Thursday, September 26, 2013

The Stockade Walkabout

A fife and drums corps marches on North College Street during the 1987 Walkabout. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

The Stockade Walkabout, which celebrates the rich history of the Stockade neighborhood and offers visitors the opportunity to tour the interiors of historic homes, gardens, and public buildings, has been a tradition in Schenectady for nearly 60 years. The first Walkabout was held on September 25, 1954 and was sponsored by the Schenectady County Historical Society and the Schenectady Museum (now MiSci). The event included tours of 19 homes and public buildings in the neighborhood. The Wednesday Group of St. George's Church provided a luncheon at the church, and volunteers provided child care during the event at the University Club, 17 Front Street. 97 costumed performers provided tours of historic homes and walked the streets of the Stockade.

Ticket for the 1959 Stockade Walkabout, featuring a listing of the homes and public buildings on the tour. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Documents Collection. 

Ticket for the 1970 Stockade Walkabout. 8 homes and 4 public buildings were open for tours that year. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Documents Collection. 

The initial Walkabout was a great success: over 600 people turned out to tour the neighborhood. "The affair was so successful," reported the Schenectady Gazette, "that several persons attending suggested that it be made an annual affair." The Walkabout did continue on, but not on an annual basis. The 1959 Walkabout was touted as the "Sesquicentennial Walkabout," as part of the celebration of the sesquicentennial of Schenectady County. A 1962 newspaper article indicated that the Walkabout was a biannual event. By the late 1950s and early 1960s, the Stockade Association partnered with the Historical Society to organize and promote the event. By the late 1960s and early 1970s, the Walkabout generally became an annual event.

Poster advertising the 1974 Stockade Walkabout. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Documents Collection.  

Map of sites open for the 1961 Stockade Walkabout. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Documents Collection. 

In addition to being open to visitors for the Walkabout, the Schenectady County Historical Society hosted teas and luncheons as part of the day's festivities. The Society also featured a number of demonstrations -- from wood carving and rug hooking to stenciling and needlepoint -- and provided historical slideshows and lectures.

Carol Harvey mans a table promoting the 1972 Stockade Walkabout at a Better Business Bureau function. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

This year's Walkabout, presented by the Stockade Association and the Schenectady County Historical Society, will be held on Saturday, September 28, from 11:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. For more information about this year's Walkabout, or to order tickets online, visit Like us on Facebook at Stockade Walkabout 2013!

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Days Gone By on Albany Street

Grocery store on Albany Street, circa 1910. Photograph from Larry Hart Collection. 

Albany Street, and its cross streets from Schenectady Street up to Edward Street, has been associated with the scores of German immigrant families who moved there as the city expanded from the 1880s to the 1920s. Many German-American organizations, such as the Turnverein and Liederkranz, maintained their halls and offices on or near Albany Street. People frolicked and gathered in nearby Brandywine Park, which had its entrance where Albany Street met Elm Street.

Family members cluster in the windows of the grocery and home of Henry J. Terpening at 912 Albany Street and the home of John Begley, 910 Albany Street, around 1890.  Photograph from Larry Hart Collection. 

Hazel Swartz Forst, who lived most of her 90 years on Albany Street, remembered her early childhood days at what is now 1344 Albany Street, around 1900: "Across the street from us was a pine grove . . . the pine needles on the ground were so thick and smooth, we kids could slide on them. The street wasn't paved -- all dirt -- and after a heavy rain the mud was all gooey and we kids had fun walking in the road, much to the chagrin of our mothers."

A 1915 view of businesses on Albany Street, near the intersection of Brandywine Avenue. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Adelaide O'Connor, whose mother grew up on Albany Street, shared recollections of visits to the Albany Street Pork Store (then Kemner's) and of the delicious apple kuchen at Pitts' Bakery on Schenectady Street. The Grau family also ran a popular bakery called the Rolling Pin Bakery, on Albany Street near the corner of Craig Street. Gert Purcell remembered Gus Grau, a German immigrant, making "absolutely delicious" coffee cakes, cookies, bread, and rolls. "We'd go in about every day," Purcell recalled. "They were very warm, wonderfully warm people, always ready to hand a child a cookie."

The hall maintained by the German-American gymnastic club Schenectady Turnverein, ca. 1905. The building, located at 837 Albany Street, was also known as Turn Halle or Turner Hall. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Albany Street near the intersection of Paige Street, circa 1945. Photograph from Larry Hart Collection. 

Hazel Forst also remembered the water tower that was on Albany Street, between Hulett and Schenectady Streets. Made obsolete in 1914 by the construction of the Bevis Hill Reservoir, it was torn down in 1928. After the tower was taken down, Forst recalled, "we missed all the shade it gave us that kept us cool in summer."

This water tower once stood on the south side of Albany Street, between Hulett Street and Schenectady Street. It was demolished in 1928. Photograph from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

A Stockade Icon: Lawrence the Indian

Lawrence at the intersection of Front, Ferry, and Green Streets in Schenectady, circa 1890. The basins outside of the fence were originally part of the statue when it was ordered. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

126 years ago today, "Lawrence" was born. September 12, 1887 was the day that the iconic statue was erected at the intersection of Front, Ferry, and Green Streets, to commemorate the site of the fort that had been at that intersection.  The statue had been ordered by the city from the J.L. Mott Iron Works in the Bronx. Although he's been a special part of the Stockade neighborhood for over a century, Lawrence isn't exactly unique; in his more generic form, he was known as No. 53 Indian Chief in the Mott catalogue. There have been over 25 statues identical to Lawrence found around the world -- from Mount Kisco, New York, to Calhoun, Georgia, to Ishpeming, Michigan, to Cuzco, Peru. In addition to his iron base, Lawrence came with basins -- the statue can also operate as a fountain, although it does not appear that Lawrence ever did. For a time, these basins were set out to water horses and were separated from Lawrence by a fence.

Children have always been especially drawn to Lawrence. Here, some youngsters pose for a photograph with him ca. 1890. Photograph from Larry Hart Collection. 

Lawrence quickly became a neighborhood fixture, although he wasn't always known by the name he has today. In fact, for seventy-five years, he had no name. Residents referred to the statue as "the Indian," or as "Little Joe." The statue had become an iconic representation of the city certainly by  the 1930s, when it was name-checked in a newspaper column of Schenectady reminiscences by the fictional "Old Man Van Goober." Van Goober recalled days of yore when it was so cold in Schenectady that "the Indian statue on Front Street got down off its pedestal and went to a barber shop to get warm." A listing for an apartment for rent might mention that it was "near the Indian statue" or a person giving directions might advise someone to "turn right at the Indian." It became a natural gathering place and landmark for people in the neighborhood.

Lawrence has long been a focal point of the community. Here, he watches over the Stockade Art Show in 1948. Photo from Larry Hart Collection. 

It wasn't until 1962 that Lawrence was given his current name. He was named for "Lawrence the Maquase," a Mohawk who led a party that attempted to recover Schenectadians captured during the 1690 Massacre. Scotia historian Neil Reynolds was the first to call for the naming. "Lawrence was the unquestioned leader of probably the first group to go north in pursuit of the French and Indians," wrote Reynolds. Lawrence, who was in Albany at the time of the Massacre, quickly assembled a party of Mohawks to pursue the captors. He also called for white volunteers to join them. "A small group of men did decide to accompany Lawrence's Indians," wrote Reynolds, "but after they came within a day's journey of the enemy and could not overtake them, they turned back. The Mohawks, led by Lawrence, continued on. Colonial records report that Lawrence's "heart was Broke to see so much of his Brethrens blood shed and would Procure some of ye Prisoners back again either by force or by stratagem." In addition to following the raiders, Lawrence also negotiated with Canada for the return of prisoners, wrote letters and made speeches asking colonists who had fled Schenectady to return to the settlement, and aided in rebuilding Schenectady. Remembrance of his deeds live on in the statue that bears his name, watching over the Stockade.

Lawrence in snow, unknown date. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Old Schoolhouses of Glenville

Children outside of West Glenville School. The school closed in 1953. Glenville historian Percy Van Epps, who attended the school as a youngster in the 1860s and 1870s, remembered visits from a traveling magician, spelling bees, singing "Under The Willow She's Sleeping" accompanied by the wheezing of a melodeon, and teachers -- from the beloved Canadian "man of mystery" to the "lazy ignoramus" who stole money from the schoolchildren. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

"Countless volumes could be written telling of the many and varied occurrences of interest, sometimes laughable, often pathetic, happening in the numerous little red school houses scattered over our hills and dales . . . a highly organized and determined effort is under way to absolutely abolish these cherished, and on the whole efficient, institutions of our rural communities; an effort, however, vigorously and ably opposed, it would seem fitting if more of these odd happenings might be recorded before they pass into oblivion."
- Glenville historian Percy Van Epps (1859-1950), as part of reminiscence entitled "Our Little Red School House."

School days are upon us once again, so it's a good time to take a look back at schools of days gone by. In the rural schoolhouse, one teacher taught children from first grade through eighth grade. The group of pupils taught by the teacher might be as small as 7 or 8 or as many as 25 or 30. In the years of the nineteenth century, the class sizes would ebb and flow with the seasons; more children could attend during the winter months, as many had to work helping their families on local farms during the spring and fall. Schools had no central heating, electricity, or running water. Students had to go outdoors to use a privy if nature called during the day. A wood-burning stove, which was often tended by one or two of the older boys in the school, heated the room. In cold winter months, the students might cluster around the wood stove, trying to get warm, during the first hour of the school day. Along with "reading and 'riting and 'rithmetic," students learned history, geography, spelling, and English, and many teachers also made the time to squeeze in music, nature study, and art. The school was also a site for exhibitions, where students showed off to their parents and their community what they had learned through recitations, spelling bees, and singing.

These little schoolhouses were ubiquitous in rural parts of Schenectady County for over a century; here are images of just a few, from the town of Glenville.

School District #10 (Beukendaal) was created in 1825. This was the original school building on the site, which was demolished in 1915. It was replaced by a cobblestone schoolhouse that remained open until 1953. "I have remarked here on a former occasion, that I would do more for this school than any other, because this was the school of my youthful days," said John Hagadorn at an exhibition of singing, reading, and essays at the school in 1880. "Near this spot I have met with my school mates to study, and join in the innocent amusements of school days. The swift wings of time have broken up these pleasant associations . . . So it will be with you children, you are now passing through a period of time which will never again return. Strive to make the best use of your time, while attending school, so that when you are grown up you may look back with the pleasing satisfaction that you have not spent your time in vain." Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

A group of girls from the Hill School in 1926. Pictured are Sadie Buzinski, Helen Wronkowski, Clementina Farrone, Jennie Wronkowski, and Mabel Leffler. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

Interior of Washout Road School, 1915. It was also called the Rabbit Hollow School. This schoolhouse, which was likely the second built on the site, was constructed in 1913 at a cost of $650.00. It was last used as a school in 1953. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Children outside of West Glenville School, 1940-1941. Thelma P. Lally, the educator and philanthropist for whom the Lally School of Education at the College of Saint Rose in Albany is named, was the teacher at the school that year. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

School District #6 (Upper Sacandaga Road) was created in 1815 (the district number was changed to 17 in 1867). This is a photograph of the second schoolhouse on the site, which burned down in 1932 after the stovepipe and chimney caught fire. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Teacher Della Relyea and her pupils, ca. 1910. School District #7 (Swaggertown Road) was created in 1815 (the district number was changed to 14 in the 1860s). The building at the junction of Swaggertown Road and Spring Road, known as the Little Mud School for its stucco exterior, was built around 1840. It closed in 1945 and the buildings was demolished during the 1970s. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

A horse-drawn sleigh outside of the Greens Corners School in 1908. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

Photograph of the School District #5 (Greens Corners) schoolhouse, taken in 1996. The school closed in 1946. Historian and caretaker Adrienne Karis has led the effort to restore and preserve this classic one-room schoolhouse, which is open to the public for tours. More information about the schoolhouse and about arranging a visit can be found at Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

School District #13 (Johnson Road) was created in 1835. Also known as the Hill School, all that remained of the building by 1967 was the foundation. This photo dates from 1926, when Marietta (Taylor) Campbell taught at the school. Campbell remembered that her class that year numbered about 20 pupils. The boys took care of the wood stove that warmed the school. To come to work, she took the trolley from Scotia to the Waters station on the Fonda, Johnstown and Gloversville Railroad, from which she walked up Waters Road and Weatherwax Road to the school on Johnson Road. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.

This photo features the 1913 pupils of teacher Mildred Van Eps (standing at left) at School District #9 (Hoffmans). These children attended school in a yellow brick schoolhouse. It was torn down in the 1920s and was replaced by a two-story schoolhouse. The last group of pupils of the school, in 1953, numbered 11 students. Photo from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection.