Saturday, November 29, 2008

E. Albany Gas Light

From the Times Union last week: Old industrial site tested for pollution
Representatives for National Grid and the state Department of Environmental Conservation are working at the site near the corner of Huyck Square and Washington Street where a manufactured gas plant stood more than 100 years ago. ... The East Albany Gas Light Co. once sat on the property. It began operation sometime between 1860 and 1887 and ceased operations around 1925.
To learn more about the DEC's cleanup efforts for such sites, you can read: New York State’s Approach to the Remediation of Former Manufactured Gas Plant Sites.

Gas lighting transformed people's lives in the 1800's, providing illumination for industry and the home. By the end of the 19th century, almost a thousand US companies were making gas from coal, and this "town gas" was widely used for lighting, heating, and cooking. Manufactured gas was eventually replaced by natural gas, as the pipeline infrastructure was built.

If you have historic photographs or documents relating to the East Albany Gas Light Co., please consider donating them to the city historian - they have no info. in the City Hall research room. From the report of a NYS factory inspection I learned that the E. Albany Gas Light Co. was generating both electric and gas light by 1899, and employed 3 men working a 60 hour week.

In 1909, the E. Albany Gas Light Co. merged into the Albany Southern Railroad Co., along with several small light/electric companies, the Albany & Greenbush Bridge Co., and the Albany & Hudson Railroad (a novel third-rail electrical railway between Rensselaer and Hudson). In 1912, the Albany Southern Railroad owned all the gas and electric light plants in Rensselaer and Hudson.

Coal gasification has become a hot topic again. The US Department of Energy is pushing the environmental benefits. GE Energy has a test plant in Schenectady, and many sites use their gasification technology.