The grounds around Van Rensselaer Manor House extend from Broadway to the river, and embrace a large garden and conservatory. There in the midst of rural scenery, the sounds of a swift-running brook, and almost the quietude of a sylvan retreat, the "lord of the manor of Rensselaerwyek," the lineal descendant of Killian, the pearl merchant, and first Patroon, was living when our sketch was made in elegant but unostentatious style--a simple Republican, without the feudal title of his progenitors, except by courtesy. Within the mansion are collected some exquisito works of Art, and family portraits extending in regular order back to the first Patroon. At the head of the great staircase leading from the spacious hall to the chambers was a portion of the illuminated window which, for one hundred and ninety years, occupied a place in the old Dutch Church that stood in the middle of State Street, at its intersection by Broadway. It bears the arms of the Van Rensselaer family, which were placed in the church by the son of Killian.
The bell-rope of the old church hung down in the centre of the building, and upon that cord tradition has suspended many a tale of trouble for Mynheer Brower, one of its sextons, who lived in North Pearl Street. He went to the church every night at eight o'clock, pursuant to orders, to ring the "suppawn bell." This was the signal for the inhabitants to eat their "suppawn," or hasty-pudding, and prepare for bed. It was
"People--ah, the people,
They that dwell up in the steeple
And who, tolling, tolling, tolling,
In that muffled monotone,
Feel a glory in so rolling
On the human heart a stone;
They are neither man nor woman,
They are neither brute nor human,
They are ghouls!"
Albany were a quaint aspect until the beginning of the present century, on account of the predominance of steep-roofed houses, with their terraced gables to the street. A fair specimen is given in our Street View in Ancient Albany, which shows the appearance of the town at the intersection of North Pearl and State Streets, sixty years ago. The house at the nearer corner was built as a parsonage for the Rev. Gideon Schaats, who arrived in Albany in 1652. The materials were imported from Holland,--bricks, tiles, iron, and wood-work,--and were brought, with the church bell and pulpit, in 1657. "When I was quite a lad," says a late writer, "I visited the house with my mother, who was acquainted with the father of Balthazar Lydius, the last proprietor of the mansion. To my eyes it appeared like a palace, and I thought the pewter plates in a corner cupboard were solid silver, they glittered so. The partitions were made of mahogany, and the exposed beams were ornamented with carvings in high relief, representing the vine and fruit of the grape. To show the relief more perfectly, the beams were painted white. Balthazar was an eccentric old bachelor, and was the terror of all the boys. Strange stories, almost as dreadful as those which cluster around the name of Bluebeard, were told of his fierceness on some occasions; and the urchins,
'Fee, fo, fum,
I smell the blood of an Englishman
He was a tall, spare Dutchman, with a bullet head, sprinkled with thin white hair in his latter years. He was fond of his pipe and his bottle, and gloried in his celibacy, until his life was 'in the sere and yellow leaf.'
On the opposite corner was seen an elm-tree, yet standing in 1860, but of statelier proportions, which was planted more than a hundred years before by Philip Livingston, one of the signers of the Declaration of Independence, whose dwelling was next to the corner. It was a monument to the planter, more truly valued of the Albanians in the heats of summer, than would be the costliest pile of brass or marble.
Further up the street is seen a large building, with two gables, which was known as the Vanderheyden Palace. It is a good specimen of the
Kalm, the Swedish traveller, who visited Albany in 1748 and 1749, says in his Journal,--"The houses in this town are very neat, and partly built with stones, covered with shingles of the white pine. Some are slated with tiles from Holland. Most of the houses are built in the old
Kalm appears to have had some unpleasant experiences in Albany, and in his Journal gave his opinion very freely concerning the inhabitants. "The avarice and selfishness of the inhabitants of Albany," he says, "are very well known throughout all North America. If a Jew, who understands the art of getting forward perfectly well, should settle amongst them, they would not fail to ruin him; for this reason, no one comes to this place without the most pressing necessity." He complains that he "was obliged to pay for everything twice, thrice, and four times as dear as in any other part of North America" which he had passed through. If he wanted any help, he had to pay "exorbitant prices for their services," and yet he says he found some exceptions among them. After due reflection, he came to the following conclusion respecting "the origin of the inhabitants of Albany and its neighbourhood. Whilst the Dutch possessed this country, and intended to people it, the government took up a pack of vagabonds, of which they intended to clear the country, and sent them, along with a number of other settlers, to this province. The vagabonds were sent far from the other colonists, upon the borders toward the Indians and other enemies; and a few honest families were persuaded to go with them, in order to keep them in bounds. I cannot in any other way account for the difference between the inhabitants of Albany and the other descendants of so respectable a nation as the Dutch."
Albany was settled by the Dutch, and is the oldest of the permanent
In 1647 a fort, named Williamstadt, was erected upon the hill at the head of State Street, very near the site of the State Capitol, and the city was enclosed by a line of defences in septangular form. In 1683 the little trading post, having grown first to a hamlet and then to a large village, was incorporated a city, and Peter Schuyler, already mentioned (son of the first of that name who came to America), was chosen its first mayor. Out of the manor of Rensselaerwyck a strip of land, a mile wide, extending from the Hudson at the town, thirteen miles back, was granted to the city, but the title to all the remainder of the soil of that broad domain was confirmed to the Patroon. When, toward the middle of the last century, the province was menaced by the French and Indians, a strong quadrangular fort, built of stone, was erected upon the site of that
Among the most interesting of these relies of the past is the mansion erected by General Philip Schuyler, at about the time when the Van Rensselaer Manor House was built. It stands in the southern part of the city, at the head of Schuyler Street, and is a very fine specimen of the domestic architecture of the country at that period. It is entered at the front by an octagonal vestibule, richly ornamented within. The rooms are spacious, with high ceilings, and wainscoted. The chimney-pieces in some of the rooms are finely wrought, and ornamented with carvings from mantel to ceiling. The outhouses were spacious, and the grounds around the mansion, so late as 1860, occupied an entire square within the city. Its site was well chosen, for even now, surrounded as it is by the city, it commands a most remarkable prospect of the Hudson and the adjacent country. Below it are the slopes and plain toward the river, which once composed the magnificent lawn in front of the general's mansion; further on is a dense portion of the city; but looking over all the mass of buildings and shipping, the eyes take in much of the fine county of Rensselaer, on the opposite side of the river, and a view of the Hudson and its valley many miles southward.
In that mansion General Schuyler and his family dispensed a princely hospitality for almost forty years. Every stranger of distinction passing between New York and Canada, public functionaries of the province and state visiting Albany, and resident friends and relatives, always found a hearty welcome to bed and board under its roof. And when the British army had surrendered to the victorious republicans at Saratoga, in the autumn of 1777, Sir John Burgoyne, the accomplished commander of the
"We were received by the good General Schuyler, his wife and daughters," says the Baroness Reidesel, "not as enemies, but as kind friends; and they treated us with the most marked attention and politeness, as they did General Burgoyne, who had caused General
"The British commander was well received by Mrs. Schuyler," says the Marquis De Chastellux, in his "Travels in America," "and lodged in the best apartment in the house. An excellent supper was served him
Schuyler's mansion was the theatre of a stirring event, in the summer of 1781. The general was then engaged in the civil service of his country, and was at home. The war was at its height, and the person of Schuyler was regarded as a capital prize by his Tory enemies. A plan was conceived to seize him, and carry him a prisoner into Canada. A Tory of his neighbourhood, named Waltemeyer, a colleague of the more notorious Joe Bettys, was employed for the purpose. With a party of his associates, some Canadians and Indians, he prowled in the woods, near Albany, for several days, awaiting a favourable opportunity. From a Dutch labourer, whom he seized, he learned that the general was at home, and kept a body-guard of six men in the house, three of them, in succession, being continually on duty. The Dutchman was compelled to take an oath of secrecy, but appears to have made a mental reservation, for, as soon as possible, he hastened to Schuyler's house, and warned him of his peril.
At the close of a sultry day in August, the general and his family were sitting in the large hall of the mansion; the servants were dispersed about the premises; three of the guard were asleep in the basement, and the other three were lying upon the grass in front of the house. The night had fallen, when a servant announced that a stranger at the back gate wished to speak with the general. His errand was immediately apprehended. The doors and windows were closed and barred, the family
The infant daughter, who so narrowly escaped death, was the late Mrs. Catherine Van Rensselaer Cochran, of Oswego, New York, who was General Schuyler's youngest and last surviving child. She died toward the close of August, 1857, at the age of seventy-six years.
Albany was made the political metropolis of the State of New York early in the present century, when the Capitol, or State-House, was erected. It stands upon a hill at the heat of broad, steep, busy State Street, one hundred and thirty feet above the Hudson, and commands a fine prospect of the whole surrounding country, especially the rich agricultural district on the east side of the river. In front of the Capitol is a small well-shaded park, or enclosed public square, on the eastern side of which are costly white marble buildings devoted to the official business of the State and city. The Capitol is an unpretending structure, of brown free-stone from the Nyack quarries, below the Highlands. It is two stories in height, and ornamented with a portico, whose roof is supported by four grey marble columns of the Ionic order, tetrastyle. The building is surmounted by a dome supported by several small Ionic columns, and bearing upon its crown a wooden statue of Themis, the goddess of justice and law. Within it are halls for the two branches of the State legislature (Senate and General Assembly), an executive chamber for the official use of the Governor, an apartment for the Adjutant-General, and rooms for the use of the higher state courts.
Immediately in the rear of the Capitol is the building containing the State library, which includes nearly forty thousand volumes, and some valuable manuscripts. It is a free, but not a circulating, library.
Albany contained only about six thousand inhabitants when it was
"He saw as widely spreads the unchannelled plain,
Where inland realms for ages bloomed in vain,Canals, long winding, ope a watery flight,
And distant streams, and seas, and lakes unite.
"From fair Albania tow'rd the failing sun,
Back through the midland lengthening channels run;
Meet the far lakes, their beauteous towns that lave,
And Hudson joined to broad Ohio's wave."
The Erie Canal enters the Hudson at Albany. Its western terminus is the city of Buffalo, at the east end of Lake Erie. The length of the canal is 360 miles, and its original width was forty feet, with depth sufficient to bear boats of eighty tons burden. It was completed in the year 1825, at a cost to the State of nearly eight millions of dollars. The business demands upon it warranting an enlargement to seventy feet in width, work with that result in view has been in progress for several years. It flows through the entire length of the beautiful Mohawk valley, crosses
Near where the last aqueduct of the canal crosses the Mohawk River, the rapids above Cohoes Falls commence. The Indians had a touching legend connected with these rapids, that exhibits, in brief sentences, a vivid picture of the workings of the savage mind.
Occuna, a young Seneca warrior, and his affianced were carelessly paddling along the river in a canoe, at the head of the rapids, when they suddenly perceived themselves drawn irresistibly by the current to the
The maiden replied: "Art thou not thyself a mighty warrior, O Occuna? Hath not thy hatchet been often bathed in the red blood of thine enemies? Hath the fleet deer ever escaped thy arrow, or the beaver eluded thy pursuit? Why, then, shouldst thou fear to go into the presence of Manitore?"
Occuna responded: "Manitore regardeth the brave--he respecteth the prayer of the mighty! When I selected the from the daughters of thy mother, I promised to live and die with thee. The Thunderer hath called us together.
"Welcome, O shade of Oriska, great chief of the invincible Senecas! Lo, a warrior and the daughter of a warrior come to join you in the feast of the blessed!"
Occuna was dashed in pieces among the rocks, but his affianced maiden was preserved to tell the story of her perils. Occuna, the Indian said, "was raised high above the regions of the moon, from whence he views with joy the prosperous hunting of the warriors; he gives pleasant dreams to his friends, and terrifies their enemies with dreadful omens." And when any of his tribe passed this fatal cataract, they halted, and with brief solemn ceremonies commemorated the death of Occuna.
A capacious basin, comprising an area of thirty-two acres, was formed for the reception of the vessels and commerce of the canal, and in safe harbour for its boats and the river craft, in winter, by the erection of a pier, a mile in length, upon a shoal in front of the city. It was constructed by a stock company. The basin was originally closed at the upper and lower ends by lock-gates. These were soon removed to allow the tide and currents of the river to flow freely through the basin, for the dispersion of obstructions. When the Western Railway from Boston to
These roads, with the great Central Railway extending west from Albany, and others penetrating the country northward, together with the Champlain Canal, have made that city the focus of an immense trade and travel. The amount of property that reaches Albany by canal alone, is between two and three millions of tons annually; of which almost a million of tons, chiefly in the various forms of timber, are the products of the forests. The timber trade of Albany is very extensive, amounting in value to between six or seven millions of dollars annually. Manufacturing is carried on there extensively; and the little town of six thousand inhabitants, when it was made the State capital, about sixty years before, comprised in 1860 almost seventy thousand souls.
It is not within the scope of our plan of illustrating the Hudson to do more than offer a general outline of its various features, as exhibited in the forms of nature and the works of man. We leave to the statistician the task of giving in detail an account of the progress of towns and villages, in their industrial operations and the institutions of learning. We picture to the eye and mind only such prominent features as would naturally engage the observation of the tourist seeking recreation and incidental knowledge. With this remark we leave the consideration of Albany, after saying a few words concerning the Dudley Observatory, an establishment devoted to astronomical science, and ranking in its appropriate appointments with the best of its class of aids to human knowledge.
The Dudley Observatory was projected about eight years ago, and is nearly completed. It is the result of a conference of several scientific gentlemen, who resolved to establish at the State capital an astronomical observatory, that, for completeness, should be second to none in the world.
The Dudley Observatory is upon the highest summit of the grounds, and commands an extensive view of the Hudson and the adjacent country. It is cruciform, with a front of about eighty feet, and a depth of seventy-five feet. Its massive walls are of brick, faced with brown freestone. All the arrangements within, for the use of instruments, are very perfect. In a large niche opposite the entrance door is a marble bust of Mr. Dudley, by Palmer, the eminent sculptor, on the pedestal of which is the following inscription:--
CHARLES E. DUDLEY,
BY BLANDINA, HIS WIFE.
DEDICATED TO THE ADVANCEMENT OF
In the Clock-room of the Observatory is the apparatus by which a "time-ball" on the top of the State Capitol, a mile distant, is dropped at precisely twelve o'clock each day, and bells are also rung at the same instant in the senate and assembly chambers. The ball is seen in our sketch of the Capitol. It is four and a half feet in diameter, is mounted on the flag-staff, and is raised each day at ten minutes before twelve. The force of the fall is broken by spiral springs at the foot of the flag-staff. Another but smaller time-ball is dropped at the same instant in Broadway, in front of the telegraph-office, and hundreds of persons may be seen daily holding their watches at the approach of the meridian moment, to regulate' them by this unerring indicator.
Immediately opposite Albany is the commencement of fine alluvial "flats," almost on a level with the Hudson, and subject to overflow when floods or high tides prevail. At the head of these "flats" lies the village of Greenbush (Het Greene Bosch, "the pine woods," in the Dutch
The Hudson River Railway is on the east side of the stream, and follows its tortuous banks all the way from Albany to New York, sometimes leading through tunnels or deep rocky gorges at promontories, and at others making tangents across bays and the months of tributary streams by means of bridges, trestlework, and causeways. Its length is 143 miles. More than a dozen trains each way pass over portions of the road in the course of twenty-four hours, affording the tourist an opportunity to visit in a short space of time every village on both sides of the river, there being good ferries at each. The shores are hilly and generally well-cultivated; and the diversity of the landscape, whether seen from the ears or a steamer, present to the eye, in rapid succession, ever-varying pictures of life and beauty, comfort and thrift.