vulgarly called a weathercock. Every house, having any pretensions to dignity, was placed with its gable end to the street, and was ornamented with huge iron numericals, announcing the date of its erection; while from its eaves long wooden gutters, or spouts, projected in front some six or seven feet, so as to discharge the water from the roof, when it rained, directly over the centre of the sidewalls. This was probably contrived for the benefit of those who were compelled to be out in wet weather, as it furnished them with an extra shower-bath free of expense.
But the destined hour was drawing near. The Yankees were creeping in. Every day added to their number; and the unhallowed hand of innovation was seen pointing its impertinent finger at the cherished habits and venerated customs of the ancient burgers. These meddling eastern Saxons at length obtained a majority in the city councils; and then came an order, with a handsaw, to “cut off those spouts.” Nothing could exceed the consternation of the aforesaid burgers, upon the announcement of this order. Had it been a decree abolishing their mother tongue, it could hardly have excited greater astonishment, or greater indignation. “What!” said they, “are our own spouts, then, to be measured and graduated by a corporation standard! Are they to be cut off or foreshortened, without our knowledge or consent!” But the Dutch still retained the obstinacy, if not the valor, of their ancestors. They rallied their forces and at the next election, the principal author of the obnoxious order (my old friend Elkanah Watson), was elected a constable of the ward in which he lived! This done, they went to sleep again; and before they awoke, new swarms had arrived, and a complete and thorough revolution had taken place. The Yankees were in possession of the city! and the fate of the Dutch was sealed.

A restless, leveling, innovating spirit, now prevailed throughout the city. The detested word improvement was in every mouth, and resistance was unavailing. The stinted pines became alarmed, and gradually receded. The hills themselves gave way. New streets opened their extended lines, and the old ones grew wider. The roosters on the gable heads, that for more than a century had braved the Indians and the breeze; that had even flapped their wings and crowed in the face of Burgoyne himself, now gave it up, and came quietly down. The gables in despair soon followed, and more imposing fronts soon reared their corniced heads. The old Dutch Church itself, thought to be immortal, submitted to its fate and fell! not at the foot of Pompey’s statute, exactly, but at the foot of State street, which freed from the obstruction thenceforward became the Rialto of the city, where peddlers of stale sea-cod, and country hucksters, now do congregate.

Even the dogs now began to bark in broken English; many of them, indeed, had already caught the Yankee twang, so rapid was the progress of refinement. In the process of a few brief years, all that was venerable in the eyes of the ancient burgers disappeared. Then came the great eclipse of 1806, which clearly announced the fall and final end of the Dutch dynasty. It is hardly necessary to say, that not an iron rooster has crowed upon the gable heads, nor a civil cocked hat been seen in the ancient city of Albany, from that day to this.”

Worth then goes on to discuss the famous local families of the time, many of them with names that still echo today: Van Rensselaer, Ten Broeck, Gansevoort, Lansing, Van Schaick, Ten Eyck, Pruyn, and so on.

Excerpted from 8/24/17 All Over Albany