New York - Albany
Albany (18 alt., 95,658 pop.), capital of New York State, inland seaport and port of entry on the west bank of the Hudson River, is built along the edge of a plateau that extends 18 miles northwest to the Mohawk Valley. Docks, railroad terminals, and factories occupy the narrow shelf at the water's edge. The Union Station, a massive rectangular building of late French Renaissance design, occupies an entire city block on Broadway between Steuben and Columbia Streets.
Various New York State departments centered in Albany have offices in the granite-faced, nine-story STATE OFFICE BUILDING which stands on the northeast corner of the square ( Worth and Centre Streets). Built ( 1928-30) under the supervision of W. E. Haugaard, State commissioner of architecture, it is of "chastened classic" design. Its walls are relieved by flat carving and at its four entrances are black granite lighting standards. The offices are grouped around two large courts. The main floor halls are finished in gray marble with green marble pilasters and bronze capitals, and plaster cornices and ceilings decorated with gold leaf.
Although Albany is an important manufacturing and wholesale distributing center, its personality is determined by its function as the capital of the State. During political campaigns, and in the early months of the year when the legislature meets, the corridors of State buildings and hotel lobbies hum with politics. It is this large group of office workers that gives Albany an essentially 'white-collar' appearance.
Albany's population is a composite of Dutch, English, Scots, Irish, and Germans, with more recent immigrant elements including Italians, Poles, and Russians. There is a small percentage of Negroes. The city's churches are distributed among 16 denominations. Included in the public school system are 24 grammar and four high schools. There are 18 parochial schools, five degree-granting colleges, and several private schools and academies.
Aboriginal Indian trails running north and south along the Hudson Valley and east and west between Massachusetts and Niagara crossed at the site of Albany. Near by were one or two small Indian villages but the plateau was used principally for campsites and the cultivation of maize. On September 19, 1609, Henry Hudson anchored the Half Moon in the shallows off the site of the present city—the farthest point north the ship reached—and spent several days making friends with the Indians. In 1613 two vessels commanded by Captain Adrian Block and Hendrick Christiansen spent the winter near the head of navigation. In 1614, on Castle Island ( Van Rensselaer Island), now part of the Port of Albany, Christiansen built Fort Nassau, which was used as a trading post for four years; and sporadic trade was thereafter continued by individual merchants. The friendly relations maintained with the Indians during this early period had a lasting influence on Albany's Colonial history.
The first permanent settlers, who came in 1624, were 18 families, mostly Walloons from Holland. They built a second fort on the site of the present river steamer landing and called it Fort Orange in honor of the ruling house of Holland.
In 1630 Kiliaen Van Rensselaer, with two partners, purchased from the the Indians land on both sides of the Hudson River with Fort Orange the approximate center, and established the patroonship of Rensselaerswyck. The patroon, who never came to the Colony, sent Dutch, Norwegians, Danes, Germans, and Scots to settle on the land; he built sawmills, gristmills, homes, and barns for them; supplied foodstuffs and cattle; set up laws regulating trade, hunting, and fishing; and collected rentals.
Father Isaac Jogues, the Jesuit martyr, described the settlement in 1643 as 'composed of about one hundred persons who reside in some twenty-five or thirty houses built along the river as each found most convenient . . . All their houses are of boards and thatched, with no mason work except the chimneys.'
Friction developed early between the patroonship and the Dutch West India Company, each claiming jurisdiction over the land on which Fort Orange was built. In 1652, Peter Stuyvesant, sent out by the West India Company as director general of New Netherland, set up a court and laid out space around Fort Orange for a new village called Beverwyck (Dutch, town of the beaver), and forbade the patroon to erect buildings near the fort. The Van Rensselaer agent tore down the proclamation and posted another maintaining the rights of the patroon. When the English threatened New Amsterdam (now New York City) in August-September 1664, Stuyvesant called on Rensselaerswyck for aid, but was refused. Under the new English rule the Van Rensselaers still claimed Beverwyck as part of their manor, but relinquished their claim to the village in 1685. Governor Dongan converted their patroonship into an English manor.
The British permitted the Dutch to retain their own language, customs, religion, local courts, and institutions, and admitted them to the governor's council. Their leaders, represented by such names as Van Rensselaer, Schuyler, Hendrick, and Winne, were joined by British tradesmen and officials, led by the Clintons, Yateses, Livingstons, and other families prominent in the Nation's history. In 1686 Albany, chief fur trading center of the English Colonies, was given a charter by Governor Dongan. For a quitrent of one beaver skin a year the king granted the city control of the fur trade to 'the eastward, northward, and westward as far as His Majesty's dominion may extend.'
The fur trade made Albany traders wealthy and intensified friction with the French. Control by the English of the interior and of the fur trade of the Great Lakes area depended on their alliance with the Iroquois and the defense of the Colonial frontier, of which Albany was the key. In 1690 the Massachusetts Council, concerned for the safety of Albany after the Schenectady massacre, wrote: ' Albany is the dam, which should it through neglect be broken down by the weight of the Enemy, we dread to think of the Inundation of Calamities that would quickly follow thereupon.'
The four Colonial wars kept the city in a state of anxiety from 1689 to 1763. During the early conflicts, when it bore the brunt of the defense, Albany protested the building of French forts to the west as a potential source of interference with the fur trade. In 1701, during a temporary cessation of hostilities, a substantial trade in Indian goods grew up between Albany and Montreal. To protect the trade, Albany agreed to remain neutral in case of another war, and the French agreed that Albany should not be attacked. Indians under French domination purchased arms in Albany to use against the New England colonies.
The Iroquois resented this trade with their commercial rivals, and their allegiance to the English cause was further weakened by French military successes. In 1754 the British Lords of Trade finally awoke to the danger and called a congress of all the colonies at Albany to make a treaty with the Indians and to consider colonial defense. The Indians were slow in arriving; their temper was expressed by King Hendrick, chief of the Mohawk, when he thundered, 'Look at the French; they are men, they are fortifying everywhere—but, we are ashamed to say it, you are all like women . . .' Benjamin Franklin's plan of union was adopted by the congress but was rejected by the colonies because it unduly limited their independence and by Britain because it impaired the royal prerogative.
During the French and Indian War, Albany served as point of departure for Colonial and British forces under William Johnson, Abercrombie, Bradstreet, and Lord Amherst on their way north and west against the French. After the Anglo-French treaty of 1763 the city was ready for peace, but farmers were disgruntled by taxes, merchants and lawyers were gauging anew the possibilities of Franklin's 1754 proposal, and young men back from the wars were restive under British rule. The break came with Stamp Act riots, the organization of the Sons of Liberty, and the burning of the city mail sleigh. Philip Schuyler proposed a censure of George III in the 1775 session of the Provincial Assembly, which carried 7 to 2 after the Loyalists had left the chamber.
Shortly before the Battle of Lexington a Committee of Safety was organized, which voted sums of money to Boston, patrolled the streets with its own militia, supervised defense operations, and erected gallows (near the present site of the State Capitol) to hang Tories who had tried to escape jail.
Capture of Albany was the objective of the British campaign of 1777. Mrs. Schuyler rode north in her carriage and burned the grain on the family estate at Old Saratoga (Schuylerville) to prevent its falling into the hands of the British. After the surrender of his army at Old Saratoga, Burgoyne became a prisoner-guest in her home in Albany. Lafayette spent part of 1778 in the city, preparing to lead an expedition against Canada. St.Peter's and the Dutch Reformed Church were turned into hospitals. Second to General Philip Schuyler as the city's hero was Colonel Peter Gansevoort, who commanded Fort Stanwix (now Rome), the western outpost, and with the aid of General Herkimer blocked St.Leger's advance down the Mohawk Valley. In 1779 local residents of the Second New York Continentals, under Colonel Goose Van Schaick, cut into the central wilderness to destroy the villages of the Onondaga. George Washington was made a freeman (i.e. voter) of the city during a visit in 1782; the following year, with Governor Clinton, he made a second visit.
The war at an end and the Indian treaties voided, Albany found itself at the crossroad of a free Nation in the making. Lands in the central and western parts of the State were opened to settlement; and the principal route from the New England States lay down the Hoosick Valley to the Hudson, south to Albany, and across the pine plains to Schenectady and the Mohawk Valley. The main stream of emigration poured westward through Albany; in 1795, five hundred vehicles a day pushed up State Street hill.
In 1785 Captain Stewart Dean, sailing from Albany to Canton, China, was the second Yankee skipper to reach that port. A stagecoach line between Albany and New York was chartered in 1785. From 1783 to 1790 Duncan Phyfe, who later won fame as a furniture craftsman in New York City, served his apprenticeship with a local coachmaker. Sailmakers and chandlers opened shops along the city's three quays. Clothing, hat, and glass factories were established. Within a few years glass manufacturers developed an annual business of $380,000 in black bottles for the 'rum-toslaves-to-sugar-to-rum' trade of New England shippers. Lumberyards at the northern end of the city absorbed the output of Adirondack forests. After wandering from New York City to White Plains, Kingston, and Poughkeepsie, the State legislature moved to Albany in 1797 and rented a home for Governor John Jay.
In the closing years of the century, migration forced the first road improvements and the development of a number of turnpikes radiating from the city. At the height of turnpike travel, 20 stagecoaches left Albany daily over the Cherry Valley route (now US 20). The first steamboat to make regular trips, the Clermont, built by Robert Fulton, steamed into the Albany harbor on August 19, 1807.
The Champlain Canal was opened in 1822, the trans-State Erie was completed in 1825. Albany built a pier 4,000 feet long, at which hundreds of canal boats could be handled at one time. Wheat from the Genesee Valley, salt and waterproof cement from Onondaga, butter, glass, and potash were unloaded on the Albany wharves. Packet lines carried pioneers to Ohio, Indiana, Michigan, and Illinois. From 1820 to 1830 the population of the city doubled. In 1831, 15,000 canal boats tied up at city wharves and 500 sailing ships in the coastal and West India trade cleared from Albany.
Within a few years after the appearance of the first canal boat came the first railroad. The diminutive De Witt Clinton made the first trip over the Mohawk & Hudson Railroad to Schenectady on September 24, 1831. The Hudson River Railroad, connecting New York City with Greenbush (now Rensselaer) across the river, was completed in 1851. The first steamdriven printing press in the country was operated here in 1828; the second telegraph instrument in the United States was installed here in 1845; the American Express Company was formed here in 1841. Cattleyards, developed at West Albany, at their peak handled 2,000,000 animals a year from midwestern ranges.
The Albany Argus, founded in 1813, become famous as the mouthpiece of the political circle known as the Albany Regency, with Martin Van Buren its guiding spirit. The Albany Evening Journal, founded in 1830 and edited for 35 years by Thurlow Weed, early political boss, bolstered first the Whigs and then the Republican party.
The lumber industry reached its maximum development during the Civil War years. Early in the nineteenth century log drives originating on the upper Hudson made Albany a dominant lumber center. In 1872 the lumber district extended for one-and-three-quarter miles along the canal north of the city, with docks 1,000 feet long. The annual intake Was 680,000,000 feet of timber. Destruction of the forests and the demand for conservation curtailed the lumber industry, and the 3,963 sawmills operating in the Albany district in 1865 dwindled to 150 in 1900.
The unleashing of energy and the spurt of industrialization that followed the Civil War, together with increased immigration, turned Albany into the path that led to its twentieth-century industrial and commercial importance. Groups of Irish settled in the city at various periods in the nineteenth century. Some Germans settled after the revolution of 1848, and many more came about 1870 to escape conscription in their homeland. In 1880 the population exceeded 90,000. During the last decades of the century Italians were attracted by labor opportunities.
Several of the city's largest manufacturing plants were established in the seventies and eighties. Early in the present century interest centered again on the canal system, and Albany profited from the construction of the Barge Canal. The seaboard returned to the city again, half a century after the disappearance of the clipper ship, when the Port of Albany was opened in 1932 and became a contributing factor to the city's growing commercial importance.
Together with its industrial neighbor, Rensselaer, Albany today has large factories making, among other products, checkers, dominoes, billiard balls, toilet paper and paper towels, papermakers' felts, drugs, textiles, woolens, carbonic acid gas, and electric car heaters. It is the third largest express transfer and sixth largest mail transfer station in the United States. It clears 148 passenger trains and 88 freight trains daily. Chain stores and mail-order houses maintain divisional warehouses in or near the city. In 1939 the Port handled the cargoes of 250 ocean-going vessels, consisting principally of petroleum, grain, and lumber.
The increasing importance of New York State in national politics after 1900 brought prominence to the State's capital city. The careers of Theodore Roosevelt, Charles Evans Hughes, Alfred E. Smith, and Franklin D. Roosevelt centered national interest on Albany.