Friday, May 15, 2015

Henry Johnson To Receive Medal of Honor

The long effort to posthumously award Henry Johnson the Medal of Honor for his service in World War I has been successful. 

Article from All Over Albany

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Seriously Endangered Church of The Holy Innocents

In 1850, Albany lumber baron William H. DeWitt built a memorial to four of his children who died quite young.  In addition to a splendid marble tombstone in the Albany Rural Cemetery, DeWitt also erected a little stone church in their memory; the Church of the Holy Innocents.

Built at the corner of North Pearl and Colonie Streets, it was a short walk from the DeWitt home to the church which was designed by Frank Wills.  In the 1860s, a matching chapel was added to the south side; this addition designed by Edward Ogden and William L. Woolett.

Holy Innocents served as an Episcopal church until the late 1940s.  Until 1980, it was home to a Russian Orthodox congregation (hence the distinctive blue "onion dome" which replaced the original steeple and bell around 1960.

Vacant since 1980 and currently owned by Hope House, this beautiful building has suffered greatly from neglect.  It is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and cited by the Historic Albany Foundation as one of the city's most endangered buildings, it is also one of the oldest church structures in Albany.  

Yesterday, the rear wall of the church collapsed.  Despite the damage and the decades of neglect, Historic Albany Foundation states that the building can be stabilized and saved.

Albany is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the United States, but much of our tangible history has been lost to neglect and demolition.  Several years ago, the equally historic Trinity Church was demolished after part of the structure caved in. 

Please, let's not lose the Church of The Holy Innocents, too.  Call the City of Albany and let them know this historic church must be stabilized and saved, not reduced to yet another empty lot and yet another empty hole in the city's cultural and historic fabric.

Office of The Mayor, City of Albany - 518-434-5100
Hope House (current owners of the site) - 518-482-4673 - Kevin Connally, Executive Director

Photos are from the Albany...The Way It Was collection on Flickr

Albany...The Way It Was Facebook Group
Albany...The Way It Was on Flickr

Times Union article

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Sunday, January 11, 2015

The Step Stone of The Church

Volume One of Joel Munsell's Annals of Albany contains a description of an old stone which marked the location of the First Dutch Church on Broadway near the foot of State Street.  The stone survived until 1850.  The stone - or at least an artistic rendering of it - is the kidney-shaped object near the left side of the "very rude engraving" above (click to enlarge).

Friday, December 5, 2014

The Virginia Bowers Memorial Sculpture

This wonderful sculpture made from original trolley tracks removed from Delaware Avenue honors the late Virginia Bowers, Albany historian.  It's a whimsical creation with metal birds in its branches and stands behind the Delaware Avenue branch of the Albany Public Library.  If you'd like to buy a brick to be placed around the sculpture, they are $50 each and can be ordered here.

For more on Virginia Bowers, see this brief profile.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

An Uncommon Thrill - When The Hilton Sisters Came To Albany

Violet and Daisy Hilton

 In 1934, Daisy and Violet Hilton brought their vaudeville act to Albany.

Audiences at the Capitol Theater in Albany are getting an uncommon thrill these days, "The Hilton Sisters," American Siamese Twins," born at San Antonio, Texas, are appearing on the stage with their "Double Rhythm Revue" and are also meeting with the audience personally in the foyer to chat with patrons and present their autographs.

The Hilton Sisters, who are making an unfortunate accident of birth pay them back what it can by their stage appearances are also good entertainers.  They sing, play musical instruments and dance with male partners.

The June 4 edition of the Schenectady Gazette didn't get it quite right.  Daisy and Violet Hilton were not born in San Antonio, but in Brighton, England on February 5, 1908.  The illegitimate daughters of an unwed barmaid, the infant girls were fused together at the pelvis and, while they did not share any major organs, they did share a circulatory system and it was thought at the time that surgical separation could cause one or both girls to bleed to death.  Immediately after their birth, the twins were taken by their mother's boss, Mary Hilton.  Mary Hilton and her husband (always referred to as "Sir") raised the girls with plans to exploit their connection for profit.  They oversaw the girls' early training as singers and dancers, but kept them under control with threats and abuse.  The girls began their show business careers at the age of three when Mary Hilton and Sir took them on tour through Germany, Australia, and the United States.  Mrs. Hilton died in Birmingham and left control of Daisy and Violet to Mary Myers.  Mrs Myers took them to San Antonio and continued the girls' musical training.  The abusive control of every aspect of the twins' lives also continued until 1931 when the twenty-one year old sisters sued their "managers."  They succeeded in their suit, gaining their freedom from Mary Myers and her husband along with $100,000 in compensation.

 Advertisements like this appeared in the Albany, Troy, and Schenectady newspapers.

The Hilton Sisters took charge of their own careers, touring the country with a vaudeville act.  In 1934, their "Double Rhythm Revue" came to Albany.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

A Tour of Lost Cemeteries

Just in time for Halloween, All Over Albany (a site you should be reading daily) gave this blog a much appreciated shout-out in a post about Washington Park's previous incarnation as the State Street Burying Grounds.  

Below is a brief tour of sorts of some other former burial grounds in Albany.  It appeared in Charles Mooney's column (always a source of fascinating bits and pieces of local history) in the Knickerbocker News on October 14, 1961.

We ran across John E. Boos this week and, as we customarily do, asked Albany's famed authority on Abraham Lincoln if he had a story to tell. Mr. Boos, who is a man of a few thousand words when occasion demands, took a deep breath and said, to wit:

“Your column has been filled so much with butchers, and bakers, and candlestick makers, old buildings, old people, and Otto de Heus's sheet music, why not change to a more solemn subject and asked if the average citizen remembers or ever heard of the many cemeteries in the city?”

“There was a cemetery on Arbor Hill bounded by Ten Broeck Street, Second Street, Hall Place and Ten Broeck Place – now, and for many years a fenced-in lawn, although it could have been a more useful place as a neighborhood playground.

The Ten Broeck family erected a vault at Livingston Avenue and Swan Street in which was entombed the remains of Generals Philip Schuyler and Abraham Ten Broeck, both heroes of the Battle of Saratoga.

“When the vault began to crumble, the remains were removed to Albany Rural Cemetery, and General Ten Broeck's grave has never been marked, though there is a monument honoring him on the battlefield.

“To honor Col. John Mills and Gen. Solomon Van Rensselaer, they were buried near the Washington Avenue side of Capitol Park, one having been killed at Sackets Harbor in the War of 1812 and the other severely wounded at Queenstown Heights in the same war. Their remains were later removed to Rural Cemetery where they now rest, the state having erected a monument on Mills' resting place.

“At the foot of State Street, under the floor of the Reformed Church, a number of members were buried. The remains were removed in 1818 to a new cemetery on Beaver Street where a new church had been erected. (The National Commercial Bank's Heartland Building now covers the site).

“Peter Schuyler, Albany's first mayor, was buried in the church, and possibly his remains still rest in the Beaver Street plot.

“There was a cemetery on the south side of Central Avenue above Watervliet Avenue, where I believe the members of St. John's Lutheran Church were buried. There was another Lutheran cemetery on the State Street side of Washington Park at Willett Street, the bodies having been removed when the park was laid out.

“On Washington Avenue above Partridge Street was St. Mary's Cemetery, overgrown with weeds and brush when the bodies were removed to a new resting place in St. Agnes Cemetery, while at Hamilton and South Pearl Streets the Hallenbeck family'sburial plot covered a half acres for more than 100 years.”

John Boos, although he didn't say so in so many words, appears to regret some of Albany's old cemeteries were removed to make way for civic and industrial progress, for he added:

“The graves of early citizens are highly revered in Boston, and one who rambles down its crooked streets will still find the old cemeteries in the business section of the city. Kings Chapel, Granary and Old North Church have visitors from all over the nation who delight in reading the quaint inscriptions on the tombstones.”