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.)

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

President Grant’s Funeral Procession in Albany

On August 5 , 1885 thousands of people filed into the new Capitol to view the body of President Ulysses S. Grant lying in state.

Grant died on July 23 at a cottage in Mt. McGregor* in Wilton in Saratoga County. He and his family had removed there in late spring. He was dying of cancer and in desperate financial straits. He went to the cottage (loaned to him by a friend in New York City) to finish writing his memoirs. (They would be a critical and commercial success, securing the future of his wife Julia.)

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image052Many of Grant’s closest friends and allies traveled from across the country to Mt. McGregor to attend a private service on the top of the mountain on August 4th. They included the men who would come to be known for winning the Civil War under General Grant – General William Sherman who marched through the South, Albany’s own General Philip Sheridan (that’s his statue in front of the Capitol) and General Winfield Scott Hancock – who stood at Cemetery Ridge at the Battle of Gettysburg and repelled Pickett’s Charge.

After the service the funeral train made its way down the steep mountain on its journey to Albany and New York City. It stopped at Albany at the corner of Spencer and Montgomery streets, just above the D & H railroad depot at 3:40 pm. A procession formed, headed by General Hancock, and made its way to the Capitol. The buildings were draped in black crepe and people wore black armbands.

3 (2)Businesses and factories closed.The crowd was dense. Thousands lined Albany streets in the stifling heat and humidity of an August day as the procession made its way over North Pearl St. ,up State st. over Eagle St opposite the new City Hall, up Washington Ave. and then down State St. to the Capitol General Winfield Hancock, said to have been Grant’s favorite and head of the largest Civil War veterans organization in the country, lead the 4,000 marchers, mounted on a powerful black horse, to a slow and deliberate drum beat through the streets. The procession included a riderless horse, a tradition started at George Washington’s funeral.

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Middle-aged men wrestled into their old blue wool uniforms and walked somberly in the cortege of their Commander-in Chief. Older men removed their hats and bent their heads as the carriage bearing Grant’s coffin passed. Women wept, including my great great grandmother and her children. Her oldest daughter (my great grandmother) was born in August, 1865 and named Julia, in honor of Grant’s wife. Grant had ended the war and the boys had come home. It’s unlikely there was anyone in the crowd who had not suffered loss from the War, but Grant had ended the killing.

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The catafalque of the President was placed in the Senate corridor, surrounded by an honor guard; at 5:00 pm the public viewing began. In the first hour, 7,500 people filed in two by two. Viewing went through the night. It was estimated that over 75,000 mourners had passed through the Capitol by the time doors were shut the next morning.

9The trip down to the other Albany railroad station on Broadway and Steuben began at around 11 am on August 5th, to the sound of blaring trumpets. The carriage carrying the coffin was hitched to 6 black horses and, again, General Hancock lead the procession down State St. The crowds appeared even larger than the previous day. The bells of the churches tolled continuously and the dull booms of cannon from the western part of the city could be heard. At around 12:30 pm, the funeral train started on its journey to New York City where the crowds would be larger than they had been for Lincoln’s funeral train.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Cuyler Reynolds and the Albany Rural Cemetery – He Got No Respect

Visitors who stop into the Albany Rural Cemetery Office for genealogical research often comment on the detailed burial index cards which are not unlike an old-fashioned library card catalog. A cache of old documents tell an interesting tale of the card file’s possible origin.

Cuyler Reynolds, brother of architect Marcus T. Reynolds, is best remembered as the Albany City Historian (which is noted on the black stone slab covering his grave in Section 17).

Cuyler was the first curator of the Albany Institute of History & Art after the older Albany Institute and Albany Historical & Art Society merged. He served as its curator from 1899 to 1909 and it was during his tenure that the museum’s famous pair of mummies was acquired.

In 1908, just after his work on the New York exhibits at the Jamestown Exposition, Cuyler Reynolds wrote a letter to attorney Marcus T. Hun (the Hun and Reynolds families were related – Marcus’ mother was the former Lydia Reynolds). The cover letter has not been located yet, but the typed statement that he enclosed reads:

“In February 1907, I addressed the Trustees of the Albany Rural Cemetery, meeting in upper room of the Mechanics & Farmers’ Bank, Dudley Olcott presiding, advocating the introduction of a card system for the records.

I submitted a tentative form of card which I had printed at my own expense.

The matter was considered to radical to be adopted at that time, and I then was appointed director of the N.Y.S. Historical Exposition at the Jamestown Exposition, where I spent the summer and fall of 1907.”

At the bottom of the typed statement, written boldly above his signature, Cuyler Reynolds wrote, “The idea was mine.”

The implication of this statement is that, after rejecting Reynolds’ proposal for a new way of filing burial records, the 1907 board adopted a strikingly similar card system in his absence. It appears that Reynold was seeking credit for the design and compensation of some sort.

37200829_1597095057065774_6681363576491343872_nMarcus T. Hun’s reply seems somewhat uninterested in taking up the cause:

“As to the Cemetery Association the matter seems to rest with you and Mr. Burns, and possibly if you wish to get closer to the trustees, with Mr. Dudley Olcott.

I hope you will be be able to make some arrangement that will be satisfactory to you, as it seems to me that it would be to the advantage of the Cemetery to have you clear up these defects in the old records.”

Marcus T. Hun would later serve as president of the Albany Cemetery Association until his death in 1920.

This is where the paper trail ends for now. Did Cuyler ever resolve the issue and receive any credit for his design which is indeed strikingly similar to the file system in use now? The answer might lie in the long missing Trustee minutes which have not been seen since they were misplaced during one of the many mergers and moves of local banks, including the old Mechanics & Farmers.

Cuyler Reynolds, “widely known as a collector and historian, and official historian of the city of Albany” (and likely designer of the Rural Cemetery’s card system) died on May 24, 1934. He was buried in the large Dexter-Reynolds family plot in Lot 1, Section 17. More of his story will be told another time. Marcus T. Hun is also buried in the same lot.

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The Demise of St. Paul’s; Demolition for the Empire State Plaza

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Blandina Dudley came from an early Albany Dutch family and married Charles Dudley who eventually became a U.S. Senator from New York State.  When he died, he left her a very wealthy widow, probably one of the richest women in the State in the early 1840s.  She was a woman of great philanthropy. Her greatest achievement was donation of the funds to establish the Dudley Observatory in Albany in 1856, one of the first in the nation.  Her other good works included donation of half of the cost for erecting a new building for the Third Reformed Church on Lancaster Street between Swan and Hawk Streets, to be known as the Dudley Reformed Church.

Since 1837, the church had been at Green and South Ferry Streets, but “frequent floods swept over this section of the city during spring freshets,” and they decided to move to the west, where the filling and grading of the Ruttenkill ravine had recently opened a new and desirable neighborhood.

In May 1861, with construction nearly complete, disaster struck: within two weeks four city banks failed. Funding for the church disappeared, and Third Reformed was forced to abandon the project. They remained on Green Street until 1914, when the congregation moved to 20 Ten Eyck Avenue, where they still worship today.

Third Reformed Church’s tragedy created an opportunity for another city congregation in crisis. St. Paul’s Episcopal was also planning to move up the hill, from its location on South Pearl Street. They had selected a site, hired an architect and obtained funding for a new church, when the same banking crisis destroyed their plans. Because they had already begun negotiations for sale of the old building, the congregation feared that they could become homeless. A year later, they were able to buy the unfinished Dudley Reformed building from the builder, modify it for Episcopal liturgy, and move there by 1864.

St. Paul’s was to worship on Lancaster Avenue for a century, forced to leave when the area was leveled for construction of the South Mall*. The congregation was able to take some of the windows to the new building on Hackett Boulevard, and the New York State Museum rescued the church’s pulpit, but many of the contents of the building were sold at auction.

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The congregation’s pleas to spare St. Paul’s “as a spiritual and aesthetic center in the midst of the new State Building” were rejected by planners. But whenever we walk through the Empire State Plaza, we envision the former Dudley Reformed Church building, neatly tucked between Agency Buildings 3 and 4.

  • St. Paul’s was one of  4 churches demolished  to construct the Empire State Plaza; the others were St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church (which re-built on WHitehall Rd.);  the Church of the Assumption) which re-built in Latham and  the First Methodist Church, whose congregation with Trinity Methodist in Albany on Lark St.

By Paul Nance from his blog, Grains Once Scattered

The Dudley Observatory

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The first Dudley Observatory was dedicated atop a ridge in Arbor Hill in 1856. in the area now known as Dudley Heights. Funding was donated by Blandina Bleecker Dudley, widow of a wealthy Albany banker.

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By the 1890s, there was need to to move the Observatory to an area with less light pollution (from the growing Arbor Hill area) and vibrations from the nearby NYCRR trains running through Tivoli Hollow. A plot of land was acquired on the corner of New Scotland and South Lake Avenue, and a new Observatory was constructed, near the County Alms House, in 1893.

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By the mid 1960s the Observatory was on the move again. The land upon which it stood was acquired by NYS for an inpatient mental health hospital and the Observatory moved to a warehouse on Fuller Rd. in 1967. The vacant Observatory building was seriously damaged by fire in 1970, demolished and Capital District Psychiatric Center (CDPC) was constructed on the old site circa 1972.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

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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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The First Burials in Albany Rural Cemetery- 1845

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A tall monument marked with the name “Strain” stands at the edge of a steep hill at the eastern edge of the North Ridge. It is a fairly simple tombstone by Albany marble cutter John Dixon,but an inscription on its south face tells that it marks “The First Interment In The Cemetary” (note the incorrect spelling of cemetery).

These first burials at the Rural Cemetery took place in May, 1845. Twenty-one year old David Strain died of consumption on October 24, 1844, just a few weeks after the consecration. Buried at the same time were Rebecca and Isabelle Strain. Rebecca was an infant sister who died in 1829. The records don’t indicate twenty-five year old Isabelle’s relationship to David. She may have been his paternal aunt; she died of an inflammation of the brain in 1819.

While the Cemetery had already been dedicated when he died, it was not yet completed; there was still landscaping required, new paths to be laid out, and other improvements to be made. It is likely that young David’s remains would have been placed in one of the public receiving vaults still in use at the old State Street Burying Grounds until the family plot was ready to receive him, along with Rebecca and Isabelle.

A sentimental poem later published in the Albany Argus hints that David may have gone abroad to seek a cure and reads: “Sleep on, it seems but yesterday,Thou wert in foreign lands, Where thou wert met by glowing hearts, And more than friendly hands. When all the spells their love had tried Could not thy health restore, Weary and faint, you dared the sea To reach thy home once more.”

David and Rebecca were children of Albany soap and candle manufacturer Joseph Strain. His soap and candle factory stood at 54 Church Street in Albany, his residence was a few doors away at 63 Church. The family’s summer home still stands at the corner of Broadway and McDonald Circle in Menands. For many years, it served as the Home For Aged Men.

The Strain family plot is located on what was originally called Kennisau Hill and later renamed Landscape Hill. It is now simply Lot 46, Section 6.

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The Grim Past of Van Rensselaer Park

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Located between the vacant St. Joseph’s Church and the Ten Broeck Mansion (identified on the 1876 map below as the property of Thomas W. Olcott), Van Rensselaer Park is a small and pretty wedge of urban greenspace.

Framed by Ten Broeck Street, Ten Broeck Place, Hall Place, and Second Street, it features a modern playground and an elegant 19th-century iron fence. Its history, however, goes back to the mid-18th century and the Patroons of Rensselaerwyck.

On October 31 1764, Stephen Van Rensselaer II deeded this parcel of land to the City of Albany specifically for the purpose of a cemetery. At the time, this area was known as “The Colonie,” though by 1808 it was annexed to the city proper.

Known variously over the years as the Colonie Burial Ground, the Arbor Hill Burial Ground, and the Van Rensselaer Burial Ground, the Patroon intended that the lot be used held by the city “on the condition that the same should not be applied to any private purpose or secular use, but should remain as a burial ground or cemetery for all persons in the manor of Rensselaerwyck.”

The Van Rensselaer Burial Ground is not to be confused with the private vault which was later built on the grounds of the Van Rensselaer Manor House for the interment of the Patroon’s own family and which was later torn down in favor of a large plot at the Albany Rural Cemetery.

As with the municipal State Street Burying Grounds at the western edge of the city, the little Arbor Hill Burial Ground eventually became an eyesore. The streets around it were filling up with elegant new houses. Construction and improvements to the surrounding streets altered the grade of the land around the old cemetery. Removal of the surrounding soil raised the burial grounds edges to an embankment of some fifteen feet. Bones and coffins were often exposed as sand was removed. Sometimes the remains tumbled into adjacent lots. The surrounding wooden fence was in ruins.

The well-to-do residents of Ten Broeck Triangle were not pleased to see gloomy old tombstones and exposed remains from their windows and stoops. Local property owners, including Joseph Hall (the namesake of Hall Place), advocated for its removal.

An 1844 report to the Common Council observed:

“The whole presents a neglected and ruinous aspect, which must be painful to the surviving friends of the dead, who are buried there, and a source of annoyance to a neighborhood daily becoming more populous, notwithstanding the obstacle to its growth which this burying ground presents…..would not be expedient to continue to use this ground for future interments. The public are becoming every day more convinced of the inconveniences and painful associations, as well as the unhealthiness of burying the dead in the midst of the habitations of the living, and it is to be hoped that the practice with us, as it is in very many cities, will be entirely discontinued. Apart from the other considerations, this ground, after all that may be done for its improvement, will still present an appearance of insecurity, which must deter most persons from allowing their friends to be buried in it. We are, however, bound to protect the remains of those who now lie there, and the question presents itself whether it is better to put the ground in as decent condition as possible, or to remove the remains to a proper place where they may remain undisturbed in future.”

One expensive proposed remedy was a new fence of varying heights to enclose the forlorn graveyard. Another proposal called for removing the old remains to a lot at the new Rural Cemetery and erecting a suitable monument over them.

“We propose then, in place of maintaining at a heavy expense to the city the present unsightly burying ground on Arbor Hill, that the remains of those buried there should be carefully removed to the new cemetery and then deposited in a vault over which a handsome monument shall be erected – on the monument the names of dead may be inscribed and it will thus stand as a perpetual memorial. Neither the growth of the city or any probable contingency will ever disturb the remains there deposited – survivors will no longer be shocked by seeing the bones of their relatives bleaching in the sun, but will feel a comfort and joy in seeing the place of their repose surrounded as it will be by the most appropriate associations, and their own pathway to the grave may be made more cheerful by the thought that the same resting place may at the appointed time receive their own remains, as well as those of their friends.”

In the end, neither plan was adopted. On October 1, 1849, Stephen Van Rensselaer III deeded the land to the city again. Now that the city held title to the land without the stipulation that it be used for burials, work began to clear the graves and transform the old boneyard into a small park (just two decades later, the State Street Burying Grounds would similarly be converted to Washington Park)

Relatives of the deceased at were given a chance to remove the bodies of their kin from the Arbor Hill Burial Grounds at their own expense; a few were indeed transferred to the Rural Cemetery. The rest would be disposed of by the city. According to a 1901 column in the Albany Evening Journal:

“A large underground vault was placed in the center of the plot and all bodies not claimed were put in the common vault and the spot covered. The bones, or what remains of them, are now reposing within the confines of the park.”

The articles and records make little or no mention of what became of the old headstones. They might have been stacked inside the vault, recycled for paving and other purposes, or simply discarded.

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Originally posted  by Paula Lemire to http://albanynyhistory.blogspot.com/

The Corner of State and Pearl.. a/k/a “The Old Elm Tree Corner”

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For over 300 years, the northwest corner of State and N. Pearl has been a very special part of Albany. In the late 1600s it was originally the site of the home of Nicholas Van Rensselaer and Alida Schuyler. After Nicholas died, Alida married Robert Livingston in 1679 (her husband’s former bookkeeper) and the Livingstons remained in the house on the corner. In 1735, Philip Livingston, future signer of the Declaration of Independence, planted what was to become the famous “Old Elm Tree” in front of that house.

Prior to the Revolution, the corner housed the “Blue Bell Tavern “and a number of stores. By 1794, it was known as Webster’s Corner. The Webster Brothers bookstore and printing house published the “Albany Gazette” and “The Albany Journal” and cartloads of Noah Webster’s spelling books and dictionary were dispersed throughout the Northeast. In the mid 1830s, the Boardman & Gray Piano Showroom and factory set up on the corner. And the Elm Tree remained.

In 1860 the grand Tweddle Hall opened, with shops and offices on the bottom floor and a large theater/hall above. However, by 1877, Mr. Tweddle (president of the Merchants Bank) finally gave into progress, and when N. Pearl St. was to be widened, he allowed the ancient “Old Elm Tree” to be cut down.

Maybe karma… maybe not… but in 1883, Tweddle Hall was destroyed by a disastrous fire. Tweddle re-built on the site, the Tweddle Building, without the hall, but again home to numerous stores and offices.

In 1915, Tweddle Hall was demolished for expansion of the Ten Eyck Hotel. just above it, facing State St. The hotel stood on that corner for another almost another 60 years.
Throughout most of the 20th century, it was the most famous trolley/bus stop in Albany and a meeting place for anyone Downtown.

During the 1950s and 1960s almost every bus in the City stopped at the corner. The sidewalk was wide and at 5pm there could be as many as 200 people crammed on the corner at any given time, waiting for “their bus,” one of a long line that often stretched several blocks. There was a Walgreen’s drugstore in the bottom of the Ten Eyck, the perfect place, if you were a kid, to dash in to buy a nickel Hershey bar… or if an adult, a copy of the Knickerbocker News, Albany’s evening newspaper for the bus ride home.
The Ten Eyck Hotel closed in around 1969 and the building was demolished, along with the Albany Savings Bank next door, for a new bank building of astoundingly modern architecture built in the early 1970s.

There was a plaque paying tribute to the Old Elm.Tree. but that has vanished over time; today’s plaque commemorates Philip Livingston, but not the tree he planted that stood for 130 some odd years.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

The Public Market in Albany

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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.

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

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Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor