The Stanwix Hotel – the Oldest Hotel in Albany


1.1Stanwix Hall stood on the east corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. .It was built by the sons (Peter and Herman) of Peter Gansevoort. Gansevoort* was the “Hero of Fort Stanwix”; he lead the patriot resistance at the British siege of the Fort in 1777**.  Colonel Gansevoort was instrumental in guarding against British encroachment on Albany from the west through the Mohawk Valley, and setting the stage for the defeat of Burgoyne at Saratoga a year later.

1The Hall was built on the land on which Gansevoort’s Dutch great grandfather settled in the 1600s and on which he established a brewery. In 1832 the brewery was destroyed by a fire and the next year Peter’s sons, Herman and Peter, built the Stanwix in the same location on Broadway (then North Market St.). It was marvel- 5 stories and constructed from marble.  It housed offices, stores and meeting rooms. It was crowned by a huge awesome dome (48’ in diameter), which covered what was said to have been the largest ballroom (60’ wide) in the world at the time.

2.2.The year it opened it became the home of Mr. Whale’s Dance Academy for the sons and daughters of Albany’s elites. Classes were $12 for the season- lessons were provided Wednesdays and Saturdays and evenings.  Over the next 30 years the Stanwix was the site of glittering balls, assemblies, receptions and concerts with elegant catered suppers.   We have visions of women in huge crinolines stepping out of a row of carriages in the gaslight and whirling the night away in the ballroom with the men of the Albany Burgesses Corps in full dress military uniform.


2By the mid-1840s the Hall was transformed into the most elegant hotel in Albany.  It was, by all accounts, the classiest of joints.  It was located close to the train station and was the preferred destination of hundreds of travelers, including the rich and famous (and infamous).  When Abraham Lincoln came through Albany in 1861 on his trip to Washington D.C. for his inauguration, John Wilkes Booth was performing in the city and his rooms at the Stanwix would have overlooked the Lincoln parade down Broadway.

The Stanwix also was the site of an infamous murder that created a tabloid frenzy.  On the evening of June 4, 1868, in the main reception room, George Cole took out his pistol and shot L. Harris Hiscock dead. Cole was a Syracuse physician who served with gallantry and bravery in the Civil War. He’d been wounded and promoted to Major General. L. Harris Hiscock was a leading Syracuse attorney, a founder of the law firm now known as Hiscock and Barclay and Speaker of the NYS Assembly. Cole and Hiscock were close friends. During the War, Hiscock, a widower, and Mrs. Cole had an affair. Cole was tried twice. The defense was insanity; there was a hung jury and the case was discharged. In the second trial, in NYS Supreme Court the jury found reasonable doubt and acquitted Cole by virtue of momentary insanity.

The Infamy of the case seemed to enhance the Stanwix reputation.


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In the 1870s the Hotel was acquired by the Lansing family and continued to be the most splendiferous of its kind. In 1878 it was completely remodeled; the dome removed and 2 stories added. It was retrofitted with modern’ conveniences; steam heating and up-to-date plumbing. Even with the opening of Adam Blake’s Kenmore Hotel on North Pearl St. in the early 1880s the Stanwix maintained its social cachet and was the most expensive hotel in Albany. It continued to provide superior service, excellent cuisine and a superior wine list. Even into the late 1890s it was the still tip top – offering both an American (with meals) and European (without meals included) plans and still very expensive ($3 per night was very steep.)

11But in the early 1900s it met stiff competition by the new Ten Eyck Hotel on the corner of State and N. Pearl streets, and then the Wellington and Hampton Hotels on State St. were built.  By 1920, it was more of a banquet and convention venue and had become somewhat down at the heels. In the 1920s itwas the bus terminal in the city.


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16In 1933, a hundred years after it was built,  the hotel was razed to make way for a new federal building and post office. (It’s now the Foley Courthouse.) In the basement of the present building, at the end of the corridor, is a small piece of stone and a plaque inscribed, “This stone was salvaged from the debris of Stanwix Hall and placed here, the exact location where it originally rested in its former home.”



* Peter Gansevoort also had a daughter Maria who was the mother of Herman Melville. While a teen in the late 1830s Melville was president of an Albany debate club that held its meetings in the Stanwix.

** The first time the Stars and Stripes ever flew in battle was over Fort Stanwix.  It was made from red flannel petticoats from officer’s wives and the blue coat of a soldier from Duchesss County

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany’s Willy Wonka; Paul Anast


We have fond memories of the Paul Anast Confectionery on Broadway. The minute you stepped inside the nondescript-looking industrial building you were transported by the smell of warm chocolate. You could watch the candy being made in all shapes and sizes in front of your eyes. Their peanut butter ribbon candy was utterly amazing, but the peanut brittle was awesome too.


Paul Anast was born in Turkey in the mid-1890s and emigrated to America as a child. His family originally settled in Ohio, but after serving in World War I, he made his way to Albany. He worked initially with Alex Anast (who appears to have been a cousin who’d arrived in the Albany area from Turkey a couple of years earlier). Paul Anast opened his first confectionery shop in 1919, at 40 Lark Street, on the corner of Third Street, in a former grocery store. During the early 1920s Anast is also listed in city directories as working in several other candy stores (the Boston Candy Kitchen and the Crystal Candy Kitchen) on South Pearl. (A busy man!)

Despite many other confectioners in Albany in the 1920s (during Prohibition, people traded one vice for another and people were wild for candy) Anast’s business thrived. In 1933 he relocated to 1080 Broadway (near Niagara Mohawk) in North Albany. This is the location many of us remember. The company was primarily wholesale. It supplied much of the chocolate Easter and other holiday candy sold in the area Woolworth stores, as well as corner candy store/ice cream parlors, variety stores and pharmacies.


The retail business was relatively small, but at Easter and Christmas in the 1960s you could get amazing hand molded chocolate bunnies and Santas that were unlike anything you could find in any other store. Anast used perfectly tempered Hershey’s chocolate and vintage Weygandt/Reiche molds that were decades old.*

The company also made a uniquely Albany candy called “contrabands” – little nuggets of golden light molasses, peppermint and butter that resembled “yellow jackets”. Why were they called contrabands? Here’s the legend: the girls who attended St. Agnes School on Elk St. circa 1900 would buy them from Mr. Mason’s candy store on Washington and S. Swan, and smuggle them into class. Episcopal Bishop Doane, founder of the exclusive school, was outraged and declared the candies “contraband”.

The Anast candy factory closed in 1970 and Mr. Anast passed away in 1979, but he left generations of Albanians with wonderful memories.

*The original Lark St. store was about 2 blocks from where my grandmother grew up on Livingston Ave. and a couple of times she asked him to make a chocolate bunny she remembered from her teenage years; he went in to the backroom, rummaged around and produced the mold – so my brother and I could have the same Easter bunny. It was ALMOST too good to eat.

Thanks to Al Quaglieri for much of what is written here.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The Public Market in Albany


For most of the 1700s there was one public market location in Albany, on Broadway (known then as Market St.) between Maiden Lane and State St. For most of that century the market was merely a gathering place for vendors and buyers until an actual Market House was built in 1791. But by 1807, as a result of increased traffic and activity on Broadway, the Common Council ordered its removal and established three (3) markets: the North Market (about where the EnCon building is today), the South Market (Broadway between Hamilton St. and Madison Ave.) and the Centre Market near what is now Howard St. and So. Pearl.



DOver time all but the Centre Market fell out of use and the land of the North and South Markets was sold for other purposes. By the mid-1850s, as Albany grew, the public market was pushed back one block behind So. Pearl to Howard and William Streets and most of the vendors were wholesale sellers, crowding out smaller farmers.

As a result, an informal, unsanctioned farmer’s market developed on State St. just below the Capitol. But as construction of the new Capitol advanced during the Gilded Age, this market not only impeded rapidly increasing traffic on State St., but became an embarrassment to the City Fathers. Additionally, it was unregulated and there were complaints about hucksters and unfair dealings with buyers.



By 1884 a new municipal public market (for primarily farmers) was opened adjacent to the old market between Hudson, Beaver, and Daniel Streets.



In 1891, the J.B. Lyon Printing Co. constructed a large building at the back of the market and it became known as Lyon Block.




During the early part of the 20th century, as a result of the influx of immigrants as buyers and vendors (many small truck gardens and farms ringed the City), the public market was thriving, crowded every day and generating revenue for the City.

In the mid-1930s it was expanded down to Grand St. as part of a Depression public works project. It was about the same time Lyon Co. moved to Menands and mostly discount stores came to occupy the building.

By the 1950s the market space was used primarily for parking on week days and was really only busy on Saturdays, generating little revenue, as customs changed and people did most of their shopping in large bright and new shiny supermarkets. In 1962, the market and much around it was targeted as part of the “take area” for the new Empire State Plaza. By 1964 the market and the old Lyon Building were gone. And soon, all traces of a public market in Albany vanished.



Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The Keeler Restaurants of Albany


This is the Keeler’s that many of us still remember fondly, providing fine dining on State Street for 85 years. In 1884, brothers William and John Keeler opened this 56 State Street location at the southwest corner of State and Green Streets. Beloved by generations of Albanians, it was also popular with government officials: regular guests included Governor Alfred E. Smith and state senator (and later New York City mayor) James J. Walker. In O Albany!, William Kennedy provides a star-spangled list of occasional visitors, including Lillian Russell, John Philip Sousa, Mary Garden, Grover Cleveland and Thomas Edison. 



The restaurant stayed in the Keeler family until 1955, then went through several owners, and closed without warning in November 1969. It ended its 85 years at that location ignominiously as Keeler’s Steak & Goblet, featuring “All the draft beer you can drink and all the salad you can eat.”

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz12800326_963471140367815_7320563870993922550_nAs famous as it was, the State Street location was not the only Keeler’s in downtown Albany. It was not even the first Keeler’s restaurant. That honor goes to the oyster bar opened by the brothers at 83-87 Green Street in 1864. And in the first third of the 20th century, there were four different Keeler’s locations in downtown Albany:
** Keeler’s Restaurant, 56 State Street

** Keeler’s Hotel and Restaurant, .480-492 Broadway and 76-78 Maiden Lane, southwest corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane. At a May 1912 dinner there, the guests of honor were “Buffalo Bill Cody” and two Lakota Indians who starred in his show, Iron Tail and Lone Bear. Iron Tail is remembered as one of the three models for the so-called Indian Head Nickel.

** Keeler’s Hotel Annex, 507-509 Broadway, east side, a few doors South of Maiden Lane

** Keeler’s Restaurant 582-584 Broadway (across from Union Station)

Copyright 2021  Julie O’Connor

Albany: Cradle of the Union (a/k/a/ Ben Franklin Slept Here)

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ben 3On July 14, 1754, many of the delegates from seven colonies (New York, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Maryland) who attended the Albany Congress were still on their way home. The Congress was convened by NYS Lt. Gov. James Delancey for the purpose of discussing alignment of the 6 Indian Nations who attended the Congress, should there be a war with the French. But Ben Franklin had his own agenda. He wanted to discuss the “Albany Plan of Union” which would have been the first confederation of the colonies. Prior to the Congress, in May 1754 he published what is considered to be the first political cartoon in America, “Join or Die”. Ben and Massachusetts Governor Thomas Hutchinson presented the Albany “Plan of Union” which was adopted on the last day of the Congress, July 10, 1754. It was, in part, modeled after the Iroquois Confederacy. Members of the Confederacy attended and were an integral part of the Congress.

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The Congress was held in the Stadt Huys (City Hall)* at the intersection of State and Broadway, about where the SUNY Central Building (a/k/a the D&H Building) is today and there is a plaque, commemorating the Congress and Ben’s Plan.

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Ben was persuasive enough to convince the delegates, but not a single colonial assembly approved the plan to unite “under one government as far as might be necessary for defense and other general important purposes”. Most historians agree that even if the Colonies had approved the Union, the British government would have quashed.

20 years later or so the Albany Plan of Union would become the basis for the Articles of Confederation which would bind the Colonies together throughout the Revolution and until 1789 when the Constitution was ratified. During the Revolution, the slogan became “Unite or Die”.

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ben 16A Resolution of 83rd US Congress, August 1953 officially named Albany as “Birthplace of American Union” and official medals were authorized, created by the U.S. Mint in Philadelphia.


ben 22There was a HUGE Citywide Cradle of the Union celebration in June 1954 involving a parade, other festivities and participation by children in all city schools, public, private and parochial. ( We don’t party for our history the way we used to.)

In 1988 a portion of a road in Washington Park was named Albany Plan of Union Avenue and there is a commemorative plaque on a boulder just off the Avenue.


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*The Stadt Huys was demolished circa 1836 when a new City Hall was erected in the current location – alas that was destroyed by fire in 1880, and the one that currently exists was constructed.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The Declaration of Independence in Albany

Set in the greenery in front of University Plaza is a small iron fence enclosing a white marble tablet. The tablet is quite worn and nearly illegible now, but a smaller plaque next to it has a transcription of the original lettering:

“The following is the wording that was placed on the memorial stone immediately adjacent to this plaque: The Declaration of Independence was first read in Albany by order of the Committee of Safety July 19, 1776 in front of the City Hall then on this site. This memorial of the event was placed here by the citizens July 4, 1876.”

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz13718534_1039082696139992_3304741044390138878_nAt the time of the Revolutionary War, Albany’s city hall – or Stadt Huys – stood here along Broadway across from the foot of modern Hudson Avenue. At the time, this key thoroughfare running parallel to the riverfront was call Court Street and the Stadt Huys had been erected in the early 1740s to replace a 1686 meeting space on the same site.

During the Revolution, it was the meeting place of the Albany Committee of Correspondence, Safety, and Protection which was chaired by Abraham Yates, Jr..

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz13754671_1039083669473228_2545378727848215776_nIn July 1776, in the days immediately following its approval in Philadelphia, copies of the Declaration of Independence were distributed to and read before the public in major cities throughout the rebelling Colonies. The New York copy was received by Abraham Yates, Jr; it had been sent on by his nephew, Robert Yates, who was a member of the New York Provincial Congress. The Declaration was then read to the public from the steps of the Stadt Huys on July 19 by Matthew Visscher. Visscher, a twenty-five year old lawyer, served as secretary to the Committee.


zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz13699995_1039077149473880_7175930192316421927_nIn 1876, a committee was formed in Albany to honor the 100th anniversary of American Independence. The Centennial Memorial Tablet Committee met “to procure the erection of a permanent memorial at the spot where the Declaration of Independence was first publicly read in Albany.” $100 was earmarked for the project and, at the cost of $80, the marble tablet with gilt letters was commissioned. By 1876, the old Stadt Huys was long gone, but arrangements were made to mount the marble table on the facade of the Commercial Building which stood near the corner of Broadway and Hudson Avenue.


Before a gathering of “two or three thousand” Albany residents, the tablet, which was covered by an American flag, was unveiled by Visscher Ten Eyck (Matthew Visscher’s grandson.) The tablet’s reveal was greeted by hearty cheers from the crowd, patriotic songs, chimes from the steeples of nearby churches, and a 100-gun salute.

When the Commercial Building was demolished to make way for construction of the D & H Building, the marble tablet was salvaged and set within the iron railing. The gilt lettering has since worn away and the tablet marking the first public reading the Declaration of Independence is easily overshadowed by the ornate D & H Building (now SUNY Plaza).


Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Lincoln’s Funeral Train in Albany: 1865



On April 25, 1865 President Lincoln’s funeral train stopped in Albany on its way to his home in Springfield, Illinois.

It had been 11 days since his assassination, the night of April 14th and 10 days since his death on the morning of April 15th. The people of Albany heard the news of his shooting and then his death in short staccato, continuous bursts from the telegraph lines across the City (oddly like Tweets of today.)
Flags were lowered to half-mast.

Businesses and public and private buildings were draped in black mourning. Dry good stores quickly sold out of black and white fabric. Small memorials and shrines were erected in store windows and parks. On April 19th, the day of President Lincoln’s funeral in Washington D.C., Albany mourned as well. Businesses closed at noon; churches held special services.

cIt was also on the 19th that the decision was announced by Secretary of War Stanton that Lincoln’s remains would be conveyed via Funeral Train to Springfield, with stops in major cities. President Johnson, in a proclamation, said, “our country has become one great house of mourning.” Previous Presidents had died in office (William Henry Harrison and Taylor); one had been the object of an attempted, but unsuccessful assassination (Jackson). The shock and sadness, following 4 years of brutal and bloody war, was too much to bear. The funeral train would unite the country, or at least the Union, at a pivotal moment.



eOver the next 6 days the mourning continued. Church services and prayer for some. On Saturday Rabbi Schlesinger conducted a funeral, rather than the regular Shabbat services at the “Hebrew Church” Anshe Emeth on South Pearl St. Others remained glued to telegraph offices following the hunt for the assassin and his accomplices. Meanwhile thousands of people poured into Albany waiting to pay their respects; the population almost tripled to just under 180,000. People slept 2 and 3 to a bed in hotels and private homes. Additional steamboats and trains were scheduled.

fThe Funeral train arrived on the opposite bank of the Hudson on April 25, 1865 at 11 pm; the coffin and its escort was ferried across the River.



1Streets were cleared of vehicles; crowds started gathering at early evening. By all accounts there was no jostling for place; the mourners were somber and mostly silent, except for audible weeping as the torch lit procession accompanied the hearse bearing Lincoln’s body up State St., while church bells tolled and minute guns were fired continuously.  The hearse stopped in front of the old City Hall before until it reached the Old Capitol.

9332482212_a2c1be84a2_bAt the Capitol the coffin was removed from the hearse and carried into the Assembly Parlor. Public viewing of the open casket began at 6 a.m*. the next morning. Thousands filed through the Washington Ave. door, passed the bier to pay their respects and out the south door on the State. St. side of the building.

hAt precisely 2 p.m. the lengthy funeral procession started. It left the Capitol, proceeded up State St. to Dove, thence to Washington, back to State via Eagle and then to Broadway to the New York Central Depot. Church bells tolled throughout the procession and guns were fired on the minute throughout.. Every civic, community, religious, government and military organization from Albany and the surrounding area was represented. A somber throng of thousands lined the streets.




With military exactness Lincoln would have appreciated his coffin was loaded into the railroad car, and at precisely 4 p.m. it rolled on the New York Central Line on its way to the next stop in Buffalo.

*Shortly before the public viewing began, about 400 miles away, John Wilkes Booth was cornered by Federal troops at a farm in Virginia; he was pronounced dead at 7:30 a.m., as visitors streamed past the President’s body in the Capitol Although word of his death and capture started to spread through the crowds in Albany, there were no cheers or demonstrations throughout the day.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor