Tuesday, May 5, 2015

The DeWitt Children and The Church of The Holy Innocents

Set at the edge of the hill overlooking the first turns of the South Ridge Road, an angel with a bronze cross stands atop a delicately carved marble pedestal in tribute to four children of William H. and Ann DeWitt.

The children's dates of death are not noted in the Cemetery's card file, but their ages and the causes of their deaths are:

William Henry - Disease of Lungs - aged 6 years, 4 months
Frances Ann - Scarlet fever - aged four months, 25 days
Edward Clark - Croup - aged 1 year, 9 months
Catharine Clark - scarlet fever - 4 years, 7 months, 15 days

A "lumber baron" and Trustee of the newly consecrated Cemetery, DeWitt had the remains of the children removed from the Dutch Reformed section of the State Street Burying Grounds to this lot atop a hill called Mount Olivet on the earliest maps of the grounds.  The exquisite tombstone that he erected was included in Churchill's Guide Through The Albany Rural Cemetery as one of "the principle monuments."

DeWitt also ordered four swans for the Cemetery's ponds.  One did not survive the trip from Europe, but the remaining three were, for some time, a popular sight for visitors strolling the grounds.

The DeWitts built another, even more noteworthy memorial to the deceased children;  the Church of the Holy Innocents.  This small, but lovely church of rustic stone was erected in 1850 at the corner of North Pearl and Colonie Streets. 

 And now that church is in serious danger.  Empty for years (despite being included on the National Register of Historic Places and Historic Albany's list of most endangered structures), this once-beautiful little church is the victim of severe neglect and, yesterday, a portion of the rear wall collapsed.

Times Union article

It is a shame that such a beautiful and meaningful building has been allowed to deteriorate so badly.  Albany has - both in the past and in recent years - lost so much of its tangible history to neglect and decay rather than preserve them through intelligent adaptation and reuse.

It would be a pity to have yet another gaping hole in the cultural fabric of what is one of the oldest and most historic cities in the Untied States.  It's rare that I use this blog as a soapbox, but please consider contacting the parties involved and urge them to do whatever it takes to save The Church of The Holy Innocents.

Office of The Mayor, City of Albany - 518-434-5100
Hope House (current owners of the site) - 518-482-4673 - Kevin Connally, Executive Director

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