HOW ALBANY GREW

(From the Spring 2018 “Capital Neighbors” newsletter by Tony Opalka, Albany City Historian)

Did you ever wonder where the name South End/Groesbeckville Historic District Came from?

The Southend/Groesbeckville district in the southeast corner of the city, surrounds the Schuyler Mansion. It includes the area between Lincoln Park and Second Avenue from about Franklin and South Pearl Streets on the east, to Eagle and Elizabeth Streets on the west. The question is particularly timely because the Preservation League of New York State just published its annual list of “Seven to Save,” endangered historic properties across the state on April 10th, including Albany’s South End/Groesbeckville Historic District because of its large stock of abandoned and deteriorating buildings (many of which could possibly be restored).

It should concern us all that this part of Albany’s historic fabric continues to suffer decline, as it illustrates part of Albany’s period of growth from about 1850 to 1900.

This article, however, is one of my occasional stories about how Albany got into the “shape” that it’s in and how the name Groesbeckville fits into that narrative.

We’re all familiar with the term “South End,” in part because of my many tours and talks in the South End. I’ve gotten into lively discussions with attendees about what defines the South End — somewhere between Madison Avenue and the Port of Albany. So many people in the city today can trace their roots to this part of the city (myself included), but the South End means different things to different people.

Long before the term South End was used, the name Groesbeckville had already come to refer to the part of the town of Bethlehem immediately adjacent to the southern city line, which until 1870 remained as it had been since incorporation of the city in 1686.

At South Pearl Street, a small remnant of that line is Gansevoort Street, now a two-block long street that runs from the southbound entrance ramp to 787, to South Pearl Street about a block below Fourth Avenue. Originally called South Street, it separated the city from the Manor of Rensselaerwyck and, after 1793, the town of Bethlehem.

By the middle of the 19th century, however, the area along South Pearl and parallel streets Broad, Clinton, Elizabeth and others, as well as east-west streets all the way to Historic Cherry Hill below Second Avenue, originally called Whitehall Road, had become fully urbanized, both within and without the city. The map below, from 1866, shows the old city line and the area immediately adjacent to it along South Pearl Street designated as Groesbeckville, an unincorporated hamlet
in the town of Bethlehem.

As early as 1861, citizens of Albany petitioned the Common Council to apply to the New York State Legislature to extend the city boundaries to the north and south as they then existed:

“Without an increase of territory this city cannot longer maintain its rank in population or importance; while just outside of its limits suburban settlements are springing up without such municipal regulations and controls as are requisite to prevent the accumulation of nuisances and of nuisances to us and to their own people. … While portions of the adjoining towns now thickly settled or occupied for business purposes enjoy the protection of our Fire and Police Departments, and participate in almost every benefit of our city government, to nearly as great an extent as property in the city, justice seems to demand that they contribute to the support of such government…..”

Sound familiar?

Five years later in 1866, residents of Bethlehem submitted their own petition to the Albany Common Council requesting that the area bounded by the river, the old city line (Gansevoort, and roughly Woodlawn Avenue and Cortland Street in western Albany) all the way to Allen Street extended southward to the
Normanskill be annexed to Albany.

Not wanting to be left out, residents of Watervliet along the north boundary of the city, submitted their own petition, asking that a portion of that town be annexed to Albany, also in 1866. This would have corresponded to the present-day boundary with Menands, but extending westward to a northern extension of Allen Street, somewhere in present-day Colonie. This area included the Van Rensselaer Manor House (about where Nipper is located today), the Erie Canal and Lumber District, and the existing hamlet of North Albany.

Ironically, the “lumber barons,” whose businesses were located along the Erie Canal in the town of Watervliet, but whose residences were located along Ten Broeck Street, petitioned the Common Council in 1867 to NOT annex part of Watervliet, stating that “in their judgment it would materially increase their taxation both in said districts (business and residential) and in the city, without any corresponding benefits to compensate therefore.”

Well, the forces of annexation won out, because on April 6, 1870, the New York State Legislature passed a law annexing parts of both towns to Albany, although a much smaller land area than originally proposed. Rather than go all the way to
the Normanskill, the new line separating Bethlehem from Albany ran a zig-zag line from the river all the way to Allen Street as if it were extended south of New Scotland Avenue. On the north, the annexation included North Albany but a zig-zag line that ran in some places within the Patroon’s Creek all the way west to Russell Road near Westgate Shopping Center.

At the same time, the City of Albany gave Watervliet all the land as far west as the Albany-Schenectady County line — what is now the University, Washington Avenue Extension and a good portion of the Pine Bush.

A year later, Watervliet ceded it to Guilderland.

It would take another 100 years for Albany to achieve its current boundarie

Advertisements

What was there? The NYS Education Building and West Capitol Park across from each other on Washington Ave.

 

The Education Building was started in 1908 and completed in 1912. The buildings on the opposite side of Washington Ave. were demolished for West Capitol Park in 1919., as well as the buildings that were actually behind the Capitol, within what is the Park today, on Congress St. and Capitol Place.

(Capitol Pl. ran between Washington Ave. and State St., parallel to the Capitol. Congress St. was a stub of a road, perpendicular to S Swan and the Capitol.)

 

3

432679833_1647684661946456_2781068740945510400_o

5

6

7.jpg

9

10.jpg

32655357_1647684085279847_8108881822303125504_n

Parker Dunn – Albany Medal Of Honor Recipient

33720264_1658334284214827_6611007480992366592_nYou’ve driven over the bridge across the Hudson River from Albany to Rensselaer many times. You may even know its name – the Dunn Memorial. But you may not know why it has that name.

The bridge was named after Parker F. Dunn who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously for his gallant and courageous service in World War I.

 

Parker was born in North Albany in 1890 to an Irish Catholic family. His mother died when he was about a year and half. His father, an Albany police officer, felt unable to care for Parker and placed him with his aunt and uncle, Mary and George Mimney, who lived in the Cathedral parish. He attended Cathedral Academy but left school a young age to become a Western Union messenger to help out his aunt, who was by now a widow with three young daughters. He was by all accounts an average All-American young man, who loved baseball and was an altar boy at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. At the time he entered the Army he was working for the Standard Oil Co.

33765908_1658333104214945_6637036636368535552_oHe tried to volunteer for service several times, but was turned down because of poor eyesight. Finally in April 1918, at the age of 26, he entered the Army. Dunn was assigned to a military intelligence unit of the 312th Infantry, 78th Division. After training in Fort Dix, his company was on its way across the Atlantic in June. After a short stop in England, they reached France July 1918.

By September Dunn was in the thick of it, in what would become the last push in the Meuse-Argonne offensive. It was the greatest battle of the War – more than 26,000 Americans were killed and over 96,000 wounded. The objective in the middle of October was the capture of the French village of Grandpre. What had been in the early days been a campaign measured in yards became a pitched and fierce fight in late October, with both sides throwing everything they had in to the battle.

33958195_1658333250881597_3794039457766703104_n

Dunn’s Medal of Honor Citation, issued by President Coolidge, tells it all. General Orders: War Department, General Orders No. 49, November 25, 1922:

“When his battalion commander found it necessary to send a message to a company in the attacking line and hesitated to order a runner to make the trip because of the extreme danger involved, Pfc. Dunn, a member of the intelligence section, volunteered for the mission. After advancing but a short distance across a field swept by artillery and machine gun fire, he was wounded, but continued on and fell wounded a second time. Still undaunted, he persistently attempted to carry out his mission until he was killed (October 23rd) by a machine gun bullet before reaching the advance line. ”

In less than three weeks, the War would be over.

Initially Dunn was buried Grandpre. His remains were later moved to the American National Cemetery in Romagne, France. (The U.S. government initially prohibited the remains of soldiers being returned to the U.S., but later relented.) In 1921 Dunn’s remains were transferred to a family plot -section 16, lot 69- in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.

James Dunn, Parker’s father, was presented with his son’s medal on Armistice Day, 1923 in Memorial Grove (New Scotland and So. Lake) by Parker’s commanding officer, Major General Robert Bullard,

Parker Dunn was one of 119 to be awarded the Medal of Honor during World War I. Two of those men – Parker Dunn and Henry Johnson – were from Albany. I often wonder if their paths crossed before the War while they were in Albany.

The first Dunn Memorial Bridge was dedicated in 1933. It was replaced by the current bridge of the same name in the late 1960s. (The old bridge was demolished in 1971.)

33847444_1658333490881573_1895301263076098048_n

33853508_1658333597548229_5351151199204671488_n

33825681_1658333654214890_6129667828954955776_n

What was there? Sunnymede Cottage

In the mid-1880s after completion of the Washington Park the Commissioners of the Park determined there needed to place for the Superintendent of the Park to live to be able to oversee the Park. They decided it couldn’t be in the Park itself (a residence would mar the grand vistas), but needed to be close. They purchased a piece of land a couple of blocks away on what was called the “Alms House Road”, to the rear of the Albany Penitentiary, (that’s what we know as Holland Ave. today), just on the corner of the New Scotland Plank Rd.

2

4.jpg

At that time there was almost nothing there, except the Almshouse (about where the College of Pharmacy is today), a cluster of buildings (including an industrial school and a smallpox hospital) and a small farm surrounding the Almshouse. and the Penitentiary.

5An adorable fairy tale cottage was built with an almost fairy tale name, “Sunnymede”. Land was set aside for greenhouses, a nursery garden, storage buildings and barns. The Commissioners of Washington Park were given authority over all parks in the city; the cottage became the home of the City’s Superintendent of Parks and the Parks Dept.

Soon, the early 1890s, the Dudley Observatory was constructed down the road on So.Lake Ave. (demolished in the early 1970s for the Capital District Psych Center). Then came the Albany Orphan Asylum* on Academy Rd. (then Highland Ave.), Albany Hospital across the way and the New Scotland Ave. Armory* in the early 1900s. In the 1920s the Medical College re-located from Eagle St. to the Hospital. In the 1930s the Penitentiary behind Sunnymede was demolished. Albany Law School, the College of Pharmacy and Christian Brothers Academy (now used by the Pharmacy College) moved from downtown at about the same time and they were joined by a NYS Health Dept. lab. on New Scotland Ave.

9.jpg

11

 

Even after the construction of the Veteran’s Administration Hospital in 1951 behind it (on what had been the Penitentiary grounds), the Parks Dept. remained snugged into that little corner.

12

14Finally in 1964, after almost 80 years, the City sold land to the Hospital for??? A parking lot of course! With the money from the sale it built a new Parks Dept. in Hoffman Park just off Second Ave. Today, there’s a Hilton Garden Inn and, yes.. a parking garage in that location.

*Orphan Asylum buildings and the Armory are now part of the Sage College of Albany campus.

3

Robinson’s Corner – State and Broadway in Albany

Since the 1833 there’s always been a “round” building at the corner of State and Broadway (once known as Robinson’s Corner”). In 1831 the Albany Museum Building was constructed.   Because of its design it quickly became known at the “Marble Pillar” building as well (the term was used interchangeably with the “Museum Building”). It was the grandest of its kind in Albany; not a residence like the Schuyler Mansion and not a public building.   It was indicative of the new wealth coming to Albany as a result of the Erie Canal.  By 1830 Albany was on the way to what we now think of as a modern city (not just a sleepy little Dutch burg) and men of vision were willing to invest capital in the city’s future.

2The building housed a quasi–museum (not exactly the way we know of museums today) including a theatre and exhibition hall.  It did double and triple duty.  There were apartments and a restaurant, alleged to have been the finest in Albany of the time, called the “Marble Pillar”. It was often referred to as a “resort” and advertisements of the time attempt to lure visitors from all around the area. Between the “Museum” and the restaurant, it was probably the first tourist destination in the area.

Once the Canal opened in 1825, Niagara Falls (the first real tourism destination in America) became a sight-seeing mecca; you had to go to Albany to get on the Canal.  It was the stage coach depot to all points.  What better place for visitors to stop than the Marble Pillar resort? *

3

In 1848 the building was enlarged and its multi-purpose use continued, including a restaurant.   When P.T. Barnum introduced Tom Thumb to Albany it was in the Marble Pillar building.

4A fire in 1861 required major restoration of the building, and it became a home for a dizzying array of businesses over the next 40 years,   including insurance companies, brokerage firms, banks, grocers, and carpet sellers. Even Western Union found a home. When Western Union moved in the late 1890s, the site became ripe for re-development.

 

 

6

5

7 (2)

In 1902 the Albany Trust Co. bank purchased the site and constructed the building you see today.  It was designed by Marcus Reynolds.  Albany’s pre-eminent and prolific architect of the early 20th century.  He designed the D & H Building (now houses   State University Administrative offices), the Delaware Ave. fire house, the Superintendent’s Lodge at the Rural Cemetery, Hackett Middle School, and Albany Academy among others.

1.JPG

The Trust Company building is on the National Historic Register.

 

 

*By 1830 visiting Niagara Falls had become a thing.   A wonderful book, called “The Frugal Housewife”, by Lydia Maria Child  (who was living in Boston when she wrote it)  counsels women against engaging in such extravagance.  (The book was so popular it was re-published 33 times in 25 years.)

 

The “White Terror” and Open Air Schools in Albany

3 (2)

At the beginning of the 1900s the disease that was most feared was the “White Terror” – tuberculosis.   Panic gripped the nation; tuberculosis (a/k/a the “wasting disease” or “consumption”) was the single largest cause of death in the U.S.  If you contracted TB it was considered to be a death sentence (1 in 7 Americans died from tuberculosis in the late 19th and early 20th centuries).  Although the cause had been discovered in the 1880s (TB bacilli) there was no surefire real cure.

The TB sanatorium was the only answer for decades.  The first one was started by Dr. Edward Trudeau* (great grandfather of “Doonesbury” cartoonist Garry Trudeau) in 1885 in Saranac Lake.  It involved a strict regimen  of rest, exercise,  plentiful wholesome food and fresh air.. LOTS of fresh air.

The idea of using a similar regimen to prevent TB among children who were at greatest risk of contracting the disease was pioneered in Germany in 1904  It held hope; sorely lacking thus far, and swept across Europe and into the U.S. like wildfire. By 1908 a variation of this treatment was being used in Albany.

2 (2)The first “open air school”,  a make-shift operation at the South End Dispensary at the corner of Westerlo and Ash Grove Place, in the  heart of the immigrant community,  was opened with about 20 grade school age kids.  It was operated jointly by the City’s Anti-

tuberculosis Committee and the Board of Education.

 

 

 

Soon the entire responsibility shifted to the Board and by 1910 another open air class room (sometimes called a “preventorium”) with about 30 kids was  established in School 6 on Second St. in Arbor Hill.  2 (3)

In each setting the regimen was the same – lots of sunlight (thought to be a disinfectant), sufficient wholesome food (lots of milk), exercise, rest and fresh air.

3Finally in 1914, when a new School 14 was opened on Trinity Place, it had a purpose-built open air school on its roof that could accommodate about 50-60 kids. There was a class room with a roof, a fixed wall and 3 walls of windows that were usually open, regardless of season or temperature. There was no heat and children wore the equivalent of snowsuits, mittens and hoots. Additionally there was a kitchen, separate dining room and shower rooms for boys and girls.

“Sitting out bags” were a thing in open air schools. The largest manufacturer in the country was Huyck Mills, just across the way in Rensselaer; the children featured in their ads were from Albany’s School 14. They were described as “brown, pliable, hairy felt-like cloth”.

A key feature was a roof terrace, off the class room; completely open except for a sheltered roof area off to the side under which were stored cots and blankets for sleeping outside on days without rain or snow. The roof terrace was described as playground far above the dust and dirt of the streets, “open to the sky and the sun with inspiring view of the Cathedral spires and the battlements of the State Capitol and City Hall tower”.

8 Capture 14The open air classroom in School 14 was staffed by two teachers, a nurse, a matron and a cook. The day started with a visit from the school nurse followed by breakfast. Next came classwork, instruction in good health habits, a hearty lunch, exercise and then rest in the fresh air, usually in special “sitting out bags”.  Monthly home visits by the school nurse were a regular part of the regimen. In summer, some children were placed at a Child’s Hospital location in Saratoga

If active cases of TB were discovered, the children were sent to the TB Sanatorium off Western Ave.  (The Harriman Campus is there today). The Sanitarium was started around 1892 by Albany unions through the Central Federation of Labor and continued under the auspices of Albany Hospital (today’s Albany Medical Center).

13 (2)

 


The open air class rooms were considered to be successful and cost-effective. Children remained in the class rooms for at most 2 years before their health was deemed to have improved for their return to regular classrooms.   In the 1920s another class room was added to School 14.  Open air class rooms were also added in the new buildings of School 26 (Tremont St.) and School 27 (Western Ave.) when those schools were constructed in the 1920s.

14

By 1930 there appears to have been about 200 children in open air school class rooms scattered throughout the city school district. By this time, the class rooms were being used for children with all sorts of health conditions (not just at risk for TB) that prevented them from applying themselves to their school work.** “The aim of the open air school is to enable debilitated children to continue their education and at the same time regain their health and strength.”

17 1In 1934 School 14 was renovated and became Philip Schuyler Sr. High School.  The open air class room sizes were reduced and overcrowded.  The city decided to create a standalone open-air school in Lincoln Park, using Works Progress Administration (WPA) funds available from the Federal government during the Depression. The building selected for renovations was the office of James Hall ***, which dates back to the 1850s.   The facility became known as the “Sunshine School” because of the many large windows.

In the mid 1940’s. During World War II, the antibiotic streptomycin was isolated and discovered as an effective treatment for TB.  (However, TB still remains the most prevalent contagious disease in the world; ¼ of the world’s population is infected with TB.)

The Sunshine School remained opened for at least another 5 decades; in its later years it was used for children with special education needs.

*Dr. Trudeau had close ties to Albany – through the Albany Medical Society and the Episcopalian Diocese.

** In the first part of the 20th century health and social reform movements swept the U.S. and continued with tenacity until World War II. These reforms were often linked and/or delivered through the education systems of cities and towns to be able to reach the highest number of children. The schools in Albany functioned as “safety nets” for at risk children.

***James Hall was the pre-eminent geologist and paleontologist in 19th-century America. He founded the State Museum and served an unprecedented six decades, holding both positions of state geologist and paleontologist.

 

 

Albany’s Airplane Diphtheria Pamphlet Drop

It’s 1927, and you need to get the word out about vaccination for diphtheria. There’s no social media to speak of, so you have limited options. Newspapers, of course. Direct mail, though mass mailings are expensive and computerized mailing lists don’t exist. Radio, but although radio has exploded in just a few years, it’s still not a sure thing that you’ll be reaching everyone.

Hey, how about we drop pamphlets from the sky?

That’s what they did in Albany that year, on what seems like the unlikely date of December 3 (when the number of people wandering outside would not have been at its maximum – but as a communicable disease, diphtheria prevailed from October-March). “A shower of blue pamphlets, urging toxin-anti-toxin treatment against diphtheria, descended upon Albany today from an army observation plane as a part of the campaign by the municipal health bureau to check the epidemic in Albany. The plane, piloted by Lieutenant Harry P. Bissell, was flown to Albany from Mitchel field, Garden City, L.I., through an arrangement made by Dr. James W. Wiltse, city health officer, and Dr. Matthias Nicoll, Jr., state health commissioner, with Lieutenant Colonel B.D. Foulois, in command at Michel field. The circulars were distributed by Sergeant Walter Starling, flying with Lieutenant Bissell.”

The pamphlets were prepared by Dr. Wiltse and Dr. Clinton P. McCord, medical director for schools, and advised parents to have children inoculated and gave the locations and hours for inoculations.

Since Nov. 1, there had been 49 cases of diphtheria, with four deaths of young children, in Albany. The campaign was focused on Arbor Hill, where the majority of the cases had been reported. Clinics were conducted in School 22, School 6, School 16 and School 4. There were also clinics at the West End Health Center, the South End Dispensary, St. Mary’s School and St. Joseph’s School. “At least one of the Albany deaths which occurred, it was declared, came after a parent refused to allow a child to be immunized against the disease. ‘I would just as soon deprive my children of food as to deprive them of toxin anti-toxin,’ Dr. Nicoll said.”

By Christmas, there would be 75 cases and seven deaths, and a scarlet fever outbreak had sickened 100 and killed one. In the 1920s, an estimated 100,000 to 200,000 cases of diphtheria occurred per year in the United States, causing 13,000 to 15,000 deaths per year, according to the Public Health Foundation’s. The development of a vaccine led to a rapid decline in deaths starting in 1924.

(Diphtheria is currently considered fatal in 5-10% of cases, and as high as 20% in the young and the old. Along with fever, sore throat, and coughing, it can cause extreme difficult swallowing and breathing, as it destroys health tissue in the respiratory system, creating a build-up called a pseudomembrane that covers the tissue.)

From Carl Johnson’s blog, Hoxsie

LINCOLN’S ASSASSINATION AND THE ALBANY LEGACY

The assassination of Abraham Lincoln stunned the entire nation, but the events of that tragic night of April 14th had particular meaning for Albany, with repercussions for decades. When Lincoln’s funeral train made its stop in Albany and his coffin was carried to the State Capitol on April 26, many Albany residents were also consumed by other horrific events still unfolding in Washington D.C. as a result of that horrific night.

THE ATTEMPTED ASSASSINATION OF WILLIAM SEWARD

Often overlooked in history was the attempted assassination of William Seward, Secretary of State, that same April 14 evening when Lincoln was killed. Seward had deep connections in the Albany; he’d been a member of the NYS Assembly, 2 term NYS governor (he lived in the Kane Mansion  – the Schuyler Condos are located in that spot today), was elected U.S. Senator serving   over a decade until  he was appointed to Lincoln’s cabinet in 1861. Seward’s wife, Frances, attended the Troy Female Academy (Emma Willard) and had close ties with Albany Quakers and anti-slavery and women’s rights activists in Albany. His son Frederick attended high school in Albany and married Anna Wharton, daughter of a local druggist; for several years the couple live with the Wharton family on Hudson Ave in the 1850s while Frederick was the associate editor of the “Albany Evening Journal”.

John Wilkes Booth originally wanted to kidnap Lincoln. Having found no opportunity to abduct the President, Booth assigned conspirators to assassinate Seward and VP Andrew Johnson on the same night he intending on killing Lincoln.   Lewis Powell was dispatched to kill Seward in his bed (he was recuperating from an accident). Powell entered the Seward home on the pretext of delivering medicine, but was stopped by Frederick Seward.  Powell tried to shoot Frederick, but the gun misfired and Powell beat him severely around the head with the weapon. Powell then burst into the bedroom, jumped on the bed, and repeatedly stabbed William Seward in the face and neck..  A soldier guarding Seward wrestled Powell, but he was able to escape. The scene of the attempt was awash in blood.

(The plot to kill Vice President Johnson was abandoned.)

Capture

In total 4 members of the Seward family were injured.  His son Augustus and daughter Fanny suffered minor wounds.  Seward himself revived, but was significantly unwell for many months; he never fully recovered.  Frederick was severely injured, unconscious for days and lingered on the brink for at least a month – his wife Anna was distraught.  William Seward’s wife, Frances, disposed towards ill-health, died 2 months later of a heart attack, consumed by anxiety from the tragedies of that night. In Frederick’s 1915 biography he indicates that the physical and emotional wounds never healed for his family.

CLARA HARRIS AND HENRY RATHBONE AND THE LINCOLN ASSASSINATION

zzzOn April 14, 1865 Major. Henry Rathbone and his fiancée Clara Harris were in the presidential box in Ford’s Theatre when John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln. The Major grappled with Booth, who stabbed him with a knife and escaped.

Rathbone and Harris were both from Albany (step brother and stepsister). Rathbone’s father, Jared, an enormously wealthy businessman and former mayor of Albany, died in the mid-1840s.  (Jared built the estate Kenwood which became the site of the Convent of the Sisters of the Sacred Heart.).  Within a month, Louisa, the wife of Assemblyman, Ira Harris, died.    Harris courted Pauline Rathbone and they were married 3 years later.  The families blended and moved into the Harris home at 28 Eagle St, just south of State St.  In  1861 Harris was elected   U.S. Senator, succeeding William H. Seward.  Upon his arrival in Washington D.C.   Harris became the ultimate nudge. Lincoln biographer Benjamin Thomas wrote that Harris  was among Lincoln’s “most frequent evening visitors”   The President once claimed that he looked underneath his bed each night to check if Senator Harris was there, seeking another patronage favor.  Harris was often accompanied on these visits by his daughter Clara, who became a close friend of May Lincoln.  Mary also was also partial to Clara’s fiancée, Henry Rathbone (despite being step brother and sister, love had come their way.)

Lincolns-Death

After he was shot Lincoln was carried across the street to Petersen’s boarding house. Harris and Rathbone escorted a distraught and dazed Mary Lincoln to the house.  While Rathbone went into the room in which Lincoln lay dying, Mary was kept outside, with Clara at her side.  Rathbone finally passed out from loss of blood from his wound; Harris held Rathbone’s head in her lap. A surgeon realized Rathbone’s wound was more serious than initially thought. And he was taken home while Harris remained with Mrs. Lincoln.  Harris later stated:

“Poor Mrs. Lincoln, all through that dreadful night would look at me with horror & scream, ‘oh! my husband’s blood, my dear husband’s blood’ ..It was Henry’s blood (on Clara’s dress) not the president’s, but explanations were pointless.”

Rathbone and Harris married two years later and had three children. But the events of April 14 had effected Rathbone in terrible ways for the rest of his life. He had contracted several illness during the War that left him sick for months at a time, and a “debilitated constitution”. He continued have mysterious illnesses, as well as emotional outbursts and horrific headaches after the marriage. Clara became increasing fearful for herself and her children.  In 1882 he took his family and sister-in-law Louise on a trip to Germany. In December 1883, he killed Clara; attacking her with a pistol and dagger and then slashed himself, just as Booth had done to Lincoln and Rathbone. Rathbone barely survived and afterward contended there had been an intruder.  He was committed to an insane asylum until his death in 1911.   The children returned to America to the care of their uncle, William Harris in the wake of the horrific event which made international tabloid headlines.

WHAT ABOUT THE DRESS?

loudoncottageAt some point upon Clara’s return to Albany she took the blood soaked dress to her family’s summer house “Loudon Cottage” in Loudonville, an Albany suburb, and buried it in the back of her closet. But when was asleep at night she insisted Lincoln’s voice emanated from the closet. Anniversaries of Lincoln’s death supposedly triggered spectral events for both Clara and others.  Clara bricked up the closet, but people in later years still claimed to have heard gunshots, seen a blood soaked young woman standing with Lincoln, and manifestations of the paranormal.

In 1910 the eldest son of Henry and Clara, Henry Riggs Rathbone, had the bricks removed and the burned the dress an attempt to rid the family of what he perceived as the dreaded curse.

Bouck White – Helderberg Hermit and his Castle

6

In the 1930s, an unconventional man named Bouck White built a “castle” in the Helderberg Mountains overlooking the village of New Salem, New York.  Hoping to create his own Utopia, he spent a decade there, selling pottery and dispensing shards of philosophy to visitors.

Charles Browning “Bouck” White was born in Middleburgh, Schoharie County in 1874.  His father ran a dry goods store and young White grew up in comfort in the family’s Grove Street home.  He attended local schools and continued his education at Syracuse University where his conduct was described as “honorable.”  In the college yearbook, he maturely observed, “The line between folly and wisdom is often as imaginary one, and men are often seen traveling along with one foot on either side of it.”

White transferred to Harvard and graduated in 1896.  He went to work as a reporter for the Springfield Republican, but a year later he began studies at the Boston Theological Institute. He was ordained a Congregational minister in 1904 and spent the next several years in Clayton, a town on the St. Lawrence River.  He organized a Boys Club, opened a small library, and converted a stable into a gymnasium for the town’s youth.  The townspeople were initially dubious of White’s innovations, but were won over and provided funding.

2.2Around 1908 White moved to Brooklyn to work at a settlement house run by Trinity Church.  There he saw the hardships of the poor and working classes.  White joined the Socialist Party, hoping that a blend of religion and socialism would cure the world’s spiritual and social woes. The Church vestrymen grew wary and asked for his resignation.  He submitted it, found the Church of Social Revolution and wrote the first of his books, “The Call of the Carpenter” in 1912, which portrayed as a workingman, agitator, and social revolutionist.  Known as New York’s “most eccentric radical,” he wore a coarse smock in protest of World War I.  He was later expelled from the Socialist party for opposing violence.

 

3In 1914 White was arrested at the Fifth Avenue Baptist Church after disrupting a service by challenging the Reverend Cornelieus Woelfkin to debate the civic value of John D. Rockefeller, Jr., whom White held answerable for the massacre of striking miners in Ludlow, Colorado.  White was sentenced to six months in jail. During that time he wrote “Letters from Prison” which defined his credo of   Christian socialism.

 

 

White led a “service” to protest World War I in 1916.  He set fire to flags representing the world’s leading nations and covered the ashes with a crimson flag.  Claiming that the fire had only united the banners into one of “internationalism,” White was jailed for desecrating the flag.  At his trial the prosecutor described White as an “egotistical humbug….If an American in his indignation had shot White dead on the night of the flag burning, I doubt if you could find a juryman who would vote to convict him.” White got a $100 fine and thirty days in the “workhouse” for the flag burning.

After his release, he moved to France to study ceramics and developed a chemical process that enabled him to harden pottery without a kiln. At a Mardi Gras bazaar in Paris on February 1, 1921, White met Emilee Simone.  He asked permission to call on her and, three days later, proposed marriage.  Emilee’s parents were charmed by White who spoke French fluently and appeared prosperous.  The couple married that April; he was 47 and she was 21.

The Whites returned immediately to America and moved to a farmhouse on a mountain outside Marlboro in Ulster County.  But Mrs. White fled from her husband’s “summer estate” after three days and went to the Marlboro Mountain House. She told of abuse. She said White wanted her to be a “radical prophetess”.  Some nights later, a dozen men from Marlboro abducted White.  He was tarred, feathered, whipped, dunked in Orange Lake, and threatened with hanging.  (After his captors released him, people noticed blisters on White’s neck.  It was rumored that acid was mixed with the tar.  White said they were caused by sunburn, but tried to hide the blisters with flour.)

Emilee filed for an annulment.  She had little money, but did not wish to return to France until she was free of White.  She described White’s farmhouse as slovenly, White himself autocratic and eccentric.  He was not interested in children, but told her that they would write books together and the books would be their children. .  He denied considering himself the “Second Messiah,” but admitted that “intellectual persons” should have books instead of children. An annulment was granted that summer on the grounds that White had hidden his arrest record from the Simones.

10White returned to France, but by 1932, he was back in New York and running a pottery studio in an Albany carriage house.  In 1934, White bought six acres in the Helderberg Mountains.  He was attracted to the lonely cliff by a belief that it was where Hiawatha supposedly experienced visions that lead to the founding of the Iroquois Confederacy.  White had long claimed Mohawk ancestry, saying, “I don’t know how much of the blood of Hiawatha is in my veins, but my heart is Indian.”

5White constructed a “castle” using the plentiful limestone.  He worked as independently of technology (which he distrusted as much as wealth) a possible.  He described his building style: “The stones are not hacked or broken to form a window opening of some perceived pattern; they are allowed….to build a window of any form whatsover…A new resource for the architect is here emerging, provided their clients be animated by a spirit of natural beauty.”

White built an impressive tower at the cliff’s edge.  The view from the top rivaled the vista offered at nearby John Boyd Thatcher State Park. White kept carrier pigeons at the tower and, during World War II, his birds led people to speculate that White was a spy using pigeons to send messages to the enemy.

13White lived simply at his mountain retreat and his sole income came from selling his pottery “Bouckware”, primarily through gift shops across the country. (In 1937 he organized a small corporation for this purpose with 2 men from Albany.)  He lived on pancakes, soups, and cornmeal.  He wore old baggy trousers and tattered sneakers.  Old or new acquaintances were treated hospitably. White realized that he was not capable of changing the world.  He dismissed his radical activities as part of a “collective insanity” that afflicted the country during World War I and admitted his own mortality.  He desired only to end his days peacefully on his mountain, but a stroke forced him to move to the Home for Aged Men in Menands.

In 1944 the property was purchased by Gabriel Cordevez, a Bouck White disciple, He intended  to establish an artist colony, but a fire damaged much of the main building later that year. In 1946, after the end of War II, Mr Cordevez established the Shrine of the Ave Marias, dedicated to all Gold Star mothers of any nation, in a small chapel that had been built by Bouck White. In the early 1950s the property was purchased by a family named Regan; 4 generations of the family owned the property for at least 30 years..

But what of Bouck White?  He died  in January 7, 1951, and his ashes were buried in a fissure near his Helderberg castle.

7

From Paula Lemire’s blog Garden Alley

Albany’s Pemberton Corner

RbJh6Rnu

We’re guessing only a few know where it is – N. Pearl St. and Columbia St.  in the heart of downtown. There’s a commemorative plaque that some of you may have noticed, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

The huge Victorian pile you see today was constructed in the late 1800s, on the site of an ancient building that survived for almost 170 years.

2In the earliest days of Albany that corner of North Pearl was outside the north gate in the stockade that surrounded the city. Around 1710 Jacob Lansing, a baker and a silversmith, constructed a small building in that location.

It was said to have once been a trading post. Legend has it that it may have been occupied by the Sarah Visscher  (“the Widow Visscher”) who married into an Indian trading family,  and who may have run it as a trading post in the mid to late 1700s “it was especially distinguished as the lodging place for the Indians when they came to Albany for the purpose of trading their furs, too often for rum and worthless ornaments. There many stirring scenes transpired, when the Indians held their powwows, and became uproarious under the influence of strong drink. The house has survived the general sweep of so called improvement. It is now [1867] owned by John Pemberton, and is occupied as a grocery and provision store.”.. Joel Munsell

Unlike many of the old buildings that have been demolished we have an excellent description:

“Yellow brick; one and a half stories. The upper section was left unfinished for several years and was used during that time for the storage of skins and furs. No two rooms were on the same level. The ceilings were not plastered, but the beams and sleepers were polished and the jambs of the fireplace faced with porcelain, ornamented with Scripture scenes.”

“The parapet gable facade on Columbia Street had fleur-de-lis iron beam anchors that held the brick wall to a timber frame. The brick, laid in Dutch cross bond, formed a zigzag pattern called vlechtwerk (wicker work) along the upper edges of the gable.”  ..  Diana Waite “Albany Architecture”

5The Pemberton brothers – Ebenezer, Henry and John – purchased the building from Jacob Lansing’s great grandson in 1818 and started a grocery business at that corner.  Henry and Ebenezer died in the late 1850s, and John carried on the business, which came to be a well-known landmark in the city – Pemberton’s Groceries.

 

6

When John died in 1885 his estate owned a large portion of that block on N. Pearl between Columbia and Steuben, which included several buildings to the north of Pemberton’s grocery store. The property was sold and 2/3 of the building you see on that block corner was constructed. The new Pemberton Building included stores and offices, but its primary tenant was Albany Business College.*

7

8Pemberton’s store, operated by John’s son, Howard, survived on the corner until 1893 when it was demolished for an addition to the Pemberton Building to allow the Business College * to expand.  Despite efforts to save the building because of its historical significance, the amount offered by those who were interested (including John G. Myers, owner of a large department store on N. Pearl St., and the Albany Press Club)  could not match what  the  College was offering for construction of  the addition. (Such an Albany story.) Look at the building carefully; you can see the demarcation between the part of the building constructed in 1885 and the addition 8 years later.

20

16184019911_8f5fdee0d4_b

27523579998_1e45592b13_b.jpg

So.. we call it the Pemberton Building, right?  Well, that depends.  It was known as the Pemberton Building initially, but then someone named Brewster purchased, and it was known in the newspapers as the Brewster Building for a number of decades in the 1900s. But in general conversation and in my family it was called it the Pemberton Building (where several “greats” attended the Business College in the 1890s and early 1900s), we can’t find anything about Brewster (other than he was a real estate investor) and we need to honor our history. We’re sticking with the Pemberton Building.

*The Business College moved to Washington Ave. between Dove and Swan in the 1930s.

 

Thanks to Carl Johnson and his Hoxsie blog for some of the material in this post.