Albany’s D&H Building and How it Grew

3By the early 1900s the foot of State St., where it met the Hudson River, was “a tangle of mean streets and wretched buildings”. (Or, to use one of my favorite quotes from Tom Waits, “the corner of bedlam and squalor”.) And it wasn’t the only area of the city that could use some TLC. The gleaming Capitol and the new Education Building just made the shabby parts of the city look shabbier.

So then Mayor James McEwan and the Chamber of Commerce asked Arnold Brunner, a leading architect of the period, to come up with ideas for civic improvement. The results were collected in the 1914 book, “Studies for Albany”.

Although Brunner knew there was a continuing desire to secure a view of the Hudson River, he acknowledged that clearing the area would only provide a view of the railroad yard, commercial docks and wharves. He recommended obliterating this view with a plaza that would screen the industrial scenario.

5.1Marcus Reynolds, Albany’s pre-eminent architect, became involved. According to Wiki, Reynolds proposed a triangular park at the end of State Street with an a large L-shaped pier that would go north for three city blocks that would also support another park with a bandshell and docks for yachts and boats.* That design would have cost $1 million and was opposed by neighborhood groups as too expensive; concerns were also expressed about the problems of railroad traffic.

5Then the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Railroad proposed to construct new offices in the location at the base of State St. (The D&H offices on the corner of North Pearl St. and Steuben, constructed in the early 1890s, were already getting crowded – the building is still on that corner.) The city had amassed land and it would be made available to the D&H, with a park accessible to the public in the front.

6.1Ultimately Reynolds designed a building inspired by the medieval Cloth Hall (a market and warehouse for the Cloth Guild) in Ypres Belgium.

 

But by the time it was completed it was already too small hold all the D&H staff. There it sat in 1915; about half of what we know today, but long enough to take photos and turn them into lovely tinted postcards (which is how today we know what it looked like then).

8

Another wing was connected for the D&H and finally a second tower was added to house the offices of the “Albany Evening Journal” newspaper owned by Bill Barnes, who was also the city’s Republican Machine Boss. The building was completed in 1918.

18

19

Over the years there were a number of other tenants including the “Albany Times Union”, and federal and state government offices. By 1970 the building was in significant decline. Then Chancellor of the State University, Ernest Boyer, announced in 1972 the University would purchase the building from the D&H and make it, and the old Federal Building on the corner of Broadway, the HQ of the State University. It was dedicated in 1978.

22

 

 

* The Albany Yacht Club had already constructed a new building at the base of Maiden Lane, so the city added a Municipal/Recreation Pier. Both survived into the mid-1950s.

19 (2)

Julie O’Connor

Advertisements

Albany and the High Priestess of Fashion

 

Albany is full of fascinating stories. This is a little known story about a woman who came to Albany as a newlywed in 1924, and then went on to have a major impact on the world around us. It’s taken me about 40 years to connect the dots; it started with a pair of cuff links.

I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother was mostly a lovely woman, born in Albany at the turn of the 20th century, and she told me the Albany stories. And never stopped. Ever. (Gram could talk the ears off a wooden Indian.)

Fast forward decades – I’m digging through bits and pieces of inherited family “stuff”, and find my grandfather’s tuxedo cuff links and studs. Nice items – gold filled by a company called Krementz. And wham.. I can hear my grandmother’s voice from long ago – “Your grandfather bought those because he liked Reed Vreeland’s, but I think Reed’s were from Cartier.”

Yikes!!! The light bulb finally went on! Reed Vreeland was the husband in the newlywed couple; his wife was Diana – who would become “The Empress of Fashion”, known not just in America but all over the world. Diana Vreeland lived in ALBANY? How could we fashionistas not know that? And how did my grandmother know Reed Vreeland? More importantly, did she know his wife Diana?

It turns out Reed and my grandfather were in the Mendelssohn club, a men’s chorale society that still exists today in Albany. But more about that later.

The Vreelands

T. Reed Vreeland was the son of Herbert Vreeland (from a Dutch Settler family that hailed, in part, from Albany in the 1600s), born in the Town of Glen in Montgomery County. Herbert became a self-made millionaire, owning most of the street car lines in New York City.

Reed came to Albany to work for the National Commercial Bank in 1922. In summer 1923 he met Diana Dalziel at a debutante event in Saratoga Springs. (Diana was born in Paris – her mother was French; her father British. They emigrated to the U.S. shortly before World War I.)

Apparently it was love at first sight and they married in March 1924. The happy couple lived initially in a small house on Spring St.in Albany. Diana said, “I loved our life there. I was totally happy.” They lived in a “cozy cottage” and young Diana was enjoying domesticity – being a housewife and then a mother.

2

6

Back to the Mendelssohn Club

The Club was founded in 1909. In the 1920s the conductor was Dr. Frank Sill Rogers, organist and choirmaster for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church. With the men from his choir as a nucleus, he used his connections with other choirmasters to enlist male singers. Soon, there was hardly a male choir singer in the city who wasn’t a member. My grandfather was a church organist and a protégé of Rogers, so of course he sang with the Club. Reed loved to sing and had a great voice, so he joined the Club. The Club performed their concerts in white tie and tails (which explains the cuff links and studs).

4

Life in Albany

The Vreelands moved to the highest echelons of Albany society. Diana was a member of the Junior League. While in Albany Diana became a U.S. citizen. Their family grew (they had 2 sons) and they moved to a larger house at 409 Western Ave. (now Medaille Hall at the College of St. Rose.)

5 (3)

3

5 (2)

The Next Chapters

In 1927 Reed was offered a job in London, and that’s where Diana’s story really begins. They moved in glittering circles of British Royalty (she was presented at Court in 1933) and wealthy American ex-pats. Diana opened a small shop and sold exquisite and alluring handmade lingerie from France. One of her customers was another American – Wallis Simpson. (Was Diana’s sexy lingerie responsible for the Abdication? She later boasted, “My little lingerie shop had brought down the throne.”)

In the mid-1930s the Vreelands returned to America. Diana spent the next 40 years as an editor at “Harper’s Bazaar” and then as editor in chief at “Vogue”. She was Jackie Kennedy’s fashion advisor while Jackie was in the White House. Her time at “Vogue” changed the world of fashion and changed how women viewed themselves in the world. She liberated women – allowed them to be free from the constraints of stiff petticoats and white gloves, and advocated for woman’s right to wear pants. She declared denim divine.

And for a last act she served as a special consultant to the Costume Institute of the Metropolitan Museum. She, more than anyone else, helped the world see that costume and fashion are an expression of self; great couture is the work of great artisans in ateliers, artists and designers – that clothing can be a political statement. She was the first editor to mix main street with couture fashion and include politicians, movie stars and rocks stars and sports figures in that world. She put fashion photography on the map – made it legit.

Back to Albany

It’s hard to imagine Diana Vreeland, the queen of the outrageous who lived out loud and had an opinion on everything, in Albany. She’d already been on the best dressed list twice by the time she came here, wore blood red nail polish and lipstick, and was said to have painted her Spring St. living room canary yellow and put down a zebra skin rug. How did the people of Albany – not known for their avant garde sensibilities – react to her?

Apparently we were kind and gracious. Later in life she said it was the happiest time of her life . It was a world of “good food, good housekeeping, polished floors, and polished brass.” (The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie?)

Her biographer Amanda Mackenzie Stuart said she liked Albany’s domestic Dutch style. In the one photo I’ve seen that would have been taken while she was living here, Diana looks just like any other doting mother.

“It’s not about the dress you wear, but it’s about the life you lead in the dress.” .. DV

8

Julie O’Connor

Before There Was “American Idol” there was Albany’s “Teenage Barn”

1.1Tommy Sternfeld was an Albany native who danced in vaudeville and Broadway shows. A local dance instructor in 1946, Sternfeld auditioned 3,000 boys and girls for a show called ‘Here’s To Youth.” It was staged at the Strand theatre to raise money to send underprivileged children to camp. The show had a cast of over 300.

A year later, Mr. Sternfeld created a radio show using some of this same talent. It was called “Backyard Follies,” held every Saturday morning at the Strand and broadcast over WABY. It was joined briefly by a subsequent half-hour quiz show called “Whata-Ya-Know,” also starring children and held at the Strand movie theatre on North Pearl.

3

“Backyard Follies” ended up winning a Billboard Award for children’s programming. The next year the show moved to Schenectady and WGY. “Backyard Follies” ran for a total of two years.

4

As more affordable models of sets became available to the public, television exploded into the American consciousness in 1949. Sternfeld seized the opportunity, and sold WRGB two different local TV talent shows based on his “Backyard Follies” finds. Recycling the name of a 1939-1940 radio show, Sternfeld herded the younger performers into a half-hour Saturday afternoon “Juvenile Jamboree.” At the same time, the older teens were to be featured in an evening broadcast, called ‘Teen Age Barn.”

“Teen Age Barn” debuted on April 4, 1949, when there were only 17,000 television sets in the area. While “Juvenile Jamboree” vanished quietly in 1953, “Teen Age Barn” became a big success, moving into a prime time Friday night time slot (1954 also saw a short-lived “Tommy Sternfeld Show”). By 1959, “Teen Age Barn” was the oldest locally-produced variety show in the nation.

8

The show even took to the road via Channel 6’s mobile truck; one Friday in 1960, the “Teenage Barn “show was broadcast live from inside the new Albany Savings Bank at Western and West Lawrence (now a Citizen’s Bank).

2.2Troupes of “Teen Age Barn” alumni were formed to perform live shows at local auditoriums as far flung as Kingston, Plattsburgh and Pittsfield, and fairs, in support of community service organizations like the Kiwanis. In 1962 the program was expanded from 30 minutes to a full hour. The show was renamed “The Barn” in 1963.

 

 

 

Kids with talent from all over the Capital District and beyond clamored to perform on the show. In 1961, there was a contest called “Search for the Stars” and over 200 kids entered. A friend of ours was selected; she was 11 and played “Lady of Spain” on the organ. Our organ player continued on the show until it was cancelled about 5 years later.

10

As far as we can tell the most famous alumnae from “Teenage Barn” are Steve Katz, who became a guitarist with the “Blood, Sweat and Tears” rock band, and Arlene Fontana, a singer from Amsterdam, who appeared on national variety shows, some Broadway musical road shows, cut a couple of singles, and performed in a Las Vegas club act. And there was Ronnie Tober.

9Ronnie was originally from Holland; his family moved to Albany shortly after the end of World War II. After multiple appearances on “Teenage Barn” he was a fan favorite. Tober, still in his teens, played local clubs, won a national contest and toured with a national band (he even appeared in an episode of “Route 66”). Ultimately Tober returned to Holland where, in his early twenties, he became a super star.*

Come 1966, in a major programming realignment, WRGB announced plans to drop “Teen Age Barn.” Sternfeld held out hopes WRGB would change its mind about the cancellation, adding, “I’d like to see the show continue. Our only chance is if we can get our audience to react.” No reaction was forthcoming, and after 17 years the Barn doors closed for good on January 29, 1966.

There were so many episodes of “Teen Age Barn” that almost every local with a teaspoon of talent appeared on the show, and most everyone who didn’t was either related to or knew someone who did. It was “must see TV” for a while. Sometimes it was performed before a live audience (taped and played later) – Girl Scout and Boy Scout Troops, a Sunday School group. It was a “wholesome” show.

Some kids went on to careers in entertainment or teaching. “Teen Age Barn” performers opened a number of dance studios that lasted decades and taught generations of students. Some packed up their tap shoes and batons. Others continued with a career in entertainment. Our “Lady of Spain” organ player friend started playing professionally when she was 14, and continues to this day as a member of several local bands, and as an officer in the Albany local of the Musician’s Union.

For many “Teen Age Barn” was the highlight of their life. Obituaries of locals are peppered with mentions of “Teen Age Barn” appearances.

7Tommy Sternfeld used the cachet of his TV experience to reinvigorate his dance instruction studio. He augmented his income by selling houses for Picotte Realty. He died in 1974 at the age of 65. The Sternfeld Dance Studio, passed on to his students, still exists in Hudson, NY.

 

Tom Sternfeld is buried in Albany Rural Cemetery  in Section 123, Lot 366.

IMG_4265

 

• On 27 December 2003, during his 40th year in show business, Tober was made a Knight in the Order of Orange-Nassau by Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands. Tober’s name is also inscribed on the Wall of Fame at the Zuiderkerk (“southern church”) in Amsterdam. Ronnie is in his 70’s today and is still much beloved in his native Holland.

From Al Quaglieri’s blog “Doc Circe Died for Sins’https://alcue.wordpress.com/ . Take a look at his blog if you want to learn more about Tommy Sternfeld (he and Bob Fosse teamed up and put on troop shows in the South Pacific in World War II) or Ronnie Tober.

The Church of the Holy Innocents

4

Holy Innocents Church (Episcopal), on the corner of North Pearl and Colonie St., was built in 1849 by the prolific English architect Frank Wills. It was built in a style called Gothic Revival”. (By way of comparison, Notre Dame was built in the original Gothic style.)

Wills (who wrote the definitive text “Ancient Ecclesiastical Architecture” in 1850) built a number of churches and chapels across the United States. They all draw on the elements of the great English Gothic cathedrals – Lincoln, Salisbury and Canterbury. Holy Innocents is unique because it included a seperate “Lady Chapel” (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) adjacent to the main church building. Because it was surrounded by the a small garden, it had and has the feel of an English country parish church.

Holy Innocents was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 (We believe it’s the second oldest extant church building in Albany – the oldest would be St Mary’s on Pine St.)

But it’s fallen on hard times over the past 20 years while vacant. In 2015, while it was owned by Hope House, a residential recovery program founded by Fr. Howard Hubbard (before he became the Albany Catholic Diocese Bishop) part of the church collapsed. In late 2016 the church was acquired by a local developer. Based on recent asessments and photos it appear to continue to deteriorate since that acquisition. As a result it was placed on the 2019 Historic Albany Foundation “Dirty Dozen” list of Albany’s most endangered historic structures. There are fears it will simply end up as one more Albany demolition.

Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
57437552_2102892663092318_4049684956425748480_o
Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
57821731_2102892866425631_6616296445454581760_n
Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
57578705_2102892559758995_8798264424528871424_o
Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
58033204_2102892796425638_790039971170877440_n
Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin

(My grandmother’s family were Holy Innocents parishioners from 1870 to the early 1940s, so the old pics you see are from my personal collection. We love those altar boys. Grandma is the tall girl in front of church entrance and the somewhat goofy, albeit almost always cheerful, young man in the surplice is Grandpa, who was the organist at Holy Innocents from the early 1920s to early 1940s. That’s where they met – at Holy Innocents – and there’s a whole wacky courtship story I will save for another time.)

1
Easter Sunday Holy Innocents

2

5
Mae Kiernan & Catherine Vail – Holy Innocents c. 1918

The White Towers of Albany

6

White Tower was an iconic restaurant chain started in the late 1920s in the Mid-West. (And yes, a total rip off of White Castle, but very successful.)

This was back in the day when there were almost no chain restaurants (Ho-Jos didn’t begin until the 1930s.) There were the Harvey Houses in the West and Mid-west and Schrafft’s – mostly in NYC, and the southern chain, the Toddle House. (A Toddle House moved into Albany in 1938 to Washington Ave., just above Lark St.)

Timing is everything. In the midst of Great Depression, the White Tower diners (because that is what they were) thrived. A hamburger and a cup of Joe would set you back a dime. They were clean, white and well–lit with an amazing iconic Art Deco look. The White Towers were the antithesis of the greasy (some sometimes filthy) spoon. They were modern – all gleaming Formica and chrome. You watched your food being made.. (no secrets there). Waitresses and counter girls wore all white uniforms (very nurse like – totally hygienic).

People who had never set foot in a diner in their life flocked to the White Tower. You could take your kids.

The era of the Hamburger had arrived.

Washington Ave.
2The first White Tower in Albany was located on north side of Washington Ave., between South Swan and Dove. Land was originally leased from the Catholic Diocese. The Dominican Monastery on the site was demolished. (The building was originally the historic home of the Gansevoorts and the Lansings, dating back to the late 1700s, and oft visited by Herman Melville while he was in Albany. )
The White Tower bought the site in 1952.

3

4Clinton Square
Albany’s second White Tower moved into Clinton Square, across from the Palace Theater in 1935.

 

 

 

 

6 (2)

 

Menands
5The third and last White Tower near Albany area was built on Broadway between 1935 and 1937 opposite the behemoth Montgomery Ward superstore (now Riverview Center).

 

 

New York State Digital Library

Hamburger prices stayed at 5 cents until 1941, and coffee cost a nickel until 1950.

For decades most White Towers offered free meals on Christmas Day.

At its peak in the 1950s the White Tower chain has 230 locations, mostly in the northeast. But suburbia quickly killed the White Tower (along with management that couldn’t change fast enough).

Fate of the Albany White Towers

The White Tower in Clinton Square was demolished in 1969 for the 787 ramps.

If memory serves, by 1971 the location opposite Wards was no more

14But the Washington Ave. White Tower survives. And that’s a fascinating story. In early 1962 it was first moved about 40 feet to make way for a new Mechanics Exchange Bank. Yup.. the whole shebang, including foundation.. was moved less than 15 yards.

But 9 months later the entire building was on the move again.. up the street to a new location at 12 Central Ave. And there it remained as a functioning restaurant until the early 1970s. The move put the White Tower directly across the street from its competition, a Toddle House diner on Washington Ave.just above Lark St.

15

457de96b909cb2102fddb0082ddbe5a0--iroquois-ware(The Toddle House moved to 816 Central in 1969 and became a “Steak ‘n Egg”, owned by the same corporation by 1974; it remained in business until the early 1980s.)

 

 

The White Tower building was vacant until 1986 when Charlene and Dave Shortsleeve purchased the building in turned it into the QE2 club and performance venue. Charlene sold out in the late 1990s.

16

16294845546_5f8c175af7_b

19

Enter the Fuze Box, still going strong.

Paul Robeson and Albany

Why is Robeson important to Albany history?

In 1947 Robeson was at the center of a great political and legal battle that took place in Albany – watched by all of America and the world. He was booked to sing in the auditorium of Philip Livingston Jr. High in Arbor Hill by a black cultural organization in the city. (Livingston was often a venue for large concerts and theatrical productions.. it had a big auditorium and parking space.)

paul

Robeson had previously been questioned by the House Un-American Activities Committee (under Senator Joe McCarthy) as being a potential communist. The Albany School Board, appointed by Mayor Erastus Corning (and at the direction of the Mayor) said Robeson could not use the school venue because Robeson was a communist. A huge political crisis ensued.

Local attorney Andrew Harvey, known for his civil rights work for decades , took the Board to court. (Much of the legal expense was funded by the local unions.)

A decision was rendered in favor of Robeson and the concert took place. (One the few times Mayor Corning lost a fight.)

paul 1

It’s a story that has been lost to time, but as relevant today as it was 70 plus years ago.

Robeson was an amazing man – an athlete and a lawyer, turned actor and singer – who began to stand up for civil rights and against fascism before it was fashionable. If you would like to know more about him, click here for a summary of his life prepared by the New York Public Library. http://archives.nypl.org/scm/20649

And if you can wait, there’s a Robeson biopic in the works with Steve McQueen (“12 Years a Slave”) collaborating with Harry Belafonte.

Julie O’Connor

Albany’s Old Municipal Buildings

On March 22, 1969 the last occupants (Albany Police detective squad) of the old Municipal Building on Eagle St. exit and settle in at their new digs on Morton Ave.

The Municipal Building, completed in 1923, was one of the last buildings demolished to make way for the Empire State Plaza. (I remember having to go there for something when I was teen and it looked like photos I’d seen of areas bombed in World War II.)

z2 (2)

z3

z4 (2)

The building on Eagle St. replaced the old Municipal Building on South Pearl St. which was built in the 1870s. It was demolished and the site became the home of the Ritz movie theater, which in turn was demolished in 1964.

z9

z10

The proximity of the Municipal Building on Eagle St. to the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception gave rise to the practice of the APD annual communion mass at the Cathedral and breakfast at the DeWitt Clinton Hotel (the renovated hotel is now the Marriott Renaissance).

FUN FACT: The first regularly operating telephone system in Albany was installed in 1877 by the Chief of Police in the building on South Pearl. It was connected to instruments in Chief’s home, the Mayor’s office and the precinct houses. The Albany police were early adopters; the first police in the world to use telephones. (The installation cost was about $800; annual cost $30.)

Julie O’Connor

“Blind Tom” at Albany’s Tweddle Hall in 1866

1866 blind2

Blind Tom

Thomas Greene Wiggins was born in 1849 to Mungo and Charity Wiggins, slaves on a Georgia plantation. He was blind and autistic, but a musical genius with a phenomenal memory. In 1850 Tom, his parents, and two brothers were sold to James Neil Bethune, a lawyer and newspaper editor in Columbus, Georgia. Tom made his concert debut at eight, performing in Atlanta.

In 1859, age of 10, he became the first African American performer to play at the White House for President James Buchanan. His piano pieces “Oliver Galop” and “Virginia Polka” were published in 1860. During the Civil War he was used to raise funds for Confederate relief. By 1865 16-year-old Tom Wiggins, now “indentured” to James Bethune, could play difficult works of Bach, Chopin, Liszt, Beethoven, and Thalberg. He also played pieces after one hearing, and memorized poems and text in foreign languages.

Bethune took Tom on a concert tour in Europe and he became an internationally recognized performer. By 1868 Tom and the Bethune family lived on a Virginia farm in the summer, while touring the United States and Canada the rest of the year, averaging $50,000 annually in concert revenue. James Bethune eventually lost custody of Tom to his late son’s ex-wife, Eliza Bethune. Charity Wiggins, Tom’s mother, was a party to the suit, but she did not win control of her son or his income.

Blind Tom Wiggins gave his last performance in 1905. (excerpted from www.blackpast.org)

Tweddle Hall

Tweddle Hall was the pre-eminent concert venue in Albany on the corner of State St. and North Pearl St. for decades (a Citizen’s Bank is there today). It was mostly destroyed by fire in 1883, and then re-built as the Tweddle Building several years later, housing office and stores. (By now there were other concert venues.) The Tweddle Building was demolished circa 1912 to accomodate the expansion of the Ten Eyck Hotel, which was demolished circa 1970 for the bank,

1866 blind tom

1866 b

1866 blind

1866 ten eyck

1866 blinc

Two Women in Albany Who Transformed Medicine – Dr. Rachel Brown and Dr. Elizabeth Hazen

2

This is the story of two women in Albany whose discovery changed the world of medicine.

By the early 1950s there had been a number of advances that lead to the development of antibiotics (penicillin, tetracycline, etc.) for bacterial infections. But there was nothing for disease caused by fungal agents – acquired from a primary source (as is common in tropical climes) or secondary to antibiotic use (and chemotherapy). Fungal diseases can range from minor ailments – athlete’s foot, etc. – merely annoying and readily treatable with an OTC product, but they also can be severe and systemic – or in extreme cases – fatal if untreated.

But thanks to scientists from Albany that changed. Dr. Rachel Fuller Brown and Dr. Elizabeth Lee Hazen discovered the first medication that could effectively treat fungal infections without adverse human effects. The drug they discovered is on the World Health Organization’s “Essential List of Drugs” – a critical element in the medical tool kit to fight fungal infections that that can range from the merely annoying to the life threatening.

Rachel Fuller Brown
Rachel Brown was born in the late 1890s and raised mostly in Springfield, Mass. She attended nearby Mount Holyoke College (paid for a family friend). In 1920 she graduated with a double major in chemistry and history. By 1921 she’d earned an MS in organic chemistry from the University of Chicago. For several years she taught at a girl’s school, but then went on to Harvard and the University for Additional Graduate Work in chemistry and bacteriology, completing her Ph.D. thesis in 1926. But financial problems intervened, and she left without being awarded her doctoral degree.

10582269766_170dee6cb5_bBrown was hired by Dr. Augustus Wadsworth* (after whom the Wadsworth Lab is named) to work for the NYS Division of Laboratories and Research on New Scotland Ave (opposite Albany Hospital – the building is still there) in 1927. The lab, under the direction of Dr. Wadsworth, was internationally known for its work on immunology (diphtheria, typhoid, tetanus, tuberculosis, pneumonia, etc.) and environmental public health issue (water and food borne illnesses).

She settled into her life in Albany readily. Her major work focus in these years was development of a pneumonia vaccine. In 1933 she finally took her oral exam, was awarded her doctoral degree, and became Dr. Brown. She was a leader in the Albany’s chapter of the American Association of University Women. (AAUW), the City Club and active member of St. Peter’s Church.

Elizabeth Lee Hazen
Hazen was born in 1885 in Rich, Mississippi. She graduated with a BA in science in 1910. Initially she taught high school biology and physics, taking graduate courses during the summer, but then entered Columbia University in NYC. She received her Masters in Biology in 1917 (during World War I she was an Army lab tech), and her Ph.D. in microbiology in 1927 (doing research on ricin and the botulism toxin while working on her degree). After graduation she was staff bacteriologist at several teaching hospitals in NYC.

In 1931 she went to work for NYS Dept. of Health, Bacterial Diagnosis Laboratory Division in New York City. Hazen had major epidemiological successes – identifying the sources of food poisoning and anthrax out breaks. In 1944 Dr. Wadsworth, appointed Hazen head of a unit to investigate fungi and their relation to bacteria and other microbes. Over time she amassed her own fungal culture collection from soils she encountered during her travels.

Teamwork
In 1948 Hazen embarked on a long distance collaboration with Rachel Brown in the Albany lab, in an attempt to find a drug that would cure fungal illnesses. Hazen would identify promising cultures that might contain an organism that could fight fungal disease and mail them in mason jars to Brown in Albany., Brown would isolate the activate agent in the soil specimen and then mail it back to Hazen. In NYC it would be tested on to determine its efficacy and toxicity for humans. Finally after years of work, Hazen found sample in a cow pasture on a farm of a friend in Virginia. In 1950, from this sample Brown identified a substance that was effective – killing over 15 fungal variants, and was safe for humans. The same year they presented their finding to the National Academy of Sciences.

Success
They first named the drug fungicidin, but found that the name was already in use, changed it to “Nystatin” in honor of New York State. They worked with E.R. Squibb & Son to develop a safe method of mass production, and receive FDA approval; the drug was released for use in 1954, and was patented in 1957.

(As their work continued and showed promise, Hazen moved to Albany. Hazen ultimately settled in an apartment on State St. while Brown bought a house on Buckingham Drive. )

Royalties for nystatin totaled $13.4 million. Brown and Hazen donated half to a philanthropic foundation to further scientific research and the other half to support what became known as the Brown-Hazen Fund, to expand research and experimentation in biology and mycology (with a special focus on assisting women who wanted to pursue these careers). Between 1957 and 1978 the fund was the largest single source of nonfederal funds for medical mycology in the United States.

Both Hazen and Brown continued working for the Lab until their retirement. They received a number of awards and in 1975 were the first women to receive the American Institute of Chemists Chemical Pioneer Award.

Hazen’s book Laboratory Identification of Pathogenic Fungi Simplified (1960, with revised editions) is still in use today and is still cited in current scientific literature.

5 (2)

*Wadsworth was man ahead of his time. If you look at the lab staff roster as early as 1921 about 80% of the professional and para-professional chemistry and bacteriology staff was female. Mind blowing for the time.

If you want to know more about these remarkable women, we recommend “The Fungus Fighters”, Richard S. Baldwin, Cornell University Press, 1981.

Julie O’Connor

Valentine’s Day Albany 1916 – Gloeckner’s Florist

“Say it with flowers”

FTD (Florists’ Telegraph Delivery) was founded in 1910 in Denver by John Valentine (we couldn’t make this up if we tried) and was immediatley successful. In 1924 it changed its named to Florists Transworld Delivery. Valentine coined the phrase “Say it with flowers”.

51847181_2008681402513445_5555318555588689920_oGloeckner’s Florist started out near the Albany Rural Cemetery in Menands around the early 1880s. It moved to various locations in the city over the decades. It finally closed when its last location, in Pine Hills on Madison Ave. between Quail and Ontario, was destroyed by a massive fire in 1965 that wiped out half the block.

51754550_2008681309180121_3458507039121080320_n

 

15755199492_a0cbdf001f_b