The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Albany (New York)

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For works with similar titles, see Albany.

ALBANY, N. Y., State capital and seat of Albany County, on the right (west) bank of the Hudson, 143 miles north of New York, 200 miles west of Boston, 297 miles east of Buffalo. Besides its political importance as the capital, its commercial and manufacturing status is high. For many years the starting point of all the enormous eastern travel and traffic to the West over the Erie Canal (q.v.), connecting it with the Great Lakes at Lake Erie, and now virtually the terminus of the new State Barge Canal System, it is an important port and the intersecting point of the great western as well as northern rail and water routes. With New York and the ocean it is connected by the imperial Hudson, of which it is the head of navigation for large steamers (smaller ones going on to Troy, six miles above). The Barge Canal is a great commercial advantage and will soon be more so; while the Champlain-Barge Canal gives access not only to western Vermont, but to the Saint Lawrence and the heart of Canada, with the foreign business centring at Montreal. It joins the western and northern traffic of the New York Central Railroad system (the Adirondack region, Vermont and Canada) and that of the Delaware & Hudson Railroad with the western traffic of central New England over the Boston & Albany branch of the New York Central road, the Fitchburg branch of the Boston & Maine Railroad and the Rutland Railroad.

Trade and Manufacturing. — The through freight lines now leave little transshipment to be done at Albany, but the city still remains an important passenger centre, and is the second largest express and the third largest mail transfer point in the United States. Commerce and industries are conservative and it retains much of both given it by its position in earlier times as a distributing point and terminal. In particular, the great Canadian and Adirondack forests to the north have made it an immense lumber port. Its manufactures are of wide and well-known importance, the greatest being iron goods, — foundries and stove works, — wood and brass; combined wood and metal, as carriages and wagons; brick, shirts, collars and cuffs, clothing and knit goods, shoes, flour, tobacco and cigars; and brewery products, billiard balls, dominoes, checkers and embossed blocks. The United States census (1914) reported 477 manufacturing establishments of factory grade, employing 11,405 persons, of whom 9,399 were wage-earners receiving a total of $5,652,000 in wages. The capital employed aggregated $26,683,000 and the value of the output $25,289,000; the value added by manufacture being $13,864,000. In addition there are also the extensive car and locomotive shops of the New York Central Railroad.

Finances. — The assessed valuation of real property in 1917 was $104,701,690 and the net public debt in 1910 was $2,458,644.08. The annual and municipal outlay is about $2,283,000, of which $492,286 was for schools, $244,885 for police and $250,610 for the fire department. There were four discount banks and trust companies with aggregate capital of $3,000,000, and seven savings banks with a surplus (at market value) of $4,621,941, and amount of deposits of $83,973,602. Tax rate (1917) per $100 was $2.56 (includes State, county and city taxes).

Interior. — The city has a river frontage of little over four miles and extends west about nine miles, from a narrow alluvial strip often flooded in the spring, over a steep rise to a sandy tableland 150 to 200 feet above tidewater, divided into four elevations and their corresponding valleys. It has 97.5 miles of streets, paved with granite, asphalt and brick; gas ana electric light plants; and about 42 miles of electric street railways within its limits, several suburban lines running to towns at a distance, centring in Albany: these lines reach Troy, Cohoes, Saratoga, Glens Falls, Lake George and Warrensburgh in the north, a distance of 71 miles; Sand Lake in the northeast, a distance of 15 miles; Schenectady, Amsterdam, Johnstown and Gloversville in the west, a distance of 50 miles, and Hudson in the south, a distance of 38 miles. The river is crossed by two railroad and foot bridges and one wagon bridge to Rensselaer (formerly Greenbush). The water supply is partly taken by gravity from an artificial lake five miles west, and partly pumped from the river, with a public filtration system. This plant covers 20 acres of ground, has eight fitter-beds and filters 15,000,000 gallons of water daily. The parks, 11 in number, contain 402 acres; the largest is Washington Park of 90 acres with a lake 1,700 feet long. This park contains the celebrated “Burns” statue by Charles Calverly, and the bronze and rock fountain “Moses at the Rock of Horeb” by J. Massey Rhind, and the Soldiers' and Sailors' Monument. The three cemeteries cover 440 acres. President Arthur's tomb is in the handsome Rural cemetery of 280 acres, situated four miles north of the city.

Buildings. — The great show building of Albany is the magnificent capital, begun in 1871 and continued by several different architects at a total outlay to date of some $29,000,000. The lack of unity in plan makes itself perceptible both in looks and cost, millions have been spent in alterations and reconstructions, and some of the mechanical work and material have been poor. It is of Maine granite, in the Renaissance style; is 300 x 400 feet and covers more than three acres; it occupies a most sightly position on the hillside facing the river, and including part of the site of the old capital built in 1806. Besides its rooms for the legislative bodies and officials and the court of appeals, it contains many interesting relics of the Revolution and Civil War. The grand western staircase in the western end of the building is said to be the finest staircase in the world. Fire nearly destroyed the building in 1911.

The State House and the City Hall face the capitol; the former of white marble and the latter of red sandstone with grand campaniles and Romanesque doorways. The custom-house and post-office are in the government building at the foot of State street. Among other buildings are the County courthouse; the State armories; the old Schuyler Mansion, once used as an orphan asylum, but dedicated in 1917 as an historical monument; the Albany Institute and Historical and Art Society, containing many archives of Albany history: the Hotel Ten Eyck; the Delaware and Hudson building; and the new High School. In 1893 the second Van Rensselaer manor-house, built 1765, was removed to the Williams College campus, of Williamstown, Mass.

Religion, Education, Etc. — Albany is the seat of both Roman Catholic and Protestant Episcopal bishoprics, and has 74 churches. Very notable are the cathedrals of the Immaculate Conception (R. C) and All Saints (P. E.). Saint Peter's Church (P. E.) is reputed one of the finest specimens of the French Gothic type of architecture in the United Slates. The Madison Avenue and First Reformed churches were organized in 1642, incorporated in 1720 and continued as one church until 1799, when separate edifices were built; these two churches continued under one government until 1815.

The State Education Building is exceedingly attractive, four stories and basement The materials used on the front and ends are for the most part white marble, terra cotta and dark granite. The building contains offices for the Board of Regents and Department of Education, the State Library, with an attractive reading room, and a stock room capable of accommodating 2,000,000 volumes, the State Library School, and the State Museum, which contains the State collections in geology, mineralogy, paleontology, archæology, botany and zoology. There is also a large auditorium in the building. Several large and attractive mural paintings adorn the walla.

The public school property is valued at nearly $2,000,000. Other institutions of learning are the law and medical departments of the Union University at Schenectady (originally independent academies of 1851 and 1839), Albany Academy, the State College for Teachers, Saint Agnes School, the Albany Female Academy and the Convent of the Sacred Heart; also the Dudley Observatory and the Bender Hygienic Laboratory. Albany has a fine city hospital built in 1899 on the pavilion plan and covering 16 acres with 150,000 feet of floor space; the Homœpathic and Saint Peter's hospitals; the Albany penitentiary, dating from 1848 — from three to four hundred prisoners a year are confined in this institution.

Government. — Biennial mayor; city council, the president elected at large, the aldermen by wards; and boards constituted as follows: (1) Finance, comptroller, treasurer and a board of estimate composed of the mayor, comptroller, corporation counsel, president of the common council, city engineer and treasurer; (2) Public Works, commissioner who appoints superintendents of waterworks and parks; city engineer; a board of contract and supply; (3) Public Safety, commissioner who appoints chiefs of police and fire departments with their subordinates and a health officer with assistants; (4) Public Instruction, three commissioners of education, term six years, who appoint superintendent of schools and teachers; (5) Assessment and Taxation, four assessors, two elected every two years for a term of four years; (6) Charities and Correction, commissioner who appoints overseer of the poor and assistants; (7) Judiciary, one police court justice who holds office six years and three city court justices; (8) Law, corporation counsel, assistant and subordinates. Of these officials, the comptroller, treasurer, assessors and police and city court justices are elected. All others are appointed by the mayor.

Population. — (1800) 5,289, (1820) 12,630, (1840) 33,721, (1860) 62,367, (1880) 90,758, (1890) 94,923, (1900) 94,151, (1910) 100,253, (1917) 109,843.

History. — Albany, as an old frontier town and strategic post against the French settlements in the 18th century wars, is of much historic interest. Next to Jamestown, Va., and Saint Augustine, Fla., it was the oldest settlement in the Union; if the 13 colonies only are included, and Jamestown thrown out as deserted since 1676, it may perhaps be called the oldest with a continuous fife, though its actual settlement as a residence is later than Plymouth. (For early discovery, sec America; Hudson; Vesassano). About 1540 a French trading-post was set up there for a time. In 1614 the Dutch, following Hudson's lead, established a factory on Castle Island, called Fort Nassau, in 1617 removed to the mainland and called Beverwyck. The first settlers were 18 Walloon families (Huguenot refugees from Belgium — Peter Minuit the first director-general of New Amsterdam, was a Walloon), and Fort Orange (Latinized Aurania) was built the same year near the present capitol. In 1626 a war with the Mohawks forced the temporary abandonment of the village. In 1629 Killian Van Rensselaer, having obtained from the Dutch government a large land-grant near by, colonized it with Dutch settlers and rented the land to them as patroon. (See Anti-Rent War; Patroon). This, as always, ended in a chronic dispute over the extent of his legal rights and jurisdiction, which was not settled till after the ownership of the Dutch settlements was transferred by the English conquest to the Duke of York and Albany (later James II) after whom Fort Orange was renamed. In 1686 it received a city charter (its bi-eentennial was celebrated in 1886) from Gov. Thomas Dongan; its first mayor (appointed by the governor, though the council was elected) was Peter Schuyler. The English settlers rapidly increased, but Albany was long a Dutch oty. In the French and Indian wars it was a stockaded rendezvous, arsenal and hospital, the refuge of the border. In 1754 it was the meeting-place of the first Provincial Congress, which formed “a plan of a proposed union of the several colonies.” (See Albany Congress). In 1777 it was Bnrgoyne's objective point, where he was to meet the expeditions up the river and from Canada. After being for many years the occasional seat of State government, it became the permanent capital in 1797, the centennial of which it celebrated 6 Jan. 1897. Its rapid growth began with the opening of the Erie Canal in 1825, making it the terminal for western business. Within 35 years it had increased five-fold. In 1848 the city was partially destroyed by fire.

Bibliography. — Weise, A. J., ‘The History of the City of Albany’ (Albany 1884); Munsell, J., ‘The Annals of Albany’ (10 vols, Albany 1850-59); and ‘Collections on the City of Albany’ (4 vols., Albany 1865-71); Howell, G. R., and Tenney. J., ‘Bi-centennial History of Albany’; ‘History of the County of Albany N. Y. from 1609-1886’ (bound with a ‘History of the County of Schenectady’, New York 1886); Reynolds, C, ‘Albany Chronicles’ (Albany 1906); and a sketch in Powell, L. P., ‘Historical Towns of the Middle States’ (New York 1899).

Edwin Tristram Coffin,
Secretary Albany Chamber of Commerce.


Americana 1920 Albany, N. Y. - View from river.jpg
Americana 1920 Albany, N. Y. - State Street from the Plaza.jpg   Americana 1920 Albany, N. Y. - N. Y. Telephone Co. Bldg.jpg
Americana 1920 Albany, N. Y. - Del. & Hudson and Albany Journal Bldgs.jpg
1 Albany from the River   3 New York Telephone Company Building
(Fellowcrafts Photo. Copyright, 1917)
2 State Street from the Plaza   4 Delaware & Hudson and Albany Journal Buildings