Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Past & Present Views - The William Watson Lot

I've always wanted to do side-by-side comparisons of monuments with their historic images, but antique images of the Albany Rural Cemetery are surprisingly hard to find.  Aside from some postcards (usually of the entrance, President Arthur's tomb, or the Angel At The Sepulchre) and illustrations in a few 19th-century books, there aren't too many older photographs immediately available outside of museum libraries.

Recently, the Cemetery has made some terrific old stereoviews available and, now that spring is here, I'm matching up these antique images with the present views. Once I've photographed them all, I'll post them together on a single page at gardenalley.net.  This one is just a preview.

The monument above is on the South Ridge just up hill from the Office.  At one time, a beautiful iron fence surrounded the lot and there were few other monuments nearby.  Now, the fence is long gone and the stocky brown sandstone vault of Artemas Fish can be seen next to it.  This monument marks the grave of William Watson.  Born in Rensselaerville in 1804, he died of "consumption of the throat" on February 26, 1857.  His wife, Julia, survived him by thirty-five years and is buried here.  Also buried here is their only son, Howard, who died on November 1, 1858 at the age of twenty-four.  The couple also had a daughter named Mary shown on the 1850 census.

William Watson was a banker (William Watson & Co.) with offices at 51 State Street and a residence at 25 Ten Broeck Street.  He was among the citizens who attended the December 31, 1840 meeting at the Exchange Building which addressed the need for a new cemetery for Albany and led to the establishment of the Albany Cemetery Association to create the Rural Cemetery.

19th-century stereoview from Albany Rural Cemetery office

The burial index card for the elder Watson includes the notation "Vault" and may indicate that this lot contains an underground burial crypt like the main Van Rensselaer family plot.

Other comparisons:

The Howe-Robinson Lot
The Isaac Vosburgh Lot
Now & Then
The Kreuder Lot

Monday, April 14, 2014

Walter Van Guysling

As an architect, Walter Van Guysling is certainly not as well known as Marcus T. Reynolds whose prolific designs can be found throughout there area or Philip Hooker whose historic designs included the Old Capitol and the Albany Academy.  But anyone familiar with downtown Albany knows Van Guysling's work.  He designed the 1907 Hudson River Day Line office which later became the French restaurant L'Auberge.  He also remodeled the R.B. Wing & Son facade on Broadway with a whimsical white whale painted on its gray stucco.  

A descendent of an old Dutch colonial family, Walter Van Guysling was born in Albany on September 23, 1877. He took an early interest in architecture and began working for local architects (including Reynolds) at the age of sixteen.  In addition to the Day Line and Wing building, he designed a number of private houses in and the now-crumbling Third Precinct Police Station.  Another notable Van Guysling design is the imposing Collegiate Gothic building on Trinity Place in the South End.  Built in 1914 as the Philip Schuyler High School, it has since been converted to apartments.  

Van Guysling's career was, unfortunately, cut short by his death at the age of forty-nine.  The cause of death on the Cemetery's burial index card is given as lethargic encephalitis.  He was buried with his wife's family on the South Ridge.  His stone is the one shown in the bottom left of the photo below.  The stone to the right of his belongs to his wife, Grace Perry Van Guysling.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Charles and Blandina Dudley


This tall, slender brownstone spire on the Middle Ridge stands on the Middle Ridge just a few yards from the Burden crypt.  From this high vantage point, one can look down over Cemetery's chapel and across the Hudson River or down into the south ravine to see the remnants of the cascades and Consecration Lake.

This monument, erected by the widowed Blandina Bleecker Dudley, is also a treasury of local history and family pride.  All of its flat faces are carved with detailed inscriptions which proudly chronicle such details as colonial emigrations and the original burial places of the remains transferred here by Blandina.

Among those buried here are Anneke Janse Bogardus, (the17th-century widow who owned a large tract of what is now Manhattan), Harmanus Bleecker (a member of Congress and namesake of the former library on Washington Avenue and Dove Street), and Jan Janse Bleecker (the blacksmith who came here from Holland in 1658).

Born in 1783, Blandina (spelled Blandena on the Cemetery's records) was the daughter of Rutger Bleecker, a Revolutionary War gunsmith who made a considerable fortune in speculating on land seized from Tories.  Her English-born husband, merchant Charles Dudley, had a distinguished politcal career; he served as Mayor of Albany from 1821-4, New York State senator from 1823-25, a second term as Mayor from 1828-9, and United States Senator from 1829-31.

His inscription on the spire reads:

Charles Edward Dudley Born May 23rd 1780 at Johnson Hall, Stafford-Shire, England.  Baptized in the Parish Church of Eccleshall by the Rev Dr Catlow.  Departed this life Jan 23rd 1841 at his residence in the City of Albany with all the Christians Blessings, beloved, and Honoured by all.  He has exchanged his mansions on earth for a more enduring one in Heaven in the Hope of a Blessed Immortality.  Erected by Blandina Dudley relict of Charles Edward Dudley, A.D. 1854.  Mary Ann only sister of Charles Edward Dudley Died Dec 17 - 1806 at New York aged 23 years  Her remains were placed under the Old Dutch Church now Post Office, N. York

Charles and Blandina had no children to inherit the family money.  To honor her husband and leave a permanent legacy, Blandina donated a generous portion of his estate (equivalent to $3 million in today's money) which would establish the Dudley Observatory.

Created by a state charter in 1852, the first observatory was built two years later just north of Albany on what is still called Dudley Heights.  However, the vibrations of trains passing too close to the original site were harmful to the sensitive instruments houses at the original observatory.  A new Dudley Observatory was built on South Lake Avenue in the early 1890s.  The Dudley Observatory is now located at 15 Nott Terrace in Schenectady (though, as noted on Wikipedia, it no longer serves as an active astronomical observatory) and is now part of the Museum of Science and Innovation (miSci).

Blandina died on March 6, 1863.  Her inscription on the grand family monument is much shorter than her husband's:

Blandina Bleecker Relict of Charles E. Dudley Born Oct. 1, 1783, Died March 6, 1863.  Aged 80 years & 5 months.  

The Dudley Observatory homepage.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Hamilton Cross In Black & White

I occasionally post "Throwback Thursday" photos at a Facebook page and website I manage so I decided to look through some of the photos I took at the Rural Cemetery in the early to mid-1990s. 

At the time, I think I was more interested in just taking cool photos that actually documenting the Cemetery, though I was already percolating the idea of writing a book on the subject.

The photo about is the ornate Hamilton family monument by Marcus T. Reynolds.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

The Kreuder Lot

Churchill's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery is one of the oldest printed works about the Cemetery.  The subtitle notes that it contains "Illustrations of ALL The Principal Monuments, Tombs, Etc." and, in the 1858 second edition, "all" totals about three dozen.  Some of the engravings show monuments which are still very recognizable like the Douw and Yates vaults or the Anthony Strong lot.  A few are harder to identify now and may no longer exist, having been replaced by a different monument, heavily altered, or torn down to due structural problems.

One recognizable monument depicted is the one shown in the engraving above and identified as belonging to one "G. Kreuder."

This monument still stands, minus the path and fence around it.  It is located on the North Ridge, quite near the Hallenbeek enclosure and the Soldiers Lot.  From a distance, the design on the main face appears to a chalice or monstrance within an ornate border.  Up close, however, it is neither and seems to be a sort of rounded urn.

The names and dates carved on the monument were not cut deeply and are now somewhat difficult to read, but it bears the name of George Kreuder who died on February 5, 1863 at the age of forty-five. 

The monument was originally erected by George for his son, Augustus, who died on August 22, 1852.  He was twenty years old and drowned when a ferry boat capsized in the Hudson River.  The ferry, which carried passengers between the foot of Maiden Lane and the Boston Railroad landing, was said to be overcrowded with some twenty passengers and the intoxicated ferryman insisted it was safe to enough to "take them over, even if it killed him" even though it was reported that the water came within three or four inches of the top of craft.  It was also windy and the river was choppy enough to form small whitecaps that day.  Halfway from the pier, the water began to flow over one side of the boat and some passengers thought to correct the situation by shifting their weight to the opposite side.  Their well-intention actions, however, caused the entire ferry to capsize.  All passengers (including women and children) and the ferryman were thrown into the river.  The ferryman was among the dead, as was young Augustus Kreuder of 15 Montgomery Street whom the newspaper's casualty list noted had come from Germany and lived here fifteen years.

George Kreuder, born around 1818, was born in Albany.  He emigrated to the United States with his wife (Caroline - died of consumption in 1856), his father (John - died 1859 at the age of 71), and two sons (Augustus, and Charles who became a lawyer).  Two other children born in Albany died in infancy in the late 1850s and are also buried here.  George was listed in the census as a hotel keeper.  An 1853 article in the Albany Evening Journal reported that Kreuder, keeper of a hotel for immigrants on Columbia Street, was arrested for the "gross outrage" of "confining" a party of non-paying customers inside his establishment until they had missed their cars.  He was held to bail and given "a good lecture."

Monday, March 24, 2014

Wreath and Rose

Sometimes it's an historic name or other story associated with a headstone that gets my attention.  Sometimes, though, I just want to sit back and appreciate a lovely little detail such as this beautiful marble rose within a wreath. 

Saturday, March 22, 2014

The Albany Rural Cemetery by Alfred B. Street

Grave of Elizabeth Weed, Wife of Alfred Billings Street, ca. 1993

The following sentimental verses were written for the Cemetery's consecration ceremony in 1844.  On that occasion, poet Alfred Billings Street read his composition to the crowd assembled in a small, natural amphitheater overlooking one of the Cemetery's scenic lakes.  The poem was reprinted in the local newspapers in the following days, as well as in two collections of Street's poetry and in Henry P. Phelps' book, The Albany Rural Cemetery - Its Beauties, Its Memories.