Albany Architects: Marcus T. Reynolds

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MarcusTReynolds.jpgThe last Albany architect of significance was Marcus T. Reynolds. Working from 1893 through 1930, Reynolds created some of Albany's greatest landmarks and, sad to say, was the last architect to have a positive impact on the city. (One could argue that for Wallace Harrison, architect of the Empire State Plaza - but that feels like a single piece, something apart from the city, and the effect it had on the fabric of the city was anything but positive. Besides, Harrison was not from Albany.)

Reynolds was born in Great Barrington in 1869; his mother died in 1875, and his father (a Union College classmate and friend of Chester Arthur) then put Marcus and brother Cuyler in the care of their aunt Laura Van Rensselaer, living at 98 Columbia Street in Albany. Marcus was sent to boarding school in Catskill and later attended The Albany Academy and St. Paul's School in Concord, New Hampshire before entering Williams College. He graduated in 1890 and went to the architectural program at Columbia University's School of Mines, and then returned to Albany to set about finishing the city.

In 1893, Reynolds took on the reconstruction of the Sigma Phi fraternity house, of which he was a member, at Williams College. His Van Rensselaer connections gave him access to parts of the old Van Rensselaer Manor House, which was at that point in disrepair, having been vacated in 1875. He designed for Sigma Phi a new house similar to the Van Rensselaer mansion, and was able to salvage some of the exterior stonework and window trim from the old Albany house. (Interior elements of the manor house are in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.) Views of the old Manor House and the Sigma Phi house can be found at this link; sadly, the Sigma Phi house was demolished in 1973. One reason the Van Rensselaers were no longer interested in the old manor site was that it had become part of the lumber district and was overrun with industry, and the decision to tear down the mansion was coincident with the construction of Reynolds's first Albany commission, the Albany Terminal Storage Warehouse on Tivoli Street, in 1893. William Van Rensselaer owned the company. The building still stands, but had lightning struck its architect in that year, we wouldn't be remembering him today.

United_Traction_Company_Albany.jpgThe Manor House had been abandoned, but people named Van Rensselaer still needed places to live. Reynolds's next Albany commission were the Van Rensselaer houses at 385-389 State Street, just across from Washington Park near Willett, and still one of the most distinctive houses in Albany. Then, just to get away from old money for a little while, he worked on the remodeling of the Albany Country Club on Western Avenue in 1898. Then he built what was for a long time almost the northernmost limit of civilization on Broadway, the United Traction Company building at Columbia Street, a lovely landmark that stood alone, cater-corner from Union Station, among desolate parking lots for decades.

 There were other private homes, and the Superintendent's House at the Albany Rural Cemetery (1899). He built the much-lamented Pruyn Library at North Pearl and Clinton, and the Canon George Carter House (1902, 62 South Swan St.), before returning to the family well, building the Van Rensselaer Apartments at Madison and Lark Street (1904). But at this time he was also building some of the most notable downtown Albany structures that stand to this day.

First among these was The Albany City Savings Building at 100 State Street (1902). He built the first National Savings Bank Building at 70 State Street, now lost. Then came the New York State National Bank at 69 State Street, which preserved one of Philip Hooker's facades within an early skyscraper, and moved it up the street to boot (1904), and the First Trust Company building (1904, 35 State Street), at the corner of State and Broadway, still sometimes known as the Museum Building for the structure that preceded it, which looked similar (1904, with Reynolds additions in 1908 and in the 1930s). He built The Hampton Hotel (1906, 40 State Street), and the iconic Hook and Ladder No. 4 (1910, Delaware Avenue at Marshall St.).

D&H bldg 1From 1912-1918, he built what is probably his crowning glory, the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Building. This was the headquarters of one of the region's railroads; it never served as a station, although it had a freight warehouse directly to its north. Commonly reported to have been based on the Cloth Hall in Ypres, Belgium, the D&H Building rivals the State Capitol at the top of the hill in grandeur, and exceeds it in unity. It was built at what was then a very busy intersection, and part of the plot's design was to include a loop for trolleys in front of the building, in what was then known as The Plaza. The building shut off the waterfront from view; as it was heavily commercial at the time, that wasn't considered a bad thing. The building was constructed north to south, expanding with the years; the final, southernmost section was built for the Albany Evening Journal, though it can really only be told apart from the railroad headquarters by the small figures celebrating the history of printing.

 The Evening Journal was only there for a few years before it was absorbed by the Times-Union in 1924. The D&H lasted there into the 1960s. A plan for the building to become the headquarters of the expanding State University of New York developed in 1972, but it took until 1978 before SUNY finished renovations and took over the site, along with the neighboring Federal Building.

 After the D&H, Reynolds built two more notable downtown structures, the Municipal Gas Company Building (1916, 126 State Street) and the addition to the Albany City Savings Institution (1924, 100 State Street) that included its signature tower. Further afield, he built the Albany Industrial Building, later home to the Argus Litho (1915, 1031 Broadway), Public School No. 4 (1924, Madison Ave. and Ontario, now gone), Hackett Junior High School (1927, 45 Delaware Ave.), and both the new Albany Academy (1931, Academy Road) and renovations to the old Albany Academy (1930, Academy Park). He also designed the Gideon Putnam Hotel in Saratoga Springs and buildings in Catskill, Amsterdam and New York City.

 Reynolds died March 18, 1837. He is, appropriately, buried in Albany Rural Cemetery.

Albany Architects: Albert W. Fuller

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When talking about Albany's leading architects, it never seems like Albert W. Fuller gets his due, and yet he had a huge influence on the look of Albany through the years, and had commissions and influence across a wider geographic range than many of the  others.

Fuller was born in 1854 in Clinton, New York. He came to Albany and trained as a draftsman in the offices of Ogden & Wright, where he worked from 1873 to 1879. He opened his own office; his early commissions included the Albany County Bank Building at 6 South Pearl (1882, demolished 1927) and the Van Slyke House (1881, 756 Madison Ave.). 

Y.M.C.A._-_Albany,_NY.jpgIn 1883 Fuller entered partnership with William A. Wheeler, an Albany native who had studied in Boston. They worked together through 1897, and right from the start they had commissions well beyond Albany -- the Henry C. Pierce House in St. Louis, the Academy of Music in Newburgh, the Methodist Episcopal Church in Hoosick Falls, and other buildings in Plattsburgh, Denver and more. Closer to home, they built some of the Capital District's greatest structures: Albany's YMCA Building (1887, 62 N. Pearl St.), the Gardner Earl Memorial Chapel and Crematorium (1888, Oakwood Cemetery, Troy), the Soldiers and Sailors Monument (1891, Troy), and the Masonic Temple (1895, 67 Corning Place). They also built some of our most fondly remembered losses: Harmanus Bleecker Hall (1888, 161 Washington Ave.), and the Silliman Memorial (1897, Mohawk and Seneca streets, Cohoes). They made a little mini-industry out of building YMCAs, putting them up in New Britain, CT and Montreal, and a much bigger industry out of building schools. In Albany, they built Public Schools 10, 6, and 24, as well as the Normal Schools in Plattsburgh and Oneonta, an auditorium at the Northfield (MA) Seminary, Silliman Hall at Hamilton College, and Grant Hall (formerly Alpha Delta Phi) at Union College. And there was much, much more. Among the other Albany buildings still standing: McKinney House (1889, 391 State St.), Andrew Baker House (1892, 129 S. Lake Ave.), the Fourth Precinct Police Station (1891, 419 Madison Ave.), Alden Chester House (now the Ronald McDonald House, 1891, 139 S. Lake Ave.), St. Peter's Episcopal Rectory (1895, 107 State St.). And there were even more. They were a busy 14 years.

Centennial Hall.pngDon't know why Wheeler was out the door, but he was. On his own, Fuller built the beautiful and still standing Centennial Hall (1898-9, 7 Pine St.), and Public Bath No. 1 (1900, 665 Broadway). He also had work in Watervliet, Glens Falls (the City Hall), Warrensburg, and Richmond, VA. From 1900 to 1909, his former draughtsman William B. Pitcher was a partner in the firm, and in that time Fuller designed a few more buildings you may have been around and about, such as P.S. 12 (1901, 27 Western Ave.), the Gibson and Walker houses (1901, 415 and 417 State St.), the James McCredie House (1901, 403 State St.), and the Albany Institute of History and Art (1906, 125 Washington Ave.). This time also saw plenty of out-of-town work, including the libraries in Amsterdam and Johnstown, Trinity Episcopal in Watervliet, the Guy Park Avenue School in Amsterdam, and Hackley Hospital in Muskegon, Michigan.

After Pitcher left, Fuller just kept on going, with even more commissions around the state and beyond, and even more of the buildings we still most strongly associate with Albany: the Berkshire Hotel (1912, 140 State St.), the Kinney & Woodward Building (1916, 74 State Street, now a boutique hotel), Public School 19 (1917, 395 New Scotland Ave.), the Harmanus Bleecker Library (1924, 19 Dove St.), the University Club (1925, 141 Washington Ave.), and Albany Law School (1928, 80 New Scotland Ave.). Fuller died in 1934, still at work.

In 1882, Fuller published a book titled "Artistic Homes in City and Country: A Selection of Sketches Prepared in the Routine of Office-Work and Now Amplified and Enlarged." In his preface, Fuller wrote:

In offering these to the public, it is my desire to give some practical hints which may be of use to those who wish to make their homes not only comfortable, but artistic, and without involving any greater expenditure. The rapid progress which has been made within the past few years in both the external and internal treatment of our homes very forcibly illustrates the desirability of seeking the services of an architect, rather than endeavoring to have one's own ideas carried out by those unskilled in the profession. While it is not expected that these designs will meet the requirements of others than those for whom they were planned, still they will form a basis from which sketches can be made suitable to location and the wants of those desiring to build.

The volume includes lovely fantasies of Edwardian homes like this one:


Albany Architects: The Ogdens

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In the middle part of the 19th century, Albany took on a new look that was largely the work of father and son architects by the name of Ogden and their partners. Edward Ogden, born in England in 1826, came to Albany at the age of 13. He apprenticed as an architect with fellow Englishman William Woollett Jr. through 1849, and rose to partnership with Woollett from 1856 to 1870. Then he joined in partnership with another Englishman, Frank P. Wright from 1871 to 1889. Son Charles Ogden, an 1874 Albany Academy graduate, got his name on the firm in 1891, and when Edward died in 1900, it was Charles who carried on the business.

The impact of the various iterations of the Ogden firms on Albany is nothing less than stunning, even though substantial works have been lost. Here are just a few of their works.

first_dudley_observatory.jpgAmong the lost landmarks of the William Woollett and Edward Ogden period: the original Dudley Observatory (1856), the Tweddle Building (1860), the original School 12 (1858). But still standing: the Church of the Holy Innocents (1866) at North Pearl and Colonie streets, Our Lady of Angels (1869) at Central Avenue and Robin Street, and the Emmanuel Baptist Church (1871) at 275 State St.

Later, the firm of Ogden and Wright made a tremendous impression. They built a number of schools: No. 15 at Franklin and Herkimer, 1871; No. 11, still standing at 409 Madison, 1873; the first Albany High School on Eagle Street, 1876; the New York State Normal School on Willett Street, 1885; and the Albany Business College, 1887, which still stands on the northeast corner of North Pearl and Columbia. They also built the Kenmore Hotel (1878) and the John Myers Block (1884) that collapsed in 1905. A number of their private homes survive, including the Marshall Tebbutt house (483 State St., 1887), the Bainbridge Burdick house (935 Madison Ave., 1890), the Eugene Hartt house (407 State St., 1890), and the William B. Elmendorf House (1001 Madison Ave., 1890).

Brides'_Row,_144-170_Chestnut_Street,_Albany,_NY.jpgFrom 1891, the firm was known as Edward Ogden and Son, which continued to create a series of signature buildings. Unfortunately, their School No. 4 (Madison and Ontario, 1893), J.B. Lyon Block (Hudson Ave., 1893), St. Andrew's Episcopal (Western and Main, 1897), the Albany Railroad Co. (Quail St., ca. 1898), the Drislane Store (144-170 S. Pearl, ca. 1898), and the Municipal Gas Building (112 State St., 1899) are all gone.  But many are still standing: The James McKinney House (now St. Andrew's Society, 150 Washington Ave., 1891), the YMCA extension (Steuben and Chapel, ca. 1894 -- the front was built earlier by Fuller and Wheeler), the Convent of Our Lady of Angels (183 Central Ave., pre-1895), Madison Avenue Presbyterian (820 Madison, 1897), and the beloved Brides Row (144-170 Chestnut St., ca. 1900).

Day Line buildingFrom 1900 on, the firm was Charles Ogden. His first independent building was the American Cigar Co. factory (Arch and Grand, 1901), which still stands but isn't much of a testament to architectural ability. He also built St. John's Church (Green and Westerlo, ca. 1908), renovations to Keeler's Restaurant at 56 State Street (now gone), the Hudson River Day Line Ticket Office (351 Broadway, with Walter Van Guysling), St. Anthony's Church (Grand and Madison, 1908), Fuld & Hatch Knitting (Liberty and Hamilton, 1913). Perhaps his most recognizable works are the former Academy of Holy Names at 628 Madison Ave. (1914), right across from Washington Park and now part of Albany Medical Center, and the Albany Home Telephone Company (Howard and Lodge streets, 1903), which for many years housed a restaurant named after the building's architect, Ogden's. 

From 1916 on Charles Ogden was partnered with the Gander firm (Joseph, John and Conrad), with which he did alterations to Richardson's Albany City Hall, including a new steel and fireproof roof. This late in his life it is difficult to tell what is Ogden and what is Gander, and his continuing contributions to Albany's look is less clear. Charles retired in 1926 and died in 1931.

Albany Architects: Philip Hooker

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There could hardly be an architect who had more of an impact on the look of Albany as it grew into a substantial city in the early 19th century than Philip Hooker. He was widely respected, influential in politics and society Hooker's classical stylings let the city start to rise above its simple Dutch bricks and tiny frame houses. Unfortunately, so much of Hooker's work is gone now that it's possible to forget his importance.

NorthDutchChurchAlbany.pngPhilip Hooker was born in Rutland, Massachusetts (Worcester County) in 1766, the first child of Samuel Hooker and Rachel Hinds. Samuel was a carpenter who moved his family to Albany around 1772. How Hooker came to be an architect, and whether he spent time in New York City learning the profession, is not clear. The first building that we know he designed was a doozy: what is now called the First Church in Albany, earlier known as the North Dutch Church. (Old as the church is, its pulpit is even older; it dates to 1656 and is the oldest pulpit in the United States.) And as you can see, the front entry was originally different from the one we know today.

Soon after, he built the second building at Union College. West College, located on the corner of Union and College streets in Schenectady, was begun in 1798 but not finished until 1804. The building was sold to the city and county for use as offices, courthouse and jail. Union bought it back in 1831, then sold it to the city again in 1854. In 1890 it was demolished to make room for a school; today the site is merely a parking lot with an historical marker. Around this same time he also built a State Arsenal in Albany, long since razed.WestCollegeUnionCollege1804.png

Hooker's work proceeded at a tremendous pace in the first decade of the 19th century, with commissions in Albany for St. Peter's Episcopal Church (razed 1859), and the South Dutch Reformed Church; and St. Paul's Episcopal in Troy and Trinity Episcopal in Lansingburgh. He also built the New York State Bank (some of its elevation survives to this day, moved up the hill from its original location), the Bank of Albany (gone), and the Mechanics and Farmers Bank (also gone). He built the first dedicated Capitol Building in 1809 (gone), the old Albany City Hall (gone), and the old Albany Academy building (happily, still standing in Academy Park, headquarters of the city school district). His private homes fared better than his institutions:  the Aiken house in Rensselaer, as well as Hyde Hall in Cooperstown and Roscoe Conkling House in Utica, still stand, as well as what is now the Fort Orange Club (attributed to Hooker, anyway). His parents having moved to the Utica area, Hooker's work can be found out there as well, and at Hamilton College's chapel.

Remnants of Hooker's Capitol building were recovered just a couple of years back in the ravine of a local country club; I'm not sure whether the plans to display them have yet come to fruition.

He died in 1836, at the age of 69. Hooker is buried at Albany Rural Cemetery, though like his State Bank building, he didn't start out where he is now. He was originally buried at the State Street Burying Grounds.

There is a thorough book on Hooker from about 20 years ago, still available.

George D. Babbitt

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Babbittad.pngBabbitt & Co. was once one of Albany's greatest clothiers. When they took out this ad in 1913, the business was 13 years old and their store was located at 451-453 Broadway, just about at the intersection with Maiden Lane. By 1927 they had moved up to 67 North Pearl. Neither of their buildings still stands.

George D. Babbitt, who made his home at 32 South Allen Street, "was one of Albany's and the State's most public-spirited and progressive citizens." In addition to his long history in the fur and clothing business (beginning with Bardy, Babbitt & Co. in Fairhaven, VT, in 1884), he was an early advocate of automobiling (he was president of the Albany Automobile Club) and a supporter of the canals. He organized the Albany Chamber of Commerce. When the First World War came, he served on a YMCA Executive Committee raising funds, on the Mayor's Advisory Committee, the Executive Committee of the First Liberty Loan, and chairman of the Merchants' Committee for the War Chest. Born in Vermont around 1855, he died in 1919.


Flint Granite

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FlintGranite.pngThe Flint Granite Company had its office and works at the Albany Rural Cemetery. As noted in this 1902 ad, it succeeded the James Gazeley company which was established in 1861. Arden A. Flint came from Barre, Vermont, the granite memorial capital, and took over Gazeley's business around 1898. It also consolidated the businesses of C.B. Canfield (New York), Railway Granite Co. (Barre), Sanborn Granite Co. (Utica), and J.W. McMullen (Schenectady).

A 1905 booklet of their work can still be found, and it turns out Flint made some of our favorite memorials, in Albany Rural Cemetery, Troy's Oakwood Cemetery, and more.


In 1909, "Stone" ("A Monthly Publication Dedicated to the Stone Industry in All Its Branches") reported that "Arden A. Flint, who founded and was for nine years  general manager of the Flint Granite Company, Albany, N.Y., has severed his connection with that company. He becomes general manager of the Empire Monument Company, with offices in New York and Albany. The company will cut and manufacture granite at its quarries in Barre, Vt. . . . Mr. Flint is one of the best-known granite men in the business." He was killed in an automobile accident in 1912.

The Rise of the Individual Cup

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This has nothing to do with Capital District history, but having run across this 1911 article from Municipal Journal & Public Works, I thought I should share this vision of a world that wasn't filled with plastic bottles:

Portland Urges Using Individual Cups

Portland, Ore. - Individual drinking cups not only are becoming popular, but they are a necessity in Portland these days, and will be more so next summer. There is a State law which abolished the cup chained to the fountain in public places, but as yet there are not enough "bite the bubble" fountains to appease the public thirst. This necessitates the individual cup, the kind carried in the pocket. By next summer, before a man leaves home in the morning he will put a clean handkerchief and a clean paper cup in his pocket before going to work. One concern has ordered 50,000 paper cups, which will be distributed for advertising purposes. Paper cups are of infinite variety and of various cost. Eastern department stores sell one kind at 12 for a dime, and in the big stores of the East, the cups are held in a container, working on the penny-in-the-slot principle, and are sold for a cent each. Some cups retail for a nickel, but these have a wire handle and are short and squatty. Most of the paper cups are made of oil paper and lie flat, being without a bottom. Those with a bottom cost a trifle more. One of these paper cups is supposed to be thrown away after a drink has been taken, but a cup can be used for a week, with reasonable care. By the end of a week it has become dirty from being carried in the pocket. Collapsible metal cups are bieng sold largely to school children, although most of the schools have a "bite-the-bubble" fountain, and these fountains are also installed in many cafeterias. The paper cup has not taken a hold in Portland yet.

NewDockpicture1911.pngMunicipal Journal & Public Works, 1911:

Albany, N.Y. - The work of constructing the new recreation pier at the foot of State street, Albany, began June 19. Thus far this summer the contractor has had but two days in which the water was low enough to permit the work to be done. The piles on which the concrete sea wall rests are nearly all driven on all sides of the pier, and this will be followed by driving the sheet piles. These are constructed of three heavy planks fastened together and the piles provided with a tongue and groove to make them watertight. They are driven twenty-four feet between low water level and spiked to the three rows of piles by horizontal bars, forming a solid fence to prevent the washing out of the foundation of the concrete walls. A compressed air machine drives the immense nails under water through the planks and into the piles, a thickness of a foot of oak, at the rate of less than one a minute. There are 2,000 feet of concrete wall to be constructed entirely around the pier, laid in the three rows of piles. But 160 feet in four sections of forty feet each have been constructed. The walls are thirteen feet high, six feet wide at the bottom and two and a half at the top, which will be ornamented with some coping. The concrete mixing plant is the most complete of any seen in this section, the stone and cement being carried into it automatically and dumped into cars, which are run on a track to the section of wall to be constructed. The contractor expects to have the pier completed by fall if work is not stopped by high water.

Ironic Juxtaposition

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fourbrothers.pngOne doesn't imagine that the advertising manager for the 1902 "History of the Police Service of Albany" explicitly intended these two advertisements to end up directly adjacent to each other. (He probably didn't intend the typo in "Brothers," either.)

Four Brothers Independent Oil appears to have been a regional supplier that began in Albany. Thomas L. Hisgen started in the axle grease business in 1889 and moved into illuminating oil in 1900 (most Google references to the company will turn up tests of their headlight oil, because headlight oil was a thing.) Their oil business extended along the rail lines down to Yonkers, out to Connecticut, north to Ticonderoga, east at least to Springfield, Mass.  As they here warned, where there is no competition, monopoly rules. Today we can find out about Four Brothers primarily because of their participation in the United States' case to break up the Standard Oil monopoly. It appears that Standard Oil, not satisfied with something like 85% of the oil business in the country, paid agents to follow Four Brothers' trucks around, offer their customers underpriced deals to switch, harassed their drivers and generally worked to drive this tiny business out of business. George Hisgen, then living at 59 Ten Broeck Street, testified in the government's case against Standard Oil.

Directly below their ad, the monopoly, Standard Oil Company. It was broken up in 1911, making John D. Rockefeller filthy stinking rich (he had previously only been stinking rich).

Slightly uncomfortable ad placement.

(We've written about the Hisgen Brothers before. An eBay offering of their billhead places their factory at Tivoli and Lark streets.)

Miss J. Kimmey, Costumer

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MissJKimmey1902directory.pngAn image from the 1902 Albany directory, which included some Troy listings as well. Miss J. Kimmey was a masquerade and theatrical costumer, with thorough knowledge of the business and twenty years experience. She had shops at 342 River and 11 Fourth streets in Troy; presumably the Santa Claus outfits were available in both.

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