Albany’s Gertrude Valentine – World War I volunteer – killed in France

There are scores of World War I soldiers buried at Albany Rural Cemetery. Some, like sixteen year old James Armstrong and pilot George Goodwin died in the War. Others lived to serve in World War II. There are also several Army nurses buried here.

In Section 27, Lot 16, a large dark granite cenotaph bears the following inscription:

“In Loving Memory of Gertrude Crissey Valentine
Born April 8, 1890
Died in France June 11, 1919
while serving her God and Country
Buried in Le Mans Cemetery
American Officers Row No. 177 Sec A”

“She died in the line of duty.”

Gertrude was raised at 80 Chestnut Street in Albany. Her father, Clarence Valentine, was a partner in a firm making such wooden products as packing boxes, moldings, shingles, as well as felt weather stripping. Gertrude attended the State College for Teachers’ Model School from kindergarten, then went on to Vassar College where she graduated in 1913. She returned to Albany and continued her education at the State College with plans for a teaching career. She was also involved in local musical societies as newspapers mention young Miss Valentine playing the piano and coronet at various social functions.

During the War, she went to England and then to France with the YMCA. At the close of the War, while still serving as a canteen worker, she was killed in an automobile accident. Her grave is now in Plot C, Row 7, Grave 13, Oise-Aisne American Cemetery, Fere-en-Tardenois, France.

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Between 25,000 – 30,00 American women served overseas in World War I. Over 100 were women  from Albany.  They included nurses working at field hospitals and Base Hospital 33 (established by Albany Hospital-now Albany Med-in Portsmouth England, the Red Cross, the YWCA and the Salvation Army, many of whom worked close to combat areas.Gertrude Valentine was one of approximately 125 American women who died in the line of duty in the Great War.

Never forget that women who couldn’t even vote went off to war to serve their country.

By Paula Lemire from the Facebook Page Albany Rural Cemetery – Beyond the Graves

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Albany’s Own Curmudgeon – the Decorated Veteran who Hated War – Sgt. Andy Rooney

He was born in 1919, raised on Partidge St., ( the downtown UAlbany campus is there today), graduated from Boy’s Academy, went to Colgate and was drafted in 1942.

When his unit was shipped to England he started submitting articles to the “Stars and Stripes” – the military newspaper. Soon he was assigned to the Army’s press corps. Over the the course of his service he reported on the break-out from St. Lo during the Normandy invasion, covered the liberation of Paris, flew with B-17 bomber crews over Germany, and was one of the first journalists to report the liberation of the concentration camps first hand.

Afte the War Andy and his wife Margaret Howard (a local girl) returned to Albany where he spent 2 years on local radio, and then began his broadcasting career in NYC. He spent over 3 decades on “60 Minutes”. On any Sunday you could love his commentary and be outraged the next. His views were sometimes out of step with times. In 1990 he was suspended for 3 months for perceived racist and homophobic comments. Yet he’d been jailed while in basic training for sitting in the back of a segregated bus with Black patrons in the 1940s.

Andy continued to write, producing over a dozen books – mostly best sellers.

He spent his summers at the family camp at Rensselaerville in the Hilltowns for many years.

Andy died in 2011.

Andy was a self-avowed pacifist. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal for his heroic and meritorious service in World War II, yet wanted Veteran’s Day to be called, “No More War Day”.

A Glamour Girl and Her Pig

Barbara Pepper was born Marion Pepper in 1915 at the Astor Hotel in the heart of New York’s theatrical section. Her father, David M. Pepper, was the desk man at the hotel. In 1920, David accepted a management job at Albany’s Hampton Hotel, and moved to this city along with his wife Sally and his 5-year-old daughter, Barbara. The child was enrolled and became an honor roll student at School 2.

Pepper quit his Albany job in 1928 and moved back to New York City and the Astor Hotel. Barbara grew up surrounded by glamour girls, show people, and gangsters. In 1930, her parents tried to remove her from these bad influences by enrolling her at Fairfax Hall, Virginia, a junior college and preparatory school for girls.

On her first weekend home, instead of returning to school, Barbara went around the corner to where Lee Shubert was auditioning chorus girls. Shubert didn’t recognize the daughter of his old friend, Dave Pepper. He saw a cute kid who could dance, and he signed her. Mom and Dad Pepper were beside themselves, but Shubert convinced them to give the girl a chance.

At age 15, Barbara Pepper was in show business. She quickly became one of the White Way’s best known showgirls. Barbara starred in the Ziegfeld Follies of 1932 and in two of George White’s “Scandals,” where she was the youngest comedienne on Broadway.

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The next year, Eddie Cantor dragged her to Hollywood for a bit part as a showgirl in “Roman Scandals.” She settled in California, briefly becoming a Goldwyn Girl, where she befriended a young Lucille Ball. Pepper never quite achieved stardom, but still became a movie mainstay, appearing in over 20 films, mostly in one-dimensional supporting roles or bit parts as a flashy dame.

Pepper’s management executed a major push to enhance her career in 1937, with a spate of ads and publicity stunts.

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The latter included a trip to Albany, where she revisited her old school and met with her old teacher. Still, her roles remained consigned to small, often-uncredited parts.

That same year saw a marriage to Leon Janney, a 19-year-old actor; it lasted all of three weeks. 07-1937-pepper-mar-e1541526950998

 

Pepper appeared in the 1940 Hitchcock film, “Foreign Correspondent.”

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The actress made one more return to her childhood stomping grounds, in 1941, as a player in the Hollywood Sweater Girl Revue, at the Palace Theater.

 

After her disastrous first marriage, Pepper took up with Warner’s screen star Craig Reynolds. Reynolds would become Hollywood’s first Marine to be wounded in WWII. They married in 1943.

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Reynolds died in a 1949 motorbike accident. Following this, Barbara spiraled down into depression and alcoholism.

In 1951, after Bea Benaderet proved unavailable, Barbara was seriously considered for the part of “Ethel Mertz” on her friend Lucille Ball’s classic sitcom “I Love Lucy” However, with William Frawley – whose fondness for the bottle was legendary – already cast as “Fred Mertz,” executive producer Desi Arnaz felt he couldn’t take the chance of having two problem drinkers in pivotal roles on the same show.

Forced to find work as a laundress and waitress in between sparse acting parts, Pepper’s weight quickly ballooned and her voice turned gravelly. For the rest of the decade, Barbara would surface only occasionally in small comic roles on television and in films. She appeared a number of times on “I Love Lucy,” “Perry Mason,” “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet,” and “The Jack Benny Program,” and also had a brief appearance in 1963’s “It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World.”

Barbara Pepper’s late-career break came when she debuted as Doris Ziffel in “Petticoat Junction” (1964). This led to a recurring part in 30 episodes of “Green Acres” (1965-1968), where Doris played the mother of Arnold, the TV-watching pig.

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Deteriorating health eventually forced her to relinquish the part during the 1968-1969 season, with actress Fran Ryan taking over the part. Pepper’s final screen appearance was in 1969’s “Hook, Line & Sinker,” in which she played Jerry Lewis’s secretary.

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Barbara Pepper died on July 18, 1969 in Panorama City, California, aged 54, from a coronary thrombosis.

The Douw Building: A Collateral Demolition

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The Douw Building was at 36 State Street, on the corner of Broadway. Built 1842, it once housed the mercantile establishment of Voickert Peter Douw. The Douw family history dates back to the days of the early Patroons. The site of the Douw building was in the family’s possession since the early days of Albany. They were descendants of the Van Rensselaers.

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In 1946, the building was sold to Honigsbaum’s, ending more than 200 years of ownership by Douw family. Occupants at time of sale included the Cordelia Shop, the Interstate Bus Terminal, the Post Office Cafeteria and the Dixson Shoe Rebuilders.

Whatever Honigsbaum’s plans were for the Douw Building, they were never realized.

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In 1961 it was again sold, this time to the adjacent Hampton Hotel. Occupants at that time included the Interstate Plaza Bus Terminal, Mike’s Food Market, the Interstate Luncheonette Restaurant, the White Eagle Bakery, and the Corner News. The Hampton said they planned on remodeling the building and using it as part of the hotel; this never came to be.

Meanwhile, in the early 1900’s, George Douglas Miller built an eight-story structure on part of his wife’s property on Beaver Street in the midst of the Hampton Hotel complex. The unique thing about Miller’s building, or folly, is that it never was occupied and was supposedly built to spite the Hampton Hotel. Thus its name, “Spite Building.”

Bob Stronach, Staff Writer for the Times-Union, picks up the story, from this article of August 12, 1969:

“The Beaver Street building of the hotel complex had a beautiful roof garden with a magnificent view of the Hudson River Valley. But Miller erected his building alongside it, hoping the hotel would buy his structure as an annex. When the hotel owners refused to purchase the addition. Miller raised his roof so it blocked the roof garden view.

“Still unbeaten, the Hampton owners added a story to the roof garden, and once again there was a delightful view. But then, the undaunted Miller again raised his roof and shut out the view. At this point, the hotel owners quit and the Beaver Street property was never used again – except as a cote for the Plaza pigeons.

“Since then, “Miller’s Folly” has become a fire hazard, with a caved-in roof and broken windows. Mayor Corning said the structure now belongs to Albany County and is being demolished to eliminate the fire hazard. What will be done with the land it stands on is not yet known, he added.

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“State Broadway Corp of 38 State Street, purchased the Hampton Hotel last January and signed a lease with the Albany Housing Authority to renovate the complex and operate it as a public housing facility for senior citizens. The hotel units are expected to be converted into about 100 one-bedroom apartments.

““The important thing,” spokesman for State Broadway said, “is that the mayor, Mr. Bender (housing authority director), the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the State Broadway Corp. have worked diligently toward alleviating the housing shortage for the elderly and all the above have every confidence that these efforts will be fruitful.”

“State Broadway Corp. also owns “The Douw Building” at State and Broadway, which had belonged to Miller’s wife. The corporation is tearing it down.

“Demolition teams removing “Miller’s Folly” said the bottom half of the narrow building was “solidly built” but the upper half was unfinished inside and quite unsafe.”

Miller never got as far as installing steps in his building; progress to the top was only obtained by a series of connecting ladders.

No reason was ever given for the demolition of the Douw Building. However, we can probably assume that because the Hampton had failed to renovate or use the structure, when it became property of the Albany Housing Authority, it simply became a white elephant, too costly to renovate.

Becker the Wrecker razed Douw Building in the fall of 1969. It was one of Albany’s oldest surviving structures.

By Al Quaglieri from hisAlbany blog, https://alcue.wordpress.com/author/alcue/

 

 

The Boys from Albany – Not just names on the Vietnam Wall

There are 37 names on the Vietnam Wall from Albany, NY.

USA Capt. Thomas J. Bergin, 30, 3/14/64
USAF Maj. Theodore R. Loeschner, Jr., 37, 4/24/65
USMC Pfc. Hans Jorg Rudolph Lorenz, 21, 4/26/66
USA Spec 4 Keith Knott, 19, 5/9/66
USA Pfc. Robert G. Burrell, 19, 8/2/66
USA Pfc. Arthur J. McNally, 23, 10/17/66
USMC Lance Corp. William F. Ditoro, 22, 1/7/67
USA Spec 4 Richard J. Mosley, 20, 1/27/67
USA Spec 4 Donald J. Sheehy, 20, 5/5/67
USMC Lance Cpl. Rich Rockenstyre, 18, 8/31/67
USMC Capt. William M. Van Antwerp, Jr. 30, 9/16/67
USA Pfc. Frank Maleca, 20, 10/13/67
USA Spec 4 Ralph J. DiPace, 20, 10/21/67
USA Spec 4 Gerald H. Slingerland, 10/26/67 (a day after his 19th birthday)
USA Spec. 4 Robert J. Winters, 22, 11/9/67
USA Spec. 4, Edward A. Finlay, 19, 12/6/67
USA Corp. Willam M. Seabast, 22, 1/31/68
USMC GY Sgt. Anthony N. Valente, 38, 2/27/68
USMC Cpl. Bertram A. Deso, 20, 3/1/68
USMC Lance Cpl. Michael G. DeMarco, 21, 4/11/68
USMC Corp. John J. Vennard, 34, 4/17/68
USA Staff Sgt, Robert J. Smith, 22, 4/18/68
USMC Pfc John C. Fiffe, 18, 5/8/68
USN, Fireman, Joseph S. Ott, 20, 7/14/68
USMC Pfc. Kevin J. McArdle, 18, 8/18/68
USMC Maj. Harold S. Lonergan, 39, 2/23/69
USA Spec 5 Christopher Brow, 23, 2/26/69
USMC Lance Cpl. Richard J. Leahy, 22, 3/6/69
USMC Pfc. 1st class, Clifford G. LaBombard, 19, 4/15/69
USA Spec 4 Charles Chandler, 20, 4/18/69
USMC Pfc. John W Gladney, 19, 7/4/69
USA, Spec 4, Thomas K. Ryan, 18, 8/2/69
USA 1st Lt. Stanley A. Brown, 23, 11/1/69
USA Spec 4 Lewis C. Ouellette, 19, 4/13/70
USA Corp. Samuel W. Williams, 21, 7/26/70
USA Staff Sgt. Daniel E. Nye, 25, 11/28/71
USN Lt. Ralph P. Dupont, Jr., 24, 5/16/72
USMC Lance Cpl. Ashton N. Loney, 5/15/75

They came from all neighborhoods – Pine Hills, Arbor Hill, North Albany, West Hill,  New Scotland and the South End. They lived on  Myrtle Ave, Livingston Ave.,  Clinton Ave., Second Ave., Emmett St., Madison Ave.,  First St., Washington Ave., Lark  Dr., Magnolia Terrace, Hunter Ave.,  So. Main Ave. and Ontario St.

A very small number were college graduates.  Most had just completed high school when they joined the service – they were graduates of Albany High, Philip Schuyler, Milne, Cardinal McCloskey, and VI.

Most were impossibly young… 18, 19, 20. (There is an old Bellamy Boys lyric, “..they sent him off to Vietnam on his senior trip”.)

Some enlisted, some were drafted and, and in the time honored Albany tradition, several had brushes with the law and Albany’s justice system offered them the “choice” – jail or the Army.

Their deaths span 11 years.  The first to be killed was an Army captain “observer” who died in 1964.  One was an MP  who died defending the US Embassy during the Tet offensive of 1968.  Most died  in the harsh and unforgiving provinces of Vietnam during the War’s brutal years of 1967 -1969. One was a medic who went borrowed a gun and went into save other men; he and the men he tried to save died on that mission. The last one to die  was a Marine killed  in the Mayaguez “Incident” by the  Khmer Rouge in 1975. His body was never recovered.   He was not even a US citizen (he was from Trinidad, but his mom lived on Lark Drive).  His name, as well as the others killed in the “Incident”, are the last names on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial.

An astonishing number died within their first 4 months in Vietnam. Johnny Gladney, who was a year ahead of me in Jr. High and High School,  was killed after being in Vietnam less than a month – on the 4th of July.

During  the 10 months of my junior year in high school, 15 boys died.  This is Smalbany, so you always knew the boy, or you knew his sisters/brothers  or  his cousins, or a friend of a friend.

The City moved on, but underneath, people felt a sadness and then  they went numb – just like the rest of the country. The killing seemed inexorable.  There was no way to stop it – it went on and on and on.

They are more than names.. each one has a story.  One was a long distance runner who could fly like the wind.  One was an avid reader; he won a Boy’s Club prize for  reading the most books when he was  11. Another was fascinated by flying, so he became a helicopter pilot. Some were quiet and reserved, some were outgoing and  boisterous.

8  boys were from the same class in Albany High and all members of the same Hi-Y club,  They all enlisted  in the Marine Corps.  The bond between 2 of the boys was so strong, that after the death of one, the other, sensing his own imminent death, begged to be buried next to his buddy when his time came.  They rest together in St. John’s Lutheran Cemetery – one Catholic and one Protestant.  A third boy from that same group died a year later.

Here are pictures of some of the boys/men.

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Albany’s Own Curmudgeon – the Decorated Veteran who Hated War – Sgt. Andy Rooney

He was born in 1919, raised on Partidge St., ( the downtown UAlbany campus is there today),  attended Boy’s Academy , went to Colgate and was drafted in 1942.

When his unit was shipped to England he started submitting articles to the “Stars and Stripes” – the military newspaper. Soon he was assigned to the Army’s press corps. Over the the course of his service he reported on the break-out from St. Lo during the Normandy invasion, covered the liberation of Paris, flew with B-17 bomber crews over Germany, and was one of the first journalists to report the liberation of the concentration camps first hand.

Afte the War Andy and his wife Margaret Howard (a local girl) returned to Albany where he spent 2 years on local radio, and then began his broadcasting career in NYC. He spent over 3 decades on “60 Minutes”. On any Sunday you could love his commentary and be outraged the next. His views were sometimes out of step with times. In 1990 he was suspended for 3 months for perceived racist and homophobic comments. Yet he’d been jailed while in basic training for sitting in the back of a segregated bus with Black patrons in the 1940s.

He spent his summers at the family camp at Rensselaerville in the Hilltowns for many years. When his TV schedule slowed, he spent more time in the area. You could find him often in bookstore in Delaware Plaza (We were the twice a week regulars in the early 2000s.)

Andy died in 2011.

Andy was a self-avowed pacifist. He was awarded the Bronze Star and the Air Medal for his heroic and meritorious service in World War II, yet wanted Veteran’s Day to be called, “No More War Day”.

Albany’s Dr. Woodbury and His Soap: “ A Skin You Love to Touch”

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While John Woodbury wasn’t born in Albany, it was during the 15 or so years he lived here that he created a product that endured for almost a century and a cosmetic surgery empire.

Woodbury was born in 1851 in New Hampshire into an old New England family. He came to Albany when he was about 23 in 1874 and established himself as Dr. Woodbury – chiropodist (podiatrist) at 70 State St. at the corner of State and N. Pearl (in what was then the Dexter Building).

His first newspaper ads indicate that he’d previously practiced with Nehemiah Kennison in Boston – the father of modern podiatry in the U.S. (“Dr.” Kennison was so well known he was the subject of satire in the “Harvard Lampoon” in the 1870s.) Woodbury’s offices were large – 3 parlors; we assume that he may have had some financing from a member of his mother’s family – a cousin – Charles Tenney – an very wealthy NYC hat manufacturer.

3.1At the same time Dr.Woodbury was practicing podiatry he was selling soap. Lots of soap, and not just any soap, but a facial soap-guaranteed to enhance and beautify – Woodbury Soap. In the Gilded Age, the beauty product and cosmetic market was just taking off. Most soaps had been made from primarily from harsh caustic alkalis – like lye and ash. Dr. Woodbury’s facial soap was special – it was “toilet soap” made with oil and perfumed. It was a small luxury item a shop girl or factory worker could afford. Dr. Waterbury perfected the product and advertised like crazy in newspapers all over the country – becoming the dominant brand in marketplace. He created the “Woodbury” brand that would endure for another 100 years.


2His practice thrived; soap sales thrived. He moved his offices – first to 40 N. Pearl (the Ten Eyck Plaza is there today), and then across the street – to 39 N. Pearl. By 1877 his office were next door at 37 N. Pearl – 6 rooms with 3 separate parlors for ladies. Soap sales boomed and he was now selling a book on dermatology and skin care through the mail.

 

 

Financially secure, Woodbury married a young woman, Ada Kelley also from New Hampshire, in 1877, and they lived above the offices. It was the beginning of a perfect domestic and business life. Their future was bright. Sadly, she died the next year at age 22.

It appears that Woodbury threw himself into his businesses after her death, selling more soap and patenting an orthotic device, while living as a boarder on lower Chestnut St. It was during this time Dr. Woodbury expanded his practice to include dermatology. It was quite successful. Recent research* has identified Dr. Woodbury as the one of the pioneers of modern cosmetic surgery – performing everything from brow lifts to nose bobs to face lifts using cocaine anesthetic in his offices in Albany. Who knew? Meanwhile, the soap business grew and the Woodbury name was quickly becoming synonymous with facial soap (in the way we would say “Kleenex” for tissues today).

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5.3Woodbury re-married in 1882, to Cora Landon from Sharon Springs and they move back to the rooms at 37 N. Pearl. In 1889, looking for a bigger market, he moved to New York City to concentrate on dermatology (he published his first article on cosmetic surgery procedures in 1892), selling soap and an expanding his brand of personal care products – powders and creams.

 

 

 

6In NYC in 1897 he opened the Dermatological Institute. In 1899 he runs into legal problems – New York State sues Woodbury for advertising a medical practice while not being a licensed physician. Woodbury wins and expands his business. By now Woodbury soap is an entrenched national brand – sold by druggists all over the country. He sells the iconic soap (his face is on the wrapper) to the Andrew Jergens Co. in 1901 (Woodbury retains 10% royalty) and uses the money to maintain the expansion of the Dermatological Institute in 4 cities – double chins begone!

 

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But soon there is more legal wrangling over the use of the name “Woodbury” between the Dr. and the Jergens Co. (Woodbury was now selling “Woodbury’s New Skin Soap.) There was malpractice litigation. And again, in 1908, Woodbury was sued for practicing medicine without a license- this time he lost. (The argument that the Institute was a corporation and not an individual failed to prevail, and set NYS precedent about the corporate practice of medicine.) The Institute went into bankruptcy.

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Finally in 1909 Dr. John Woodbury commits suicide at an hotel in Coney Island.

8But the soap he created and refined in Albany is his legacy. The named remains, but Jergens takes his picture off the wrapper and launches a major magazine campaign targeted explicitly to women. In 1911 Jergens strikes gold; it hires J. Walter Thompson, one of the pioneering ad agencies. A Thompson employee, Helen Lansdowne Resor, the first female copywriter in the country (Yay!) comes up with the slogan, “A Skin you love to touch”. Sex sells and sales of Woodbury soap skyrocket.

 

The marketing campaign continues until the 1930s when Jergens breaks another barrier (Dr. Woodbury, I think, would have approved.) Jergens pairs the tag “Filtered Sunshine” with totally tasteful semi-nude photos of women (by the world renowned photographer Edward Steichen) in a national advertising campaign.

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But over the next 40 or so years competition appears, the advertising loses its spark, and Woodbury came to be viewed as an “old fashioned” brand (did your Grandma use? Mine did.) Despite spiffy new graphic packaging, sales flag. Finally, when Jergens is acquired by another company in 1970, the Woodbury brand slowly disappears.

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But next time you’re downtown, and walk by the southeast corner of N. Pearl and Pine St., think about the fact that this was location of what was probably the first nose job performed in the U.S. in 1887!  Another Albany first. There really needs to be an historic marker.

*”The 19th Century Origins of Facial Cosmetic
Surgery and John H. Woodbury”, Keith Denkler, MD, Plastic Surgery, Larkspur, CA, UCSF Medical Center and Rosalind F. Hudson, MD, “Aesthetic Surgery Journal”
2015, Vol 35(7) 878-889

 

A Brief History of Albany’s New Scotland Avenue and How it Grew

At the beginning of the 1800s there was nothing on the New Scotland Plank Rd. but farmland, woods and fields. The first buildings we know are an inn, the Log Tavern* at the corner of Krumkill Rd.-a stopping point for the farmers going to and from the city, and a couple of farmhouses. The Plank Rd. was a toll road with several tollgates – one just beyond Ontario St. and another near what’s now the Golf Course.

3In 1826 the Almshouse (poor house) was established in the area that today is bounded by New Scotland Ave., Holland Ave., Hackett Blvd. and Academy Rd. (Back then the other 3 streets didn’t exist.) The next building to be constructed, in the 1840s, was the Penitentiary. (The VA Hospital is there now; built in the late 1940s, after the Penitentiary was razed in the 1930s.)

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In the 1870s William Hurst established Pleasure Park, a popular and successful horse race trotting track and picnic area near Whitehall Rd. and New Scotland Ave. (He later went on to own the Log Tavern.)

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2But Albany was growing – moving west, out Lydius St. (now Madison Ave.). In the early 1860s the area around the intersection of Madison and New Scotland started to see development, and a little stub of New Scotland Rd. from Madison to Myrtle Ave. was known briefly (for about 15 years) as Lexington Ave. In 1871 Washington Park opened and the area became fashionable. By the 1880s the Park trustees decided build a house for the Park’s Superintendent, as well as an array of greenhouses, on what is now the corner of Holland Ave. and New Scotland.

zzzzYet development west of Myrtle Ave. was slow. In 1893 the Dudley Observatory ** moved from Arbor Hill to New Scotland and South Lake Ave. In the late 1890s Albany Hospital was bursting at the seams in its downtown location at Eagle and Howard Streets, and moved to New Scotland Ave. About a decade later the Albany Orphan Asylum moved to what is now the corner of Academy Rd. and New Scotland Ave. (from Robin St. and Western Ave.). Today the buildings house the Sage College of Albany. It was originally known as the Junior College of Albany when it first opened in 1959.)***

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5.1But within the decade residential and commercial growth exploded. Much of the land near the intersections of South Lake Ave. and Academy Rd. **** was owned by the Albany Driving Association, a private club that had a track for trotter horse races to the west of Academy Rd. The members decided to sell their vast tract of land (between New Scotland and what is now Hackett Blvd. and Forest Ave.) and established the Woodlawn Park development.

7Steadily residential growth pushed west. Yet there was no trolley service. The first bus service started about1914 – the “terminal” was at the intersection of South Allen St. and New Scotland. But this was a “suburban” area deliberately designed to accommodate the automobile as the primary means of transportation.

 

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5By 1920 the Troop B Armory was constructed next to the Orphan Asylum. (Today it’s part of the Sage College Campus.) In 1921 Memorial Grove (the corner of South Lake and New Scotland) was created to honor the men who died in World War I.

 

7.1And that’s how New Scotland Ave. grew. By the mid-1920s there was a fire house, a public school, and Catholic Church. By the early 1930s St. Peter’s Hospital re-located to its current spot, from North Albany. The Depression initially halted residential development, but by the late 1930s the area beyond Manning Blvd. became a highly desirable location. It was zoned residential and the municipal golf course had been built just outside the city limits in 1931. Well-off families flocked to developments with enticing names -Golden Acres, Heldervale and Buckingham Gardens. Albany annexed land in Slingerlands several times and the city border pushed close to Whitehall Rd.

1930s New Scotland Ave

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20In the early 1930s Holland Ave. was created. ( It was once the route for the Mohawk- Hudson Railroad, chugging from the Point at Madison and Western Avenues. to downtown.) The Almshouse was demolished, making way for the Law School to move from State St,. the Pharmacy College from Eagle St. and a NYS Health Dept. Laboratory was built across from the Hospital. University Heights was almost complete. Then Christian Brothers Academy moved uptown from Howard St. and the Fort Orange American Legion Post ** was built next to Memorial Grove.

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33The next spurt of development began after World War II. There was a severe post-war housing crisis in Albany – the last farm within the city limits was sold in 1947 for the Weiss Rd. apartments. Hundreds of houses were constructed in the area surrounding New Scotland Ave. west of Manning to accommodate growing families with baby boomers. Two churches, St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic (now Mater Christi) and Bethany Reformed, were built in the 1950s and Temple Israel re-located to New Scotland in 1953. Maria College opened in 1965.

1,1After the annexation of Karlsfeld and Hurstville in 1967 New Scotland Ave. was complete and extended to the Normanskill.

 

 

 

 

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*The Log Tavern morphed into the Hurst Hotel, and became a favorite romantic rendezvous and “love nest”, especially for politicians’. It was destroyed by fire on election night, 1929. (Oh the irony.)

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** The Dudley Observatory and Bender Laboratory (behind the Obeservatory) and the Legion post were demolished in 1970 to build the Capital District Psych Center and the attached parking garage.

***In the 1959 Russell Sage College purchased some of the buildings of what was then known as the Albany Home for Children and established the Junior College of Albany. In 2001 the College began offering 4 year degrees at the site, as the Sage College of Albany.

**** Academy Rd. was initially known as Highland Ave. – the name changed in the 1930s when Boy’s Academy moved from downtown.

Albany’s Dorothy Lathrop – Award Winning Author and Illutrator

What if I told you there was a woman from Albany who brought joy to thousands of children across the world for almost 100 years and will continue to do so?

Her name is Dorothy Pulis Lathrop and she was an award-winning illustrator and writer of children’s books.

Dorothy was born before the turn of the last century in 1891. Her parents, Cyrus Lathrop and Ida Pulis Lathrop, came to Albany in 1888. Cyrus was originally from Connecticut, son of a bookseller. Ida was from Troy – the school teacher daughter of a carpenter. In the early days they lived at 230 Washington Ave. (just above Henry Johnson Blvd.), where Cyrus ran a thriving business that re-supplied restroom laundry in restaurants and other businesses. There were 2 daughters (Gertrude – whom we will discuss at another time) and Dorothy.

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2.2Meanwhile, Ida painted; she was a self-taught artist of great skill. (Her paintings are in the permanent collections of a number of museums) and the last time one of her pieces came up for auction – at Christie’s’ about 25 years ago, it went for $15,000. By the early 1900s Ida had nationwide fame.

Cyrus was a man of great faith and concern for the well-being of his fellow man, especially children. He’s said to have volunteered frequently at the City Mission when he first came to Albany. In 1892 he was one of the founders of the Albany Boys Club and soon became its president and executive director. This lead to a series of appointments in NYS government, overseeing charitable organizations – from orphan asylums to hospitals – across the State. He remained in state government for the rest of his life.

In the early 1900s the Lathrops moved to one of the new villas on South Allen St. in Pine Hills. The house was designed by Ida and included two rooms for her art studio. The large backyard was filled with the apple trees and the family’s petting zoo: porcupines, sheep, turtles, raccoons, goats, chipmunks and squirrels. While Cyrus traveled for work Ida and the girls stayed at home, painting and playing with the animals.

Dorothy graduated from Albany High School and went on to study art at Columbia in NYC. She returned to Albany and taught art for a couple of years at Albany High School, getting some free-lance magazine work, but she was determined to have a career as an illustrator. She returned to art school in Philadelphia and New York and then started pounding the pavements in New York City, portfolio in hand. One of her stops was at the new and tiny publishing firm, Alfred Knopf. Knopf was a year younger than Dorothy, eager to try new talent and snapping up European authors to publish in America.

3.jpgKnopf paired her with Walter de la Mare, an English poet and writer best known for his children’s books these days. Their first partnership was “The Three Mulla Muggars (a/k/a – “The Three Royal Monkeys”. He believed fervently in children’s natural inclination to live in a world of fantasy. Lathrop’s illustrations lead the reader into that realm and let them run wild. (Dorothy developed a close relationship with de la Mare; they collaborated on another 5 books.)

4She was off and running – at the beginning of prolific award-winning career. She illustrated almost 50 children’s books (and wrote of many of them herself) that drew on her love of animals and nature. In 1929 she was the co-winner of the Newbery Medal (the Medal is awarded by the American Library Association for “the most distinguished contribution to American literature for children” ) with writer Rachel Field for “Hitty, Her First Hundred Years”. It’s a wonderful story of a doll who travels the world for a century and writes her memoirs. (Hitty – the actual doll, owned by Rachel Fields and inspiration for the book, spent time on display in Harmanus Bleecker Library in Albany in 1930.)

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Two years later Dorothy was a Newbery runner-up for “The Fairy Circus”, which she wrote and illustrated. (I inherited all the Lathrop books from my mother and uncles. This may be my favorite; a group of fairies who put together a circus with all the little woodland creatures in their world, but I’m positively mad for all Lathrop’s books.)

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9In 1938 she was the first winner of the Caldecott Medal (awarded by the American Library Association) for the “most distinguished American picture book for children” for ”Animals in the Bible”. She said in her acceptance speech, “I can’t help wishing that just now all of you were animals. Of course technically you are, but if only I could look down into a sea of furry faces, I would know better what to say.”

 

 

1Dorothy continued to work in the realm of children’s lit into her 60s, but in the early 1950s she turned to non-fiction as well. In “Let them live” (1951) she was one the first to warn against the destruction of the natural habitats and eco-systems that support wildlife.

Dorothy called Albany home until the mid-1950s She was a founding member of the Albany Print Club (her specialty was wood block prints, although she was proficient in all media); her papers are in its permanent collection. Sometimes, she could be found reading her books at story hour in some of the local library branches. In 1954, Dorothy and Gertrude moved to the Falls Village, Ct., but still spent considerable time in Albany. Her work, and that of Gertrude, a sculptor, was displayed at the Institute and other venues. (The Institute has the work of Ida, Dorothy and Gertrude in their collection.)

12I have a dim recollection of seeing Dorothy at the John Mistletoe book store (originally on Lark St. – subsequently it moved around the corner to Washington Ave.). The Mistletoe was first owned by her good friends Eleanor Foote and then Mary and Ed French. It had a great children’s section and from time to time Dorothy would appear at events. She was a tall, kind and soft-spoken woman who seemed more a home with kids than adults.

Dorothy died in 1980 at the age of 89 in Falls Village. She’s buried with her sister and parents in Section 27, Lot 46 of the Albany Rural Cemetery.

She once wrote: “How I came to write and draw for children I do not know. Perhaps it is simply that I am interested most of all in the things many of them like best–creatures of all kinds, whether they run, fly, hop, or crawl, and in fairies and all their kin, and in all the adventures that might happily befall one in a world which is so constantly surprising and wonderful.”

Here’s a list of the books Dorothy Lathrop illustrated:

  • A Little Boy Lost. Hudson, W. H. (author), Knopf, 1929.
  • An Angel in the Woods. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1947.
  • Animals of the Bible. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), Lippincott, 1937.
  • Balloon Moon. Cabot, Elsie (author), Henry Holt, 1927.
  • Bells and Grass. De La Mare, Walter (author), Viking, 1965.
  • Bouncing Betsy. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1936.
  • Branches Green. Field, Rachel (author), Macmillan, 1934.
  • Childcraft in 15 Volumes. Lathrop, Dorothy P. et al. (author), Field Educational Pub., 1954.
  • Crossings: A Fairy Play. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1923.
    Devonshire Cream. Dean, Agnes L. (author), Unity Press, 1950.
  • Down-Adown-Derry: A Book of Fairy Poems. De La Mare, Walter (author), Henry Holt, 1922.
  • Fierce-Face: The Story of a Tiger. Mukerji, Dhan Gopal (author), Dutton, 1938.
  • Follow the Brook. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1960.
  • Grateful Elephant. Burlingame, Eugene W. (author), Yale University Press, 1923.
  • Grim: The Story of a Pike. Fleuron, Svend (author), Knopf, 1921.
  • Hide and Go Seek. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), E.M. Hale, 1931
  • Hitty: Her First Hundred Years. Field, Rachel (author), Macmillan, 1947.
  • Kaleidoscope. Farjeon, Eleanor (author), Stokes, 1929.
  • Japanese Prints. Fletcher (author), Four Seas Press, Boston, 1918.
  • Let Them Live. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1961.
  • Made-To-Order Stories. Canfield, Dorothy (author), Harcourt Brace, 1953.
  • Mopsa the Fairy. Jean, Ingelow (author), Harper & Brothers, 1927.
  • Mr. Bumps and His Monkey. De La Mare, Walter (author), Winston, 1942.
  • Presents for Lupe. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1940.
  • Puffy and the Seven Leaf Clover. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1954.
  • Puppies for Keeps. Lathrop, Dorothy (author), Macmillan, 1944.
  • Silverhorn: The Hilda Conkling Book For Other Children. Conkling, Hilda (author), Stokes, 1924.
  • Snow Image. Hawthorne, Nathaniel (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • Stars To-Night: Verses New and Old for Boys and Girls. Teasdale, Sara (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • Sung under the Silver Umbrella. Education Association For Childhood (author), Macmillan, 1935.
  • Tales From The Enchanted Isles. Gate, Ethel May (author), Yale University Press, 1926.
  • The Colt from Moon Mountain. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1941.
  • The Dog in the Tapestry Garden. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1962.
  • The Dutch Cheese. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1931.
  • The Fair of St. James. Farjeon, Eleanor (author), Stokes, 1932.
  • The Fairy Circus. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1931.
  • The Forgotten Daughter. Snedeker, Caroline Dale (author), Doubleday, 1933.
  • The Happy Flute. Mandal, Sant Ram (author), Stokes, 1939.
  • The Light Princess. Macdonald, George (author), Macmillan, 1952.
  • The Little Mermaid. Andersen, Hans (author), Macmillan, 1939.
  • The Little White Goat. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1935.
  • The Littlest Mouse. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1955.
  • The Long Bright Land. Howes, Edith (author), Little Brown, 1929.
  • The Lost Merry-Go-Round. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1938.
  • The Princess and Curdie. MacDonald, George (author), Macmillan, 1927.
  • The Skittle Skattle Monkey. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1945.
  • The Snail Who Ran. Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Stokes, 1934.
  • The Snow Image. Hawthorne, Nathaniel (author), Macmillan, 1930.
  • The Three Mulla-Mulgars. De La Mare, Walter (author), Knopf, 1919.
  • The Treasure of Carcassonne. Robida, A. (author), E.M. Hale, 1926.
  • Who Goes There? Lathrop, Dorothy P. (author), Macmillan, 1935

How the Van Rensselaer Manor Vanished from Albany

Most of you know that the “Patroon” originally owned the vast area around Albany called Rensselaerwyck. (Basically, Patroon means “land owner” in Dutch.) The first Patroon was Killian Van Rensselaer, a pearl and diamond merchant, who acquired the land from the Dutch West India Co. (DWIC) in 1630. Think of the DWIC as a group of venture capitalists and speculators.. betting on the New World, using a traditional form of Dutch land ownership for revenue generation and capital formation.

Rensselaerwyck was one of several patroonships in the New Netherlands, but the only one that proved successful*. The original grant that encompassed land on both sides of the River was soon expanded by acquisition of additional lands from the Indians. In exchange for the land the Patroon had to establish a functioning colony (over which he had almost total power). (Much like IDA grants today, the Patroon got a tax break for the first decade.) Rensselaerwyck was a feudal manor and the Patroon was literally Lord of the Manor, except for Albany, which was at the time Fort Orange, a wholly owned subsidiary of the DWIC.

1.4There’s no evidence that the first Patroon ever visited his fiefdom. Business was conducted in his name by agents, from a large house and cluster of buildings north of the Fort on Broadway, near the Patroon Creek, a tributary of the Hudson River. In 1666 the compound was destroyed by a flood and rebuilt by Jeremias Van Rensselaer. (Jeremias was the third son of Killian and the first Patroon to establish permanent residence in Rensselaerwyck.)

 

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2According to Steve Belinski (the “Colonial Albany Social History Project”) the new building was constructed in the “Country Style” with the entrance on the long side and attached outbuildings. (Think a Patroon “compound” and the seat of government for the Manor.) A century later in 1765 a new and grand Manor House would be built on the same grounds by Stephen Van Rensselaer II, the Patroon and 3rd Lord of the Manor for his new wife, Catherine Livingston, daughter of Philip Livingston (signer of the Declaration of Independence). It was a large Georgian Mansion – one of the grandest homes in the country at the time – nestled amid a forest setting and lush, well-tended gardens. It was a thriving, mostly self-sufficient plantation, including slaves.

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14There were changes made to this Manor House around 1820 and again in the early 1840’s the existing structure underwent major renovation by architect Richard Upjohn (he designed the existing St. Peter’s Church on State St.), preserving the Georgian features of the original Manor House. It was still a gracious baronial manse – but it would be the home of the Last Patroon, Stephen Van Rensselaer IV.

 

14.1The days of the Patroon were coming to an end. The Anti-Rent Wars had already started in the late 1830s. The Patroon’s thousands of tenants were protesting what was still a feudal system of land ownership in which the Patroon held all the cards. The Wars would continue until 1846** when the NYS Constitution was amended to abolish the Patroon system and Van Rensselaer would start selling off his property – in Albany and across the Manor. ***

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20The Last Patroon died in 1868. By then the Manor House was hemmed in by the Erie Canal and the railroads on the east and the growing city and its factories on the west. By the 1870s the great Manor House was abandoned. There were attempts by the family to have the structure declared a New York State landmark of sorts. There were efforts made by some citizens to move the building to Washington Park. These failed.

 

 

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Finally, in the early 1890s Albany’s great architect, Marcus Reynolds (Banker’s Trust, the D&H Building and the Delaware Ave. fire house) and young Van Rensselaer cousin, convinced the family to agree to have the Manor disassembled. He transported the exteriors and the Manor House was “re-built” as the Sigma Phi fraternity house (Van Rensselaer Hall) at Williams College. (Reynolds was an 1890 graduate of Williams.) The interiors were donated to the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City and are currently on display in Gallery 752 in the American Wing.

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Van Rensselaer Hall survived until 1973 when it was demolished for a new Williams College library.

The last evidence of the Patroons in Albany survived into the 20th century on Broadway near Tivoli St. Alas, circa 1918 the Patroon’s Office (where the Patroon’s agents conducted business for almost 200 years) was demolished to accommodate the expansion of the International Harvester franchise.

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Today there’s no trace the Patroons were ever here, except for an historical marker on Clinton Ave. that identifies it as the former Patroon St., the original dividing line between the Patroon’s land and Albany. There’s no historic marker … nothing, nada, zip, zilch ….at 950 Broadway, near Manor St., the address of the Manor House. (This was one of the pet peeves of the late Warren Roberts, History Prof. at U Albany and author of the great book, “A Place in History; Albany in the Age of Revolution 1775-1825”. )

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And that’s how the Van Rensselaer Manor House vanished.

* A 10th G Grandfather, Cornelius Melyn, was the Patroon of Staten Island. It didn’t work out. There were wars with several Indian tribes, and battles with the DWIC and the successive Director Generals of the colony, including Peter Stuyvesant, over the dictatorial nature of the DWIC. He was a cranky rebel and a thorn in the side. Great Grandpa Corny ended up in the English New Haven Colony, took an oath of loyalty to the Crown and relinquished his right to the Patroonship of Staten Island. The last vestige of Corny is a mural in the Staten Island Borough Hall.

**The Anti-Rent Wars are fictionalized in the novel, “Dragonwyck” by Anya Seton (1944) and in a movie of the same name (1946) with Gene Tierney, Vincent Price and Walter Huston. Vincent Price is the perfect arrogant Dutch Patroon villain.. “You must pay the rent.”

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*** A GG grandfather purchased land in the 200 block of Livingston Ave. (then Lumber St.) in 1850 as part of the Patroon’s property sell-off.