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).
94258102_2823389487709295_7250139309452296192_n
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.
94262083_2823389687709275_9001732371258540032_n
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.
94504785_2823389504375960_3118458294859988992_n
94482088_2823389774375933_9021843310808924160_n
(By the mid 1930s the privately owned Eagle Movie Theatre was opened on the ground floor in one corner of the Building.)
94253069_2823389551042622_16590475116937216_n
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.
94510949_2823389601042617_6102094345073065984_n
The Catholic Union building was demolished in the mid-1960s for the Empire State Plaza. The end of an era.
94504799_2823389721042605_1785320598168141824_n
Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Albany’s Old Municipal Buildings

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

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

z2 (2)

z3

z4 (2)

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

z9

z10

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

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

Julie O’Connor

What was there? The Corner of Columbia and Eagle

12049181_909295772452019_5393575334711789165_n

The first a reservoir (yup, a reservoir), then the 2nd Albany High School (the first was established in 1873 in Van Vechten Hall on State St.) and today, the Albany County Court House.14808799526_f7f9869ba5_b

The Court House was built in 1916, after demolition of the old Albany High School. That school was erected in 1876, on the site of the Albany Waterworks Company reservoir (a private water company) built in 1811, which served as the primary source of sort of safe water from the Maezlandt Kill (near Van Rensselaer Blvd) and Patroon Creek Albany until about 1873. first a reservoir (yup, a reservoir), then the 2nd Albany High School ( the first was established in 1873 in Van Vechten Hall on State St.) and today, the Albany County Court House.

12187641_909296059118657_6921324270464403946_n

first_Albany_High_School_1900

37264448341_294cd10173_b

17904479274_20d43b664d_b

Albany – Then and Now Eagle St., circa 1842 and today

24852458_1502492656465658_2717023096106333070_n

The building to the left was called the “State Hall” – it’s still there and functions as the NYS Court of Appeals. The building to the right is the old City Hall, designed by Philip Hooker. It was destroyed by fire in 1880 and the current building replaced it.

In the first illustration you can see Academy Park and the park which surrounded the old NYS Capitol in the foreground. Both parks still exist in the same configuration, more or less.

Albany Medical College.. Happy Birthday!

12552705_939557649425831_940350423767032902_n

On January 11, 1830, Dr. Alden March first proposed a medical college and a permanent hospital in Albany. He was then Professor of Anatomy and Physiology, Vermont Academy of Medicine. He earned his medical degree at Brown University in 1820 and came to Albany in 1821 and started a small medical school in the former first building of Albany Female Academy. A member of the Albany County Medical Society, he held the office of president in 1832 and 1833.

When Albany Medical College was realized in 1838, it was the fifth in New York State and the nineteenth in the Colonies and U.S. It was preceded in New York by Medical Faculty of King’s College (1767), Medical School of Fairfield Academy (1809), Auburn Medical School (1824), and Medical Institution of Geneva College (1834).

Prominent among the founders were Dr. Alden March, his associate, Dr. James Armsby, Erastus Corning, other leading Albany men, and the City (which granted five years free use of the Albany Lancaster School building) and State Legislature. T. Romeyn Beck was prominent in the selection of the college’s valuable library.

12402204_939557709425825_3035872561298666092_o
For almost 100 years, 1838 to 1928, the Medical College was housed in the old Lancaster School Building (designed by Philip Hooker), on the corner of Lancaster and Eagle Streets. In 1928, the College moved to New Scotland Ave, adjacent to Albany Hospital.


As far as we can tell, the building on Eagle was demolished in the early 1930s, and nothing was ever built in that area. (Anyone know anything more.. give me a shout.). That swath of Eagle St. was bulldozed for the Empire State Plaza c 1964. And where the College was located are 2 huge heating /cooling air valves for Plaza.

12472679_939559069425689_9109031574692505676_n

12494659_939558116092451_5420793570895444417_n

12565562_939557882759141_4985689060664886659_n

12496286_939558732759056_886361522175952975_o (1)

12509708_939558619425734_4278580712422168228_n

12552956_939558046092458_910140677233628141_n

944072_939558952759034_1156171436403157624_n

12496468_939559149425681_8791314518694526695_o

(Thanks to John McClintock for the excellent history of the College’s founding.)

“Albany in the Snow”, 1871 by Walter Launt Palmer.

It’s Eagle St., opposite what is now the Court of Appeals.

Palmer was raised in Albany (son Erastus Dow Palmer, a carpenter who turned sculptor and had great success). Palmer grew up on Columbia St. and the moved to Lafayette St. (since demolished to create Lafayette Park, in back of the Henry Building)

He was born in 1854, so that means he was 17 when he painted this.. which captures an Albany winter so well. 

Albany – Then and Now- Eagle St.

 

Eagle St., circa 1842 and today

The building to the left was called the “State Hall” – it’s still there and functions as the NYS Court of Appeals. The building to the right is the old City Hall, designed by Philip Hooker. It was destroyed by fire in 1880 and the current building replaced it.

In the first illustration you can see Academy Park and the park which surrounded the old NYS Capitol in the foreground. Both parks still exist in the same configuration, more or less.

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz24852458_1502492656465658_2717023096106333070_n