History of Albany, New York: Wikis


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Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1790 3,498
1800 5,289 51.2%
1810 10,762 103.5%
1820 12,630 17.4%
1830 24,209 91.7%
1840 33,721 39.3%
1850 50,763 50.5%
1860 62,367 22.9%
1870 69,422 11.3%
1880 90,758 30.7%
1890 94,923 4.6%
1900 94,151 −0.8%
1910 100,253 6.5%
1920 113,344 13.1%
1930 127,412 12.4%
1940 130,577 2.5%
1950 134,995 3.4%
1960 129,726 −3.9%
1970 115,781 −10.7%
1980 101,727 −12.1%
1990 101,082 −0.6%
2000 95,658 −5.4%
Est. 2007 94,172 −1.6%

The history of Albany, New York extends to 1540, when the first definitive mention of Europeans in the city was by the French, though they may have visited earlier. Permanent settlement did not begin until 1624 by the Dutch. An important geographic location during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution, Albany became a significant transportation hub after the completion of the Erie Canal in 1825. Several US Navy ships have since been named USS Albany in honor of the city's historical and military importance. Albany has continued to be an important small city thanks to investments by the state government and higher education in emerging fields such as biotechnology and nanotechnology.


Pre-history and geography

Prior to European settlement Albany was a forested location along the Hudson River with five kills (kill being early Dutch for creek, a name still used by Albanians today). These kills carved out steep ravines that separated the hills of Albany from each other. Further inland was the Pine Bush, an inland pine barrens that stretched from Albany to Schenectady. As settlement grew the Pine Bush was cut down and pushed further inland and the kills were diverted into pipes and covered over, such as the Rutten, Vosen (Foxes), and Beaver kills. Patroon's Creek and the Normans Kill are the two that remain. Some of the ravines were similarly filled in over time. The two most notable to not be filled in are Sheridan Hollow, carved by the now covered Foxen Kill; and Tivoli Hollow, carved by Patroon's Creek. The Empire State Plaza would in the 1970s fill the hollow caused by the already-covered Rutten Kill.[1] Lincoln Park would be formed in the hollow caused by the Beaver Kill, also covered. Washington Park Lake is the result of damming up the only remaining part of the Rutten Kill that is above ground.[1]

The native inhabitants of Albany at the time of the arrival of the Dutch called the Normans Kill the Tawawsantha.[2] The area of Albany had been given different names by the various native tribes to the area. The Mohegans called it Pem-po-tu-wuth-ut, which means "place of the council fire" and the Iroqouis called it Sche-negh-ta-da, meaning "through the pine woods".[3] The five kills would at first be called First Kill, Second Kill, and so on. Normans Kill would receive its name from Albert Bradt, a Norman and one of the earliest settlers, and the Rutten Kill would be named for Rutgers Bleecker, an early land owner along its banks.[2]

Initial European settlement

Map of Castle Island and Fort Orange in 1629

Albany is the oldest surviving European settlement from the original thirteen colonies.[4] In 1540 French traders became the first Europeans to visit the area of the present-day city and built a primitive fort on Castle Island. This fort was built on a flood plain and was soon abandoned as a result of damage due to the annual freshet (flooding associated with spring thaw). Permanent European claims began when Englishman Henry Hudson, exploring for the Dutch East India Company on his ship the Halve Maen (or Half Moon), reached the area in 1609. In 1614, the Dutch explorer Hendrick Christiaensen rebuilt the earlier French fort (referred to as a French chateau at the time) as Fort Nassau, the first Dutch fur trading post in the area.[5] Upon Christiaensen's death Jacob Eelkens took charge of the fort.

Commencement of the fur trade soon followed and provoked hostility from the French colony in Canada and amongst the native tribes, who vied for control. The fort was again abandoned due to the freshet and a replacement was built in 1624 as Fort Orange, slightly to the north.[6] Both forts were named in honor of the Dutch House of Orange-Nassau.[7]

In 1626 the Mohawk nation to the west of Albany and the Mohegan nation from the east bank of the Hudson River renewed their ongoing tribal conflict. The fledgling Fort Orange sided with the Mohegans and as a result, lost six soldiers in an ambush in what is now Lincoln Park on Delaware Avenue. In 1628 the Mohawks defeated the Mohegans, pushing them to Connecticut.[8] In 1642 a ferry was established to the east bank of the Hudson, at the native settlement of Tuscameatic, the Dutch would latter call this site Het Green Bosch (the Green Woods). This site is now the city of Rensselaer but the name lives on in the towns of North Greenbush and East Greenbush.[9]

The Director-General of New Amsterdam, Pieter Stuyvesant, came to Fort Orange in April 1652 and incorporated the surrounding areas of the fort as Dorpe Beverwyck (the Village of Beverwyck). He also established the first court at Albany at this time.[10] This was due to a dispute between Stuyvesant and the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck over jurisdiction of the land surrounding the fort.[11][12]

British colonial period



During the lead up to the Second Anglo-Dutch War, King Charles II of England granted the land from Maine to Delaware, which included all of New Netherland, to his brother James, Duke of York. In April 1664 four ships with a combined 450-men fighting force set sail for New Amsterdam. Fort Orange was surrendered 16 days after New Amsterdam (the city of New York).[13] Surrender terms at New Amsterdam were quite generous.[14] The name of Fort Orange was changed to Fort Albany, and the village of Beverswyck also changed to Albany, in honor of the Duke of York and Albany,[15] who later became King James II of England and James VII of Scotland. Captain John Manning was then given command of Fort Albany.[13]

The Dutch briefly regained Albany in 1673 but again lost control in November 1674, during which time Albany was referred to as Willemstadt.[15] Also during this time Fort Albany was renamed Fort Nassau. It was called Fort Nassau instead of Fort Orange to avoid confusion with New York City's renaming as New Orange.[16] After the English recapture of Willemstadt, all names were returned to their previous English names, but most Dutch political appointees from that period were kept. Shortly thereafter, in 1676, Governor Edmund Andros of the Dominion of New England (of which the Province of New York was a part) had Fort Frederick built at the top of Yonkers Street, today the corner of State and Lodge streets, to replace Fort Albany along the Hudson River.[17]

Opening paragraph of the Dongan Charter creating the city of Albany, New York

Albany was formally chartered as a municipality by Governor Thomas Dongan on July 22, 1686. At this time Albany had a population of only 500. The "Dongan Charter" was virtually identical in content to the charter awarded to the city of New York three months earlier.[18] Pieter Schuyler was appointed first mayor of Albany the day the charter was signed.[19] As part of the Dongan Charter the city's boundaries were fixed with Patroon Street (today Clinton Avenue) as the northern limit and the "northern tip of Martin Gerritsen's Island" as the southern limit, both lines extending 16 miles (26 km) to the northwest. Albany was also given the right to purchase 500 acres (2.0 km2) in "Schaahtecogue" (today Schaghticoke),[20][21] and 1,000 acres (4.0 km2) at "Tionnondoroge" (today Fort Hunter).[20][22]

In 1689 Albany became a center of resistance to Jacob Leisler who, during confusion over the Glorious Revolution, led Leisler's Rebellion and took de facto control over the colony. Leisler appointed a new mayor of Albany, but the replacement was not recognized by Schuyler or the other city fathers.[23] Three sloops sailed from the city of New York to Albany under the command of Jacob Milborne. Milborne attempted to enter Fort Albany and arrest Mayor Schuyler but is forced to return to New York after a group of Mohawks threatened to intervene on behalf of Schuyler.[24]

On February 8, 1690 the nearby settlement of Corlear (today Schenectady) was attacked by a combination of French and their native allies, over 60 people were killed, more taken prisoner. Simon Schermerhorn rode all night to Albany to warn of the French incursion.[25] This incident (commonly referred to as the Schenectady Massacre) is commemorated each year with a horse-ride by the mayor of Schenectady to Albany's city hall in addition to other local celebrations.[26]

Map of Albany in 1695

In 1694 Johannes Abeel succeeded Schuyler and became the second mayor of Albany.[27] His term lasted only one year and in 1695 Evert Bancker was appointed Albany's third mayor.[28]

Due to increased pirate activity in the Hudson River, one of the City Fathers, Robert Livingston, partnered with New York Governor Bellomont to destroy the pirate's bases in the West Indies. Captain William Kidd was hired to lead the expedition.[29]

In 1696, after only a year in office, Mayor Evert Bancker was replaced with Dirck Wesselse Ten Broeck who was then replaced two years later with Hendrick Hansen.[30] Hansen also served only one year and was replaced in 1699 by Pieter Van Brugh. Van Brugh and the succeeding three mayors (Jan Jansen Bleecker, Johannes Bleecker, Jr., Albert Janse Ryckman) each served only one year. Johannes Schuyler was appointed mayor in 1703 and was succeeded by David Schuyler in 1706. David Schuyler served only one year before he too was replaced. Evert Bancker, Albany's third mayor, was returned to office by the governor of New York in 1707 but then replaced in 1709 by Albany's second mayor Johannes Abeel. Robert Livingston, Jr was appointed mayor in 1710 and became the first mayor since Pieter Schuyler to serve more than three years.[31] A census taken in 1710 showed the population had more than doubled since Albany became a city in 1686. The city had a population of 1,136; 113 of which were slaves.[32]

Queen Anne gave the Anglican community in Albany the right to build a church. After many years of conflict in which the city council was dominated by those of the Dutch Reformed faith who attempted to stop construction the church, Saint Peters was eventually built in 1717. It was the first Anglican church in New York west of the Hudson River. It is currently located in the middle of State Street at the intersection of Chapel Street.[33]

Robert Livingston was replaced as mayor by Myndert Schuyler in 1719, but Schuyler was replaced with former mayor Pieter Van Brugh the next year. The first recorded instance of a person from Ireland living in Albany occurred in 1720; 100 years later the Irish would become one of the most important immigrant groups in Albany history. In 1722 Albany was home to negotiations between the Iroqouis and the provinces of New York, Pennsylvania, and Virginia resulting in the Treaty of Albany which limited the Iroqouis to west of the Blue Ridge Mountains.[34] Myndert Schuyler was returned to the office of mayor in 1723. In 1725 Schuyler was again replaced, this time with Johannes Cuyler, who was replaced a year later with Rutger Bleecker. In 1729 Bleecker was replaced with Johannes De Peyster, the only mayor to serve three non-consecutive terms. Johannes Hansen served for one year during 1731 after which De Peyster was returned to office by the governor. Also in 1731 Albany received from England its first primitive fire engine "to spout water" upon fires from a safer distance than using buckets carried up ladders.[35]

In 1733 De Peyster again was replaced, this time by Edward Holland. Holland, despite his last name, is the first mayor of Albany to be of any religion other than that of Dutch Reformed. He was of Anglican faith.[36] John Schuyler, Jr. was appointed mayor in 1740. He was of Dutch Reformed faith and served for one year before being replaced by De Peyster. De Peyster served his third and final time from 1741-1742. Cornelis Cuyler was appointed mayor in 1742.

1744-American Revolution

France and Britain declared war in 1744 and almost immediately forces were assembled in Albany for an invasion north to French Canada. French Canadian and natives attacked settlements north of Albany in 1745 and forced refugees to flee to Albany.[37] In response, Colonel William Johnson assembled representatives from the Iroqouis Confederacy in Albany in 1746 and successfully convinced them to declare war against the French.[37] Also in 1746 Dirck Ten Broeck was appointed mayor by the governor. In 1748 peace came between France and Britain (and therefore between Canada and New York) through the signing of the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle and Jacob Ten Eyck was appointed mayor.[38]

In 1750 Robert Sanders took the oath of office as mayor of Albany. In 1751 an auction was held to sell the rights to operate two ferries, one from Greenbush (today Rensselaer) to Albany, and another from Albany to Greenbush.[39] Also in 1751, a conference was held in Albany consisting of representatives from the Iroqouis Nation, New York Governor George Clinton, the Indian commissioners from South Carolina, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and the Catawba tribe.[39]

Since Massachusetts claimed a boundary extending "from sea to sea", which would include the city and much of the surrounding Albany County, disputes occurred between the sheriffs from Albany and the sheriffs from Springfield, Massachusetts. In 1751, after some Massachusetts officers were arrested and brought to Albany, the sherrif of Albany County was arrested and taken to Springfield.[40]

Cartoon drawn by Benjamin Franklin to support the Albany Congress in 1754, supporting united action in defence against France.

Fear of imminent war with France led the British Lords of Trade in 1753 to send letters to the colonies of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Virginia, suggesting they meet in Albany to discuss their common defense. The next year all except Virginia and New Jersey attend, but Rhode Island and Connecticut attend in their stead.[40] Benjamin Franklin of Pennsylvania presented what is now known as the Albany Plan of Union. The meeting, which took place at the corner of Broadway and Hudson Avenue, became known as the Albany Congress. Although it was never adopted by Parliament, it was an important precursor to the U.S. Constitution. One month later, fears of a war with France came true and new stockades are erected at Albany.[41] Johannes Hansen is appointed mayor.

Map of Albany in 1758.

During the French and Indian War, Albany was the target of several French plans to cut the British colonies in half. Albany was also the point in which British and colonial troops were assembled, and where several invasions of French Canada, and specifically Montreal, were planned. By 1756, 10,000 soldiers were drilling in Albany in preparation of attacks on Canada or for defense of the route to Albany.[42] Sybrant Van Schaick was appointed mayor in 1756 and a small pox epidemic occurred.[43] Refugees and soldiers continued to pour into the city as fighting along the routes to and from Canada escalated. Due to the large population of British soldiers, British tastes are introduced to Albany, and the first theatrical performance in the city occurred in the winter of 1757 by the British officers stationed there.[44]

General James Abercrombie's troops were stationed across the river from Albany in Greenbush, next to Fort Crailo. Dr. Shackburg of the British army composes "Yankee Doodle Dandy" as a mock of the various colonial militias that came to Albany.[45] In 1758 General Lord George Augustus Howe was killed at the Battle of Ticonderoga and was subsequently buried in Albany, today under the front vestibule of Saint Peter's Church on State Street. He is the only British Lord buried in the United States.[46][47] The Schuyler Mansion was built in 1761 by Colonel John Bradstreet for General Philip Schuyler, famous visitors in later years include George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, and Aaron Burr.[48]

Schuyler Mansion in 1818, site of marriage between Alexander Hamiltion and Philip Schuyler's daughter

Volkert Douw was appointed mayor in 1761. In 1763 a second fire engine was purchased. Prior to 1766 Albany had no permanent docks, so in that year the Common Council had three stone docks built. Each were 80 feet (24 m) long and between 30 feet (9.1 m) and 40 feet (12 m) wide.[49] In 1770 Abraham Cuyler was appointed mayor, being the last mayor to be appointed under a British Royal Commission.[50] Also in that year, a fourth dock was built along the river and the sloop Olive Branch became the first Albany ship to set sail for the West Indies.[51] Additionally, the city sold its remaining land in Schaghticoke. The Gazette became the first newspaper in Albany, first published in 1771 by Alexander and James Robertson.[52]

American Revolution

By 1774 events in other colonies regarding disputes with the British Parliament over taxation brought Albany into the wider issue of a colonial union for the first time since the Albany Congress. John Barclay became chairman of the newly formed Committee of Superintendence and Correspondence.[53] The committee selected Colonel Philip Schuyler, Abraham Yates Jr, Colonel Abraham Ten Broeck, Colonel Peter Livingston, and Walter Livingston as delegates from Albany (city and county) to the provincial congress in New York that would select the colony's delegates for the Philadelphia meeting of the Continental Congress. Of them, only Schuyler was selected to represent the colony at Philadelphia.[54] In 1775 the Continental Congress sent a committee to Albany to make a treaty with the Iroquois ensuring either their cooperation or their neutrality. It ended with no decision, but ultimately was a failure.

The Dutch Reformed Church in Albany in 1776 decided to change its preaching to English from Dutch.

Despite the war, the mayor and several others celebrated the King's birthday in 1776, but were disrupted by a mob. Later that month the sign from the King's Arms Tavern at the corner of Green and Beaver is carried to State Street and burned.[55] Philip Livingston, born in Albany, signed the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 and on July 9 the New York Provincial Congress met at White Plains, officially changing the name from "Province of New York" to the "State of New York".[55] On July 19, the Declaration of Independence was read out loud in front of City Hall to a mass gathering. Due to the war, this was the first year city elections were not held.[56] City elections were not held in 1777 either.

The British copied French plans from the French and Indian War and sent General Burgoyne to Quebec in order to march on Albany and meet up with forces coming east from Niagara Falls and north from New York City, thereby cutting the New England states off from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the Southern states.[57] The attacks from the west and south never actually got close to Albany, and Burgoyne's main thrust from the north was defeated at the Battle of Saratoga by General Gates. On October 16, 1777 Burgoyne surrendered his army to Gates, ending the immediate threat to Albany for the remainder of the war. Burgoyne was then sent to Albany where he lived at the Schuyler Mansion as a prisoner under house arrest.[58] To help protect Albany from further encroachment by British forces based in Manhattan, West Point was built along the Hudson between New York and Albany in 1778.

In 1778 the New York Legislature meeting in Poughkeepsie passed the "Act to remove all doubts concerning the corporation of the city of Albany", allowing the citizens to restructure the government. The legislature took over the job of appointing the mayor and subsequently appointed John Barclay. At that point, city elections resumed.[59] Barclay was Episcopalian and the first non-Dutch Reformed mayor since Edward Holland in 1733.[60] The next year General Abraham Ten Broeck was appointed to take over as mayor; he was of Dutch Reformed religion.

On January 27, 1780 the State Legislature met at Albany for the first time, meeting in City Hall on the corner of Broadway and Hudson Avenue.[61] The Legislature convenes again in Albany the next year.[citation needed]

In December of that year Alexander Hamilton married General Philip Schuyler's daughter Elizabeth at the Schuyler Mansion,".[62] which was Elizabeth's father's house and at the time called "The Pastures". Hamilton and his wife soon moved into a cottage on her father's land, where he studied law in the library of his father-in-law's house. Aaron Burr also studied law in that library, often getting into a tug-of-war over books with Hamilton.[63] In 1782 Burr also got married in Albany, at the Dutch Reformed Church the Schuylers went to.[64]

With Albany in relative calm after the Battle of Saratoga, not seriously threatened by native or British attacks, Albany could become more concentrated on commercial business, and in 1782 the first bank chartered in the city was created, the Bank of Albany. The American Revolutionary War came to an end in 1783 and Johannes Beekman was appointed mayor by the Governor. George Washington visited in this year and was presented with the "freedom of the city".[65]

American city


After the American Revolution, Albany began to grow both physically and commercially, but also culturally. The first post office in Albany was established in 1784 on the east side of Broadway, north of Maiden Lane. In 1785 the Common Council ordered to changed the names of any streets that seemed to "savor of the English rule" and Fort Frederick was demolished, which allowed for further expansion of the city to the west.[66] Also in 1785, the sloop Experiment left Albany for China, being only the second American ship to go to China, and the first expressly built for that purpose. A regular schedule of comedic acts were performed for several months in 1786, the first time comedians performed in Albany. John Lansing Jr. became mayor in that year as well.

In 1788 and 1789 stage lines are established linking Albany to Lansingburgh, New York and Springfield, Massachusetts,[67] prior to this the only stagecoach service was to New York. This is the very beginning of Albany's rise as a transportation hub, stage lines being an early version of intercity bus lines. In 1791 stage coach mail route is established to Bennington, Vermont and a stage line is started to Oneida County in 1792. In the following few years stage lines are established with the surrounding communities and beyond, such as Ballston in 1793 and to Buffalo and Niagara Falls in 1811. Within ten years turnpikes would start to radiate out from Albany to surrounding communities and farther.

Map of Albany in 1790 by Simeon De Witt

The first national census was taken in 1790 and the city was shown to have 3,498 people.[68] Albany County had 75,180 people, making it larger than the next two largest counties combined, New York and Dutchess counties.[69] Also in 1790, the street names were officially changed, east-west streets named for mammals and north-south streets for birds; most of the bird named streets continue to today with their names from this time, while the mammal streets, except for Elk, are changed over the course of time.[70] Abraham Yates Jr. was appointed mayor in this year as well. Congress authorized the construction of a post road from Albany to Canajoharie through Schenectady.[71] The Albany Library was incorporated in 1791 as well as the Bank of Albany. In 1797 the Albany Museum was incorporated.

Map of Albany's 1794 plan for future street grid, by Simeon De Witt

Emigration from New England to the western part of the state increased as roads were improved west of Albany. By 1795, 500 sleighs a day were passing through Albany in February on their way from New England states to the west.[72] On the death of Mayor Yates, Abraham Ten Broeck was appointed mayor a second time.

In 1797, the state capital of New York was moved permanently to Albany. From statehood to this date the legislature spent roughly equal time constantly moving between Albany, Kingston, Poughkeepsie, and the city of New York.[73] Also in 1797 the Ten Broeck Mansion was completed by Stephen Van Rensselaer for his brother-in-law Mayor Ten Broeck. Later that year he was replaced by Philip Van Rensselaer. A State Capitol, jointly used as City Hall, was finished at the corner of State and Lodge streets.

Transportation hub to the west (1800-1830)

The era of turnpikes in Albany started with the incorporation of the Great Western Turnpike Company in 1799. The Great Western Turnpike (today Western Avenue and US Route 20) connected Albany with the Finger Lakes and eventually Lake Erie at the site of Buffalo. Various other corporations soon started to connect Albany to various places: Lebanon Springs in 1799, Schenecatady in 1801, Bethlehem in 1804, Albany and Delaware in 1805. In 1803 the second bank chartered in Albany, the New York State Bank, opened. In 1807, Robert Fulton initiated a steamboat line from New York to Albany; this was the first commercially viable steamboat in the world.

In 1804 Aaron Burr, who had a law office in Albany at 24 South Pearl Street,[47] came into conflict with Alexander Hamilton. At 50 State Street, the home of John Tayler (later Lt. Governor and acting-Governor of the state), Hamilton made disparaging remarks about Burr and these were published in a local newspaper.[46][74]

A new building was constructed at the Public Square in 1808 at the head of State Street to be used jointly as the State Capitol and City Hall, just as the previous capitol/city hall on Broadway and Hudson Avenue. In 1810 Middle Public Square has its name changed to Washington Square, this and the cemetery next to it which was established a few years before are the genesis of the presend-day Washington Park.

By 1810 Albany, with 10,763 people, was the 10th largest city in the nation. The city continues to prosper and grow, adding new buildings, institutions, and people. In 1813 The Albany Academy is incorporated, the Albany Argus newspaper is established, two more banks apply for charters, and the grand opening of the Green Street theatre (first professional theater in Albany). The next year sees the opening of the Albany Academy for Girls. The city in 1815 annexes the village of Colonie, today the it is the neighborhood of Arbor Hill.[75] In 1816 a petition is started to get the Legislature to construct a canal from Albany to Lake Erie. After 17 years Mayor Van Rensselaer is removed from office for political reasons, and Colonel Elisha Jenkins becomes mayor of the city in 1816.[76]

In 1817 slavery comes to a gradual end in Albany as the Legislature decides that all slaves in the state born before July 4, 1797 will be emancipated on July 4, 1827 and all slaves born after July 4, 1797 will be emancipated at age 28 for males, 25 for females.[77] A month later the Legislature authorizes the construction of an Erie canal. Also in 1817 Martin Van Buren establishes his law firm, it is located at 111 State Street, then moves to 353 Broadway, and then in 1822 to 109 State Street. The New York State Library is established in 1818 inside the Capitol.

Philip Van Rensselaer returns to office in 1819 after Mayor Jenkins resigns. In 1819 the city is built up only one mile west of the Hudson, beyond that is the Pine Bush,[78] today the Pine Bush Preserve does not begin until five miles out from the Hudson. Theodric Romeyn Beck performs a comprehensive agricultural and geological survey of Albany County in 1820, it is the first in the state. Also in 1820 a chamber of commerce is established at Albany. The Common Council takes over the right to appoint the mayor and in 1821 unanimously elects Charles Edward Dudley. In Albany William Charles Redfield proposes that hurricanes are circular rotational vortices.

The DeWitt Clinton, first train in New York, ran from Albany to Schenectady

In 1823 the Federal Dam at Troy is finished with a lock allowing for river navigation above Troy to Lansingburgh and Waterford. Throughout 1824 from January 1 to March 7 the Common Council meets trying to vote out the mayor in favor of Ambrose Spencer, but several times deadlocks 11-11, finally on March 8 on the second ballot of that day Ambrose Spencer is elected on a vote of 11 for, 10 against, and one blank. He is only the third Episcopalian mayor and non-Dutch Reformed, in 1825 he will be reelected unanimously. The Albany Institute, the predecessor to the Albany Institute of History and Art is incorporated in 1824. In 1825, a 4,300-foot (1,300 m) long and 80-foot (24 m) wide pier was constructed 250 feet (76 m) from, and perpendicular to, Albany's shoreline.[79] Along with two bridges, the pier enclosed roughly 32 acres (130,000 m2) of the Hudson River as the Albany Basin. The construction of the pier and bridges cost $119,980.[80] The Erie Canal opens officially and the Seneca Chief leaves Buffalo on October 26, arriving at Albany November 2.[81] James Stevenson is elected by the Common Council in 1826, this is the first time in which an Episcopalian succeeds and Episcopalian as mayor of Albany. The Mohawk and Hudson Railroad (M&H), chartered in 1826, builds the Albany and Schenectady Railroad between those two cities, starting service on August 9, 1831, this is the first railway in the state.[82]

Map of Albany and Schenectady counties in 1829

The last public execution in Albany occurs on August 24, 1826. Jesse Strang is hanged for the murder of John Whipple at the Cherry Hill Mansion, beyond the city line then but today a museum within the city's South End.[83] He is hung on what was Hudson Street (Avenue), at a location now within the Empire State Plaza. Charles Dudley returns to office on the resignation of Mayor Stevenson, this returns a Dutch Reformed mayor after two Episcopalians, and Dudley's fourth time as mayor, but resigns in 1829 in order to become a United States Senator. John Townsend replaces him and becomes the first Presbyterian mayor of Albany, Albany becoming less dominated by Dutch descendants. Also in 1829 Joseph Henry at The Albany Academy demonstrates the idea behind electromagnets, induction, generators, and the electric telegraph but fails to patent any idea or invention, only publishing scientic papers, allowing others such as Samuel Morse to patent the same inventions years later.


Francis Bloodgood, of Dutch Reformed faith, becomes mayor in 1831 and pays all the debts of those in debtors prison on the occasion of his swearing in.[84] A City Hall is erected on Eagle Street, between Maiden Lane and Pine Street, the location of the current City Hall. It is made of marble and capped by a gilded dome. John Townsend returns as mayor in 1832. Summer of that year sees a cholera epidemic in Albany. Out of a population of about 26,000 there are 387 become infected and 136 die just in July, with the last death of cholera in this epidemic recorded in September.[85] Also in 1832 in order for Hudson Avenue to be extended west with the growing city the Rutten Kill is filled in between Eagle and Hawk streets (today part of the Empire State Plaza), having already been covered east of Eagle by Hudson Avenue. In 1833 Francis Bloodgood becomes mayor for the second time. Prior to 1833 the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad ended at the junction of Western and Madison avenues, starting in 1833 the tracks were extended to State Street within 50 feet of Eagle Street but the cars were pulled by horses for fear that locomotives could start buildings on fire or spook horses on the streets. At this time less than a handful of streets are opened as far west as Swan Street, some have been expanded out to Hawk, and most streets don't go past Eagle, except on paper, even Eagle Street is not open from Hudson to Madison avenues. The house that is farthest south in the city limits at this point is at the corner of Grand and Hamilton streets.[86]

Erastus Corning, Mayor of Albany.

In 1834 Erastus Corning is elected mayor by the Common Council. Cholera breaks out again this year, from August 11 to September 16, 19 people die. Teunis Van Vechten, of Dutch Reformed faith, takes office of mayor in 1837. On November 9, 1837 the Albany Evening Journal displays on its newspaper an eagle stretching across the top, this is used or loaned to the Albany Argus throughout the next 50 years, it is still used today by the Albany Times Union. Also in 1837 Albany Medical College is founded and 29 Elk Street is bought by the state as the first official governor's residence. Jared Rathbone is elected mayor in 1839, first Baptist mayor, last one to be chosen by the Common Council and also the first one to be elected by popular vote in 1840. In the first popular election for mayor Rathbone (Whig Party) defeats Corning by only 322 votes.[87] 1840 census shows the breakdown of the population of Albany as 15,729 white males, 17,021 white females, 378 black males, and 499 black females. Teunis Van Vechten (Whig) defeats Gerrit Lansing by 110 votes in 1841. The first synagogue in Albany is built in 1841, for Congregation Beth Jacob, located at 8 Rose Street (later Mosher Street). Barent Staats (Democrat) defeats John Townsend (Whig) by 336 votes in 1842, the next year he doesn't run for reelection, and Friend Humphrey (Whig) defeats Peter Gansevoort by 226 votes.

Mayor Humphrey defeats the Democratic candidate George Stanton by 630 votes in 1844. The next several years see more expansion and new innovations in the city. In 1844 the New York State Normal School is established by the state, it is the predecessor of the University at Albany, SUNY, Albany Rural Cemetery is consecrated, and the Mohawk and Hudson Railroad moves its tracks to pass through Tivoli Hollow and to a new depot at the foot of Maiden Lane. 1845 sees the first telegraph office in Albany and the completion of a telegraph line to Utica and the Albany Gas Light Company starts an experimenting with supplying residents with gas at home, four miles of pipes are used. In 1846 telegraph lines are constructed to New York and Buffalo and City Hall is lite with gas. Also in 1846 the first United States naval vessel to carry the name USS Albany is launched to sea, since then 4 others have carried that name.

Mayor Humphrey loses in 1845 by 38 votes to John Paige (Democrat), a mayor of Dutch Reformed faith.[88] The very next year Mayor Paige loses to William Parmelee by 592 votes. Also in 1846 the Roman Catholic Church creates the Diocese of Albany with John McCluskey as bishop, he later becomes the first American cardinal.[89]

In 1847 Mayor Parmelee is reelected by the largest margin of any mayor so far, 2,920 votes more than the Democratic nominee James Goold. Also in 1847 the Rutten Kill and its associated ravine is filled in and graded for an extension of Hudson Avenue between Hawk and Lark streets and telegraphic communication with St. Louis, Missouri becomes the longest distance a telegraph can be sent from Albany. In 1848 John Taylor (Whig) defeats Thomas Hun (Democrat) by 129 votes. Also in 1848 the cornerstone of the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception is laid at the corner of Madison Avenue and Eagle Street and the railroad to New York is completed. On August 17 "The Great Fire" burns 600 buildings over 37 acres from Maiden Lane in the north to Hudson Avenue to the south.[90] Friend Humphrey is elected mayor over Thomas Hun by 217 votes in 1849. Also in 1849 older turnpikes are planked and newer ones incorporated as plank roads, such as the Great Western Turnpike, Old Cherry Valley Turnpike, Albany and Mohawk Plank Road, and the Albany, Rensselaerville, and Schoharie Plank Road.

In 1850 Franklin Townsend (Whig) elected over Eli Perry (Democrat) by only 12 votes. The next year Eli Perry defeats Mayor Townsend by 366 votes. Albany Law School is organized in 1851. Also in 1851 the Bleeker Reservoir (today Bleeker Stadium) is constructed and Patroon's Creek is damned creating Rensselaer Lake (Six-mile Waterworks). Mayor Perry is reelected this year by a margin of 972 votes over Thomas McMullen, the Whig candidate. Also in 1852 the constabulary police force is replaced by a professional modern police department, with four precincts, all businesses closed on the day of the funeral of Daniel Webster out of respect, and the Cathedral is finally dedicated.

Albany as seen in 1853.

1853 is a busy and important year in transportation for the city. The final piece of the Northern Railroad between Albany and Cohoes is finished in April and by May to Waterford. By the end of June the railroad connects to Eagle Bridge where it connects up with the railroad from there to Rutland, Vermont. The various railroads between Albany and Buffalo are consolidated in July as the New York Central by former mayor Erastus Corning. The next month the Hudson River railroad to New York is absorbed as well. The Albany and Susquehanna Railroad is begun in September and the first boat through the enlarged Erie Canal reaches Albany. In November the Northern Railroad has the first train from Vermont to arrive in Albany. In the mayoral election William Parmelee becomes mayor again for a third time, winning by 381 votes over Mayor Eli Perry.

Dudley Observatory, as seen on a postcard from 1911.

In 1855 the Roman Catholic See of Albany has its first diocesan synod. Mayor Parmelee dies on March 15, 1856 and Charles Godard (Republican) is appointed mayor by the Common Council to fulfill the rest of Parmelee's term, Godard is the first Republican mayor of Albany. Eli Perry (Democrat) defeats John Quackenbush by 818 votes in April. In August the American Academy for Advancement of Science meets in Albany and the State Geological Hall opens and the Dudley Observatory is dedicated. In 1857 Folsom's Business College is established by HB Bryant and HD Stratton, it is the predecessor to Bryant & Stratton. The Pioneer Rowing Club, the first rowing club in Albany, is organized in 1857 and Mayor Perry wins reelection over John Quackenbush by 101 votes.


In 1860 George Thacher (Democrat) defeats John Taylor (Republican) by 735 votes. Eli Perry becomes mayor again in 1862 with 2,489 votes over George Luther the Republican candidate. George Washington Hough invents the recording barometer while director of the Dudley Observatory. In 1864 the Albany Railway Company begins intra-city service with horse cars between the corner of Broadway and State Street to the corner of Central Avenue and Northern Boulevard (today Henry Johnson Boulevard) and Eli Perry is reelected mayor by a 1,193 vote majority over John Rathbone (Republican). In 1866 former mayor George Thacher is elected over Robert Pruyn (Republican) by a 733 vote margin, the Livingston Avenue Railroad Bridge is finished in this year as well.

In 1867 the Bowery is changed to its current name of Central Avenue, Lydius Street is changed to Madison Avenue, and Madison Place gets its current name as well having previously been Madison Avenue. In 1868 Charles Bleecker defeats John Parker (Republican) by 2,836 votes. Also in 1868 Albany is created an Episcopal diocese from the New York diocese, William Doane is elected the first bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Albany. In 1869 Christian Brothers Academy is organized. George Thacher becomes mayor again with a 1,238 vote margin over Edmund Judson (Republican), he becomes the first mayor to have veto power over the Common Council.

Prior to 1870 the city's western boundary had remained the 16 mile limit from the Hudson River as stated in the Dongan Charter, in this year the limit is reduced to five miles, where Magazine Street is today, but the city annexes the hamlet to the north called North Albany from the town of Watervliet (today the town of Colonie) and areas to the south from the town of Bethlehem.[75] The Maiden Lane Bridge over the Hudson in Albany is finished and the first train crosses it on December 28, 1871. Westward expansion of the city is evident in the opening of Washington Park in 1871 (lake, bridge, and lakehouse finished in 1875) and of a fifth police precinct on Central Avenue, occupying building at 270 Central Avenue in 1876 (just west of North Lake Avenue). In Albany's South End Second, Third, and Fourth avenues receive their names, formerly being in order- Whitehall Road, Van Vechten Street, and Nucella Street. George Thacher resignes in 1874 and Edmund Judson (Republican) is elected by a margin of 1,492 votes over Thomas McCarty (Democrat), Judson becomes the second Republican mayor of Albany and the first to be elected by the people. In 1875 the Irish-born in Albany make up 14,184 out of the total population of over 86,000.

Map of Albany in 1895
A lithograph of Albany as seen in 1879, with the Albany Basin and Maiden Lane Bridge in foreground.

In 1876 Anthony Banks (Democrat) defeats Mayor Judson by 1,465 votes. In that year the first Albany High School is completed, it being on Eagle Street between Columbia and Steuben Streets, today the site of the Albany County Courthouse. In 1878 Michael Nicholas Nolan (Democrat) wins election as mayor over William Young (Republican) by a 3,558 vote margin. Mayor Nolan is the first Irish and first Catholic mayor of Albany. Also in 1878 Adam Blake, a former slave of the Van Rensselaer family opens the Kenmore Hotel at the corner of North Pearl and Columbia streets, the building still stands and is used for office space. In 1879 City Hall burns down and the Albany College of Pharmacy is organized. In 1881 electric lighting comes to Albany's streets and the current City Hall is completed. The election in 1882 is decided in favor of Mayor Nolan over John Swinburne but the next year the courts decide that Swinburne won and Mayor Nolan resigns. John Swinburne becomes mayor of Albany on June 25. Also In 1882 Academy Park was reconstructed with $4,500.[91] In 1883 the West Shore Railroad connects Albany to New York and to Syracuse, by January 1, 1884 it is to Buffalo. Former Mayor Anthony Banks defeats the current mayor Michael Nolan by a margin of 250 votes in 1884. In this year the cornerstone for Cathedral of All Saints was laid, technically the building is still not complete today.

Albany City Hall in 1897, completed in 1881.

In 1886 John Thacher (Democrat) defeats Edward Durant (Republican) by 1,529 votes. In 1888 Edward Maher (Democrat) defeats Former Mayor Swinburne by 2,753 votes. In 1889 construction on the Washington Avenue Armory, at the corner of Lark Street and Washington Avenue, is begun. James Manning (Democrat) wins the mayoral election in 1890 over Republican candidate Howard Fuller by 7,236 votes. Also in this year the Hawk Street Viaduct is completed, allowing for traffic to go from Elk Street over Sheridan Hollow to Clinton Avenue. Father Burke of St. Joseph's Church (Catholic) at a meeting at City Hall encouraging the Mayor to sign the bill authorizing the bridge says, "When the bridge shall have been built, should any one be so rash as to demand its removal, he would incur the indignation of the people of Albany." The bridge is demolished in 1970.[92] November 17, 1892 the Albany Times-Union is first published (and later drops the hyphen). Mayor Manning wins reelection in 1892 by a margin of 5,253 votes over James Warner (Republican). In 1893 the Moses statue in Washington Park is erected, a gift of Henry L. King. Oren Wilson (Republican) becomes mayor in 1894, defeating James Rooney by 3,509 votes. In 1896 former-mayor John Thacher defeats the Republican candidate William Walker by 4,278 votes. Also in 1896 the Northern Boulevard bridge is built over the New York Central Railroad's Tivoli Hollow line, it is located at the same location as the modern Northern Boulevard bridge between the Livingston Middle School and Albany Memorial Hospital.

New York State Capitol, begun in 1872 and completed in 1899. At a cost of $25 million it was the most expensive government building of its time.

In 1898 Thomas Van Alstyne (Democrat) becomes mayor after defeating Seldon Martin by 2,158 votes. Also in 1898 the second bridge in Albany to span Sheridan Hollow is built, this one to carry Knox Street (later renamed Northern Boulevard and today called Henry Johnson Boulevard) from Central Avenue to Spruce Street.

The current State Capitol begun in 1867, is finished in 1899 when Governor Theodore Roosevelt declares the building completed.[93] It was inspired by the Hôtel de Ville (City Hall) in Paris, France.[94] It was the most expensive government building of the time.[citation needed] Notable architectural features include its "Million Dollar Staircase." Also in 1899 the first automobile in Albany arrives, owned by Archibald Dederick, it is steam-powered. James Blessing (Republican) becomes mayor in 1900 after defeating Mayor Van Alstyne by 2,369 votes. In this year the Chamber of Commerce is organized.


In 1901 as part of the Arbor Day celebration Dana Park is opened, where Delaware Avenue and Lark Street meet at Madison Avenue. Also in 1901 a strike occurred by the employees of the United Traction Company (UTC), which ran the inter-city and intra-city mass transit buses and trolleys. The strike begins on May 7, and on May 14 the governor sends the 10th Battalion and Third Signal Corps to keep order on the UTC's routes, the next day the 23rd Regiment of Brooklyn is sent as reinforcement and the city is placed under martial law. On May 16 a mob attacks one of the UTC cars on Broadway just north of Columbia Street. The 23rd Regiment opens fire and two are killed, the strike ends on May 19.[95] Later in 1901 the local baseball team wins the State Pennant, they will win again in 1902. In 1902 Charles Gaus (Republican) becomes mayor of Albany after defeating General Amsaa Parker (Democrat) by 2,354 votes in the 1901 election. He is reelected over Colonel William Rice (Democrat) by 4,563 votes in the 1903 election, and in the 1905 election over Dr. William Wansboro by 8,536 votes.

The city of Albany circa 1906 from the New York State Capitol

The Albany County Municipal Airport was the first municipal airport and Albany International Airport remains the oldest in the United States. In 1908 the airstrip was located on a former polo field on Loudonville Road, three miles (5 km) north of the city in the town of Colonie. In 1909 the airport was moved to Westerlo Island, which is in the city of Albany, but at that time was in the town of Bethlehem. The airport was named after Teddy Roosevelt's son, Quentin, a fighter pilot during World War I. A $10,000 prize was established for sustained flight between Albany and New York City; Glen Curtiss achieved this feat on May 29, 1910. Other early pioneers of aviation that stopped at this early field were Charles Lindbergh, Amelia Earhart, and James Doolittle.[96]

Mayor John Boyd Thacher II once said "a city without the foresight to build an airport for the new traffic may soon be left behind in the race for competition". He therefore decided to build in 1928 a new modern airport on the Shaker site near Albany-Shaker Road in Colonie, not far from the original polo fields used as the first site of the municipal airport. The Shakers not only sold the land used but also loaned the use of tractors and tools.[96]

Erastus Corning 2nd, served as mayor of Albany from 1942 until 1983, the longest single mayoral term of any major city in the United States.[97] The airport up until 1960 had been jointly owned and managed by the city and county of Albany. It was in 1960 that Mayor Corning ended the city's stake.[96]

The Empire State Plaza, with the Corning Tower on the left and The Egg on the right

Between 1965 and 1978, the Empire State Plaza was constructed in Albany's midtown, west of downtown and south of the Capitol. It was, and remains, controversial, in large part because it required the demolition of several historical neighborhoods and the forced removal of Jewish, Italian, African American, and Latino inhabitants.[citation needed] The Plaza was conceived by Governor Nelson Rockefeller and is now named in his honor. It houses state government offices and also includes the Cultural Education Center (housing the New York State Museum, Library, and Archives) and The Egg, a performing arts center. The Erastus Corning Tower, one of the Plaza's buildings, stands 589 feet (180 m) high and is the tallest building in New York State outside New York City.[citation needed] The design of the Plaza is based loosely on the National Congress complex in the Brazilian capital of Brasília.[citation needed]

See also


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