Tuesday, October 21, 2014

The Rise and Fall of Schenectady's Wall Street

This 1850 Schenectady city map shows the single block of Wall Street, running parallel to the Erie Canal between State Street and Liberty Street. The Givens Hotel was located on the east side of the street. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Map Collection. 

Schenectady's Wall Street has its origin from around the time that the "third stockade" was constructed in Schenectady around 1776. The street ran along the inside of the eastern wall of the stockade, connecting Front Street and State Street. In the street's early years, the entire stretch of street was called Wall Street. After Union College established its building on the street, the section between Union Street and Green Street became known as College Street. The part of the street north of Union Street was briefly named Elbow Street before becoming a part of College Street as well.

This map shows the locations of three stockades built around the settlement at Schenectady, overlaid on a modern map of the modern Stockade Historic District. The location of Wall Street can be found along the eastern edge of the third stockade, built around 1776. Image from Colonial Schenectady in Maps by Susan Staffa (1983). 

In 1825, the construction of the Erie Canal cut Wall Street down even further. The section of Wall Street west of the canal also became a part of College Street, and Wall Street was reduced to a single block, running between State Street and Liberty Street. Although the street was small, its proximity to the railroad tracks and the Erie Canal made it a bustling little street. Businesses along that section of the canal set their storefronts on Wall Street and drew merchandise from barges on the canal side. The early 1840s saw the construction of a railroad station and the Givens Hotel there.

This view of State Street from the 1880s shows railroad tracks in Schenectady when they were at the street level. In the center of the photograph is Givens Hotel, which stood on State Street between the railroad tracks to the east and Wall Street to the west. The entrance to Wall Street can be seen behind the Givens Hotel in this image. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

Although it was busy, its proximity to the railroad and canal did not make it a pretty place to do business. Historian Larry Hart wrote that by the late 1870s, "the east side of Wall Street was not too pleasant a sight. Clustered near the grade level crossing at State Street were a shabby little restaurant and saloon, weatherbeaten sheds and wood fences, grimy with wood soot." Wall Street blossomed in the 1880s. The a new railroad depot opened there in 1882; the Givens Hotel was demolished and the Edison Hotel was erected in its place in 1889. A right-of-way along the railroad tracks north of Liberty Street was tacked on to the end of Wall Street to accommodate the Central Arcade, a complex of 20 shops and offices.

This 1889 photograph shows the area once occupied by the Givens Hotel at the corner of Wall Street and State Street, before the Edison Hotel was constructed in its place. The row of businesses that ran along Wall Street can be seen at left, and Schenectady's train station can be seen in the rear center of the photograph. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

However, changes in the community changed the fate of Wall Street. The elevation of the city's railroad tracks in 1905 affected Wall Street profoundly, as it went from being a bustling street to a side street. Wall Street suffered another blow as Erie Boulevard replaced the Erie Canal in 1925. Businesses which had formerly had their storefronts on Wall Street now changed to face Erie Boulevard. In the early 1970s, the buildings which once ran along Wall Street were demolished to make room for additional downtown parking. Today, the street no longer exists.

This view of Wall Street in January 1971 looks south toward State Street. The Crown Hotel, at left, was demolished later that year, along with a number of other buildings along Wall Street. The side of the former railroad station, which had closed in 1969, can be seen at the far left. It was also demolished in 1971. Image from Grems-Doolittle Library Photograph Collection. 

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