The 400th anniversary of Albany’s first documented European settlement gives us an opportunity to clear up some inaccuracies surrounding its history. In particular, it is time to roundly debunk the stubborn myth that the French built the first European structure in Albany.
Several Wikipedia pages—”Albany“, “Castle Island,” “Fort Nassau“—claim that Albany’s first European structure was a fort on Castle Island built by French traders in 1540. The “Castle Island” page calls it a chateau and claims that the Dutch rebuilt the French fort, “which they called a castle[,] giving rise to the name of the island.” This is silly. There is no credible evidence of a French fort on Castle Island or anywhere in the region, and any account of a structure resembling a chateau is particularly absurd. So where did this myth come from? Continue reading
It’s been called one of the largest maritime festivals in New York State. For three days, September 5th through the 7th, the Waterford waterfront (just north of Albany) will host the 15th Annual Tugboat Roundup.
A gathering and show place of both working and historic tugs of the Hudson River and New York State Canal system, the Roundup has evolved into a festival of boating at the Gateway to the Canal System. More than 35 boats are expected to be along the wall in Waterford this year, according to Tom Beardsley, Marine Event Coordinator. Continue reading
Fort Nassau: the first Dutch trading house built in North America, was constructed on Castle (Westerlo) Island on the Upper Hudson where Albany is. It was but a small redoubt, yet deemed the acorn from which sprouted the American Middle States. This trading post lasted only three years and was badly damaged by a spring freshet and abandoned. Eventually even its ruins were silted over and forgotten.
In 1796, Albany contemplated a plan to acquire patents for water lots and extend South End streets opposite the north end of Castle Island, out into the Hudson River. It was similar, on a smaller scale, to the way Manhattan expanded out into the Hudson and East Rivers. In the course of finally implementing this in the 1840s, dredging was found necessary to adjust the upper end of Castle Island and Island Creek to accommodate the plan. Continue reading
A revised proposal for rooftop additions to the Apthorp was approved unanimously on August 12, 2014, by the New York City Landmarks Preservation Commission (LPC). The Apthorp is a NYC Individual Landmark, designed by architects Clinton & Russell and completed in 1908, and occupies a full city block between Broadway and West End Avenue and West 78th and 79th Streets.
The proposal was the third iteration of a plan first heard at LPC Public Hearing in November, 2013, which drew palpable opposition from elected officials, noted architects, community groups, neighbors and Apthorp residents. Continue reading
A local historian believes he has pinpointed the exact location of a 1614 colonial fort in Albany.
“Fort Nassau” was North America’s oldest Dutch trading house, built in 1614 near the present-day Port of Albany. But the precise location of the ruined structure has been largely forgotten over time as the natural and built environment changed during four centuries.
“Fort Nassau is very significant to American, Dutch and Indian history,” said John Wolcott, the researcher who identified the location. “But its exact location had been lost over the years. Not only has the geography changed, but the latitude readings provided by early maps have to be adjusted for problems caused by being inland using instruments of the time.” Continue reading
The C.L. Churchill, a 50 year old wooden tugboat, has been named Tug of the Year for the 2014 Waterford Tugboat Roundup. The Roundup is an annual three-day event in Waterford, NY highlighting the area’s heritage of waterborne commerce.
The C.L. Churchill is the accompanying tug to the Lois McClure, a replica canal schooner of the type which operated on some of the canals of New York State and Lake Champlain in the 19th century. The Roundup bestows the honorary Tug of the Year title to a different tug each year, typically one that brings its own unique history to the event. Continue reading
The Hudson River Valley National Heritage Area and the Hudson River Valley Greenway highlighted five National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants awarded to historic and cultural institutions in the Mid-Hudson Valley last week.
The National Park Service calls the Hudson River Valley “the landscape that defined America.” These small National Heritage Area Heritage Development Grants are expected to support a wide range of historic and cultural projects, including installations, demonstrations, and public outreach and education projects that will connect more people with the rich tapestry of heritage and cultural experiences in the Mid-Hudson Valley. Continue reading
What follows is a guest essay by Jaap Jacobs and L.H. Roper, authors of the newly published
The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley.
As the proverbial schoolchildren know, the Englishman Henry Hudson (c. 1570–1611) conducted his 1609 exploration of the river that bears his name on behalf of the Dutch East India Company. In the same year that Hudson sailed north up the river, trading, fighting, drinking, and negotiating with Native Americans on the way, a Frenchman named Samuel Champlain made his way south from the St. Lawrence River. His trip was not a voyage of exploration and Champlain was not the leader of the expedition. Yet it too involved interaction with Native Americans, culminating in an armed encounter on what later became to be called Lake Champlain between Huron and Algonquian Indians and their French friends on the one side and the Haudenosaunee of the Iroquois Confederacy on the other side. Continue reading
This Saturday, June 7th, Historic Cherry Hill will present the Hudson River Family Day, from12:30 – 3:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public. Cherry Hill is a house museum in Albany which was once the five-generation home of the Van Rensselaer family.
Participants are invited to step into the 1700s and experience Hudson River sloop trade and daily life. The unique Hudson River Trading Game, with its 34-foot game board, will challenge all ages to experience the adventure of 18th century trade and travel on the river. Other activities will include colonial games, crafts and clothing, open house tours highlighting the 18th century architecture and history of Cherry Hill, and more. Continue reading
A new book with essays by prominent scholars takes a fresh look at the history of the Hudson Valley during the seventeenth century. Edited by Jaap Jacobs and L. H. Roper, The Worlds of the Seventeenth-Century Hudson Valley (SUNY Press, 2014) provides an in-depth introduction to the issues involved in the expansion of European interests to the Hudson River Valley, the cultural interaction that took place there, and the colonization of the region.
Written in accessible language by leading scholars, these essays incorporate the latest historical insights as they explore the new world in which American Indians and Europeans interacted, the settlement of the Dutch colony that ensued from the exploration of the Hudson River, and the development of imperial and other networks which came to incorporate the Hudson Valley. Continue reading
Mike Prescott often jokes that “someone has to be the dam historian,” because that’s what he’s become – the historian of the various dams in the Adirondacks.
Now the Warrensburgh Historical Society is hosting a presentation by Prescott, “Proposed Dams on The Upper Hudson River” on Thursday, May 22, 2014 at 7:00 pm in the Richards Library Community Event Room, Warrensburg, NY. Continue reading
From 1971 to 1985, battles raged over Westway, a multibillion-dollar highway, development, and park project slated for construction New York City. It would have projected far into the Hudson River, including massive new landfill extending several miles along Manhattan’s Lower West Side.
The most expensive highway project ever proposed, Westway also provoked one of the highest stakes legal battles of its day, the subject of Fighting Westway: Environmental Law, Citizen Activism, and the Regulatory War that Transformed New York City (Cornell University Press, 2014), by William W. Buzbee. Continue reading
Rockland is a compact county located along the border of New Jersey to the south, and the Hudson River to the east. It broke away from the more sprawling Orange County to the north in 1798, in part due to the challenge of governing an area split by the Ramapo Mountains.
Over the years, the area has been home to various peoples who didn’t fit in with the larger Dutch and English populations. The county consists of five towns including one with over 100,000 people, more than one-third the county’s total population. There are 19 villages and numerous hamlets. Continue reading
Beginning in the mid-1800s, steamboats carried people between New York City and the Albany area on the Hudson River. Romantic images lull us into believing it was a quiet means of travel, but a crowded river, faulty equipment and the bravado of the captains resulted in at least one major catastrophe every year. Night boats collided and sank, carelessness caused boiler explosions, races put passengers at risk and fires would quickly swallow the wooden vessels.
The grand Empire of Troy suffered many collisions. The Swallow broke in two on a rock, Reindeer’s explosion took forty lives at once and the Oregon and C. Vanderbilt entered into an epic and dangerous race. Collected from eyewitness accounts, these are some of the most exciting and frightening stories of peril aboard steamboats on the Hudson River. Now, local historian J. Thomas Allison has written Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions (History Press, 2013). Allison provides an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires. Continue reading
Wilderstein house museum in Rhinebeck, New York, has announced that its 2014 exhibition will explore the connections between the Wilderstein estate and American Presidents over two centuries. The exhibit will feature costumes, textiles, decorative arts, photographs, books, and more – all from the Wilderstein collections. Many of these objects will be on public display for the first time.
The exhibit opens with their regular tour season on May 1 and will run through the end of October, Thursday to Sunday, from noon until 4 pm. A preview party will be held on Saturday, April 26 from 4 to 6 pm. Tickets are $25. Please RSVP to 845.876.4818 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Continue reading
“The building can be redesigned. The Palisades and the Hudson River cannot.”
This simple statement closed an op-ed by four former New Jersey governors in the New York Times last week. In the piece, the governors — two Democrats and two Republicans — write about the threat LG’s proposed tower in Englewood Cliffs would pose to the Palisades, and they highlight a win-win solution: Continue reading
Using vintage images and postcards to highlight history is Arcadia Publishing’s Postcard History Series book Cohoes. The new book by the Spindle City Historic Society is releasing on March 24, 2014. It displays more than 200 vintage images and memories of days gone by.
This new pictorial history is a tour of landmarks of Cohoes through postcard images, taking readers through distinctive sections of the city including downtown, the mill district, the island and the hill. The book also features notable residents of Cohoes who impacted the city, including vaudeville performers, Revolutionary War officers, explores, industrialists, entrepreneurs, sports figures and daredevils. Continue reading
The Albany Institute of History & Art will host local historian J. Thomas Allison for a lecture about his book Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions. The lecture will be followed by a book signing. Allison will provide an entertaining look at the romantic but perilous age of steamboat travel on the Hudson River, including tales of reckless captains racing each other and passengers’ eyewitness accounts of collisions, crashes, explosions, and fires.
Hudson River Steamboat Catastrophes: Contests and Collisions focuses on nineteenth-century steamboat travel on the Hudson River. It points out that a crowded river, unreliable boat equipment, and the audacity of some steamboat captains created yearly catastrophes that put passengers and vessels at risk. Researched through eyewitness accounts, the stories are both exciting and frightening and give a real sense of the danger that traveled on the Hudson River. Continue reading
Beginning February 25th, Marilyn Sassi will present four lectures in a series entitled Early Mohawk and Hudson Valley Life: How Clothes, Arts and Architecture Changed, 1750-1814 on the evolving material culture of the Mohawk and Hudson Valley area.
Each week will focus on a different area of history and the changes seen during that period. Sassi is a teacher and historian specializing in material culture, architecture and area history. Continue reading
Ever wonder what pristine runs of migratory fish in Atlantic rivers looked like to early colonists? Some saw so many salmon, shad, alewives and other species that they said the waters “ran silver” with fish as they swam upstream to spawn.
John Waldman’s Running Silver: Restoring Atlantic Rivers and their Great Fish Migrations (Lyons Press, 2013) covers the biology, history, and conservation of shad, salmon, striped bass, sturgeon, eels and the others that complete grand migrations between fresh and salt waters. Continue reading