Albany, NY
From: Gazetteer of the State of New York
By: J. H. French, LL.D.
1860



(Note: The Gazetter also had several large footnotes and tables that could not be easily read on my copies and not included on this page)


ALBANY CITY- was incorporated by patent July 22, 1686, having previously enjoyed divers rights and privileges, under the names of "Beverwick," "William Stadt," and Albany. The Dutch styled it "New Orange." The part of the city north of Patroon and. Quackenboss Streets, known as the "Colonie," was incorp. March 31, 1791; and again, March 30, 1801. It was made a village April 9, 1804; and was erected as a town April 11, 1808. The town was divided, and merged in Albany and Watervliet, Feb. 25, 1815. The city lies upon the w. bank of the Hudson River, a little N. of the center of the county; and embraces a strip of land about one mile wide, extending 13½ miles in a N. W. direction to the N. boundary of the county. A narrow intervale of low land lies along the course of the river, bounded by steep banks from 150 to 250 feet high, where a barren region commences, rising toward the w., and broken by numerous sand hills and ridges. The banks which form the declivities of this tract are separated into several distinct ridges by the deep galleys worn in the clay by the streams which flow through them. The soil, except near the river, is a light sand, not adapted to cultivation without the aid of costly artificial means. A mineral spring was obtained on Ferry St. in 1827, while boring for water. Albany is situated near the head of navigation upon the Hudson, and at the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal. The several railroads before mentioned render it a place of considerable commercial importance. It is the largest barley market in the U.S., and immense quantities of this grain are here manufactured into malt and beer. Albany, Troy, and West Troy are the largest lumber markets in the State. "The Lumber District" in Albany is along the canal, above the little basin, where extensive wharves and slips have been built for transferring lumber from canal boats to vessels and barges upon the river. The manufactures of the city are varied and extensive. Among those that may be considered specially important are the stove-founderies and breweries. The city is amply supplied with water from works erected at public expense. The water is obtained from several creeks w. and N. of the city. The main reservoir (Rensselaer Lake,) is 5 miles w. of the City Hall, and is elevated 262 feet above the river. It covers 39 acres, and its capacity is 180,000,000 gallons.. A brick conduit conveys the water to Bleaker Reservoir, on Patroon St., whence it is distributed through the portion of the city w. of Pearl St. This reservoir has a capacity of 30,000,000 gallons. The lower portion of the city is supplied from Tivoli Reservoir, on Patroon Creek, covering 20 acres, and has a capacity of 30,000,000 gallons. These works are under a Board of Water Commissioners, and the rents are charged to property owners and collected with the taxes. Pop. 57,333.

The State buildings at Albany, including the Capitol, State Hall, State Library, Geological and Agricultural Hall, Normal School, and State Arsenal and Armory, have already been described under the head. of State Institutions. Besides these, there are several buildings and institutions worthy of a particular notice.

The City Hall is situated on Eagle St., fronting the e. end of Washington Avenue. It is an elegant structure, faced with Sing-Sing marble, and surmounted by a gilded dome, the only one in the U.S. It was built at the joint expense of the city and county, and it contains most of the city and county offices. The jail is in Maiden Lane, near the City Hall.

The Albany Exchange, a massive granite building, is situated on Broadway, at the foot of State St. It was erected in 1839 by a joint-stock company, and. contains the postroffice, the general offices of the New York Central R. R. Co., and a variety of other offices.

The Public Schools have hardly kept pace with the progress of other institutions of the city, or with the public schools of other cities in the State. Until within the last few years, the whole public school interest was under the charge of a Board of Commissioners, appointed by the Regents of the University. The people, having no power over school matters, took but little interest in theni, and the schools languished in every department. There was a great deficiency in schoolhouses, in the number of teachers employed, and in the general supervision of schools. This system has been changed of late, and a series of improvements have commenced which bid fair to soon place the schools of Albany on a par with those of her sister cities. In 1857, there were 13 school districts, employing 53 teachers, 16 males and 37 females. The number of children between 4 and 21 was 18,359, of whom 6729, or 37 per cent., were in attendance some portion of the year. There are 70 private schools, reporting 3827 pupils.

The Albany Academy, (for boys,) fronting on Eagle St., opposite the State Hall, is a flourishing institution. It was chartered by the regents, March 4, 1813: the corner-stone of the present building was laid July 29, 1815, and it was opened for students Sept. 1, 1817. Dr. T. Romeyn Beck was its principal for 31 years; and under him the school obtained a deservedly high reputation. The building is an imposing structure, of red Nyack freestone, in the Italian style, fronting on a park of 3 acres.

The Albany Female Academy, on N. Pearl St., was established in 1814, and incorp. in 1821, and the present building was completed May 12, 1834. The institution has uniformly borne a high reputation. The building is in Grecian style, with an Ionic portico.

The Albany Female Seminary, situated on Division St., was incorp. April 9, 1828. It is under the charge of the Meth. denomination.

The Albany Institute, a society for the promotion of science and art, was incorp. Feb. 27, 1829 by the union of Society of Arts and the Albany Lyceum of Natural History. It has three departments, devoted to ist, Physical Sciences and the Arts; 2d, Natural History; and 3d, History and Gen. Literature. During the winter months it holds semi-monthly meetings. It has a valuable library, and an extensive cabinet of minerals and of specimens of natural history.

The Young Men's Association was formed in 1833, and incorp. March 12, 1835. It supports a lecture course during the winter, and has a library of above 7000 vols., and a reading room supplied with 70 papers and 15 other periodicals. It is the oldest institution of the kind in the U.S., and has about 1000 members.

A Catholic Young Men's Association has sustained a course of lectures for several winters.

The Albany Industrial School, erected by the city in 1857, for vagrant children, is not completed. It is located in the rear of the Penitentiary. The Albany Mercantile College (Bryant, Stratton Co.) is located on Broadway. (See p. 748.)

The Dudley Observatory, on an eminence in the N. border of the city, was founded through the munificence of Mrs. Blandiha Dudley and other liberal patrons of science. It was incorp. April 2,1852, and its management intrusted to 15 trustees. The building is admirably arranged, and furnished with instruments, several of which are the largest and most delicate ever constructed. It was dedicated Aug. 28, 1856, and. placed under the charge of a scientific council, to be employed by the coast survey in the determination of longitudes, and other purposes connected with that great national enterprise. It has a special library of about 1000 volumes.4

The Albany Medical College, located upon Eagle St., was incorp. Feb. 16, 1839. Two courses of lectures are held annually; and the institution has secured a deservedly high reputation in the medical profession. It has an extensive medical museum, and a choice library of 5000 vols.

The Law School of the University of Albany was instituted under the university charter of April 17, 1851. Two courses of lectures are annually held in rooms attached to the medical college building. This school has obtained an excellent reputation.

The Albany Almshouse, consisting of a poor house,5 insane asylum,6 and a fever hospital, is located upon a farm of 116 acres, 1½ miles s. w. of the city, and is entirely owned and managed by the city authorities. These departments are supplied with commodious and appropriate buildings. The Industrial School building is located upon the same farm.

The Albany City Hospital, located on Eagle St., was incorp. April 11, 1849. It was founded by private subscription, and the present building8 was opened for the reception of patients Aug. 8, 1854.

The Albany Orphan Asylum, on Washington St., at the junction of the Western Turnpike, was incorp. March 30, 1831, at which time it had been in practical operation for nearly two years. It was commenced as a private enterprise, and the present building was erected by subscription and the product of several ladies' fairs. It is now supported by funds received from the State, the interest on its endowment, and the proceeds of an annual fair.

The St. Vincent Orphan Asylum was incorp. in 1849. The female department, situated on N. Pearl St., is under the charge of the Sisters of Mercy. The male department, 2 mi. w. of the capitol, is under the care of the Christian Brothers.

The first church (Ref. Prot. D.) was formed in 1640. Rev. Johannes Megapolenses was settled as pastor in 1642, under the patronage of the patroon. A regularly organized Lutheran churek existed in 1680, but the date of its formation is unknown. It was reorganized Aug. 26, 1784. The first Prot. E. Church (St. Peter's) was erected in 1715, on a site granted by the governor of the colony. It stood in the center of State St., opposite Barrack (now Chapel) St., and was demolished in 1802, and the present edifice built by Philip Hooker. The communion plate of this church was presented to the Onondagas by Queen Anne. The most imposing and costly church edifices in the city are the Catholic Cathedral of the Immaculate Conceptin, corner of Eagle and Lydius Ste., and St. Joseph's (R. C.) Church. There are now (1858) 48 churches in the city.'

At an early period Albany acquired much importance from being the principal center of the Indian trade, and afterward the place where the great military expeditions against Canada were fitted out. Its importance as a military station led to its being fortified at an early period; and, although it was often threatened with invasion, no hostile army ever reached it. It became the permanent seat of the State government in 1797. For 30 years after the Revolution, Albany was the seat of the entire trade of the western part of the State, the produce being brought in by sleighs in winter. The first great impulse to its commercial prosperity was given by the successful trip of the Clermout, the first steamboat of Fulton, in 1807, and the improvements in steam navigation which immediately followed. The steamboats now upon the Hudson River are among the very largest that navigate any inland waters. The completion of the Erie Canal, in 1825, and of the various lines of railroads since that time, have each essentially added to the growth and prosperity of the city. Business is principally centered upon Broadway, State, S. Pearl, and Washington Ste. The Dutch language and customs, which continued until long after the English conquest, have almost entirely disappeared. Very few families retain any characteristics of their origin, although many occupy the same lots that were conveyed to their ancestors two centuries ago. The peculiar Dutch architecture has now nearly disappeared, and within the limits of the city there are not more than a dozen houses with the sharp gables fronting even with the street, the tile roof, and antiquated appearance, so common but a few years ago. The city has been visited by several disastrous fires, and the lower part has often been inundated by water.

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