Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Lansing Park

In the early 1930’s, William Yates Lansing purchased a half interest in the Chester G. Ham coal business, at the end of Central and Forbes Avenues, along the Hudson River in Rensselaer, NY.

Lansing acquired full control of the business two years later, and his coal, lumber and hardware business operated in Rensselaer for decades.

Lansing grew up on a farm in Glen, Montgomery County. From Lansing's biography in "Troy and Rensselaer County, New York, a History" (1925, pg. 120):

In addition to all his other interests, Mr. Lansing is a practical farmer. He never ceased to enjoy farm life and agricultural work, and not long after he came to Rensselaer, he purchased a small farm comprising several acres of the finest agricultural land in the county.

Lansing bought part of the old Van Rensselaer farm on the southerly side of Forbes Ave., where he had a large home with a pond for ducks and swans. Lansing also owned land across the street in the Little Farms neighborhood. At his “Gypsy Camp Farm”, Lansing bred White Holland turkeys and White Plymouth Rock chickens.

In the 1930’s, Lansing even raised and sold peacocks, which must have been quite a sight. From the Geneva Daily Times, June 1, 1936:

W. Yates Lansing, who owns a peacock farm near here, said today he believed it to be the only one of its kind in New York State. There are 31 peacocks, mallard ducks and two swans on the farm. Most of the peacocks are of the blue, or common type, but included in the flock are two white ones and two green birds, the latter imported from Java. Lansing said the birds are no more trouble to raise than turkeys.

W. Yates Lansing died in 1938, and the land south of Washington Ave. was subdivided to become Lansing Park in 1947. The streets are Hazel, William, and Wallace Terraces, and Farley Drive, which was formerly known as Lansing Drive. Hazel Terrace was likely named for Lansing’s second wife Hazel, but the origin of the other names is uncertain. Does anyone know more?

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

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

"My River Chronicles" by Jessica DuLong

I was disappointed to miss the Waterford Tugboat Roundup this year (canceled due to Hurricane Irene). But this book more than made up for it - I highly recommend putting it on your holiday wish list.

My River Chronicles
Rediscovering America on the Hudson
Jessica DuLong

From the inside flap:

In 2001, journalist Jessica DuLong ditched her dot-com desk job for the diesel engines of a rusty antique fireboat, the John J. Harvey, and the storied waters of the Hudson River.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Altamont Art In The Park - Saturday

It's not too soon to start thinking about shopping for the holidays, and it's not too late for a lovely outdoor craft fair on a beautiful autumn day. Art In The Park is a juried show, happening this Saturday, from 10am to 6pm on the green in Altamont, NY.

The publicity says "The various artists range from glass to fiber art, watercolors to oils and pottery to photography with a few woodworkers and a jeweler or two thrown in for good measure!" My beau is one of the woodworkers, so stop by and say Hello - I'll be helping him at the Quiltboxes tent.

The event is sponsored by Desolation Road Studios and the Altamont Free Library. Kudos to Jim Miller of Desolation Road for all his hard work organizing this event! (FYI, most of the artists in the show have items for sale in the shop at Desolation Road, on the green in Altamont.)

What: Art In The Park, Juried Art/Craft Show

When: Saturday, Oct. 8th, 10am - 6pm

Where: Village green, Altamont, NY [map]

Free Concert: 3 - 5pm, features the 3J’s

This event was originally scheduled for last Saturday, but thankfully Jim invoked the rain date. The forecast for this Saturday is gorgeous - sunny and in the 70's. Please come on over, and enjoy some early autumn color on the scenic drive to Altamont.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Golden Age of Coal Smoke

I've been reading Booth Tarkington's novels, and they often complain of an aspect of the "golden age" of rail and industry that was certainly mirrored here in Rensselaer 100 years ago - the problem of soft coal smoke.
The smoke was one of his great enthusiasms; he laughed at a committee of plaintive housewives who called to beg his aid against it. "Smoke's what brings your husbands' money home on Saturday night," he told them, jovially." [The Turmoil, 1915]

"Prosperity" meant good credit at the bank, black lungs, and housewives' Purgatory. The women fought the dirt all they could; but if they let the air into their houses they let in the dirt. It shortened their lives, and kept them from the happiness of ever seeing anything white. [The Magnificent Ambersons, 1918]

This article from the Rensselaer Eagle, Aug. 8, 1912 illustrates one reason why Rensselaer's North End park neighborhoods, built far from the rail yards, were so popular.


Rensselaer Suffers Much From Cloud Belching From Engines

Roundhouse Belches Smoke Continuously all Day and all Night - New York Central Has to Adjust Many Claims Because of Smoke.

Now that the city of Troy has succeeded in reducing the soft coal smoke nuisance to a minimum it is up to the people of this city to take similar action. Rensselaerites are a long suffering people and they have suffered to no small extent because of the fact the New York Central engines use soft coal and emit black, sooty smoke.

Residents have complained time and again of the soft coal smoke nuisance. It not only covers every portion of the city, from one end to the other, but the fact that the railroad companies are permitted to use soft coal within the city limits doubtless keeps away people who would otherwise live in this city.


The roundhouse on the Hudson island is perhaps the greatest evil so far as soft coal smoke is concerned in the city. It is bad enough to have long freight trains, switching engines and passenger engines moving through the railroad yards, but the roundhouse never stops and there is always a cloud of smoke issuing from there night and day.
There are lots of women in this city who can testify to the effects of soft coal smoke on their clothing. There are not many women, who, wearing dainty summer clothing, would walk the Maiden lane or upper bridges at any time because they are afraid of having their clothing ruined by the smoke. The smoke is often filled with enough moisture to make it very sticky and when it covers one as he walks the bridge, the effect is far from pleasing.
In many sections of the city unless an east wind prevails it is an unwise housewife who would think of putting her washing out to dry. The majority of them are forced to have washed clothes dried in the house year in and year out.

The smoke is also bad for paint, as a glance at many buildings adjacent to the railroad will show. But very few houses are painted a light color, for the reason that there being so much smoke in the air it would soon discolor the paint. This is one of the reasons why so many buildings, especially those near the railroad are painted in dark and sombre colors....
The Delaware and Hudson Railroad advertised that their passenger trains to the Adirondack Mountains and Montreal burned the cleaner (and more costly) "anthracite coal smoke".