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.