Sunday, September 25, 2011

Education Center Opens at BASF Site

Times Union: From a landfill, an oasis springs, Sept. 22, 2011
Chemical company BASF has transformed the site of its former manufacturing plant into 10 acres of wildlife habitat with an education center and 40 acres of land available for redevelopment.
The Record: Former landfill transformed into environmentally conscious education center, wildlife habitat VIDEO
BASF invested more than $20 million in the environmental investigation and cleanup of the property which now includes a small building made with local materials...
Press Release: BASF opens new environmental education classroom and wildlife habitat in Rensselaer, New York
The environmental education classroom is a new building that is a model for sustainable construction and has been registered with the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) with the goal of obtaining Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED®) Platinum certification.
This project, just north of the Besicorp Empire Generating plant, is extensively documented by BASF, with many images and videos including:

Transforming a Brownfield Site (includes interviews with Karen Urbanski, Rensselaer Middle School Principal, and Mayor Dan Dwyer)

BASF Environmental Education Classroom and Wildlife Habitat (The company makes many of the building materials used in this demonstration project, so most of these videos are long-format advertisements for their products, but the construction details are interesting.)

FYI, BASF makes an herbicide to deal with that invasive purple loosestrife in their native wildlife habitat (but nobody told their videographer...)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

RoadTrip: MakerFaire NYC 2011

I went to MakerFaire NYC last Saturday to window shop for a 3D printer. Imagine this as a huge science fair, sponsored by Radio Shack ("learn to solder here!"). If you make some cool sort of robotic, electro-mechanical, or steampunky gizmo, you can show it off at MakerFaire...

To get a flavor for the event, start with this video of Random Vehicles (and their drivers) outdoors on the former Worlds Fair grounds. There was lots more to see inside the New York Hall of Science:

The antique iPad keyboard was great!

A couple of contrasting dreams of flight:

MakerBot TV made a nice video of the 3D fabrication village. And one last video link, because you don't want to miss the Coke Zero and Mentos show!

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The George E. Hatcher House

When I bought this house, it was so unique I had to find out who built it and what Rensselaer was like back then. (I started this blog to document the cool things I learned.) I wish all Rensselaer's intriguing homes could tell their stories, but here is the history of the George E. Hatcher House. Please follow the link to check it out!

And if you'd like to live in a unique home that also illustrates a great time in Rensselaer's history, Hatcher House is for sale, and there's an Open House planned this Sunday, Sept. 18, from 2:30-4pm.

Eastland Park

The land for Eastland Park was part of the farm leased in 1790 by Martinus Sharpe, an early settler of Defreestville. The land was later owned by one of the DeFreest families, who sold it to Patrick Dunn in 1897.

In 1927, the Dunn farm was sold to Charles Wenz, Henry Meurs, Thomas Sherwood, Jr. and Dolfie Shufelt. Together with lawyer Ernest L. Boothby, these men formed the Eastland Park Association. This ad appeared in the Albany Evening Journal, Sept. 14, 1927 (click to zoom in).

Dolfi Shufelt, the president of the Association, had been a partner in Leahey & Shufelt, the masons and contractors on high-profile projects like the county bank building and the city reservoir. Leahey & Shufelt also developed the Lincoln Terrace neighborhood.

Charles Wenz worked as a roofer. Henry Meurs had served as Mayor of Rensselaer (1920-21) and as a NYS Assemblyman, and he owned Henry Meurs and & Sons Hardware.

Their plan included a man-made lake and a market plaza:
...on healthy, high ground where nature has combined with development progress to make this section attractive and desirable for discriminating home site seekers… A feature of the development is the beautiful grove which is planned for a park and will be deeded to the city... Here will be found scenic beauty unequaled.
Though the Eastland Park Association never built the lake, they kept the name Lakeview Avenue. Market Street was renamed Woodland Avenue.

Today the park offers a playground, baseball diamond, and basketball and tennis courts, and hosts summer picnics. The Rensselaer City History Research Center has records of the Eastland Park Association, for those wanting to do further research.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)

Friday, September 9, 2011

Van Allen Park

Just west of Defreestville, the "rock cut" allows the road to pass through the rocky ridge that once bisected the 400 acre farm of John Evert Van Alen. Van Alen owned a general store in Greenbush, and was a U.S. Congressman from 1793 to 1799. He was also a surveyor who did work for the Patroon, and he surveyed part of the Eastern Turnpike.

John E. Van Alen had no children, and his nephew Evert Van Alen was heir to his estate. Evert was also a surveyor and civil engineer, and helped build the Erie Canal. Evert’s will split the farm between sons John and Stephen.

Stephen V. R. Van Alen inherited the western 90 acres, between the ridge and the farm of William P. Van Rensselaer. Stephen built the beautiful “Rock Hill” house west of the ridge.

In 1907, Stephen’s daughter Elizabeth V.A. Lape acquired the land from her sister Catherine, who had cared for their elderly father. In 1926, Elizabeth sold the land for this neighborhood to Bruce Corlis of Corliss Realty, Inc., St. Alban’s, VT.

Corliss filed a map in 1926, and the street names he used for Van Allen Park were: Delaware, Maryland, Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Iowa, Missouri, Florida, California, and Minnesota Avenues. Apart from the lots closest to Washington Ave, most of this neighborhood is actually in North Greenbush. Corliss created decades of address confusion when he duplicated many of the same street names in his 1925 Sherwood Park development, located off Columbia Turnpike in East Greenbush.

For more about the Van Alen family, read "Background and Social History of the site and Occupants of the John Evert and Anne Fryenmoet van Alen House", by Walter Richard Wheeler, Hartgen Archeological Associates, Inc.

This is part of the series: North End Park Neighborhoods (download this as a free PDF here)