Albany and the Hudson River Daylines

Albany was removed from the regular Dayline route in 1947.

The last jewel in the crown was the “Alexander Hamilton” which became part of the New York Circle Line fleet, touring NYC harbor and traveling north part way up the Hudson, until a fire in the 1970s.

Robert Fulton successfully sailed his first steamboat “The North River Steamboat” (A/K/A “The Clermont”) in 1807.

By 1812 his North River Company (a/k/a the Hudson River) was operating 3 ships with regular schedules between New York and Albany. Competition developed and by 1822 the Hudson River Line was created.

We estimate that by 1850 there were at least 8 lines or individual ships you could use to book a trip to New York City.

After the Civil War came the golden age of Hudson River steamships. Two dominate lines emerged – the Hudson River and the People’s Line. Ships turned into floating palaces, with multiple restaurants, entertainment, promenade decks, attentive service.

The legendary ships in the period between 1870 and early 1900 were the “Daniel Drew”, “Dean Richmond”, “Hendrick Hudson”, “The Adirondack”, “The Berkshire”, “The Peter Stuyvesant”, “The DeWitt Clinton” and “The New York”. The People’s Night Line grew in popularity into the early 1930s.

The iconic ticket office of the Day Line was built in the early 1900s on Broadway. Mr. Elmendorf, the ticket master, was a legendary figure in downtown for decades.

The Hudson Navigation Co. invested in major docking and sheds in Steamboat Square (an area for passenger boat landings from the early 1800s) in 1918.

But ultimately the proliferation of the automobile, better roads, and improvements in railroads and better amenities killed the Hudson River steamship lines.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany’s Whitehall Palace and Whitehall Road

The origins of Whitehall Rd. are somewhat murky, but it may originally have been a narrow track through the forest used by the Mahican Indians who lived along the Normanskill Creek. Its use as a dirt road for early colonial settlers probably dates back to the early 1700s. We know that about 1750 there was a barracks, stable and drill ground constructed for British troops during the French and Indian War near corner of Delaware Ave. (It’s location in old genealogies is identified as 150 yards west of Delaware Ave., on Whitehall Rd.)

In the late 1750s the site was enlarged by Col. John Bradstreet. Bradstreet was dispatched to Albany as deputy quartermaster for the British forces in North America. It was one of two storage depots – the other was in Halifax Nova Scotia, but Albany was the closest spot to the upstate frontier in the war with the French in Canada. (That’s probably when it acquired the name Whitehall. At that time Whitehall in London was the home of British government offices. The Albany site was often the home of British military government – where British commanders in North American, Lord Loudon and then Lord Amherst, and their officers often stayed while in Albany.

Bradstreet became great friends with General Philip Schuyler. The route from the Schuyler home on South Pearl and State St. and then new Mansion in the Pastures, would have lead down to “Whitehall Rd.” and then west to what is now Delaware Ave. (It became Second Ave. circa 1873.). It was the route used by Bradford and Schuyler used to travel to each other homes. The area west of Delaware Ave, intersection was called the Normanskill Rd. until about 1800.

At some point Bradstreet purchased the property from the Patroon (along with about another 20,000 acres scattered throughout the area) since it was part of the Manor of Rennselaerwyck. Despite his close relationships with American colonists, Bradstreet sided with the British in the Revolutionary War, and departed for New York City, where he died in 1774.

The property passed to John Bradstreet Schuyler (son of Philip Schuyler) in Bradstreet’s will. During the Revolution is was thought to be a hideout for Tories who came down from the Helderberg Mountains. Supposedly, this was the area where the British attackers massed before they invaded the Schuyler Mansion, attempting to kidnap General Philip Schuyler in 1781 (the raid that left the gouge in the Mansion staircase).

In 1789 the Broadstreet house and property were purchased by Leonard Gansevoort. He was from an old, and Albany Dutch aristocratic family and had amassed great wealth. He had a long career in politics and the law, had been a member of the Continental Congress, was the brother of the Revolutionary War General Peter Gansevoort (the “Hero of Fort Stanwix”), and the great uncle of author Herman Melville. Documents indicate that the legal work for the purchase was probably handled by Alexander Hamilton.

After a large fire swept through much of downtown Albany in 1793 destroying the Gansevoort home, they moved to the Whitehall property, Gansevoort enlarged it quite substantially, turning it into a proper mansion, designed for entertaining on a large scale. It was “statement” home meant to impress. It was immense (supposedly (100 ‘ x 70’), with two wings and four verandas on two stories running front and back. The Great Hall gave way to a grand dining room, a family dining room and a library; the other wing held reception rooms and a grand ballroom. Off to the side was the “Dood Kamer”, which, according to Dutch custom, was a room reserved for laying out the dead. The second floor including bedrooms and family sitting rooms. The Whitehall “Palace” as it came to be known was richly paneled with mahogany and other exotic woods. It was filled with imported china, silver, and silk and damask for drapes and upholstery. There were formal and wild gardens, riding trails and extensive farmland in the thousand acres surrounding the property. It was a self-contained compound, with many out buildings and stables. (Think of the historical documentaries about British grand houses – that was the Whitehall Palace. ) And to run the vast Palace, there were, in 1800, 13 people enslaved by Gansevoort.

In 1810 Gansevoort died and the property passed on to his daughter Magdalena, married to Jacob Ten Eyck. She continued her father’s lavish lifestyle for the next 20 or so years. There are stories of streams of carriages of the Albany wealthy making their way over the Bethlehem Turnpike (Delaware Ave.) to glittering events at the Palace. As Magadelena and Jacob grew older they remained in the house, but started to sell off their land. Many of the farmers who purchased the land over the years were German (Kobler, Friebel, Etling, Klapp, Werker and Swarts. If you look carefully you can still see 3 or 4 older residences in the neighborhood that were original farm houses.) By the mid-1830s the street name appeared on maps appears as Whitehall Rd, and extended to the New Scotland Plank Rd.

In 1883 the Palace burned to the ground; by then it was referred to as the Ten Eyck Mansion.

A smaller house was built at 73 Whitehall Rd., surrounded by an area then known as Ten Eyck Park/Whitehall Park. This area was bounded by what is now Matilda St., Ten Eyck Ave., and Whitehall Rd. In 1909 the building was the Washington Hotel, but has been a residence for the past century.

By 1911 the Whitehall Park Development for “working men” was established on Sard and McDonald Roads, and residential development in the Whitehall Rd. began in earnest and continued steadily for the next 50 years. Within 5 years that area, which had been part of the town of Bethlehem was annexed into the city of Albany. It would not be until the 1960s, after a number of annexations through the decades, that both sides of Whitehall Rd. from Delaware Ave. to New Scotland Ave. would become part of the city.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany’s Strand Movie Theater

The Strand was a classic, old school gorgeous and elegant movie house on North Pearl and Monroe Streets, close to the First Reformed Church. It started off in the era of the silent movies, and would have an orchestra and/or an organ to provide the background music, performances and sing-a-longs for the audience. It was built by and owned by Warner Bros. for decades (along with two other movie theaters in the city – the Madison in Pine Hills and the Delaware on Delaware Ave (now the Spectrum).

The Strand was the first theater in the City to show Al Jolson in “The Jazz Singer”, the first widely successful “Talkie. Once it made the transition it had a couple of of renovations and to Talkies, and endured for another four decades until its demolition in 1970. The Strand was one of two first run movie theatres in the city showing the block busters of the day. It also served as a venue for a variety of live events over the years- from beauty contests to cooking shows.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Helena R. Goines, Albany’s First African American Teacher

Circa 1880

For many decades the first African American teacher in the Albany School District was thought to be Harriet Lewis Van Vranken who began teaching in 1915, and who subsequently became the first African American social worker in the city. However, new information has come to light and we’ve found that Helena R. Goines started teaching in the district two decades earlier in 1895. We couldn’t have corroborated what we found without the help of School District staff; Alicia Abdul – Librarian, Albany High School and Paula Tibbitts, Assistant to the Superintendent.

In the late part of the 19th century African American women began to emerge as a force to be reckoned with. Some doors opened and others were pushed open. Increasingly their voices were heard, and they entered fields previously denied to them; education, law, medicine, and science. They began to organize and mobilize to create institutions to serve their communities, including day nurseries, old age homes, and hospitals. Helena Goines would become part of this group.

Helena was born in 1868, likely in New York City (because her father, John Butler, is listed in NYS Civil War registration records in the City in 1863.) John was probably from the Mohawk Valley (Schoharie or Oneida County), and her mother Eliza Goines Butler from Pennsylvania. It’s quite possible John and Elizabeth met in Philadelphia where she lived and he had family. The family first appears in Albany in the City Directory and the 1875 Census living at 352 Hamilton St. between Dove St. and Lark St. – John Butler, Eliza Butler, Jim Butler and Nellie (Helena) Butler. When Helena began school, she would have attended an integrated school – probably District School 16 at 201 Hudson Ave. below Swan St. It was the same school building which her brother Jim, five years older, had attended, but until Fall, 1873 when Albany integrated its schools, it had been the Wilberforce School, a segregated school for African American children.

Circa 1880

Within a couple of years, the family moved to the 100 block of Third St. in Arbor Hill and the children attended attend District School 22 just around the block on Second St. When Helena was about 11 her father died. Mrs. Butler and the children moved to Elm St. between Dove St. and Swan St. Around the time of their father’s death there appears to be have been a major family break. Jim and Helena started using their mother’s maiden name, Goines, as their surname – which they would retain for the rest of their lives. At the time of his death John Butler appears to have been living apart of from his family. (Further evidence of the break is John Butler ‘s burial in Albany Rural Cemetery, while Mrs. Butler, Helena and Jim are interred elsewhere.)

Albany High School

Eagle St., corner of Steuben St.

In 1883 Helena passed the admission test for Albany High School, then located on the corner of Eagle St. and Steuben St. (The County Courthouse is there today.) Only a decade before Arabella Chapman, older sister of Helena’s best friend Harriet, was the first African American child admitted to the High School in 1873 when Albany schools were integrated. Helena graduated in 1887 from the English Division from the High School (we think she may have only been the third African American to graduate in that first decade.) She then pursued a yearlong course at the High School and was awarded a Graduate Teaching Certificate in 1888. (Again this may have been a first.) Her accomplishment was so significant woman it was reported in the New York Age a newspaper that focused on African American life and accomplishments across the country.)

Teaching in Delaware

In 1889 Helena became a teacher in a “colored” school in the Wilmington, Delaware segregated school district, where she remained for at least 4 years. (Wilmington seems to be an odd choice, but, based on some old census data, quite possibly some of her mother’s family may have lived in Wilmington.)

Return to Albany

In 1895 Helena returned to Albany, becoming part of the corps of substitute teachers for the school district. In 1896 she was appointed to a permanent position in School 14 at 70 Trinity Place. The following year she appears in District records as a teacher in School 12 on the corner of Washington Ave. and Robin St. Helena remained at School 12 for about a year.

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1894

Queens

In Fall, 1898 she took a position in Jamaica, Queens at a much enhanced the salary. Jamaica was still a segregated school district. It wasn’t until late 1900 when Governor Theodore Roosevelt signed legislation that prohibited children of any race from being excluded from any school in New York State.

Her brother and mother soon joined her in Queens. Helena continued to teach in Queens schools in Jamaica and Flushing for another 25 years or so.

Newspaper accounts of the time document Helena’s activities among a group of African American women who were creating new social and political institutions for the Black community in New York City and the country, including the wives of W.E. B, Dubois, one of the founders of the NAACP, and Mrs. Adam Clayton Powell, wife of the immensely influential reverend of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Manhattan. These women were the supporters of the first “Colored” YWCA in New York City, and the Utopia Neighborhood Club that supported the development of what is today’s Urban League. They were the women who were members of the National Association of Colored Women, a driving force behind the activism of African American women across the U.S. at the local level. Many were supporters of the African American contingent of the Equal Suffrage Party in New York City that worked to secure the vote for women.

Helena passed away in Queens in 1944. She’s buried in Ballston Spa Cemetery, along with her brother Jim who died in 1906 and her mother who passed away in 1922.

Note: There is compelling evidence that Helena was also Native American. Her mother’s death certificate lists her race as Native American. When Helena died there was a single heir, Jennie Brock in Philadelphia. Jennie identified as Native American in the 1940 census. It appears that the surnames Goins/Goines is closely associated with the Native American population in Philadelphia dating back to the early 1800s.

Julie O’Connor M.L.S

(Special thanks to Lorie Wies, Local History Librarian, Saratoga Springs Library who found the original newspaper article that indicated Helena received a teaching certificate.)

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany’s National Training School for Certified Nurses

The School was established circa 1890 as the Eastern New York School for Certified Nurses. Its founder was Dr. William Stillman, a graduate of Albany Medical College. At that time there was no other nursing school in the city; Albany Hospital’s nursing school didn’t open until 1897.
The role of nurses came to the forefront in the Civil War. But for a number of reasons it still wasn’t consider a totally respectable position for a woman in the late Victorian Gilded Age (unlike being a school teacher). But times changed, as they do, and progress marched on.
By 1901 the New York State Nurses Association was founded, the first state nurses association.
The National School was not-for-profit, and trained women in all aspects of nursing, including public health. By the second decade of the 20th century the importance, and value of school nurses and nurses in county and city health departments and “well-baby” clinics was firmly entrenched.
It was also a school open to all women. Reports from the early 1900s tell us that in 1905 at least 3 African American women were graduates.
The Spanish Flu pandemic in 1918 drove home the importance of nurses, as did the thousands of nurses who volunteered in Europe during World War II. Women of all ages flocked to the front. Albany Hospital established and staffed a hospital for recuperating soldiers in Portsmouth, England.
By the 1920 the World War had not only proven that it was acceptable for “nice” girls work, but they got the job done.
In the mid 1920s the School was located at in a brownstone at 285-287 Lark St. Each 6 month course was packed with young women, who learned all aspects of nursing according to standardized scientific principles. The curriculum included didactic and clinical components.
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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Hampton Hotel Roof Garden

Roof garden restaurants began to be a thing in the 1880s. They were a way of beating summer heat, and creating small oasis in a crowded city.
The roof garden atop the Hampton Hotel on State St. just above Broadway was constructed in the early 1900s.
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There was music and dancing at the Hampton Hotel roof garden. You would have a spectacular view, Hudson River breezes, and there is a description of hundreds of tiny electric lights at night that made it seem like a fairyland.
It was designed to attract the middle and upper classes of Albany, and well-heeled hotel guests.
But I can imagine a young clerk or factory worker saving up to take his girl, maybe she was a store clerk, for a special night. She would be dressed in her best- maybe he gave her a small flower corsage. It might have been a romantic, magical night. A once in a life time experience, never to be forgotten.
Copyright 2021  Julie O’Connor

Albany Medical Center Hospital Hospital: a Brief History

Albany Med has played a key role in the City for about 170 years. Today, its mission is more critical than ever.

The Hospital was established in 1849. One of the founding physicians was Alden March, a farm boy from Worcester, Mass, who came to Albany after getting his MD from Brown University in 1820.

In 1834 he’s said to have established a first for New York State a practical school of anatomy and surgery, in this city. Several years later the Medical College (the fifth in the U.S.) was founded; it located on Eagle St.
Over time the need for a public hospital became apparent to Dr.March and several other local physicians.
Some histories say the first hospital was established in 1849 on Madison Ave. (then Lydius St.) on the corner of Dove St. (The building is still there.)

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First Hospital Building on Madison

By 1851 a new site was located on the corner of Eagle and Howard Streets, in the abandoned county jail. (The previous building became the site of the cholera hospital, a deadly infectious disease.)  The Albany Convention Center is on the Howard St. site today.

Eagle and Howard

Hospital on Eagle and Howard

In the late 1880s and early 1890s it became clear larger facilities were needed. By 1898 Albany Hospital moved to New Scotland Ave., where it has remained for over 120 years.
(That building on Howard St. subsequently housed the American Humane Association, the precursor to the American Humane Society. It originated the “Be kind to animals” slogan.)  The building was finally demolished around 1940.)
The new Hospital was a sprawling complex when it was built, with a nursing school and nurses dormitories. As we know, it dominates the landscape today, and is perhaps the largest employer in the City.

Hospital on New Scotland Rd. – circa 1900

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Hospital circa 1930

Hospital circa 1950

So thank to Dr. March, who understood the need to provide medical care to all Albanians, rich and poor, and a space where generations of doctors, (and then nurses), could obtain the needed clinical training.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany and the American Humane Association: Be Kind to Animals

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The nationwide American Humane Association was founded in 1877 as an organization devoted to the protection of children and animals. In 1905, when the president was William Stillman, MD, a local doctor, the national headquarters moved to Albany.
The Humane Association located in the empty Albany Hospital building on the corner of Eagle St. and Howard St.
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In 1911 it came up with the slogan and campaign “Be Kind to Animals” we all know so well, and is still used today.
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In the early days World War I it brought to the attention of public the plight of animals, especially horses, during the War, and founded the Red Star Relief organization. It has continued the campaign throughout the years to address needs of animals affected in military conflicts and disasters.
Over the years the Humane Association tackled such diverse subjects as treatment of child AND animal actors, slaughterhouses, and pet therapy for World War II veterans.
In 1938 the Association moved to the old Rice mansion on the corner of Dove St. and Washington Ave. (The Albany Institute of History and Art is in that location today.)
In 1954 the Association HQ moved out of Albany to Denver, Colorado, and is still very active. A most recent effort of the Association’s Red Star teams was the rescue of animals in the California wildfires.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

National Library Week – The Catholic Union Library in the Old Arsenal

Before Albany established a library system in the 1920s, and built the Harmanus Bleecker Library in 1924 on the corner of Washington Ave. and Dove St, as the main branch, the Common Council supported a number of independent libraries. These libraries were then available to the public, as well as members of the various organizations, like the YMCA libraries and John Howe’s independent not for profit library in the South End on South Pearl St.
One of the least remembered, but most used was the Union Free Library. It was housed in the Catholic Union building on Eagle St. and Hudson Ave.
The building previously contained a State Arsenal that opened in 1859, and housed most local military offices throughout the Civil War (although the barracks and training ground were located in an area surrounding Holland and New Scotland Avenues intersection).
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By the late 1880s the arsenal had outgrown its usefulness. In 1887 it was sold at auction by New York State. The purchaser was the Roman Catholic Diocese, and the building became the Catholic Union.
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The Union was, in essence, a catholic community center, providing space for the various parishes located mostly in the South End. It brought together congregants from the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, the mostly French parish of the Church of the Assumption on Hamilton St., St. Ann’s, St. John’s, the mostly German parishioners of Holy Cross on Philip St., and later the immigrants of St. Anthony’s in Little Italy.
It included lecture rooms, a large hall, kitchens, classrooms, a gymnasium (Al Smith is said to have walked from the Governor’s Mansion, and stripped down to his undershirt to shoot hoops), and a library. By the early 1890s the library held about 3,500 – 4,000 volumes and began to receive city funding.
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(By the mid 1930s the privately owned Eagle Movie Theatre was opened on the ground floor in one corner of the Building.)
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As immigrants of all faiths crowded into the South End the library grew and usage increased. By 1929 the John Howe library was constructed on Schuyler St. as part of the city system, and city funding for the Union Free library ceased. But the library was still accessible local neighbors for many years.
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The Catholic Union building was demolished in the mid-1960s for the Empire State Plaza. The end of an era.
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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Drive-in Movies – Albany Edition

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Under the first phase of  Covid 19 re-opening in New York drive-in movies could open.
Everything old is new again.
There are 4 drive-ins immediately around Albany; the Jericho on 9w in Glenmont, the Malta on Route 9 south of Saratoga, the Hollywood in Averill Park, and the Hi-Way, south of Coxsackie.
And this got me to thinking about the drive-in hay days of the 1950s and 1960s. While the the first drive-in, the Auto Drive -In, opened on Latham in 1941, the other came after World War II in  the late 1940s, post World War II.
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As more people could afford cars, they became more popular, but then  drive-ins had to compete with the growing television market.
Still, in the Albany area the number of drive-ins grew. I’m guessing by 1960 there were at least 15 within easy driving distance of the city.
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Carmen Rd.( Route 146) near Route 20

Indian Ladder Drive-in, New Scotland Rd., near New Salem

It was a cheap and convenient night out for Mum and Dad and the kiddos (usual bundled in their PJs because they would pass out before the 2nd half of the double feature). No baby sitters required.

There was fierce competition. First snack bars were added. Who doesn’t remember the dancing hot dog singing  “Let’s all go the snackbar”at intermission. (We were a frugal family so we packed snacks and drinks, but were allowed to get an ice cream cone.)
Some added in-car heaters (that never worked well) to extend the season. Then came playgrounds. The speaker attached to your rolled down car window gave way to a special frequency on your car radio. By the late 1960s some drive-ins added rock and roll bands before movies.
 The American drive-in theater became iconic, for so many reasons, but mostly because they combined 2 of our loves- cars and movies.

East Greenbush

But during the height of the horrible polio scare of the 1950s, before there was a vaccine for widespread use, drive-ins were safe places for family fun. (Sound familiar?)
But they were also the “passion pit” for teenage make out artists. Sneaking into the drive-in was a favorite pastime. You could drink at the drive-in. Mecca for teens and young adults as well as families.
Everyone had their favorites. I loved the Mohawk on Central Ave., just east of Rte.155. It was opposite my great uncle’s house (that became Andy’s Hardware). Dinner at his house and then the drive-in.
There were family movie and “dirty movie” drive-ins and teen movie drive- ins, each with a target demographic.
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But over time the allure of the drive-in waned and the large tracts of land became too valuable. By the late 1980s they were dinosaurs. Today there is a residential development where the famed Turnpike Drive was located on Western Ave.; others were replaced by shopping plazas and car dealerships.
Some just faded away. There were 2 on New Scotland Rd. between Slingerlands and New Salem – The Mayfair and the Indian Ladder; still vacant land today.
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor