The Ten Eyck Hotel – the Grande Dame of State Street

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The original Ten Eyck Hotel, which would come to dominate the skyline of downtown Albany for much of the 20th century, was built in 1899 at corner of State St. and Chapel St.

In the 1890s there were 3 major hotels in Albany. The Kenmore, the Delavan and Stanwix Hall. The Delavan on Broadway (where Lincoln stayed in 1861 on his pre-inaugural journey to Washington D.C.) was destroyed by fire in 1894. Stanwix Hall, on Broadway and Maiden Lane, was looking a tad shabby. It had been built in the 1830s by the uncles of Herman Melville, and while once a grand show place, was showing its age. The Kenmore on N. Pearl, established by Adam Blake (son of a former slave) was doing a thriving business under the new ownership of the Rockwell family.

But the Rockwells saw an opening in the market after the Delavan fire. Frederick, the Rockwell son, created a corporation that included James Ten Eyck, from one of Albany’s oldest and wealthiest families.They purchased the old Corning homestead on State St. and set to building the most modern and luxe hotel in heart of downtown Albany. Based on his experience with the Kenmore Frederick knew what guests wanted. Most importantly, it was guaranteed “fire proof” – the destruction of the Delavan – a hotel known around the country, had created enormous fear. (There had been deaths and many seriously injured guests and employees.)

2The “fireproof” Ten Eyck was an immediate success. It was 9 stories and designed to cater to the whims of even the most jaded traveler. The rooms and suites were airy and well-appointed. Want a room for your maid? No problem. Porcelain baths gleamed and towels were plush. There was a large ballroom and many meeting rooms to accommodate the conventions that flocked to the hotel. The lobby was spacious and comfortable, with a barbershop, hair salon, florist, telegraph office, and access to telephones. Scores of bell hops swarmed – ready to run any errand or fulfill the smallest of requests. Carriages transported travelers to and from the train station and Steamboat Square at no charge. The dining room and food was legendary – with specially made china and engraved silver plate with the Ten Eyck logo.

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4Other large hotels were built on State St. over the next 10 years; the Hampton and the Wellington. They enjoyed success, but the Ten Eyck out shown them all. By 1914 it needed to expand, and the owners bought and demolished the Tweddle Building just below the Hotel, at the corner of State and Pearl. Within 3 years a new Ten Eyck Hotel building arose that, at 17 stories, dominated downtown for decades (the older, smaller building became known as the “Annex”). The Ten Eyck had become the sort of “modern” hotel we recognize today (except for the mini-bar). It had a new owner – the United Hotels Company that owned a string of upscale hotels across the country.

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In the late 1920’s the Ten Eyck finally had some real competition with the construction of the DeWitt Clinton Hotel up the street at State and Eagle – opposite the Capitol. (Today it’s been renovated and is the Renaissance – owned by Marriott.) The two competed for the next 45 years, but it was the Ten Eyck that ruled downtown, surviving the Depression and thriving in World War II.

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The Ten Eyck continued to be the destination of choice in Albany for presidents and the rich and famous. Because of its proximity to the Capitol Theater, just around the corner on Chapel St., guests included everyone from the venerable actors Cornelia Otis Skinner and Lionel Barrymore to George M. Cohan to Molly Picon, the Queen of Yiddish Theater. The Ten Eyck was mobbed by Stagedoor Johnnies when Flo Ziegfeld brought the beautiful bevy of girls in his Follies to Albany.

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11.1In the 1950s it became a Sheraton hotel, was renovated and had bit of renewal. Still, the grand dame struggled to compete in the 1960s. The main restaurant, the Grill Room, was given a wacky amoeba shaped bar (so mid-century) and another bar became the “Dolliwog Lounge” (waitresses were the equivalent of Albany’s Playboy bunnies.) But then Sheraton Corp. bought the newly constructed Inn Towne Motel on Broadway. (The building is still there as a Holiday Inn Express – the swimming pool on the roof is long gone.)

 

 

 

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All the hotels in downtown were suffering from competition from new motels on the outskirts of the City and the suburbs – the Americana on Wolf Rd. (now the Desmond), the Thruway Motel on Washington Ave. (demolished for a medical building) and several Howard Johnson Motels (the remains of one on Southern Blvd. still exists). The area adjacent to downtown had been gutted for Empire State Plaza construction, but that was insignificant compared to a dying downtown – commercial and retail development had moved to the suburbs, as was the case in many Northeastern cities. Steamboat travel ended 20 years before and no one traveled by train. (Albany’s Union Station would soon be closed.)

In a last gasp the hotel was purchased by a company from Binghamton and run by the Schine Corp. It was during this era in the late 1960s I stayed in the Ten Eyck for a NYS high school convention. It was shabby, but with room service; swanky to a 16 year old used to summer vacation motor court cabins. I snuck into the cocktail lounge; it seemed so “Mad Men” with a dash of 007-sophisticated and cosmopolitan. The men all looked like Don Draper or Roger Sterling – the women like Betty Draper and Joan Holloway. They were drinking Gimlets, Martinis and Manhattans in a world that would shortly become Woodstock, Boone’s Farm and tie dye.

Nothing could save the hotel. It closed that year in 1968 and remained a rotting hulk for several years until it was demolished, along with Albany Savings Bank (an Albany architectural gem). That block is now home to the some of the bleakest examples of 1970s architecture.. a Citizen’s Bank , the Ten Eyck Plaza Office Building and what it now a Hilton Hotel, about were the original Ten Eyck building would had been (more or less).

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There is one last vestige of the venerable Ten Eyck (other than few pieces of random china or flatware that surface on eBay from time to time) and it’s not in Albany. If you should ever find yourself in Staunton Virginia, stop in the Depot Grille restaurant and you can see the massive 40’ bar from the Ten Eyck Hotel. (Don’t ask us how it ended up in Staunton, we haven’t a clue – but if you know, please tell us.)

Julie O’Connor

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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.)

 

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Albany Public Market and Westgate Plaza: An Immigrant Success Story

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Giuseppi Nigro -age 24 – and wife immigrated to America in 1904. They hit the ground running. In 1905, the Nigro family opened a little grocery store at 114 Green Street. Six years later, it moved “uptown,” to a space on the city’s outskirts, at 652 Central Avenue. J. Nigro & Son watched their quiet neighborhood grow into a busy hive of commerce, and grew with it.

2In 1929, Nigro’s became Albany’s first WGY Food Market, also incidentally purchasing the first cash register from Henry Kass.

In 1933, Nigro bought the next door property (formerly home to a diner) and incorporated as the Albany Public Market (650-652 Central Avenue). (That building still stands, now Aaron’s Rentals.)

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6Nigro had grander visions for his successful little supermarket, and in 1947 he broke ground for an ambitious new Albany Public Market at 711 Central Avenue.

The gigantic new airplane-hangar-sized store opened (October 26, 1948) with a barrage of local excitement. The superlatives weren’t mere hyperbole – it really was the “largest food department store in the world.” Boasting an unheard-of 22,000 square feet of floor space, a warehouse that could hold 70 freight carloads of food, its own bakery, and a three-acre parking lot capable of holding 1,000 cars, the complex was an immediate sensation. (Then-VP Frank Nigro expanded on the hangar idea, claiming the building – twice the size of Albany Airport’s largest hangar – would house two B-29 bombers with jet fighter escort.)

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9130947012_aa38bf8af5_bA decade later, Albany Public Market would become the cornerstone business at the new (Nigro-owned) Westgate Shopping Center, with a store twice the size of the previous location.

Nigro coined the word “Westgate,”after reading a newspaper article about how Central Avenue (the Albany Schenectady Turnpike) was gateway to the West. Westgate Plaza was on the leading edge of mall shopping; despite it being entirely within city limits, it was, as a 1957 article said, “on the outer fringes of Albany.” Once again, it properly claimed the title of largest food store in the United States. The 711 Central Avenue hangar became King’s Department Store (and later on, OTB Teletheater/Nick’s Sneaky Pete’s, before it was razed to make way for Shop Rite).

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Albany Public Market expanded over the next two decades, becoming the first largesupermarket chain in all of upstate New York. Constant advertising, smart publicity and clever promotions kept both Albany Public Market and Westgate Plaza highly visible to the shopping public. Every Albanian of a certain age remembers one stunt or another, be it Santa landing in a helicopter or a DJ broadcasting from atop the Westgate sign.

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Albany Public Market was purchased by Weis Markets of Sunbury, PA in 1967, retaining the Nigros as directors and managers.

Eventually, the Nigros began concentrating their energies into lucrative real estate and banking operations. Best I can tell, Albany Public Markets ceased to be sometime around 1984-5.

From Al. Quaglieri’s Albany blog, Doc Circe Died for OUr Sins

Albany’s Potato Chip Empire

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We were looking at pictures of Albany’s waterfront in the 1930s and saw a giant neon 20’ sign, “Blue Ribbon Potato Chips.” Whoa! We never heard of it and had to know more. What we found was a potato chip empire that provided jobs to thousands in the area for almost 50 years, and when that ended the company re-invented itself and was the fish and chip king of Albany for 20 years.

By the late 1890s potato chips (then known as “Saratoga Chips” where they were invented- Saratoga Springs) were all the rage; they were served in restaurants throughout the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. By 1890 recipes appeared in cookbooks and women’s magazines. They were introduced to America at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. But, as some of you may know, making potato chips is labor intensive and time consuming, what with the peeling and delicate slicing and precise frying. (In the current vernacular, a total PITA for busy housewives.)

Hmmmm….. But what if you could buy these yummy treats, pre-made in markets and grocery stores?

Enter the Walter brothers, Alexander and Alfred. One summer in Fairhaven, VT., they played mad scientists, trying to produce the perfect potato chip. They were so successful they started selling the chips in a shed in back of the Fairhaven train station. Within a year or so they decided to expand, looked over the border into New York State and saw Albany.

In 1902 the brothers opened the Blue Ribbon* Potato Chip factory at 4 Liberty St; one the first in the country. It was a success. The factory had an endless source of potatoes from surrounding farms and a large supply of labor (mostly women) who lived in the South End in the early 1900s. Because Albany was a railroad hub they could ship all over the Northeast. Within several years, the company re-located to a larger home at 51 -53 Liberty St.

But the potato chip market was limited. Chips were still a relatively expensive food; their production was labor intensive, despite some technology improvements. “Store bought” potato chips were a luxury because of their price, reserved by working people for special occasions. Why pay 50 cents for a pound of potato chips when you could buy 3 lbs. of lamb tongue for 25 cents?

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3So, In 1925 the company (now only Alexander, since older brother Alfred passed away in 1922) made a bold move. It re-located to 13 South Lansing St., opening the first factory in the world devoted exclusively to potato chip manufacture. It had all the new equipment that speeded up the processes of potato chip production, from peeling to slicing to frying and packaging. The Blue Ribbon Chip brand thrived, in part because production costs were lower and more people could afford the product. Potato chips; no longer just for the rich!

 

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attachmentBut by the mid-1930s times were tough. The initial years of the Depression saw an increase in sales. In 1946, Richard, son of Alexander said the company pioneered triple sealed, waxed wrapped packaging. “People thought we were crazy, but it was on this packaging that our volumes of sales was built.” Still new snack foods like Twinkies were created; there was growing competition in the potato chip market as new companies emerged. You can find AA Walter Co. ads in from the local Times Union newspaper in which they are offering for sale thousands (yes, as much as 6,000) of pounds of potatoes they weren’t converting to chips. The company tried diversification; around 1935 it introduced “Krinx” a candied popcorn, but it was hard to compete with Cracker Jack…WITH peanuts AND a prize.

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Still in the late 1930s the country started to emerge from the Depression and sales rebounded. Then came World War II. The Walter Co. secured government contracts to produce potato chips for the troops and to stock cafeterias and canteens in manufacturing plants across the country. The factory ran two and sometimes three shifts a day. At one point, it produced 7 million pounds of Blue Ribbon Potato Chips in 9 months. It made dehydrated potatoes for K-Rations.

In 1948 the company moved out of the city and into a new and completely modern plant in Colonie on Railroad Ave., but it was sold the following year.

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12In 1950, Richard and his mother incorporated another business called Walter Foods. It was primarily known for its fried fish (which, BTW, was awesome); there was also a catering business. The first location on Central Ave. grew to 3, with another on the corner of Hudson and Lark and a third on Madison Ave. between West Lawrence and S. Allen. Throughout the 1950s it dominated the market in Albany. In 1954 it started to produce potato chips, using the original Walter brothers’ recipe and made the old-fashioned way, by hand (awesome!). But slowly the business contracted (we think given the competition of McDonald’s and Burger King) and the last location on Central Ave., closed in the early 1970s.

The end of an era.

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*Alexander was the breeder of award-winning pedigreed dogs; hence the name “Blue Ribbon” – the very best.

If you are interested in the history of the potato chip industry, please see either TogaChipGuy.com or https://www.facebook.com/TogaChipGuy

Fanny Brice and Albany; Before Nicky

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Fanny Brice (born today in 1891) was first married to a man from Albany, not Nicky Arnstein. He was Frank White, who ran a barber shop at the Kenmore Hotel. Fanny met Frank was she was performing at the Empire Theatre on State St., in “College Girls” in a Columbia “Wheel” traveling burlesque revue in early 1910. He followed her to Springfield, Mass. and they were married there.

In later years she said she married Frank because “My God, he smelled so nice”. By late that year, Fanny was already headlining for Flo Zeigfield in the Follies. Fanny and Frank were divorced in 1913. I have yet to discover what happened with Frank.. although he continued at the barber shop for at least 25 more years.

In addition to the burlesque shows (not really what you might think of as burlesque today.. more like variety shows with lots of girls.. a semi plot and lots of leg), the Empire offered vaudeville shows,and even Yiddish Theater a couple of times a month with a company that traveled to Albany from NYC. The Empire started out as legit theater in the late 1890s.. with stars like Maud Adams and Ethel Barrymore. By about 1905 it found it couldn’t compete as audience taste changed,

The Empire was prime real estate at 100 State St, and was demolished in 1922 for the City Savings Bank.

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A vision of Albany’s future, circa 1914; Get the flux capacitor

In 1912, architect Arnold W. Brunner was asked by James B. McEwan, then Mayor, to prepare studies for the improvement of Albany. The results were collected into a 1914 book entitled “Studies For Albany,” which I found on Google Books.

Much of what Brunner proposed was grandiose beyond belief, while other proposals were more practicable.

Here are some excerpts from that publication, which contains some excellent and rarely-seen photographs of Albany circa 1914.

STATE STREET
Brunner was critical of the eastern end of State, where it met the river, in ‘a tangle of mean streets and wretched buildings.” Although he knew there was a continuing desire to secure a view of the Hudson River, he acknowledged that clearing the area would only provide a view of the railroad yard. He recommended obliterating this view with a plaza that would screen the industrial scenario. This eventually became what we knew as the D&H Building.

Stvdies for Albany

THE STATE STREET PIER
The State Street Pier, containing the Albany Yacht Club building, was deemed isolated and improperly proportioned.. Brunner redesigned the pier, suggesting concrete paving instead of green fields, and discussed the ongoing replacement of the old bridge that connected the Pier with Quay Street.

THE RIVER FRONT
As for the waterfront, Brunner said, “The Albany water front had long been give up to commerce. Railways, steamships, factories and warehouses had siezed it and ruined it. Their activities were carried on in a slipshod manner without order or system, as may be seen in the accompanying photographs. The devastating ugliness of the old water front can no longer be endured.”

Brunner’s new waterfront would be one of “order and completeness.” He suggested elevating the railroad tracks and concealing them from view, a widened Broadway, freight yards screened away from view by walls and covered passages, and a uniform code of architecture, none of which came to pass.

 

CITY ENTRANCE
Brunner thought the Rensselaer Bridge “awkward and aggressively ugly,”’ and a horrible introduction to Albany. “As we cross the bridge from Rensselaer,” he said, “we find the most deplorable state of affairs on reaching the Albany side, and we receive the worst impression of a neglected neighborhood. There is a dangerous grade crossing, bad roads and a complication of tracks, freight cars and unsightly warehouses. Nothing could be more shabby and unpleasant.”

The imposing structure he proposed was loosely based on the grand entranceways to Bordeaux and Barcelona. It would be high enough to hide the trains on the other side. It’s an amazing rendering.

Stvdies for Albany

MARKET PLACE
Albany’s market place was an overcrowded mess. Brunner suggested expanding it eastward and installing a slightly elevated covered platform up to which vendors could pull up their trucks, and upon which shoppers could examine and purchase goods while being sheltered from the elements.

Stvdies for Albany

SHERIDAN PARK
This was the name for that steep drop-off property between Dove and Swan, extending from Elk Street almost to Sheridan Avenue. Brunner proposed a walking terrace and esplanade with playgrounds and a vehicle scenic overlook.

SUNKEN GARDEN
This was the name for the three blocks between Lancaster and Chestnut, from Main to Ontario, which eventually became St. Mary’s Park. The recommendation was a sunken garden, with decorative flower beds, a fountain, trees, and pavilions.

Stvdies for Albany

BEAVER PARK
Beaver Park, most of which was an unsanitary mess, would eventually become Lincoln Park. Brunner proposed an ambitious project incorporating an athletic field, a swimming pool, a children’s playground, and some monumental structures. There would be a broad flight of steps leading from the track to the top of the terrace; they would double as a grandstand. A pavilion would contain dressing rooms, baths, etc.

Stvdies for Albany

The swimming pool would have two parts, one for swimmers, and the other a children’s wading pool. “It is intended to secure the appearance of a natural lake with sandy shores and bottom and to provide all the delights of ‘the old swimming hole.’” At the lower end of the park would be a children’s playground, with wading pool, sand piles, slides, swings and a babies’ lawn “in front of a shady pergola for the mothers.”

Stvdies for Albany

A new bandstand was also recommended.

Stvdies for Albany

One of the few remaining old houses on the west end of the property was once the home of Dr James Hall, a noted geologist. It was to be remodeled and used for meetings and bad-weather recreation.

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In time, much of what Brunner suggested for the park came to be.

 

SWINBURNE PARK
Band concerts were popular here at the turn of the century, so a deluxe new bandstand was proposed, large enough to double as an open-air theatre for plays and cultural events.

 

From Al Quaglieri’s  blog Doc Circe Died for Our Sins

Everything Old is New Again – Open Air Movies in Albany

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzIn the past couple of years open air movies in the summer have become a “thing”. That got us thinking, and we found that they aren’t a new idea – far from it. They’re actually a revival of a craze from the early 1900s.

The first successful movie theater in the U.S. opened in 1905. By 1908 there were at least a half dozen or so makeshift “nickel theaters” (Nickelodeons) on S. Pearl St., Central Ave., Broadway and N. Pearl in Albany. Others quickly followed, when traditional theaters like Proctor’s on S. Pearl, Harmanus Bleecker Hall (where the Albany Public Library is today) and the Albany Grand Theatre (where the O’Brien Federal Bldg is now located) started to show photoplays (films) as well. But whether they were simply store front operations or theaters with velvet seats, they all had one thing in common, they were HOT HOT HOT in the summer without air conditioning.

Enter the entrepreneur to meet the need. The open air theatre craze swept Albany as it did the rest of the country. Open air theatres were cheap money makers. Much less capitol required for startup than traditional theaters and they could be located in areas far more accessible to Albany’s growing population as it spread out in the western parts of the city, above downtown.

Here’s the list of open air theatres (or air domes as they were sometimes called).
The Avenue – Clinton and Judson (a/k/a Clinton Park)
The Beaver Airdome – Morton Ave. opposite Beaver Park (Lincoln Park today)- between Eagle and S. Swan.
The Bijou –Central Ave near Quail (said to be the most popular)
The Boulevard Airdome – Northern Boulevard (Henry Johnson) and Sheridan.
The Central – 94 Central Ave (originally an old livery stable with many large doors and windows it opened to become an “open air theatre”) between Lexington and Henry Johnson Blvd.
The Family – 12 Central Ave, just above Lark, about where the Fuze Box is now
Hamilton Park – A corner of Hamilton and Grand
The Hillcrest – 103 Second Ave
The Idle Hour Park – Second Ave. between Raymo and Hurlbut – The granddaddy of open air movies in Albany. It was started in 1910 by 2 enterprising employees of the United Traction Company. It was favorite among the trade union crowd.
The Open Air – N. Pearl and Columbia St. behind Lodge’s.
The Parkway – This was an indoor theatre with an attached open air theater, located in what is now Lark Tavern and laundromat next door)
And then there was the Regent Theatre on S. Pearl and Hamilton.. a marvel of technology, built in 1916. It was a combination indoor and open air theatre – it had six 12” x 12” opening in the ceiling that opened and closed via some sort of electric apparatus.

The venues were varied in terms of amenities and many improved over time. Some started with benches, a screen and a projector in a vacant lot. The Idle Hour had manicured lawns and flower gardens. It was “branded” by its red, white and blue and its fences were festooned with electric lights in those colors. Some were in a canvas tent; when the weather was nice the sides could be tied up to let in breezes, but could be closed. Others had brick walls. These theatres operated beyond the traditional months of May through September, and could be open as late as Halloween. The seating capacity varied – smaller theaters could accommodate only 400 patrons, while the Open Air Theatre on Columbia St. said it had room for 1,800 movie goers.

As the open air theatres thrived, they started providing piano and even band accompaniments for the silent films. Often young boys provided “sound effects” from behind the screen. Some offered concerts before the photoplays started. Concession stands offered ice cream, candy, soft drinks and pastries. In the chicest of the theaters, there were small café tables.

But almost as rapidly as the open air theatre craze started, it came to an end by about 1920, although some few managed to hang on. A number of factors lead to its demise. The novelty wore off. The land on which the theaters were located became too valuable for just summer entertainment and noise from the increasing numbers of motor cars and trolleys interfered with musical accompaniments and sound effects. And even through air conditioning did not become common in traditional theaters until the late 1920s, theater owners developed intricate and complex systems with huge fans and air exchanging devices to cool the air in the summer and lure customers back from open air theaters.

We’ve been unable to track down photos of Albany’s open air theaters, so we’ve provided some pictures of theaters across the country to give you an idea of what they probably looked like. In a couple of instances, we could readily identify the exact locations of the theaters in Albany, so we’ve also included Google map images to provide a sense of some of open air theatre locations.

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Why Albany Can’t Have Nice Things; Lions Have An Albany Hudson-Fulton Celebration Past

The town of Williamstown, Massachusetts is currently restoring some artifacts from a pretty much forgotten celebration of two important events in New York State history.

In the fall of 1909, various activities took place from New York City up to Albany to commemorate Hendrick Hudson’s 1609 trip up the river that would come to bear his name, and also the 1809 steamboat trip on the river by Robert Fulton’s Clermont.
In connection with the Hudson-Fulton Celebration, several sculptures were positioned at the top of State Street hill in Albany, on the eastern side of the Capitol building. A statue of Hendrick Hudson stood at a vantage point above the river, with a lion on either side of him. Made of plaster of paris, they were presumably the molds for bronze statues whose whereabouts have been lost to history.

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After the celebrations were over, the Albany statues were moved inside the Capitol, where they were on display with the battle flags and other artifacts from the Civil War. There, they greeted visitors for some 40 years. Then, in 1954, Hudson and his lions, along with statues of Christopher Columbus and Sir Walter Raleigh were unceremoniously removed. Some renovations were being undertaken in the Capitol, and the State Budget Division found it a convenient excuse to dispose of the five statues.

A contract was given to Daniel A. Lanzetta, who owned a marble works in Albany, for some of the renovation work and it included the removal of five statutes. The pieces were hauled to Lanzetta’s business, located on South Pearl Street, where they were to be destroyed. “We aren’t to bring them back,” said Lanzetta, quoted in the Knickerbocker News on March 31, 1954. “They’re to be destroyed. The state doesn’t want them any more.” Lanzetta did offer to give any of the items away, so long as the takers would bear the cost of their transportation.

During the move from the Capitol, Hudson’s head had become separated from his body, adding to the indignity of the occasion. Newspapers reported, however, that re-attaching the head (which was reported to be sitting in a bird bath at Lanzetta’s) could be easily accomplished. A sixth sculpture, of an Albany soldier who had been killed in World War I, was treated with more honor, and was moved to a different spot in the Capitol.

Some complaints were raised, especially by David Lithgow, who had sculpted the statue of the soldier, who claimed that one of the pieces of artwork had been created by noted sculptor Daniel Chester French. (If any of the pieces were the handiwork of French, it must have been either Columbus or Raleigh, since Albany resident, Miriam Clausen, came forward to say that her uncle, Charles Lewis Hinton, had created the Hudson piece — and, one might suspect — also the lions.) Lithgow faulted “ignorant politicians” for the travesty. He asked the Knickerbocker News: “Don’t they know it’s important to keep a link with the past?” The Budget Division said that the State Historian and the State Librarian had indicated they had little knowledge of the statues’ provenances, and had doubted their historical significance. The State Museum claimed they’d not been consulted about the removal of the artwork, but also said they had no use for them.

Though the mayor of the city of Hudson made inquiries about obtaining the decapitated Hudson figure, it is uncertain what became of it, and what happened to the Columbus and Raleigh pieces. As for the lions, despite a plea made by the Albany Lions Club to Governor Thomas E. Dewey, they stayed at Lanzetta’s. There — though spared from immediate destruction — they stood for a decade beneath a canopy, where they were only minimally protected from the ravages of Albany’s winter weather.
Somehow, a man named Albert Bachand became aware of their existence. The lions, he thought, would make impressive decorations for a mobile home park he had built in Williamstown, Massachusetts. Bachand’s park, called The Spruces, was not quite your average trailer park: its features included, for example, an ornamental pool with spouting fountains that made singing noises.
About 1965, Bachand purchased the lions from Lanzetta and had them transported to his park, where, standing atop platforms supported by pillars, they graced the entrance. One lion suffered damage during the move, and Bachand had to use a quarter-ton of cement to effect repairs.

In 2011, Hurricane Irene sent the Hoosic River over its banks, and the flooding wreaked terrific damage to most of the mobile homes, forcing the relocation of many residents. Eventually, the town purchased the property via disaster funding. Though the park belongs to history now, the lions — which through the years have become local landmarks — will remain on guard at their stations, restored to their original leonine stateliness.

Author note: it is an unusual coincidence, but Hendrick Hudson’s lions were not the only pair that were relocated from Albany to Williamstown. A pair of stone lions that had graced the Ezra Parmalee Prentice mansion at the south end of Albany also made the trip. They were taken from Prentice’s Mount Hope estate to his Mount Hope Farm, located on Green River Road in Williamstown, probably sometime in the late 1920s or 1930s. In 1962, the Prentice lions, reportedly made of stone rather than plaster, were boxed up and trucked to another Prentice family farm, operated by American Breeders Service near Madison, Wisconsin.

Friends note: Part of the Patroon’s Van Rensselaer Manor made its way to a fraternity house in Williamstown circa 1900.

by David Fiske from the New York History blog http://newyorkhistoryblog.org

Read all about it. Albany’s First Newspaper.. a HUGE deal

The first issue of Albany’s first newspaper, the “Albany Gazette”, was published yesterday, November 25 in 1771. It was also the first newspaper published in New York State outside of New York City. The publishers were 2 Scotsmen, the Robertson brothers. There is some disagreement regarding their shop location; either Court St. (tiny chunk of what is now Broadway, south of State, near Beaver and Hudson) or Chapel near Pine St. We’re not sure how long the paper lasted, but the Robertson brothers were Loyalists and fled Albany in 1776 for Canada; the paper ceased publication at least 2 years before they left.

In 1782 Charles Webster and Solomon Balantine started the “Northern Gazetteer or Northern Intelligencer”; but there was trouble in paradise. A year later Webster dissolved the partnership and left for New York City. When Balantine left Albany, Webster returned to Albany, and in 1784 he started printing the “Albany Gazette” again. Shortly thereafter, his brother George joined him in the business.

(NOTE: Joel Munsell, printer and historian of Albany in the mid-1800s, reports that it was once suggested to the Websters that they print the Gazette in Dutch, in whole or in part, given the number of people in Albany and surrounding areas who did not speak or read English.)

The Great Fire of 1793 destroyed he Webster Brothers print shop on Middle Lane (a short alley connecting State St. to Maiden Lane; now James St.). In 1794 a new, much larger shop was erected at the corner of State and Pearl and came to be known as the “White House”. That corner is the famous “Old Elm Tree Corner”, after a tree planted by Philip Livingston in the 1730s. That tree stood for about 150 years, until being cut down in the late 1800s.

The “Albany Gazette” merged with the Daily Advertiser in 1817 and became known as the “Albany Gazette and Daily Advertiser”. It suspended publication in 1845.

PS. Look carefully enough and you will an old plaque embedded in the wall of the bank that stands on the Old Elm Tree Corner commemorating Philip Livingston and the Tree, but sadly nothing about the “Albany Gazette”.

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Recalling the Grocery Stores of Albany’s Past

The trick of time is that it passes slowly, and changes are incremental, so you can hardly notice it happening. The world of today looks mostly like the world of yesterday to us, and yet there have been a thousand little changes over the years that separate those worlds. When things change all at once, it seems a revolution, but when they change little by little, it just seems the passing of time.

Grocery stores are one example. Sure, 50 years ago, they were selling milk and meats, frozen foods and Cap’n Crunch, just as they are today. And yet everything about them has changed.

Grocery stores in the Capital District used to be numerous, to say the least. The 1870 directory for Albany alone listed 17 wholesale grocers. Retail grocers counted in the hundreds, at a time when Albany’s population was just about 70,000. In 1920, when Albany had 113,000 residents, there were 20 wholesalers and an even greater number of retailers, in every corner of the city.

Every neighborhood had several groceries in those days, and shopping for food was often a daily enterprise. The vast majority of these were small storefronts, usually the lower levels of residential buildings – you can often see reminders of them today, in places that long survived as neighborhood stores, as odd bump-outs on the fronts of brownstones, as enlarged entries and windows at the basement level.

Even when I was growing up in an older suburb in the ’60s and ’70s, they were still numerous. My first real job was working in one of them, one of the last of the high-quality butcher shops in the region, which was also a neighborhood grocery store.

Somewhere around the 1930s the supermarket concept was developed – a neighborhood store, but with more, and run by a central chain. There were A&P stores, and Grand Unions and Mohicans. For a while, there was a chain associated with the area’s seminal radio station, WGY Food Stores. But even as late as 1958, the chains barely had a hold. There was one A&P in Albany, one Albany Public Market, one Grand Union, four Empires, two Central Markets (later to become Price Chopper). Trading Post was the biggest chain in the city, with 5 locations.

The rest of the city’s shopping was done at small neighborhood stores with names like Gimondo, Femia, Sharkey Demaco, Rosenberg, and Tanski. Even the so-called supermarkets were very much part of their neighborhoods in those days, often repurposing previous buildings — such as the Central Markets location on Madison and Swan, which was built on the rather generous stone foundation of the Madison Avenue Second Reformed Church that had burned in 1930.

But with the move of population to the suburbs, the chains started to grow. Competition and demographics, and the willingness of Americans to drive absolutely everywhere rather than walk anywhere, contributed to bigger and bigger centrally-located, chain-owned stores, and the death of these tiny independents.

And the experience of shopping in them changed, too

The stores themselves aren’t the only thing about groceries that have changed. Almost everything else has, too, but in ways that are almost invisible. Everyone probably realizes that plastic grocery bags didn’t even used to exist, and that soda and milk came exclusively in glass bottles, and was all bottled nearby. Burlap has practically disappeared from anything but craft stores, but 40 years ago, potatoes, onions and oranges all came in burlap sacks. Meat was nearly always cut to order, and wrapped in brown butcher paper, tied with string, rather than laid out on a foam tray and stacked in coolers. Even something as simple as a box of cereal isn’t the same as it was four decades ago. The box itself is infinitely thinner for both environmental and economic reasons. The bag that actually holds the cereal used to be a satisfyingly thick, crinkly wax paper that would sort of stay closed; now it’s a thin plastic film that never will. Very little food came in any kind of plastic container at all.

Prices were not on little paper stickers (if those still exist) or posted on the shelves – they were stamped onto the ends of cans and boxes with heavy blue ink using a price stamper – the stockboy (that’s what we were) would spin the numbers on the stamper to the correct price, press it against the ink pad, and then punch the stamper against the top of the can or box. (This is now so archaic that it’s hard to even Google search for it.) When the prices needed to be changed (and in the days of inflation in the 1970s, that was often), the stockboy would clean the price off the can with a rag and nail polish remover so the new (higher) price could be stamped on.

(In the store I worked in, by the way, the markup from wholesale was 40%, much higher than the chains. That might seem outrageous, but that was money that paid local workers, sponsored the store’s Little League team, and built wealth in the community, rather than sending it off to a corporate headquarters in a remote land.)

When you carried your groceries up to the register, there were no scanners. The check-out clerk had to enter each item’s price into the cash register. Unmarked items weren’t usually a problem – the clerk knew the price of most things. Your receipt had prices but only categories that would describe the items, such as “Gr” for grocery, “Pr” for produce, etc.

The most subtle change in grocery stores, as in most stores, is the ambient music. Whereas now you can expect the odd experience of hearing The Clash sing “Lost in the Supermarket” while you are, in fact, lost in the supermarket, real music in retail spaces didn’t happen until the 1980s. For decades before that, there was something called Muzak, and its ilk: light, syrupy string arrangements of almost-identifiable melodies intended to give no offense and to set no pulse to racing. As a customer, it was just there. As an employee, it could make you insane. In the days before the Walkman was invented, I learned to play entire albums in my own head, note for note, so as to drown out the cloying melodies of the Muzak.

Today, the Albany area is, depending on how you count, down to three or four grocery chains with multiple locations (not counting Walmart or Target). Only one of them, Price Chopper, is local. Very few of them are within any of the city limits, catering almost entirely to the suburbanites.

But with the trend toward more and more downtown living, some form of the neighborhood store will have to re-emerge. Personally, I just hope it brings back burlap.

By Carl Johnson from All Over Albany.com

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