Monday, November 18, 2013

John Tweddle

It's impossible to walk down State Street below the Capitol and not notice the Gothic bell tower of historic St. Peter's Episcopal Church.  That tower, with its gargoyles and carved faces, was erected in memory of John Tweddle.

John Tweddle is best remembered for Tweddle Hall, a large building which occupied the corner of State and North Pearl Streets.  The site is now the location of a rather stark modern building which houses a bank, Starbucks, and various offices.

Tweddle Hall was built in 1859 on what was previously known as Elm Tree Corner and Webster's Corner.  This vast building feature a brownstone facade by William Gray who was also responsible for a number of monuments at the Rural Cemetery (including "Sara and Her Babe") and numerous businesses (including tailors, druggists, art and music dealers, law offices, and shoe stores). 

Click here for an antique photo of Tweddle Hall on the Albany Institute of History & Art's site. 

Above the stores was a hall that could seat a thousand people.  Tweddle Hall would host everything from musical performances to conventions.  One of the most notable people to appear at the Hall was Charles Dickens who gave two sold-out readings there.  Like a modern-day rock concert, people lined up for hours in front of the Hall to buy the $2 tickets which sold out quickly or paid high prices to scalpers.   

Tweddle Hall burned in January 1883.  The many stairwells, flammable stage scenery and curtains, and long halls quickly spread the fire from the second floor throughout the building.  It was a total loss and, when it was rebuilt, it was a commercial edifice - the Tweddle Building - without the large performance hall.

John Tweddle was born in England in 1798 and orphaned at the age of nine.  He emigrated to the United States at twenty-one and, by 1847, was involved in the brewing business in Albany.  He was a founder and president of the Merchant's Bank and a Presidential elector voting for Abraham Lincoln's second term.

John Tweddle died of cancer on March 9, 1877.  He was buried on the South Ridge the following May where his grave is marked with a modest marble obelisk.

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