Amasa J. (Amasa Junius) Parker.

Landmarks of Albany County, New York online

. (page 31 of 138)
Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 31 of 138)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

cal performances were given in connection with the museum.

Between the beginning of the present century and the war of 1812
the administration of the city government moved quietly along, the
proceedings involving little of importance. The public revenue for
the fiscal year 1799 was ^^46 lis. it/, and the dtv was in debt ^479
Is. Sd.

At this time the yellow fever was raging in New York, and collec-
tions were taken up in the Albany churches for the relief of sufferers, '
the total contributions amounting to $555.87. For a number of years

there was more or less of this dreaded disease in New York, causing-
grave fears that it would be brought up the river to Albany. In 1803
the Common Council, acting as a Board of Health, passed an ordinance
requiring- all vessels from New York city to be quarantined for a short
time at a point some miles down the river. There was one death from
the disease in Troy that year, but none in Albany.

When the news of the death of Washington reached Albany, Decem-
ber 23, 1799, the Common Council immediately assembled and recom-
mended the closing of all places of business, directed the tolling of bells
from three to five o'clock, and that the members of the board wear crape
during six weeks. The 9th of the following January was designated as
a day for the observance of public funeral ceremonies, which were most
solemn and impressive. Many of the citizens were then living who had
been present at the reception given to Washington in the city at the
close of the Revolutionary war, and the loss of the great statesman
and general was deeply felt.

In the early years a part of the duty of the Common Council was to
fix the weight and price of a loaf of bread, this being known as "the
assize of bread," and any baker who was detected in selling a loaf that
was below the prescribed weight was subject to a fine of one dollar.
For example in 1799 a loaf weighing two pounds and five ounces, made
from inspected wheat, sold for 8d., and other weights in proportion.
In 1813, during and on account of the war, flour rose to $11 a barrel,
and the Council adopted an ordinance requiring the flour merchants so
to assize the bread that it would correspond to $9 a barrel. The bakers
complained bitterly at this and called a meeting, at which a resolution
was adopted to the effect' that it was inexpedient to longer interfere
with the baking and sale of bread.

It will surprise some readers of to-day to learn that prior to 1818 all
meetings of the council were held behind closed doors. On November
16 of that year the board adopted a resolution that thereafter the meet-
ings should be open to the public. The council at that time occupied
the northeast corner of the first floor of the Old Capitol, all the other
rooms on the first floor being used by the State. It will be remembered
that the city had paid about $34,000 towards the expense of erect-
ing the Capitol. At this time several efforts were made in the council
to pass a resolution ordering the sale of the city's interest in that build-
ing and the Board of Supervisors also discussed the policy of disposing of
the interest of the county to the State. These measures were destined


to be postponed for many years, and meanwhile the Council and the
supervisors met in the Old Capitol until the erection of the first city

With the passing years the city became deeper and deeper involved
in debt, that being the history of most cities in that respect. On
September 30, 1823, the council directed a tax to raise $3,000 with
which to pay the interest on the city debt, and at the same time $6,000
was ordered raised for lighting the streets and for the nightwatch, and
$8,000 for caring for the poor. The following table shows the condi-
tion of the city's finances at the close of the first quarter of this cen-
tury :

Sinking Fund.

City Stock held by Commissioners §6,000 00

Albany Insurance Stock 2,500 00

Bonds, notes and interest due for lands sold 2,879 67

Cash loaned _. 4,535 00

" on hand _ 3,130 88

359 Shares in Great Western Turnpike 8,975 00

40 Shares in Bethlehem Turnpike.. 1 1,150 00

Total .-. S39,170 55

Mayor ' $400 00

Chamberlain ^ 500 00

City Superintendent ._ 450 00

Superintendent of Alms-house -. 400 00

Overseers of the Poor 200 00

Police Justice 450 00

" Constables (3) - 400 00

Deputy Excise Officer 200 00

City Physician _ _ _ 550 00

Clerk of Common Council 150 00

Deputy Clerk of Market 100 00

Bellringers _ _ 40 00

Total ?3,840 00

Criv Debt.

Funded... §305,000 00

Due on bonds to individuals 40, 100 00

Small notes unredeemed 10,300 18

Total $355,400 18

Returning for a moment to the year 1818, we find that the Common

Council had been authorized by law to fund the city debt, to the amount
of $205,000. On the 14th of April, 1820, a law was passed by the Leg-
islature authorizing the council to sell certain lands belonging to the
city to an amount not exceeding $250,000, on a lottery basis, valuation
being placed on the various lots which were to be the prizes, but the
scheme under this arrangement did not succeed. The council there-
fore, in 1835, applied to the Legislature for permission to sell the lands,
and at the same time for the privilege of raising the remainder of the
fund necessary by selling tickets in a lottery created under the act of
1820, the prizes to be paid out of the proceeds of the sale. This plan
was carried out and called forth much denunciation from individuals
and from the press The New York Evening Post said : "The capital of
the State, with the aid of the Legislature, has become an immense gam-
bling establishment." It is well known that lotteries were favorite insti-
tions in early years for raising money for all sorts of public purposes.
In January, 1814, a law authorized a lottery to raise $200,000 for Union
College, and was favored by Dr. Nott, the distinguished president of
the institution. In May, 1825, the council appointed a committee to
negotiate with Yates & Mclntyre, who had made a proposition to pur-
chase the Albany City Lottery, as the institution was called, for $200,-
000, which arrangement was subsequently carried out, though the pur-
chase price was $240,795, to be paid in five years. The total valua-
tion of the city lands which constituted the basis of this lottery was

For the year ending in October, 182G, the receipts by the chamberlain
were $60,060.19, the expenses $62,004.98. The chamberlain's report
for 1829 showed the gross receipts of the city treasury to be $320,-
878.52, the disbursements, $317,126.15. The heavy expenses of the
year were due in part to the erection of two markets, the beginning of
the City Hall, and large cost of keeping the poor. The population of
the city had now (1830) reached 24,209, having increased to that number
from 12,630 in 1820, and progress was everywhere manifest.

In 1835 the county clerk reported to the Common Council that the
population of the city according to a recent canvass was 13,712 males
and 14,373 females, a total of 28,085, of whom 4,489 were voters.
Erastus Corning was inaugurated mayor of the city on January 1, 1836,
in which year the election of members of the Board of Aldermen took
place in the spring for the first time. Improvements were made that
year in the basin, and the government improved navigation in the river.


Of the city debt of more than $350,000 in 181?, there remained now due
only $95,000. The Utica and Schenectady Railroad was nearing com-
pletion and the early opening of an iminterrupted line to Buffalo was
in sight. At this time the Common Council adopted measures to open
a space in the pier between the Columbia and the State street bridges,
and a resolution was also adopted, to allow the Hudson and Mohawk
Railroad to continue its track from Gansevoort street to North Ferry

In 1840 the canvassers reported to the Common Council that the pop-
ulation of the city was 33,637, which number was increased in 1850 to
a little more than 50,000. Previous to 1848 the money raised annually
by tax for the expenses of the city government was usually nearly or
quite exhausted by the 1st of May, in the temporary loans made in an-
ticipation of the tax levy, a practice which has prevailed in most cities,
but in that year a law was passed by the Legislature doing away with
this method, greatly to the benefit of the city. The reports from 1844
to 1850 inclusive show the following sums of money applicable to the
support of the city government in the years named:

1844 §19,464.67

1845 10,677.81

1846 , 6,797.98

1847 __._ 793.70

1848- - 662.35

1849... 41,668.78

1850 67,731.84

These figures indicate the great increase in the amounts immediately
available in the last two years, under the operation of the law just
mentioned. The chamberlain's report for 1850 gives the amount of
money received from all sources, inclusive of $41,668.78 which was the
balance on hand, as $095,366.67, and the expenditures, as $627,635.42,
leaving a balance of $67,731.34. The mayor's statement of that year
upon the financial condition of the city has the following: '

On the first of May, 1848, debt of the city (exclusive of certain loans so amply
secured that they cannot be considered absolute Habilities of the city) amounted to
?753,896.93. Since that date this debt has been reduced $211,764.90; and the e.xact
amount of the same at this time is .5541,1.32.03.

The assessment rolls in 1849 give the valuation of the taxable prop-
erty of the city as $11,971,263. Such was the condition of the city's
financial aflfairs in the middle of this century.


During- this period of growth in municipal affairs, vast changes took
place in other directions. The steamboat came in 1807, to be followed
ere long by the canals and the railroads, all of which were of great
importance to Albany, revolutionizing methods of transportation and
travel, and river commerce was greatly extending, with the greatest
benefit to all industries and trades of the city. Fulton's first steam-
boat, the Clermont, was thus noticed in the Albany (Jazette of Sep-
tember 2, 1807:

The north river steamboat will leave Pauliis' Hook Ferry ou Friday, the 4th of
September, at nine in the morning, and arrive in Albany on Saturday, at nine in the
afternoon. Provisions, good berths and accommodation are provided.

The through fare was $7. In the Gazette supplement of September
7 appeared the following notice of the first trip of the steamboat to

This morning at six o'clock, Mr. Fulton's steamboat left the ferry stairs at Court-
land street dock for Albany. She is to make her passage in 36 hours from the time
of her departure, touching at Newburg, Poughkeepsie, Esopus, and Hudson on the
way. The steamboat arrived at Albany on Saturday afternoon, and this morning
at nine o'clock again departed for New York, with about forty ladies and gentlemen.

The first steamer continued her regular trips, gradually reducing
the time of passage to twenty-eight hours, receiving constantly in-
creasing patronage. Other boats soon followed. The Hudson River
Line was established in 1825, with three boats, and within four years
added three more. The North River Line was established in 1820 and
the Troy Line in 1832. In the next year these three lines were con-
solidated as the Hudson River Association Line, which sailed three
day and three night boats. The People's Line was established in ISo-t
in opposition to the day boats of the Hudson River Association, but
was sold in 1835 to the association for $100,000 cash and $10,000 a year
for ten years. The People's Line was revived in 1836 by Daniel Drew,
and within the next twenty-five ye^rs bought or built seven or eight
splendid boats, among them the Dean Richmond and the Drew, and
ending with the superb Adirondack of to-day.

By the year 18-18 the fleet of sailing vessels on the river had in-
creased to 331 sloops and 284 schooners, and at the end of the suc-
ceeding thirty-seven years (1885) the character and numbers had
changed to to 53 sailing vessels, 113 steam vessels, 175 canal boats,
and 86 barges, with a total tonnage of 61,261. The number of canal
boats indicates the importance of the great artificial waterways,


which have already been alluded to in detail. Between 1840 and
1850 railroad traffic became an important factor in the general pros-
perity of Albany, bringing hither from the West the immense grain
product for reshipment to New York, and successfully contending
for a large share of the passenger traffic. A great lumber interest
had been created, the receipts of which in the year 1840 reached
134,173,383 feet of boards, and 784,310 feet of timber. By 1850
these figures were increased to 425,095,436 feet of boards, and 3,039,-
588 feet of timber. In the year 1840 there were eighty- four saw
mills running in Albany county, though these were only a small factor
in the local lumber business. The iron industry had become large and
the manufacture of stoves, begun in 1808, reached enormous propor-
tions. In 1833 the quantity of iron castings, a large part of which
consisted of stove plates, is given as follows: Howard, Nott & Co.
(manufacturers of the famous Nott stove), 1,000 tons; Bartlett, Bent
& Co., 350 tons; I. & J. Townsend, 300 tons; Rathbone & Silliman,
300 tons; Maney & Ward, 450 tons; a total of 3,300 tons. Besides
this in that year Heermans, Rathbone & Co. sold 750 tons of stove
plates brought from Philadelphia, and nearly as many more were sold
by other firms. The manufacture of brick, begun here in 1708, was
large and at one time reached about 20,000,000 a year. A large brew-
ing interest had grown up which has continued to the present time.
The manufacture of pianos, begun at Albany by James A. Gray in
1S35, was successfully continued by himself and with William G.
Boardman, and many other departments of industry were successfully

The insurance business was begun in Albany- in 1811 by the organiza-
tion of the Albany Insurance Company with the following directors:
Elisha Jenkins, Philip S. Van Rensselaer, Isaiah Townsend, Dudley
Walsh, Henry Guest, jr., Charles Z. Piatt, Simeon De Witt, Stephen
Lush, Charles D. Cooper, Thomas Gould, John Woodworth, Peter
Gansevoort, and Christian Miller. The capital stock was $500,000, and
the first president was Isaiah Townsend, an able business man and
good citizen. This old company has continued in successful operation
ever since. The Merchants' Insurance Company was organized in
1824, with a capital stock of $250,000, and having Charles E. Dudley
for its president. The Clinton Insurance Company was organized in
1829, with capital stock of $300,000. The Firemen's Insurance Com-
pany was incorporated in April, 1831, with capital stock of $150,000,


and with James Stevenson as the first president, while the Mutual In-
surance Company was organized in 183G and is still in business.

Banking facilities were also extended to meet the demands of increas-
ing business. The Commercial Bank was incorporated in 1823; the
Canal Bank, which failed in 1848, in 1820; the Albany City Bank in
1837; the Albany Exchange Bank in 1838. Besides these two savings
institutions were founded, the Albany Savings Bank in 1820 and the
Albany City Savings Institution in 1850.

As the capital of the State and an active business center, Albany has
always attracted a large number of strangers, and is also the tempo-
rary residence for the members of the State government. This fact
will in a measure account for the number and high character of the
hotels of the city, the names of some of which have become familiar
throughout a wide extent of territory. The old American Hotel was
opened in 1 838 and for some years had a large patronage. The Delavan
began its long and popular career in 1845 and is still open to the public,
though reduced in its accommodations by fire; the Stanwix was opened
in 1844 and continues to care for hosts of guests, while the Kenmore is
the latest addition.

The principal public impi-ovements and most important proceedings
of the city government during the past forty-five years may now be
briefly summarized. Illuminating gas was first introduced into the city
in 1845 and is now supplied by the Municipal Gaslight Company, which
came into existence by the consolidation of the Albany Gaslight Com-
pany (incorporated in 1841), and the People's Gaslight Company (incor-
porated in 1872). The Fire Department was wholly reorganized in
1848, as described in detail further on, and measures were adopted to-
wards the early development of the sewer system begun in 1854.

The city chamberlain's report for 1860 shows the following figures:

Balance on hand November 1, 18.59 $ 24,310 31

Receipts for current year. _ 4-18.418 .58

8472,028 8'J

Disbursements §423,376 98

On hand November 1, 1860 49,351 96

9472,628 89

Similar statements at the close of each year up to 1870 since the
above date, and for 1880 and 1890, will give the reader a fair knowledge
of the gradually changing financial condition of the city. They are as
follows :


Balance on hand November 1, 1861. $ 40,906 40

Receipts for current year . _ _ 525,749 14

$566,053 54

Disbursements §463,528 19

On hand November 1, 1863 103.124 85

§566, 653 54

Balance on hand November 1, 1863 $103,134 35

Receipts for current year .. 608,432 86

$711,547 31

Disbursements $607,946 69

On hand November 1, 1863 103,600 53

$711,547 31

Balance 09 hand November 1 , 1868 §103,600 22

Receipts for current year 756,986 82

8863,737 04

Disbursements §796,981 34

On hand November 1. 1864 _._. 66,555 70

§863,737 04

Balance on hand November 1, 1864. $66,555 70

Receipts for current vear ._ 905,457 60

§973,013 30

Disbursements §883,310 77

On hand November 1, 1865 88,803 53

§973,013 30

Balance on hand November 1, 1865 §88,803 53

Receipts for current year. 961,036 75

-§1,049,829 28

Disbursements.. §978,037 71

On hand November 1, 1866... 71,791 57

■ §1,049,839 38

Balance on hand November 1, 1867 §78,632 47

Receipts for current year 890,307 19

§968,939 66

Disbursements .§871,155 63

On hand November 1, 1868 97,784 03

§968,939 66

Balance on hand November 1, 1868 §97,784 03

Receipts for current year .. §1,367,647 01

§1,465,431 04

Disbursements §1,338,109 52

On hand November 1, 1869 137,331 52

§1,465,431 04

Balance on hand November 1, 1869. §127,821 52

Receipts for current year §1,510,538 37

§1,637,859 89

Disbursements $1,448,487 36

On hand November 1, 1870 187,872 58

§1,637,859 89

Balance on hand November 1 , 1871 §366,989 14

Receipts for current vear 1,080,328 18

— §1,447,312 82

Disbursements §1,266,410 28

On hand November 1, 1873 180,902 04

§1,447,313 32


Balance ou hand November 1, 1871) sy4,49:? 01

Receipts for current year. 81,3(16,45? 41

SI, 391 1, 9.51 1 42

Disbursements 81,296,66.5 60

On hand November 1, 1880 94,288 82

81,390,9.50 42

Balance on hand November 1, 1889 .. .8665,110 29

Receipts for current vear _■... 81,889,106 50

82,554,216 79

Disbursements , . $2,029,942 36

On hand November 1, 1890 524,274 53

.82,5.54.216 79

Balance on hand November 1, 1894. .8685,907 96

Receipts for current vear. 81,983,496 21

82,669,404 17

Disbursements 82,001,602 46

On hand November 1, 1895 - 667,801 71

-82,669,404 17

For the year closing November 1, 1895, the chamberlain's report shows
that the expense of maintaining the almshouse was $30,715.67. There
was paid on Washington and Beaver parks, $6-1,313.88. The board of
health cost $9,524.35; the city hall and city building about $10,000;
the city poor, $13,481-46; the fire department, $111,065.15; hospitals,
$32,490.79; police department, $149,372.85 ; street cleaning, $13,000.-
37; and street improvements, $42,503.90-.

Horse cars were introduced into Albany in 1863, the first car being
run un June 'i-i, of that year. This improvement was the work of the
Watervliet Turnpike and Railroad Company, which was incorporated
April 16, 1863, with a capital stock of $340,000. In 1864 the line was
continued to the Albany Cemetery and in 1865 to Green Island. The
Albany Railway Company was incorporated September 14. 1863, with '
a capital stock of $100,000. Its first line of track was finished in Feb-
ruary, 1864, extending through State, Washington and Central avei
to Knox street. This line was extended to West Alban)- in the follow-
ing year, and other lines were added imtil the present complete system
was established.

For a number of years the subject of establishing a large public park 1
in Albany attracted attention and caused much discussion in the public
press and among the people, and in June, 1863, an able paper un
subject was read before the Common Council. Nothing, however, was!
definitely accomplished until 1869, when a law was passed creating aj
Board of Park Commissioners for the city and setting apart what was!


then known as the burial ground property, the old Washington Parade
Ground, the penitentiary ground and the almshouse farm. The Board
of Commissioners comprised John Bridgford, Arthur Bott, George
Dawson, Dudley Olcott, William Cassidy, John Fair, Rufus W. Peck-
ham, jr., Samuel H. Ransom, and John H. Van Antwerp. Plans were
made for improvements on a part of this territory and work began in
1870, under supervision of R. H. Bingham, chief engineer. In the fol-
lowing year the old burial ground was divested of its dead, laid out and
opened to the public as part of the park. Further improvements con-
tinued every year. In 1880 and 1883 additional land was purchased,
including the Knox street property of nine acres, and a tract lying on
Madison and Lake avenues. Washington Park now contains about
eighty-two acres and is one of the most beautiful of its area in the

By an act of the Legislature passed March 16, 1870, the city charter
was largely amended. There had, of course, been many minor changes
in the charter since the city was fotmded in 1686, but none of very radi-
cal character, and the corporation still retained its original title of The
Mayor, Aldermen and Commonalty of the City of Albany. By the act
referred to this title was abridged to that of the City of Albany. For
the other important amendments the reader is referred to the original
and the present charters, which are accessible in many places in the
city. Still further amendments were made in April, 1883, some of
which were of importance.

As indicated in succeeding pages under separate headings, the history
of Albany during the last half century is a record of continuous ad-
vancement. In the extension and improvement of streets; in beauti-
fying the public parks; in largely adding to the number of its Christian
and benevolent institutions; in building up the public school system
until it is excelled nowhere in the country ; in all the departments of
public works that better the condition of the community at large, and
in the extent and variety of its manufactures, it has more than kept
abreast of its growth in population.

The city of Albany celebrated the two hundredth anniversary of its
existence as a chartered city in 1886. For some time prior to that the
subject of appropriately observing the day had been considered and
discussed among leading citizens. The matter was definitely brought
up by a resolution offered in the Common Council November 16, 1885,


by Alderman James B. Lyon, that the celebration of the bi-centennial
be referred to the Committee on Public Celebrations and Entertain-
ments of the council. The city budget of 1886 contained an item of
$10,000 "for celebrating- the bi-centennial of Albany." On December
18, the bi-centennial proclamation was issued by the mayor, A. Bleecker
Banks, and the committee before mentioned, which consisted of Galen
R. Hitt, Patrick McCann, Jeremiah Kieley, James Thornton, and
August Whitman. In response to a call in the proclamation a meeting
of citizens whs held in the council chamber January 6, 1886, where
many local organizations were represented. The proceedings adopted
for the celebration of the centennial in 1786, described on an earlier
page, were read, and a committee of twenty-five citizens was appoint-
ed, with the mayor as chairman, to act in conjunction with the council
committee in carrying out the plans for the celebration. This commit-
tee were A. Bleecker Banks, chairman, Robert Lenox Banks, Lewis
Boss, Anthony N. Brady, Walter Dickson, Franklin M. Danaher, Douw
H. Fonda, Charles E. Jones, Rufus, H. King, J. Townsend Lansing,

Online LibraryAmasa J. (Amasa Junius) ParkerLandmarks of Albany County, New York → online text (page 31 of 138)