Thursday, August 8, 2013

The Clark Tavern

This rubble, photographed on August 6, is the last remnant of the 18th-century Clark Tavern which stood at the corner of Madison Avenue and Lark Street until late last week.

The Tavern was built by Paul Clark around 1796.  Paul was the son of Patrick Clark and seems to have established his tavern around the time of his father's death.  He had previously lived in what is now the Bushwick area of Brooklyn and returned to Albany when he inherited property from his father, including this lot.  At the time, there was little or no development in this part of Albany.  Madison Avenue appears on contemporary maps as Wolf Street and would be known as Lydius Street before receiving its current name.   He also expanded his interests to include orchards which were best known for apple trees and was a founding member of Albany's Horticultural Society. 

Upon his own death in 1831, his tavern was described as "famous" in works such as Joel Munsell's Annals of Albany.  He was buried in the State Street Burying Grounds which were located just northwest of his property in present-day Washington Park and later removed to the Church Grounds at Albany Rural Cemetery. His gravestone is featured here.

Over the years, it was occupied by various businesses, most notably a pharmacy which remained until the 1970s.  In more recent years, it was home to the Tandoori Palace.  Damaged by a severe storm in 1950, it eventually lost its upper stories and its brick walls were covered with a thick painted plaster.  It was not even included in the excellent guide to local buildings, Albany Architecture edited by Diana S. Waite.  The Clark Tavern was, in a sense, lost long before demolition began late last week

I can remember the pharmacy quite well from my childhood, but despite living doors away for my entire life and being very interested in historic places, I was never aware of the actual age of this familiar building until this summer.  Which is not to say I didn't suspect the building of being a little older than it appeared with its wrought-iron wall-ties that seemed at odds with the ugly plaster.  During Art On Lark, I was handed a small flier about the building by a man I later recognized as John Wolcott, an advocate of historic preservation. 

A new building is planned for the corner of Madison and Lark which will include residential and retail units.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

The Tory Execution Place

The above is an excerpt taken from Part 2 of Joel Munsell's The Albany Annual Register for 1849-1850 which, according to the description on its title page, served not only as a city directory, but also contained "contributions to the history and antiquities of the city and other matters of interests."  Among other things, the volume contains lists of 18th-century Dutch Reformed Church burials, a biographical sketch of General Philip Schuyler, various statistics relating to city commerce, an account of the China voyage of the sloop Experiment, engravings of notable houses already demolished at the time of printing, and this reminiscence  about the execution of Tories during the Revolutionary War.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Visiting Vale

A photo essay from the historic Vale Cemetery in nearby Schenectady. 

Visiting Vale

There will be more local-themed content at this new site in the coming months.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

The Neighborhood The Disappeard

 When the Empire State Plaza was constructed, acres of downtown Albany were razed to make way for the massive marble and glass towers which crown a cliff-like platform.  The demolished acres included scores of houses and businesses, many of them part of the city's Italian-American community. 

A documentary is now in the works to tell the story of the neighborhood destroyed to make way for the Plaza and a fundraiser is underway on Kickstarter to help fund the project.

"Historians ask if Albany’s transformation was a natural evolution of its ethnic center or a sterilization of the city’s cultural essence. Did neighborhood residents that endured the Great Depression and the trenches of World War Two deserve this disregard? When Albany’s political bosses were outmatched by a billionaire governor, they sold the South End for some pieces of silver. "

If you'd like to donate to the project, please see their Kickstarter page.

The Neighborhood The Disappeared

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Schuyler Slave Reburial Update

There is some news today that $4,000 has been earmarked in the State Budget for the reburial of the skeletons found near the Schuyler Flatts.  See more at the Church Grounds Project blog.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Bicentennial Plaque No. 29 - The North-East Gate

This bronze tablet is difficult to spot, set flush to the ground and surrounded by greenery in front of SUNY Plaza on Broadway (just north of the marble Independence Day tablet). In warmer weather, the plants almost completely engulf it.   It is, however, close to its original location.  It was first placed in a granite block by the curb in front of the Van Benthuysen Printing & Publishing House which stood at 403 Broadway a few yards to the south.

The inscription on this plaque reads:

On the northeast corner of Broadway, then Court street, and Hudson, then Spanish street, stood the Second City Hall, Erected 1705, in which the Famous Congress of 1754 Met and Prepared a Union of the Several Colonies for Mutual Defense and Security.  The Southeast Gate of the City stood in front, to the south of the City Hall.  To the north of this spot a Bridge crossed, and on this ground was the house where Peter Schuyler, the first and for sixteen successive years Mayor of this City.

The Rutten Kill referenced on this plaque was also known as the Rat Creek and was buried in the 1800s.  It ran through a ravine that was filled in to create parts of Hudson Avenue. 

The Bicentennial Tablets
Bicentennial Plaque No. 1 - Fort Orange
Bicentennial Plaque No. 4 - The Progenitor

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Erastus Dow Palmer

Erastus Dow Palmer by Matthew Brady

On March 10, 1904, the New York Times published the obituary of Erastus Dow Palmer, referring to the long-time resident of Albany as "one of the pioneers of American sculpture."

He was born in Pompey, New York on April 2, 1817.  The son of a farmer, he learned to carve wood at an early age.  In addition to helping cut axe handles and other utilitarian tools, he also is said to have carved toy horses, windmills, and even made a little fiddle from a cigar box.

As a young man, he moved to East Aurora (near Buffalo) to work as a carpenter.  While living in East Aurora, he married, but illness claimed both his wife and infant son.  Shortly after this double loss, he relocated to Utica where he continued as a carpenter and woodcarver.  In 1843, he married Mary Jane Seaman.

Having seen illustrations of cameos in the home of a client, Palmer was inspired to cut a cameo of his wife using an oyster shell and the smallest of his carpentry tools.  He showed the finished piece to a local lawyer for whom Palmer had done work.  The lawyer was very impressed by Palmer's work and immediately lent him books with engravings of famous artwork, provided him with letters of recommendation to a number of prominent artists of the era, and strongly encouraged Palmer to pursue a career as a sculptor.

That career began with a series of portrait cameos, mainly of prominent Utica residents.  However, Palmer found that working on such a small scale was straining his eyesight.  He began producing larger reliefs in marble.  One early work is the allegory of Faith which hangs in St. Peter's Episcopal Church in downtown Albany and is shown below.

Faith at St. Peter's Episcopal Church

He would move from reliefs such as the Spirit's Flight (shown below) and a haunting image of the poet Sappho to busts (including likenesses of Washington Irving, Erastus Corning, and Henry Burden) and, eventually full length-statues such as the White Captive and The Indian Girl.  Later in his career, he produced sculptures in bronze such as the bust of Doctor James Armsby in Washington Park and the statue of Robert Livingston in the U.S. Capitol's Statuary Hall (with a copy in New York State Capitol.)

Early his career, Palmer relocated to Albany, a larger city that would provide him with many opportunities for commissions.  His home and studio still stand just north of City Hall on Columbia Place.  He later moved to nearby Lafayette Street (since demolished to make way for the park of the same name) and to a farm in Glenmont which he named Appledale.  He maintained close friendships with a number of contemporary artists including Frederick Church (a pair of reliefs by Palmer hang at Church's Olana) and Asa Twitchell.  Palmer would often spend time with the latter at Lawson Annesley's gallery and art store on North Pearl Street.

Palmer died at the age of eighty-six on March 9, 1904 and was buried in the Albany Rural Cemetery.

A number of Palmer's works are on display in a permanent gallery at the Albany Institute of History & Art.  This exhibit includes the previously mentioned Sappho, Peace In Bondage (an allegory created during the Civil War), First Sorrow (a full length-figure of a little girl holding an empty nest), as well as plaster casts of the Indian Girl and The White Captive (the original pair of marbles is on display at the Metropolitan Museum of Art).  The centerpiece of the AIHA exhibit is the plaster cast of his masterpiece, the Angel At The SepulchreA vivid portrait of Palmer by Charles Loring Elliott is also on display, as well as a painting of Palmer at work in his studio, surrounded by apprentices (including Charles Caverley) and many recognizable works.

The Angel At The Sepulchre

The Angel is one of ten monuments Palmer created for the Albany Rural Cemetery, including Grief, Remembrance, portrait medallions of Thomas Olcott, Lewis Benedict, and Benjamin Knower, as well as the granite headstone of Governor William Marcy.  A pair of reliefs representing Morning and Evening were incorporated into Palmer's own monument by architect Marcus T. Reynolds.

Grave of Erastus Palmer at the Albany Rural Cemetery

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

The Albany Trust Company Building

Crowned with a dome, this ornate building at the northwest corner of State Street and Broadway was the work of Marcus T. Reynolds. 

Reynolds, one of Albany's best-known and prolific architects was commissioned to design the building for the Albany Trust Company in 1902 (the bank itself had been founded only two years earlier).

The building, described as being in a Beaux-Arts Northern Renaissance style, is heavily ornamented with graceful female heads above the windows, eagles which encircle the dome, and a golden orb.  It also has a nod to history with a relief of the North River Steamboat over a door on the Broadway side, though this was a later addition.  The main banking room inside was circular in keeping with the curves lines of the exterior design. 

As newer buildings replaced many of Albany's older structures, this handsome building was a fortunate survivor as modern construction was designed to surround it instead of demolishing it.

For a look an another round-cornered building that stood on the same site prior to the Albany Trust Company, click here.