A Brief History of Albany’s New Scotland Avenue and How it Grew

At the beginning of the 1800s there was nothing on the New Scotland Plank Rd. but farmland, woods and fields. The first buildings we know are an inn, the Log Tavern* at the corner of Krumkill Rd.-a stopping point for the farmers going to and from the city, and a couple of farmhouses. The Plank Rd. was a toll road with several tollgates – one just beyond Ontario St. and another near what’s now the Golf Course.

3In 1826 the Almshouse (poor house) was established in the area that today is bounded by New Scotland Ave., Holland Ave., Hackett Blvd. and Academy Rd. (Back then the other 3 streets didn’t exist.) The next building to be constructed, in the 1840s, was the Penitentiary. (The VA Hospital is there now; built in the late 1940s, after the Penitentiary was razed in the 1930s.)


In the 1870s William Hurst established Pleasure Park, a popular and successful horse race trotting track and picnic area near Whitehall Rd. and New Scotland Ave. (He later went on to own the Log Tavern.)


2But Albany was growing – moving west, out Lydius St. (now Madison Ave.). In the early 1860s the area around the intersection of Madison and New Scotland started to see development, and a little stub of New Scotland Rd. from Madison to Myrtle Ave. was known briefly (for about 15 years) as Lexington Ave. In 1871 Washington Park opened and the area became fashionable. By the 1880s the Park trustees decided build a house for the Park’s Superintendent, as well as an array of greenhouses, on what is now the corner of Holland Ave. and New Scotland.

zzzzYet development west of Myrtle Ave. was slow. In 1893 the Dudley Observatory ** moved from Arbor Hill to New Scotland and South Lake Ave. In the late 1890s Albany Hospital was bursting at the seams in its downtown location at Eagle and Howard Streets, and moved to New Scotland Ave. About a decade later the Albany Orphan Asylum moved to what is now the corner of Academy Rd. and New Scotland Ave. (from Robin St. and Western Ave.). Today the buildings house the Sage College of Albany. It was originally known as the Junior College of Albany when it first opened in 1959.)***


5.1But within the decade residential and commercial growth exploded. Much of the land near the intersections of South Lake Ave. and Academy Rd. **** was owned by the Albany Driving Association, a private club that had a track for trotter horse races to the west of Academy Rd. The members decided to sell their vast tract of land (between New Scotland and what is now Hackett Blvd. and Forest Ave.) and established the Woodlawn Park development.

7Steadily residential growth pushed west. Yet there was no trolley service. The first bus service started about1914 – the “terminal” was at the intersection of South Allen St. and New Scotland. But this was a “suburban” area deliberately designed to accommodate the automobile as the primary means of transportation.

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By 1920 the Troop B Armory was constructed next to the Orphan Asylum. (Today it’s part of the Sage College Campus.) In 1921 Memorial Grove (the corner of South Lake and New Scotland) was created to honor the men who died in World War I.

7.1And that’s how New Scotland Ave. grew. By the mid-1920s there was a fire house, a public school, and Catholic Church. By the early 1930s St. Peter’s Hospital re-located to its current spot, from North Albany. The Depression initially halted residential development, but by the late 1930s the area beyond Manning Blvd. became a highly desirable location. It was zoned residential and the municipal golf course had been built just outside the city limits in 1931. Well-off families flocked to developments with enticing names -Golden Acres, Heldervale and Buckingham Gardens. Albany annexed land in Slingerlands several times and the city border pushed close to Whitehall Rd.

1930s New Scotland Ave










University Heights

20In the early 1930s Holland Ave. was created. ( It was once the route for the Mohawk- Hudson Railroad, chugging from the Point at Madison and Western Avenues. to downtown.) The Almshouse was demolished, making way for the Law School to move from State St,. the Pharmacy College from Eagle St. and a NYS Health Dept. Laboratory was built across from the Hospital. University Heights was almost complete. Then Christian Brothers Academy moved uptown from Howard St. and the Fort Orange American Legion Post ** was built next to Memorial Grove.






1940s and 1950s

33The next spurt of development began after World War II. There was a severe post-war housing crisis in Albany – the last farm within the city limits was sold in 1947 for the Weiss Rd. apartments. Hundreds of houses were constructed in the area surrounding New Scotland Ave. west of Manning to accommodate growing families with baby boomers. Two churches, St. Catherine’s Roman Catholic (now Mater Christi) and Bethany Reformed, were built in the 1950s and Temple Israel re-located to New Scotland in 1953. Maria College opened in 1965.

1,1After the annexation of Karlsfeld and Hurstville in 1967 New Scotland Ave. was complete and extended to the Normanskill.



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1960s and 1970s






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*The Log Tavern morphed into the Hurst Hotel, and became a favorite romantic rendezvous and “love nest”, especially for politicians’. It was destroyed by fire on election night, 1929. (Oh the irony.)


** The Dudley Observatory and Bender Laboratory (behind the Obeservatory) and the Legion post were demolished in 1970 to build the Capital District Psych Center and the attached parking garage.

***In the 1959 Russell Sage College purchased some of the buildings of what was then known as the Albany Home for Children and established the Junior College of Albany. In 2001 the College began offering 4 year degrees at the site, as the Sage College of Albany.

**** Academy Rd. was initially known as Highland Ave. – the name changed in the 1930s when Boy’s Academy moved from downtown.

Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

Getting from here to there: Albany’s Great Western Turnpike


Chartered in 1799, the Great Western Turnpike Company was largely responsible for the development of Western Avenue (and Route 20 out to Cherry Valley). The road – crudely graded and planked – opened for public use in 1804. A series of tollgates provided access and generated income.


The first of these was built across the road near what are now Winthrop and Marion Avenues.



zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz19989321_1371531402895118_5955247247357377869_nPrivately-held toll roads surrounded Albany city and were big business, controlling land access from anywhere outside city limits. The first crack in their stranglehold on transportation came with the advent of railroads in the 1830’s. As rail travel grew, the profits of the toll highways began to shrink; stagecoach transportation was on its way out.

The Great Western Turnpike crumbled in sections, the westernmost portion becoming a public road in 1853. Ten years later, the tolls were lifted west of the fifteen-mile point. In 1871, six more miles were freed. All that remained after that was the nine-mile strip connecting Albany and Guilderland.


Over the next 25 years, most of the toll road companies in the area folded, and the city of Albany began an ambitious program of improving its existing roads and paving new ones.



The city, meanwhile, had grown steadily westward. Former farmlands west of Manning Boulevard were subdivided into building plots; new side streets popped up. Among the first was Nineteenth Street, now Winthrop Avenue.

Despite being ungraded, sandy, and nearly impassable, Nineteenth Street had one popular attribute: it was just west of the Great Western Turnpike’s Western Avenue tollgate. While farmers continued to pay tolls, casual travelers and pleasure seekers braved treacherous Nineteenth Street to circumvent the tollgate.

The Turnpike Company fought back in 1897 by piling a large barrier of lumber across Nineteenth Street at Western Avenue. This started a brief but nasty “Toll Gate War” with the City. Albany’s Common Council ordered the company to remove the obstruction. They did, but replaced it with a new, annex tollgate. The City gave them 48 hours to remove it, which they did not, so the new gate was promptly destroyed by order of the Street Commissioner.

The GWTC’s lawyer claimed its charter predated the existence of the Common Council (which it did), and that the destroyed annex gate was on their property (which it was). The City responded that the Company had no right to blockade a city street. The Company did not rebuilt its annex gate, but posted a toll collector at the intersection; most rode past him without paying, and there were no means of enforcing the toll.

Soon thereafter, the City cobbled together a resolution mandating unimpeded access to Western Avenue from Nineteenth Street, Brevator Street, Magazine Street, and all other side streets.

No longer so great, the Great Western Turnpike Company fell on hard times, its revenue vanishing, its equipment in ruins. In 1899 its stockholders met and ejected the entire board of directors.

By 1906, the City had had enough. The Common Council issued an ordinance authorizing the extension of Western Avenue to the city line, “making a part thereof, the highway now owned by the Great Western Turnpike Company.” The Commissioner of Public Works earmarked $4000 in compensation.

Balking at this deal, the Turnpike Company sold its remaining tract to Abel I. Culver, Vice President of the D&H Railroad and the United Traction Company, for $12,000. The property – nine miles long and 99 feet wide – was nominally a personal (non-business) purchase, but it was actually all about business. As soon as the shrewd businessman gained possession, he deeded the eastern two miles to the City of Albany, and the remaining seven miles to the county. In both cases, he gifted only 66 feet in width, keeping the remaining 33 feet for the future construction of a suburban trolley line. Culver was praised for his generosity, gifting the City something for which they were about to pay $4000, while establishing the right of way for what would become a highly profitable venture.

Tolls for the use of Western Avenue ceased at midnight on Saturday, April 21, 1906. The following day, the last tollgate of the Great Western Turnpike Company was razed.

Written by Al Quaglieri –  take a look at his Albany history blog – Doc Circe Died for Our Sins