Saturday, February 26, 2011

The Albany Road and the Eastern Turnpike

Rensselaer, NY’s upper Washington Avenue has been known by many other names, including Forbes Avenue, the Plank Road, the Eastern Turnpike, and the Albany Road. The roadway dates back to colonial Rensselaerswyck, when tenant farmers traveled it to bring their rent payments of grain and poultry to the Patroon, and maintained the road surface themselves, as part of the labor required in their leases.

The pre-revolutionary “Albany Road” ran from the ferry in Bath-on-the-Hudson all the way to Deerfield, Massachusetts. The old route is mapped in detail in the publication Thro’ a Country Not Well Settled: The Albany Road of 1752-1773 (Rensselaer Land Trust). You can read it at the East Greenbush Library.

The roadway’s importance as a commercial and stage coach route grew, and in 1799, the “Eastern Turnpike Road” was incorporated to maintain the road. (Toll roads were considered a fairer means of financing road maintenance than taxes or landowner labor.) The road was to be constructed:
…at least four rods wide, twenty four feet of which shall be bedded with wood, stone, gravel, or any other hard substance compacted together, a sufficient depth to secure a solid foundation to the same, and the said road shall be faced with gravel or other hard substance in such manner as to secure as near as the materials will admit an even surface rising towards the middle by a gradual arch…

The toll for a horse and rider was 5 cents, and a four-wheel carriage with two horses paid 12 ½ cents (3 cents for every additional horse). Travelers in 1825 could leave Bath-on-the-Hudson to start a 35 hour stagecoach journey to Boston along the Eastern Turnpike, at a cost of $8.75 by “Mail Line” (close to $200 today). The 1841 map below shows the general route (click to zoom in).

Next: Famous names amongst the Directors of the Eastern Turnpike Road

Next: The Albany and Sand Lake Plank Road

Friday, February 18, 2011

City of Rensselaer - Official Site

Great news! The City of Rensselaer has launched an official web site at, already populated with some announcements and events. Thanks to everyone involved in finally making this happen!

This is a work in progress, but it's a good start. The top row of menus seems most complete, and contact information about the various City Departments seems pretty robust. (Highlights include a History of the city and the ever-popular: Recycling and Curbside Pickup Guidelines)

I hope that they will eventually include agendas and minutes of council meetings, planning boards, etc., as I know they have them in electronic format now.

Monday, February 14, 2011

How to Weave Victorian Love Tokens

My Great-Great-Great Grandmother left dozens of these love tokens made from cut and woven paper. She used every scrap for practice - wrapping paper, receipts, notebook paper, and even the label of a baking power canister. I couldn't find anything about this Victorian-era craft online, but I figured out how to do it, and created my own instructions. You can download the instructions for free here.

Proposal at the Train Station

Albany Times Union: A love that's on the right track
The Rensselaer train station is where love blooms for area couple

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Van Rensselaer Park - Circa 1905 [Religious and Educational]

I had to add a third part to the post when I started researching the educational lectures that Reverand Rollins planned for Van Rensselaer Park in 1905.

Religious and Educational.- Our friends will be glad to learn that we have secured a large pavilion "Tent Endeavor," which is capable of sheltering eleven hundred people and will be used for Evangelistic Services, Young People's Meetings, Temperance Conventions, Lectures, W. C. T. U. Conventions, Fourth of July, Labor Day and other celebrations, Concerts, Musicales, etc. We are in correspondence with Booker T. Washington, Sam. P. Jones, Fanny Crosby and many other "national lights" whom we hope to hear in "Tent Endeavor" this season.
Ample accommodations for all who seek rest, recreation, wholesome pleasure, mental stimulus and religious instruction. We will rob no man of his liberty. Let no man rob us of ours.

The full-page description of the park ended with that statement about liberty. It sounded like a quote, but I couldn't find it exactly. It must have already been familiar to Rev. Rollins' audience. Does anyone know where this sentiment comes from?

"Tent Endeavor" was the name often given to the venue for tent meetings held by the Christian Endeavor Society, a popular multi-denominational society for young people. In 1905, three churches in the city of Rensselaer listed Christian Endeavor Societies in the City Directory (First Congregational, First Presbyterian, and First Reformed Churches). There were over a dozen such Societies in Albany.

During July and August of 1905, the Albany Evening Journal announced several outings planned for Van Rensselaer Park:
  • The Farmers and Mechanics' Lodge, Independent Order of Odd Fellows of Rensselaer (athletic events including fire hose races by the East-Side fire companies)
  • Basket picnic by the Ladies' Committee of the West Albany Railroad Y. M. C. A.
  • Picnic and field day by the Riverside Lodge, Knights of Pythias of Rensselaer (featuring an amateur baseball contest between the Clintons and the Senators)
  • Joint picnic of the Sunday Schools of the Hope Baptist church (Rev. Rollins) and the Sixth Presbyterian church of Albany (baseball between teams representing the two schools, and the Boys' Brigade will drill)
  • Excursion by the Sunday schools of the North End churches of Rensselaer (the steamer Frear(?) will convey the excursion down the river, after which it will land them at Van Rensselaer Park)

There was never any mention in the AEJ articles of the Merry-Go-Round, Tent Endeavor, or the "national lights" of the lecture circuit.

This is Part 3 of a three-part post. Read Part 1 and Part 2.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Van Rensselaer Park - Circa 1905 [Transportation and Amusement]

The 1905 advertising pamphlet for Van Rensselaer Park has interesting glimpses into life in Rensselaer at the turn of the last century. With rail, trolley, and water transportation easily available, folks were fond of taking excursions and outings with their church, school or fraternal organization. This brochure described every means of transportation to the old Forbes Manor grounds.

Van Rensselaer Park

Transportation.- The Troy boats will land passengers from both Troy and Albany at the new dock (to be erected directly opposite the Park) regularly and at a moderate rate. The Albany and Rensselaer boats, two in number, will make regular trips to and from the Park. We will furnish, when occasion requires: A modern and thoroughly furnished barge, recently equipped with all lifesaving appliances required by law, and under the management of one of the most competent captains on the river. Tugs both speedy and reliable. Connections with the Catskill, Hudson, Coxsackie, New Baltimore, Coeymans and Castleton boats.

Barge and boat connections for the convenience of railroad excursions entering Albany via the New York Central, West Shore, Boston and Albany, Delaware and Hudson, Boston and Maine trains, and Hudson and Schenectady electric cars. Fare from depot to Park five cents. The United Traction Company can land passengers in Rensselaer to the north end of the Third street, which is but a short distance from the upper gate of the Park.
Place.- Rensselaer-on-the-Hudson, Park closed on Sunday. Boats do not land at our dock on Sunday, No intoxicating drinks allowed on the grounds, Ample police protection. Plenty of pure, cold water. Sports of every kind. Two baseball diamonds - one for men, one for boys. A tennis court. Croquet ground. Swings. Livery, Ponies, Goats for the children. A straw wagon, which will be one of the principal features of the season. Sand heap and pails for the children. Toy water wheels on Black brook, for the children. Telephone to your place of business. Boats every fifteen minutes. Railroad service from Forbes avenues. Mountain climbing, Camping. Track sports. Football. Merry-Go-Round. A Model Bakery, Lunches, Soda Fountain, Fruits, Confectionery, Milk, Tea, etc.
This is Part 2 of a three-part post. Read Part 1 and Part 3.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Snow Emergency

There will no trash removal in the City of Rensselaer, New York on Thursday, February 3, 2011. All trash scheduled for that day will be picked up on Friday, February 4, 2011.

The City of Rensselaer has declared that a “SNOW EMERGENCY” will be in effect beginning Wednesday, February 2, 2011 at 8:00 AM. No Parking will start on the EVEN side of the streets for a 24 hour period. After 24 hours, there will be NO PARKING on the ODD side of the street. Vehicles in violation of this Local Law will be subject to ticketing and/or towing. The “SNOW EMERGENCY” will be continued until such time that the City of Rensselaer calls off the snow emergency.