Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Charter Day and Cake

July 22 marks the 328th anniversary of the Dongan Charter, the document which established Albany as a city and which makes it among the oldest incorporated cities in the United States.  The event doesn't get much attention since the Tricentennial celebrations in 1986 (which themselves seem to have been less spectacular than the 1886 Bicentennial (see the picture of crowds at a night parade in this previous post and some of the Bicentennial tablets which were placed at significant locations around the city).

I spent much of the day thinking that it would be great if something could be done annually to celebrate the event, even if only on a small scale. 

Yesterday, I picked up several vintage cookbooks.  Someone was putting moving out of a building in Center Square and set out a box of books.  I can never resist cookbooks so I came home with two.  Both were community cookbooks and the recipes in those can be hit or miss.  One was published by a church in Hagaman, New York and the other was published in conjunction with city Sesquicentennial in Indianapolis.
I didn't have a chance to peek inside either until this afternoon when the piece of paper shown above slipped from between the pages.  Not only does the apple cake recipe sound like its worth making (as soon as the weather cools enough to bake), but the recipe is handwritten on a piece of paper with a letterhead from the Tricentennial celebration.  Perfect timing!

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Meneely Bell in Lincoln Park

Just behind the Lincoln Park tennis courts and directly across from the old laboratory of Professor James Hall, there is a very large bell.  There is surprisingly little information on this bell, but the inscription on it gives a few clues as to its history.

The front of the bell reads:   Purchased under the supervision of the Albany Board of Fire Commissioners, June 1882.  M.N. Nolan, Mayor.  Thomas Willard, Philip O'Brien, H.S. Rosenthal, A.N. Brady, Thomas Austin.  Chief Engineer, James McQuade.

The reverse of the bell notes that it was cast by the famous Meneely foundry.

According to the 1917 Albany Guide Book:

The "Big Ben" of the city bells is in the City Hall tower and is used for striking fire alarms, the hour of 9 o'clock, and for municipal purposes generally.  It was cast in 1882 by Meneelly of West Troy; weight, 7,049 pounds; height, 50 1/2 inches; diameter at mouth, 70 inches; thickness, 5 1/2 inches.  Placed in position October 28, 1882

It may have been removed from City Hall when the carillon was installed in 1927.  By then, the need for a fire bell in the tower had lessened as a new fire telegraph station had been built on Delaware Avenue in 1917.  It's less clear exactly when the bell was moved to Lincoln Park.

Edited to add:

Monday, June 30, 2014

Helping History

Albany is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States.  Sadly, much of our tangible history has been lost to progress.  Look around the city and you will see only a few traces of Albany's colonial era, its role in the Revolutionary War, its development as a city before the Civil War.  And, certainly, a great swath of the city was consumed with the construction of the Empire State Plaza (a subject still hotly debated decades after the fact.

There is certainly good reason to regret the historic treasures that are lost. But this is the time to not only protect what tangible history we still have, but to PROMOTE it.  It's not just about historic preservation, but also making use of what we have.

Social Media

Many local historic sites and museums have a presence on social networks. Find their web site or blog, their Facebook page or Twitter. Like or follow it and, even more importantly, don't just favorite their posts. SHARE THEM. Post to their walls. Share your related photos with them. Help expand their reach instead of just passively showing support.

Friends of...

Many have a “Friends of” group. You don't have to join every single one. But pick one or two that you have a strong interest in and join at whatever level you can afford. If nothing else, you'll likely get an interesting newsletter several times a year. Take part in their scheduled events and spread the word about them. Share their schedules. Invite people to come along with you. Share photos from the events. And, as above, if the Friends have a social media presence, like it and share it.


Haven't been to your favorite museum in a while? Go. There's definitely a new exhibit or two and it's always great to revisit the old ones. Maybe there's a picture or object that you casually passed the last time that you will see from a different perspective now. Haven't been to that historic mansion since your middle school field trip? It's still there. It's still open. And it needs visitors. Bring a friend and, once again, share the experience whatever way you can.  Maybe you'll find a chance to volunteer, too.


There are scores of excellent books on Albany's past.  Many are out of print, but still accessible.  Some, like Joel Munsell's multi-volume Annals of Albany are available through Google Books or Archive.org.  Others can easily be obtaining through inter-library loan. 

Local history isn't a dead thing, but it needs a bit of life.  Support it and share it.

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

The Making of the Mall

This video documenting the building of the Empire State Plaza just recently surfaced thanks to Albany...The Way It Was (see previous post) and the individual who posted it to YouTube.  It's absolutely a must-see.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Albany...The Way It Was

If you're a Facebook user with an interest in Albany's past, there is a must-join group.

Albany...The Way It Was is filled with active discussions which range from the nostalgic to the more distant past.  As the group description states, it is a place were Albany memories are crowd-sourced and it includes a companion Flickr with thousands of photos.

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Albany History Page

A compilation of links, blogs, and other resources which I have found useful or interesting in my ongoing exploration of local history online (and off).

The Albany History Page

Sunday, February 23, 2014