Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Recommended Link

The Albany County Hall of Records has an on-line gallery of photos taken in and around Albany in the 1930s and 1940s. Presented as slide show, Buried Treasures is well worth a look if you'd like a glimpse of Albany years ago. Some of the places shown are now long gone, others are still with us.

Buried Treasures

(And thanks to Carl of My Non-Urban Life for tipping me off to this terrific collection of pictures.)

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Local History News Round-up

The former Philip Livingston school building at 315 Northern Boulevard will soon be put on the market by the Albany School District. The impressive 193os building is one of several historic school buildings currently being offered, others include the former Adult Learning center on Western Avenue (built 1901) and the 1875 School 17 on Second Avenue.

Read more at the Times Union:

New tenants sought for old school

Also from the Times Union, a follow-up on the possible inclusion of the Hudson Valley region as a part of the National Parks Service.

Hudson Valley plan wins key approval

Herman Melville

One of the many NYS historic markers which dot the City of Albany, this one stands on North Pearl Street in Clinton Square, a small plaza adjacent to the Old Dutch Church.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Valentine's Dinner Benefit at the Ten Broeck Mansion

For anyone who'd like a little historical romance for Valentine's Day, the Ten Broeck Mansion is hosting a special dinner to benefit the Albany County Historical Association.

According to Steve Barnes' Table Hopping blog at the Times Union, the dinner is $95 per couple and the full menu - which sounds delicious - is available in today's blog post.

For more information or reservations, please call 518-436-9826 and please note that the event is limited to sixteen couples.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Follow The Yellow Brick Road

A conversation with a friend on Facebook this morning about Edgar Allan Poe brought back some memories of a local legend that involves the author of "The Raven" and "The Cask of Amontillado."

When I was very young, a family friend told me that the "real" yellow brick road could be found right here in the Albany area. The conversation took place one night as we drove across the bridge over the Normanskill Creek between Albany and Delmar.

Now, I didn't believe for a minute that following said road would really lead me through a land of Munchkins, singing Scarecrows, sleep-inducing poppies, and witches good and bad to a Wizard in an Emerald City, but I was rather eager to see this fabled road. Unfortunately, for some reason, I never had another chance to talk to the family friend about the exact location. I asked others about it, but they seemed to think that I'd imagined the conversation or, worse, that I was a silly child looking for something that didn't exist!

I knew, however, that I had not misheard...that there was a real yellow brick road somewhere in the Albany area. Rather than argue, though, I let the matter go.

Until years later, when I looked down from the Normanskill Bridge and saw a smaller, much older bridge crossing the creek. It was closed to vehicles and roughly paved here and there with asphalt. But, peeking out from under the patchy asphalt, there was a yellow brick road.

The bridge was part of an old road, the Delaware Turnpike, connecting the city of Albany with smaller towns to the south along what is now Delaware Avenue. Not far from this crumbling bridge is another very historic bridge, the 1867 Whipple Truss Bridge. The Whipple bridge, which originally also crossed the Normanskill, was relocated to cross a nearby ravine when the Delaware Turnpike was rerouted in 1899.

And here's how the old Turnpike with its pale gold bricks connects to Edgar Allan Poe...a local legend links Poe and famous road that Dorothy followed to the Emerald City. It's said that Poe visited the creekside hamlet of Normansville...or at least passed through it and mentioned a "yellow brick road" in some obscure letter. L. Frank Baum somehow read this account years later and Poe's reference to the distinctively-colored Delaware Turnpike inspired his "yellow brick road" to Oz.

The provenance of the tale is sketchy enough and probably impossible to ever verify. But parts of it are plausible. Poe certainly would have traveled through this area en route to Sarotoga Springs. His 1842 trip there is a matter of historical record. And, perhaps, he did make mention of the road that took him through the Albany area in a letter now lost. Whether or not Baum ever had knowledge of such a letter is anyone's guess.

Even the history of this brick road isn't completely clear. The present paving of yellow bricks was laid in 1900 well after Poe's death and the old bridge only dates to 1913. The choice of color might have even been inspired by the popularity of Baum's novel...but perhaps the previous bricks were yellow, too?

Whether or not the connection between The Wizard of Oz, Edgar Allan Poe, and the old Delaware Turnpike is just a myth, the yellow brick road is worth a look. While it doesn't lead to any Emerald is part of a lovely walking trail.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Looking back on the Quadricentennial

Today's Times Union has an article assessing the 2009 Hudson Quadricentennial commemorations.

While last year's events certainly were not as large or elaborate as those held in 1909, but there were some memorable moments. For me, it was the Hudson River Heritage Festival held along the Corning Preserve in September.

I have to say that I rather miss the Quad year already and I would certainly enjoy more events recalling Albany history in the future.