Monday, August 17, 2009

August 14, 1909 - Boston Island

100 Years Ago: From The Rensselaer Eagle [NY 41 Rensselaer 93-32173].

Residences on Boston Island Have Been Disposed of to B. & A.

After having lived for half a century on the Boston Island, which, by the way, is an island no longer, Mrs. Bridget Hanrahan has sold her property, the last tenantable property used for dwelling purposes to the Boston and Albany. The home of Catherine Doran also situated on the island but which has not been used as a home for some time has likewise passed into the company's control. The deal was effected by Geo. H. Russell & Son, and the sale marks the removal of two famous landmarks.

Up to 20 years ago there was a colony of old settlers on the Boston Island, but one by one they died, or moved away, or the steady march of progress caused them to seek other homes. For 10 years back Mrs. Hanrahan was the only one who lived on the island. She resisted many offers to dispose of her property and the company was also refused the Doran property.

It is possible that the property will be used to extend the coach yard.

From Mrs. Doran's 1923 obituary in the Albany Evening Journal:
At one time she lived on what was known as Boston Island, then covered with houses and hotels, where the Boston and Albany Railroad made its terminus and the passengers made their way to and from Albany on ferry boats.

The island was first documented as part of Rensselaerswyck, here described in The history of the city of Albany, New York, By Arthur James Weise, 1884, along with a copy of a part of the Map of Rensselaerswyck 1631.

Opposite Fort Orange on the south point of De Laet's Island are many birds to be shot, geese, swans and cranes. Turkeys frequent the woods. Deer and other game are also there; also wolves but not larger than dogs. On De Laet's Island are many tall and straight trees suitable for making oars.
Wikipedia's listing is for Van Rensselaer Island, but in the early 1900's, articles about "Van Rensselaer Island" referred instead to Castle Island (also known as Westerloo Island) on the Albany side. (There was much publicity about Glenn Curtis, who made an historic flight from Albany to New York City in 1910, taking off from Albany's Van Rensselaer Island).

Wikipedia also shows the names of Kalebacker's Island (I can't find any support for that name), in addition to Boston Island, and B&A Island (named after the Boston & Albany Railroad). These two USGS maps (Troy Quad, SE Corner), show the island in 1893 and later in 1928, long after the waterway was filled in.

The Sixteenth Public Hearing of the Barge Canal Terminal Commission, Sept. 16, 1910, proposed the suitability of Boston Island as the eastern freight terminus of the Barge Canal. There was considerable discussion about the ownership of the parcels, and how the former waterways were filled in by the B&A Railroad. John A. Farrell, Chamber of Commerce President, confirmed the old name of "Van Rensselaer Island", but the group also referred to it as Bonacker's Island. John F. Munger, of the Rensselaer citizens committee, testified:

The old gentleman Bonacker who owned that property erected a couple of ice houses down on this end of the land; he was a very prosperous German. He saved his money and he died leaving his stock and estate and so forth to four or five sons; and as Mr. Lansing has already intimated to you the boys desire the money; and as has often been said, it is only a couple of generations from shirt sleeves to shirt sleeves; they have got into a wrangle over this land in here and the probabilities are that it will be settled by the courts.
(He refers to this prior comment by Assemblyman Bradford R. Lansing, who was apparently a bit of a gossip: "A lot of young fellows coming on there who do want money but who do not want real estate; you cannot run real estate as fast as automobiles." )

Jumping ahead 100 years, here is the July 2009 Final Environmental Impact Statement for DeLaet's Landing (Rensselaer Waterfront Redevelopment). Join the Rensselaer Riverfront Redevelopment Google Group to get future notices from the Department of Planning.

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