State Street from Broadway, Albany, New York

Looking west on State Street from near the corner of State Street and Broadway in Albany, around 1902-1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

This scene is very similar to the one in the previous post, except these photos were taken a couple blocks further to the east, at the corner of State Street and Broadway. From here State Street, is visible for a quarter mile in the distance as it rises up the hill toward the New York State Capitol. This stretch of road is at the center of downtown Albany, and it has been the site of many historic buildings over the years.

When the first photo was taken, the buildings on the right side of this scene consisted of a mix of late 19th century commercial buildings, most of which were between four and six stories in height. The one outlier here was the nine-story Ten Eyck Hotel, which was built in 1899 and stands in the distance near the center of the first photo.

The buildings in the first photo were occupied by a mix of different businesses. Starting in the foreground, these included the Albany Hardware and Iron Company in the two buildings on the far right, and the Union Trust Company in the ornate light-colored building to the left of it. Further up State Street, the ground floor of the six-story building was occupied by the Cluett & Sons piano store on the right and the William M. Stetson stationery store on the left. Beyond that building, the next two housed a Western Union telegraph office and the Commerce Insurance Company.

Today, more than a century after the photo was taken, hardly any of these buildings are still standing on this side of State Street. The former site of Albany Hardware is now a 12-story office building at 41 State Street, and beyond it most of the other historic buildings on this block were demolished in the mid-19th century to create a surface-level parking lot.

Further in the distance, on the other side of James Street, the 16-story New York State Bank building dominates the center of the present-day scene. It was built in 1927, replacing a much smaller 1804 bank building that is barely visible in the distance of the first photo. However, the facade of the old bank was preserved, and it was incorporated into the State Street side of the new structure.

Beyond the New York State Bank, the next section of State Street has also been completely rebuilt since the first photo was taken. The Ten Eyck, which included a 17-story addition that was built in the 1910s, was demolished in the early 1970s, and the other nearby historic buildings were also gone by this point. In their place is a modern office building at the corner of North Pearl Street, and a Hilton at the corner of Lodge Street.

The only part of this scene that has not undergone dramatic change is near the top of the hill, where both the capitol and St. Peter’s Episcopal Church still stand, along with a row of historic commercial buildings. Closer to the foreground, though, there is only one surviving 19th century building along the entire stretch of State Street between Broadway and St. Peter’s Church. It is a small building, partially hidden by trees in the 2019 photo, but it stands at the corner of James Street. It was built in the mid-1870s for the Mechanics and Farmers Bank, with a Gothic exterior that was designed by prominent architect Russell Sturgis. Perhaps its most distinctive feature is the turret at the corner, which is partially visible in both photos. However, the east side of the building, which faces the parking lot, is a windowless, unadorned brick wall, a reminder that it was once part of a long row of adjoining buildings.

State Street from South Pearl Street, Albany, New York

Looking west on State Street from near the corner of State and South Pearl Streets in Albany, around 1904. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

State Street is the main east-west route through downtown Albany, originally starting at the Hudson River wharves and extending westward up the hill in a straight line toward the state capitol. It provided a direct link between the city’s water and rail transportation and its government institutions, and in the process it passed through the heart of Albany’s central business district, which is shown here in these two photos.

The first photo was taken around 1904, and it shows a busy street scene. Dozens of pedestrians are visible walking on the sidewalks and crossing the street, and there is also a mix of horse-drawn wagons, along with at least three trolleys traveling up and down the hill. Automobiles are conspicuously missing from the scene, but this would not last long. The New York state legislature, meeting in the state capitol at the top of the hill here, had passed the first motor vehicle registration laws in the country in 1901, and by 1904 the state had some 15,550 registered cars on its roads.

The buildings on either side of State Street in the first photo reflect the changes in architectural styles during the late 19th century, along with the city’s growth during this same time. Starting on the far left is the Globe Hotel, which is perhaps the oldest building in the photo. It appears to have been built around the mid-19th century, and by the time the first photo was taken it housed the hotel, along with a number of retail tenants. These included a fruit market at the corner of South Pearl Street, and the photographic supply shop of Finch & Hahn on the State Street side of the building.

Further in the distance, towering above the Globe Hotel, is the Albany City Savings Institution building, which was probably the newest building in the first photo. This large Beaux-Arts building was designed by noted local architect Marcus T. Reynolds, and it opened in 1902 as the city’s first skyscraper. Just beyond the bank is another new building, the Empire Theatre, a burlesque theater that opened here in 1898.

On the other side of State Street, starting in the foreground, is the Tweddle Building. It was built at the corner of North Pearl Street in the mid-1880s, replacing the earlier Tweddle Hall, which had been destroyed in a fire in 1883. Beyond it is the Ten Eyck Hotel, with a painted sign on the side of the building proclaiming it to be “positively fire proof.” The nine-story hotel opened in 1899, filling a void in Albany’s hotel business after the Delavan House burned in 1894. This disaster, which claimed the lives of 16 people, would have still been fresh in people’s minds when the Ten Eyck opened, and likely explains why the owners went to such lengths to advertise its fireproof construction.

Beyond the Ten Eyck, on the other side of Chapel Street, is the Albany Savings Bank. This ornate building was completed in 1875, and it was occupied by the bank until the late 1890s, when the bank moved to a new building on North Pearl Street. The county then purchased the building, and it was in use as county offices when the first photo was taken.

Further up the hill from the bank building are two other commercial blocks, followed by St. Peter’s Episcopal Church on the other side of Lodge Street. The main portion of the church was designed by architect Richard Upjohn, who was particularly well-known for his Gothic-style churches. It was consecrated in 1860, but in 1876 the parish added the 180-foot tower, which was designed by Upjohn’s son, Richard M. Upjohn.

At the top of the hill, in the distant center of the first photo, is the New York State Capitol. Construction on the capital had begun in 1867, but it was not completed until 1899, when Theodore Roosevelt was governor. By the time the first photo was taken, Roosevelt had become president, but less than a decade later another politician with the same last name would arrive at the capitol. Franklin Roosevelt served here as a senator from 1911 to 1913, and he later returned as governor, serving from 1929 until he was elected president in 1932.

Today, nearly 120 years after the first photo was taken, the capitol still dominates the background of this scene. It remains in use as the seat of the state government, although it has since been joined by a number of other government buildings, including the 34-story Alfred E. Smith State Office Building, which rises above the roof of the capitol in the present-day photo.

However, most of the other buildings in this scene at the turn of the century are gone now, including everything in the foreground. The Globe Hotel was altered beyond recognition in the early 20th century, and was known as the Arkay Building until the late 1920s, when it was demolished to build the National Savings Bank, which stands on the site today. Across the street, the Tweddle Building was demolished in the mid-1910s, and in its place the Ten Eyck Hotel built a new 17-story skyscraper. The hotel also continued to operate the older Ten Eyck, which became known as the Annex, and both buildings stood here until they were demolished in the early 1970s.

Further in the distance, only a few recognizable buildings from the first photo are still standing, aside from the capitol. On the left, the Albany City Savings Institution is still here, although it was altered in the 1920s with the addition of a large clock tower, and it is now mostly hidden from this angle by the National Savings Bank. Across the street, St. Peter’s Church is also still standing. Unlike the Savings Institution building, it has not been overshadowed by taller neighbors, and it continues to be a very prominent feature here on State Street. It remains an active Episcopalian parish, and in 1980 it was named a National Historic Landmark, becoming one of four Albany buildings, including the capitol, to receive this designation.

State Hall, Albany, New York

Looking south on Eagle Street in Albany, with State Hall in the foreground and City Hall further in the distance, around 1900. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The scene in 2019:

For most of the 19th century, the seat of the New York state government was the old capitol building, which was completed in 1809 and demolished in 1883. However, the capitol was too small for all of the state offices, so during the early 19th century many of these offices were located in what became known as the Old State Hall, at the corner of Lodge and State Streets. Then, in 1842, a new State Hall was built here on Eagle Street, on the left side of both of these photos.

The new building housed a variety of officials from both the executive and legislative branches. These included the secretary of state, comptroller, treasurer, attorney general, state engineer and surveyor, superintendent of the bank department, superintendent of public instruction, canal commissioners, canal appraisers, state chancellor, register of chancery, and clerk of the court of appeals.

Architecturally, State Hall was a far more imposing building than the old capitol. It was designed by architect Henry Rector, and it features a Greek Revival exterior, which was fashionable for public buildings of this era. Here at the front entrance, facing Eagle Street, is a large portico with a pediment that is supported by six large Ionic columns. Around the rest of the building, Doric pilasters are interspersed between the window bays, and the building is topped by a large dome. State Hall was also far costlier to build than the capitol, and it generally had better quality building materials, most notably an all-marble exterior, as opposed to the capitol’s relatively plain brownstone.

The old capitol was eventually demolished in 1883, after the state government moved into the current capitol building, which stands diagonally across the street from State Hall. However, State Hall remained in use throughout this time, and it was still occupied by state offices when the first photo was taken at the turn of the 20th century. By this point, it had also been joined by the current Albany City Hall, located just beyond the building in the center of both photos. This was the work of prominent architect Henry H. Richardson, who had also been involved in designing the new capitol. Its distinctive Romanesque architecture provides an interesting contrast to the Greek Revival design of State Hall, reflecting the shifts in architectural tastes over the course of the 19th century.

Although the new capitol building was much larger than its predecessor, it was still insufficient for the growing New York state government. As a result, by the early 20th century the Court of Appeals, which was located in the capitol, was looking for new space elsewhere. In New York, the Court of Appeals is actually the state’s highest court, equivalent to the Supreme Court in most other states, and the court was in need of a facility of its own. The state government explored the possibility of building a new courthouse behind the capitol on Swan Street, but instead decided upon converting State Hall into a courthouse.

Along with renovating the interior, the project also involved expanding the building with an addition to the rear, which housed the courtroom itself. The courtroom had originally been located in the capitol, where it was designed by Henry H. Richardson. However, when the Court of Appeals judges left the capitol they took the courtroom with them, and its ornate oak paneling, fireplace, and furnishings were reinstalled here in State Hall.

The project was completed in 1917, and the building was renamed Court of Appeals Hall. It has undergone several renovations since then, in the late 1950s and early 2000s, and it also suffered a large fire in 1958 that destroyed the roof and dome. However, it is still occupied by the Court of Appeals, and this view of the building has remained essentially unchanged since the first photo was taken, aside from the “Court of Appeals State of New York” inscription on the entablature. Further in the distance, City Hall is also still standing with few exterior changes, and it remains in use by the city government. Because of their historical and architectural significance, both of these buildings were added to the National Register of Historic Places in the early 1970s.

The Albany Academy, Albany, New York (2)

The Albany Academy, viewed from the east side near the corner of Eagle and Elk Streets in Albany, around 1908. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2019:

As explained in the previous post, The Albany Academy was established in 1813. Four years later, the school moved into this building near the corner of Elk and Eagle Streets, just to the northeast of the present-day state capitol. The Federal-style building was designed by noted Albany architect Philip Hooker, and it stands as one of the city’s most architecturally-significant historic buildings.

The building was used by The Albany Academy for more than a century, and during this time it had many notable students, including future nine congressmen, a Supreme Court justice, and other important historical figures such as author Herman Melville. However, the building is probably best known for its association with Joseph Henry, who attended the school in its early years before returning as a science teacher in 1826. It was here that he performed important experiments on electromagnetism, including the discovery of electrical inductance. This would enable subsequent technological advances such as Samuel Morse’s telegraph, and today the SI unit for inductance is named the henry in his honor.

The school was still located here when the first photo was taken around 1908, but within a few decades it had outgrown its original building, and in 1931 The Albany Academy relocated to a new campus further from downtown Albany. This building was then sold to the City School District of Albany, which remodeled the interior and converted it into offices.

Today, the building still serves as offices for the school district, and very little has changed here on the exterior since the first photo was taken, although it is now partially hidden by trees from this angle. Otherwise, the only real change in the present-day scene is the statue of Joseph Henry, which stands in the lower center of the photo, in front of the main entrance. It was installed here in 1927, and it was the work of John Flanagan, a prominent sculptor who is best known for designing the Washington quarter, which was first minted in 1932.

The Albany Academy, Albany, New York

The Albany Academy, near the corner of Eagle and Elk Streets in Albany, around 1907. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress, Detroit Publishing Company Collection.

The building in 2019:

The Albany Academy was established in 1813 as a school for boys, and in 1817 the school moved into its first purpose-built facility, which is shown here in these two photos. The building stands just to the northeast of the New York State Capitol, in between Washington Avenue and Elk Street on the west side of Eagle Street. It is perhaps the city’s finest surviving example of Federal-style architecture, and it was designed by prominent architect Philip Hooker, whose other nearby works included the original capitol building and the old city hall.

This building was home to the academy for over a century, and during this time it saw a number of notable students. One of the earliest was Joseph Henry, who entered the school in 1819. He later returned as a science teacher in 1826, and over the next few years he performed groundbreaking experiments in electromagnetism here at the school. Probably his most important discovery here was electrical inductance, which occurred around the same time as—but independent from—Michael Faraday’s similar discoveries in Britain. This property of electrical conductors was later used by Samuel Morse in his invention of the telegraph, and today the SI unit for measuring inductance is named the henry in his honor.

Aside from Henry, The Albany Academy had many other students who went on to have successful careers, particularly in the fields of government and law. Nine future congressmen attended the school while it was located here, as did prominent federal judge Learned Hand, Supreme Court justice Rufus Wheeler Peckham, and longtime Albany mayor Erastus Corning 2nd, whose 41 years in office is a record among mayors of major American cities. Other prominent students included authors Herman Melville, William Rose Benét, and Stephen Vincent Benét, along with future World War II general and Medal of Honor recipient Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who attended the school while his father was serving as governor of New York.

The school remained here in this building well into the 20th century, and it was still in use when the first photo was taken around 1907. However, within a few decades the school had outgrown the old building here in downtown Albany, and in 1931 it relocated to a new campus on the outskirts of the city. The school is still located there today, although in 2007 it merged with the Albany Academy for Girls to form The Albany Academies.

In the meantime, this building was sold to the City School District of Albany, which renovated the interior and converted it into district offices. Today, the school district still occupies the building, which has remained largely unchanged since the first photo was taken more than a century ago. It is one of Philip Hooker’s few surviving works, and in 1971 it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Old New York State Capitol, Albany, New York

The old New York State Capitol, on the north side of State Street a little east of Eagle Street, around 1860-1880. Image courtesy of the New York State Archives.

The scene in 2019:

Albany has been the capital of New York since 1797, but for the first decade or so the state legislature met in City Hall, which served as the temporary capitol building until a new one was built. Construction on the first purpose-built capitol, shown here in the first photo, began around 1806. It was designed by prominent Albany architect Philip Hooker, and it featured a brownstone exterior with marble trim. Its Federal-style design included a portico with Ionic columns here on the east facade, and a cupola atop the three-story building. On the top of the cupola was an 11-foot wooden statue of Themis, with a sword in her right hand and a balance in her left.

Overall, though, despite being the capitol of what was, at the time, the largest state in the country, this building was decidedly modest in its appearance, especially when compared to its contemporaries in neighboring states such as Massachusetts and Connecticut. This was likely dictated more by budgetary constraints than to Hooker’s talent as an architect, but one major criticism of his design was the awkward inconsistency between the apparent two-story east facade, and the three stories on the other sides of the building. Aside from the portico and cupola, the rest of the exterior was largely devoid of ornamentation. Even then, many of these decorative elements were cheaply-made. Like the statue of Themis, the pediment and entablature was made of wood, and even the columns were deceptive in their appearance; instead of solid marble, they were brick with marble veneers. In total, the capitol only cost around $115,000 to build, equivalent to less than $2 million today.

The capitol was completed in 1809, and it served as the seat of the state government for the next 70 years. For the first few decades it also housed Albany’s city government, before a new city hall—which was also designed by Philip Hooker—was built nearby in 1831. However, it did not take long for the state to outgrow the capitol, even with the extra space after the city government moved out. In 1842, State Hall—now known as the New York Court of Appeals Building—was built nearby on Eagle Street to provide additional room for state offices, and in 1854 a separate State Library building was added behind the capitol.

Even with these expansions, though, the capitol was still generally considered to be inadequate, in terms of both aesthetic appearance and practical use. One legislator even went as far as to declare it to be “an offense to the eye and a reproach to the state.” There was clearly a need for a new capitol, but the issue also raised the question of whether Albany should even remain the capital city. Many other cities, including New York City, made overtures in hopes of becoming the new capital, but in the end the state legislature decided to remain in Albany, and in 1865 voted to acquire land for the construction of a new capitol building.

The new capitol was to be located directly behind the old one, and it would be everything that the old one was not: massive, architecturally grand, and expensive. It also took much longer to build; construction started in 1867, and it was not completed until 1899, after many delays and cost overruns. In the end, it cost $25 million to build, or about 400 times the cost of the old capitol, after adjusting for inflation. Because of these delays, the state legislature remained here in the old capitol for more than a decade after construction began, before moving into the new partially-completed building in 1879. The old building continued to be used for state offices for several more years, though, before finally being demolished in 1883.

Today, this scene bears no resemblance to its appearance when the first photo was taken about 150 years ago. The site where the old capitol once stood is now part of East Capitol Park, and in the background is its replacement, which continues to be used as the state capitol today. However, there are several surviving remnants from the old building, although they are not located in the present-day scene. During the demolition, the four Ionic capitals at the top of the columns were saved and given to Governor David Hill, who displayed them on the grounds of his estate on the outskirts of Albany. The property later became Wolferts Roost Country Club, but the capitals remained there until around the 1970s, when they were unceremoniously dumped into a ravine. Three of these were ultimately recovered in 2014, and at the time there was talk of returning them here to East Capitol Park, although this proposal does not appear to have been carried out yet.