Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Repairs To A Van Rensselaer Gravestone

 The following article is from the Times Union.  If you are not a Times Union Plus subscriber, link around by Googling the phrase "patroon van rensselaer plot at albany rural to be repaired times union" and the first result will take you to the article.

Times Union - Patroon Van Rensselaer plot at Albany Rural to be repaired.

The photo above shows the headstone to be repaired and was taken in late March. 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

The Kneeling Child

 The Anderson monument at Albany Rural Cemetery

When I unexpectedly came across the Anderson plot last spring, the badly weathered little statue atop the monument was already a familiar sight.  I had previously seen the figure atop a monument in Schenectady's Vale Cemetery.  The same figure also appeared as stock artwork in several 19th-century city directory advertisements for local stone cutters, including James Gazeley, William Manson, and Edward Remond (all of whom created monuments for Albany Rural).

 The Anderson lot viewed from one of the old ravine paths.

Variations on the statue also appeared in Facebook groups for cemetery enthusiasts;  there were examples in cemeteries such Brooklyn's vast Green-Wood, and Union Grove in Canal Winchester, Ohio, Oakland Cemetery in Atlanta, Forest Hill in Boston, Elmwood Cemetery in Detroit, and Mount Auburn (the original "rural" cemetery).  Examples also appear in Ireland and England. Some of these figures were marble, one was white zinc. 

Vale Cemetery, Schenectady

The little figure was originally the work of Florentine sculptor Luigi Pampaloni (1791-1847).  Created around 1826, the figure was originally one of a plaster pair;  a sleeping girl and a kneeling boy beside her.  On a visit to Pampaloni's studio, Countess Anna Potocka commissioned a marble copy of the boy for the grave of her young daughter Julia in Krakow.

 1870 Albany city directory advertisement

The statue, which shows a child kneeling with one knee raised and one foot tucked behind, clasped hands, an upturned face, and long curls, became quite popular and copies some appeared in gardens and cemeteries.  Appealing to popular sentimental taste, plaster, alabaster, and porcelain examples could be found in parlors and drawing rooms.  Some examples include wings.  In some versions, the child kneels on a cushion, other omit the cushion.

Green-Wood Cemetery, Brooklyn

The figure is known by several names;  "The Praying Child," "Kneeling Samuel" or "Little Samuel," and "The Orphan."  Some claimed it was meant to represent the son of the late Emperor Napoleon.  It is also called "The Prayer of Pampaloni."

There is even a Flickr group of images of the various versions found around the world.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

A Few Favorites

Thanks to AOA for asking me to do a second article on the Rural Cemetery.

A tour of (a few) favorites

(You can just imagine how hard it is to pick favorites!)

Monday, February 15, 2016

Rediscovering A Soul Effigy

A recent research walk on the Rural Cemetery's Middle Ridge revealed a few interesting surprises, including only the second marble section marker I've seen intact.  Stopping near the wonderfully eclectic monument to Ozias Hall to retrieve a lot map from my backpack, I happened to look back down the hill toward a corner lot I'd visited several years ago.  

There's a cache of older headstones there, mostly transferred from the State Street Burying Grounds and laid flush to the earth in a large family plot.  I'd photographed a few of them back in 2013, but gave up because several of them were positioned at the very edge of a short, but very steep slope.  Since I was using a cane as I recovered from a badly dislocated knee, I didn't want to risk a tumble! 

As I looked down from the Ozias Hall lot, I noticed about two or three headstones in that corner lot.  These had not been visible on that previous visit.  They looked quite old so I retraced my steps back down from the Hall lot for a closer look.  One was fairly plain;  the inscription was partially obscured, but I could make out a partial date of 17--.  The stone next to it was heavily embedded in the earth.  Only a couple of inches were visible with most of the slab covered in very thick moss and the upper portion overlapped by a tree root.

But there was something interesting on that upper portion.  A row of tiny parallel lines was just visible under a layer of thick dirt and moss.  It hinted some sort of carving, perhaps the bottom edge of wings.  It might even be a soul effigy - the winged faces popular on 18th-century tombstones.  They were not particularly common in Albany compared to New England and the lower Hudson Valley, but there are some interesting examples in the Church Grounds and the Schuyler lot.  Many, though not all, of the Cemetery's soul effigies are documented in Experiencing Albany:  Perspectives On A Grand City's Past.

I keep a few "tools" in my backpack when I'm at the Cemetery, including a soft brush which I used it to sweep the dirt from the upper part.  And, yes, there was a soul effigy complete with a fashionable wig atop on oval face.  There is even a hint of a heavenly crown peeking out from under the turf.

The inscription was much harder to reveal with just the brush.  But I was able to clear just enough to reveal some elegant flourishes and enough letters to copy for identification.

The headstone belongs to Jacob Ten C. Eyck who died on September 8, 1793.  Born in Albany in 1705 to silversmith Coenradt Ten Eyck and Gerritje Van Schaick Ten Eyck, he followed in his father's line of work.  As a young man, he apprenticed to Charles Le Roux in New York City.  He returned to Albany around 1736 where he practiced his trade as a smith - an example of his work is currently on display as part of the Albany Institute of History & Art's excellent exhibit, Masterworks - 225 Years of Collecting.  He also served as constable and city firemaster and, eventually, as sheriff of Albany County.  From 1748 to 1750, he served as Mayor.

In 1736, he married Catharina Cuyler.  They had four children.  Catharina died in 1790.

Jacob C. Ten Eyck was eighty-eight at the time of his death.  He was buried in the Dutch Reformed Church's section of the municipal burial ground which closed in 1868 to allow the land to be redeveloped into Washington Park.  While most graves were relocated to the Rural Cemetery's Church Grounds, Jacob C. Ten Eyck's was moved to this large plot in Section 60.  Records indicate that Catharina was also moved here and her headstone is likely nearby, waiting to be cleared, too.

 AIHA - a silver bowl by Jacob C. Ten Eyck

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Flags and Wreaths, 1965

This silent compilation of video of War-time Albany includes some excellent footage of flags being placed on the graves of soldiers in May, 1965.  The Civil War Soldiers Lot is included in the video, along with an impressive wreath-laying ceremony at the grave of President Arthur.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Cemetery Lane, 1907

A rather clever postcard was printed to look like birch bark that was peeled back to reveal an image of Cemetery Lane (now Cemetery Avenue).  It is, of course, the approach to the Albany Rural Cemetery (and St. Agnes Cemetery) from the main gate on Broadway. 

Postmarked 1907, it shows the Avenue before the installation of the current fence which lines both sides and before disease wiped out the rows of elm trees.

The card was mailed from Albany on July 2 and address to a Miss Lila C. Ritter in Alder Creek, Oneida County.  A little research shows that Miss Ritter graduated from Boonville High School two years later and became a teacher until she married Loren Yerdon in 1915  The Yerdons lived on a farm in Steuben County, but later moved back to Alder Creek.  She passed away on September 10, 1971 at the age of 82.

There is no note on the card and the sender didn't sign his or her name, though there are two sets of initials inked on the lower edge and "Cemetery Lane, Albany" is written in pencil on the reverse.