Tag Archives: Albany

A Short Biography of Engineer Benjamin Prescott


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Pipes of the Albany Water Works excavated by Wolfert Roost CC circa late 1980s002The Wolfert’s Roost Country Club in Albany maintains a small dam, pond, and pump house to provide water for their golf course. In the 1980s workers excavating the pond, which is fed by the Maezlandtkill, discovered several sections of ancient wooden and very early cast iron pipe along with iron bands. The pipe and other artifacts were placed in the woods near the club’s tennis courts and forgotten.

Benjamin Prescott, engineer of Albany’s first municipal water system and the man responsible for those pipes, is all but equally forgotten, despite an illustrious career in engineering.  Prescott served as an Engineer in the American Revolution, Superintendent of the Springfield Armory, and was the designer of several notable projects, including one of this nation’s first inclined planes (on the Connecticut River). He also conducted a 1790s survey of Niagara Falls, consulted on the Erie Canal, designed the Troy Sloop Lock (the Federal Dam) and more. Continue reading

The First Days of the Civil War in Albany


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Fort Sumter Newspaper HeadlineEarly Sunday morning on April 14, 1861, barely two months after Lincoln left Albany, news arrived there that Fort Sumter had been fired on and surrendered. Fort Sumter was not far from Washington, and this news hit Albany like a shock wave.

New York State Governor Edwin D. Morgan called an emergency meeting of his staff and leaders of the Senate and Assembly that afternoon in the Executive Chamber in Albany. A bill was drafted calling for New York to appropriate $3 million to provision and provide 30,000 New York Militia to support the preservation of the Union. Continue reading

1861: Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth in Albany


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The Delavan House on BRoadway in AlbanyFollowing his election as President in 1860, Abraham Lincoln undertook a train ride to Washington that took him through Albany. He arrived in the city on February 18, 1861 with his wife and three sons.

As their train passed the West Albany railroad shops, an electrical switch was turned off at the nearby Dudley Observatory, causing an electromagnet mounted on the roof of the Capitol in downtown Albany to release a metal ball that slid down a pole, signaling to military officials to start a 21-gun salute in Capitol Park. Continue reading

Hamilton’s Mistress; My Historic Namesake


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StaatsburghDowntonTour6-2014 (153)In the study of history, a personal connection is often what draws us in to begin to explore a subject, place, or era.  We might be interested in World War II after hearing grandpa’s war stories.  We might begin to read about the Underground Railroad after discovering stations in our hometown.

Making a personal connection with the people we read about and study is a common impulse for history lovers.  It helps make history come alive. This story isn’t about an ancestor, or a history connection to my home town, it’s about a woman with a more unique connection to me, one who shares my name. Continue reading

Free Family Event At Historic Cherry Hill


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Cherry HillOn Saturday, June 6th, Historic Cherry Hill will present the Hudson River Family Day, from 1 until 4 pm. Participants are invited to step into the 1700s and experience Hudson River sloop trade and daily life at this free event. The Hudson River Trading Game, with its 34-foot game board, will immerse all ages in the adventure of 18th century trade and travel. The game is based on the actual experiences of merchant and sloop owner, Philip Van Rensselaer of Cherry Hill. Continue reading

The Albany Connections of Burr, Hamilton, and Schuyler


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Hamilton-burr-duelDuring the Revolutionary War, Alexander Hamilton served as an artillery captain and later a colonel and trusted aid to General George Washington. Colonel Aaron Burr also served in the Colonial Army and accompanied Benedict Arnold on his march through the Maine wilderness and his failed attempt to capture Quebec. Burr had been with General Richard Montgomery when Montgomery was shot and killed in Quebec. Later in the war, Burr was placed in charge of a regiment and his troops were stationed in Westchester County, New York. Continue reading

Black Civil War Veteran James Lucas of Albany


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coloredtroops recruitment“Albany’s Only Negro Civil War Veteran” was the title of an article in The New York Age in May, 1933. The paper reported an interview with the city’s last surviving black veteran from the War Between the States, Sergeant James N. Lucas.

After serving with Company E of the 38th U.S. Colored Volunteers from early 1865 until 1867, he lived in Troy before moving to Albany in 1869. Continue reading

Albany History Fair To Feature Brews, Spirits


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History Fair 304“Something’s Brewing: A Historical Look at Albany Brews & Spirits” is the theme of the 16th Annual Albany History Fair to be held at Historic Cherry Hill on Sunday, May 3, from 1 to 4 pm.

This free event will include an 18th century brewing demonstration by Harvey Alexander, music by Friends Union, house tours, exhibits, and a brewing and agricultural scavenger hunt for families, throughout the afternoon. Continue reading

New Exhibit On Albany’s Walter Launt Palmer


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image008Artist Walter Launt Palmer (1854–1932), the son of Albany sculptor Erastus Dow Palmer, has enjoyed a revival of interest in the art world over the last several years. It’s now common to see his paintings in art magazines and at major auctions across the country, bringing record prices for his oils and watercolors.

As an artist who preferred living and working in his home community of Albany, rather than New York City, Palmer carried forward the creative genius that emerged in the region generations earlier with the Hudson River School and his father’s own sculpture. Continue reading