The New International Encyclopædia/Albany (New York)
ALBANY. Capital of New York State, and county seat of Albany Co., and an important railroad and commercial city. It is on the west bank of the Hudson River, nearly six miles below the head of navigation, 145 miles north of New York City and about 200 miles west of Boston (Map: New York, G 3).
A narrow alluvial plain extends along the river, and from this the ground rises sharply to a sandy plateau about two hundred feet above tide level, with valleys separating the four ridges into which the slope is divided. The principal streets are Broadway, and North and South Pearl streets, which run parallel to the river, and State Street, which runs westward, ascending the face of the hill at a very steep grade. The most striking feature as well as the most important edifice in Albany is the Capitol, which is built of Maine granite, in the Renaissance style. Since its corner-stone was laid, in 1871, it has cost over twenty-four million dollars. The edifice has been built with the advantage of large ideas and limitless resources, and the disadvantages of a succession of architects with changing views; these circumstances have left their imprint on the structure. But when all has been said in criticism of details, the general plan, and unused possibilities, it must be ranked among the great buildings of the country. Within are rooms for the Assembly, Senate, Court of Appeals, the State Library of over 430,000 volumes, the governor, and other State officials. Many relics of the Revolution and Civil War find place in its spacious corridors. Facing the Capitol are the State Hall, and the city hall, of red sandstone, with Romanesque doorways and majestic campaniles. The Federal building, containing the custom house and post oftice, is at the foot of State Street, and on the same avenue, about a block below the Capitol, is the State Museum of Natural History. In the residence districts, the most important architectural features are the churches, four of which have more than a local interest: The North Dutch church, 8t. Peter's Church, “one of the richest specimens of French Gothic in this country,” the cathedral of All Saints, and the cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, with lofty double spires and a spacious interior treated with taste and dignity.
Other important buildings are the new Union Station, the Hotel Ten Eyck, the Albany Academy, Harmanus Bleecker Hall, and the State Arsenal. The second Van Rensselaer manor house, built in 1765, was removed in 1893 to the campus of Williams College at Williamstown, Mass. The old Schuyler mansion is now used as an orphan asylum by the Sisters of Charity. Albany is the seat of a State normal college, and contains the law and medical departments of Union University at Schenectady, and also Dudley Observatory, in the southwest corner of the city. Near the latter are the pavilions of the new hospital, built in 1899; and in the same section is the State penitentiary, opened in 1848, which confines annually between 300 and 400 prisoners, the majority sentenced for short terms.
The city has 470 acres devoted to parks, the largest of which, Washington Park, in the western part of the city, contains a lake 1700 feet long, and two fine bronzes: Calverley's statue of “Robert Burns,” and Rhind's statue of “Moses at the Rock of Horeb.” In the beautiful Rural Cemetery about four miles north of the city is the tomb of President Arthur.
Trade and Transportation. Albany is a terminus of the Boston and Albany railroad, and the division terminus on the main lines of the West Shore, the New York Central and Hudson River and the Delaware and Hudson railroads. It is thus at the intersection of the great thoroughfares of traffic and travel from Boston and New York to the west and the north. It also has direct steamboat communication by day and night lines with New York and Hudson River points, while by the Erie and the Champlain canals it has water routes to the interior of the State and the west and north. It still remains an important centre of passenger travel, but the great bulk of freight movement now passes the city in through shipments. Manufacturing interests in Albany have increased considerably during the last ten years. The most important industries now include iron, wood, and brass manufactures; printing and engraving; shirt, collar, and cuff manufactures; manufactures of clothing, caps, and knit goods; brewing; tobacco and cigar manufactures; and carriage and wagon building.
Within the city are about 28 miles of street railways, and electric lines connect also with towns some distance from Albany. There are three bridges across the river to Rensselaer, two of which are used by the railroads and foot passengers, and the third only is open to wagon traffic. The water supply is furnished in part by a gravity supply, from a lake five miles distant; but a large proportion is pumped from the Hudson River, and an improved filtration system has recently been adopted for the latter supply. There are about 82 miles of paved thoroughfare's, some of which arc laid with asphalt and brick, though most of the important streets are paved with granite blocks and many still have cobblestone pavements.
Administration. As provided by legislative enactment for cities of the second class, the government is vested in a mayor, elected biennially: a city council, the president being elected at large and the aldermen by wards; and administrative departments constituted as follows: Finance — comptroller, treasurer, and a board of estimate composed of the mayor, comptroller, corporation counsel, president of the common council, city engineer, and treasurer; Public Works — commissioner, who appoints superintendents of water works and parks, city engineer; and a board of contract and supply, composed of the mayor, comptroller, commissioner of public works, corporation counsel, and city engineer; Public Safety — commissioner, who appoints chiefs of police and fire departments, with their subordinates, and a health officer and district health physicians; Assessment and Taxation — four assessors, two elected every two years for a term of four years; Charities and Correction — commissioner, who appoints an overseer of the poor and assistants; Judiciary — one police court justice who holds office for six years, and three city court justices; Law — corporation counsel, who appoints an assistant and subordinates. Of these officials, the comptroller, treasurer, assessors, and police and city court justices are elected; all others are appointed by the executive. A sealer of weights and measures is also appointed by the mayor, and supervisors are chosen by popular election.
The annual expenditures of the city amount to about $2,800,000, the principal items of expense (for maintenance and operation) being about $160,000 for the police department, $140,000 for the fire department, $290,000 for schools, $300,000 for bureau of waters, and $90,000 for street lighting.
Pop., 1870, 69,422; 1880, 90,758; 1890, 94,923; 1900, 94,151, including 17,700 persons of foreign birth and 1200 of negro descent.
History. Albany claims to be the second oldest permanent settlement within the limits of the thirteen colonies, and has a much greater historical significance on account of its strategic importance during the century of conflict between the English and French in America and in the American Revolution. As early as 1524, the French navigator Verrazano sailed up the Hudson River, and about 1540 a French trading post was set up near the present site of Albany. But this proved only temporary, and the continuous history of the place dates from the effective discovery of the region by Henry Hudson in 1609. Hudson's voyage was followed by Dutch traders, who, in 1614, established a trading station on Castle Island under the name of Fort Nassau. Three years later, the trading post was removed to the mainland and given the name Beverwyck. The first actual settlers, however, were eighteen Walloon families, who arrived in 1624. During the same year, Fort Orange, or Aurania, was built, near the site of the present State Capitol. Two years later an Indian war broke up the settlement for a time. In 1629, Killiaen Van Rensselaer obtained an extensive grant of land in the neighborhood of Fort Orange, and sent over settlers from Holland, who rented their land from him as their patroon, or lord of the manor. (See Patroon.) On the transfer of New Netherlands to the English, in 1664, the name of Albany was given to the settlement, in honor of the Duke of York and Albany, afterward James II.; and shortly afterward a long-standing dispute as to the jurisdiction of the patroon over the earlier settlements was compromised. In 1686, Albany received a city charter from Governor Dongan, providing for an elected council and a mayor to be appointed by the governor. The first mayor, Peter Schuyler, continued to serve until 1694. The settlement continued to be inhabited mainly by the Dutch, but the increase in the English population is indicated by the erection of an English church in 1714.
As a frontier town open to Indian attacks, Albany was protected not only by the fort, but by a stockade surrounding the compactly built area. During the French and Indian wars, the city was the storehouse for munitions of war, the rendezvous for the troops, and a place of safety for refugees and wounded soldiers. In 1754 there was held at Albany the first general Congress (see Albany Convention) of all the colonies, at which plans of union were discussed.
Burgoyne's campaign in 1777 was directed against Albany, as the key to the situation in the north; but the battle of Saratoga preserved this strategic point to the patriots. During the next twenty years Albany was at times the headquarters of the State government; in 1797 it was made the permanent capital of the State, and the first State house was built a few years later.
In 1820 Albany had a population of only 12,630; but the Erie Canal opened a new field for commercial activity, and brought a rapid development. By 1840 the population was 33,721, or nearly treble that of twenty years before; by 1860 it had reached 62,367, but since then the increase has been at a slower rate. In 1839 there began the “Anti-Rent War” (see Anti-Rentism), the result of an attempt by the Van Rennsselaer heirs to collect the quit-rents on the old leases made in the pre-Revolutionary days. Albany has been visited by several disastrous fires, those in 1797 and 1848 being the most destructive. The lower part of the city has often been inundated by spring floods in the river. In 1886 the bi-centennial of the incorporation of the city was celebrated with elaborate ceremonies; and on January 6, 1897, the centennial of the selection of the city as the State capital was also commemorated. In 1894 the Delavan House, for fifty years the resort of politicians and eminent men, was burned. See A. J. Weise, The History of the City of Albany (Albany, 1884); J. Munsell, The Annals of Albany, 10 volumes (Albany, 1850-59), and Collections on the City of Albany, 4 volumes (Albany, 1865-71); and a sketch in L. P. Powell's Historic Towns of the Middle States (New York, 1899).
THE CAPITOL AT ALBANY