Thursday, August 9, 2012

Edward Delavan

This cross-topped marble monument on the Cemetery's high Middle Ridge marks the grave of Edward C. Delavan, a prominent Albany hotel owner and temperance advocate.

Mr. Delavan owned the eponymous Delavan House, one of old Albany's most famous hotels.  Located on Broadway on the site of Union Station, the hotel hosted Charles Dickens, the Lincoln family, Boss Tweed (he used a luxury suite there as his local headquarters, complete with a private entrance), Theodore Roosevelt, and many other famous figures before it was destroyed in one of the city's worst fires.  Nineteen people were killed in the inferno on December 30, 1894.

Born in Westchester County in 1793, Delavan was one of the wealthiest New Yorkers by 1860.  Much of his fortune had been made in real estate investments after the opening of the Erie Canal.

Despite an early career as a wine merchant, Edward Delavan was, by the late 1820s, a fanatic participant in the temperance movement and founding member of the American Temperance Union.  He is said to have emptied the entire contents of his own expensive wine cellar into the gutters.  He also traveled to Europe to promote temperance in Italy and France, both countries famed for their wine production and consumption.  An enthusiastic propagandist, he used his personal wealth to distribute a million temperance tracts to Union soldiers during the Civil War.

Of course, a "dry" hotel was not profitable and the managers of his Delavan House reportedly found loopholes in the establishment's lease which allowed wine and liquour to be served there despite its owner's zealous objections to all alcohol.

It was Edward Delavan who bought the first deed to a lot at the new Albany Rural Cemetery in 1845.  He was buried there after his death in 1871.

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