Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Marquis de Lafayette in Schenectady

Thanks to library volunteer Diane Leone who helped research this post.

Portrait of the Marquis de Lafayette by Charles Willson Peale in 1779-1780.
 Courtesy of Washington and Lee University
Silk Ribbon with an
engraving of Lafayette
by Myron King of
Troy, NY. Courtesy
of the Grems-Doolittle
Library Collections
In the excellent new-ish musical Hamilton, a hip-hop musical based on the life of Alexander Hamilton (which sounds crazy, but it works), the Marquis de Lafayette is referred to as “America’s favorite fighting Frenchman." He certainly was one of Schenectady’s favorites and similar to other towns and cities in the United States, Lafayette made a deep impression on the residents of Old Dorp.

Lafayette first visited Schenectady in 1778 during the American Revolution to investigate a conspiracy that supposedly involved some residents of Schenectady. He concluded that the suspicions of a conspiracy were “very far from groundless” in a March 3rd report to the Albany Committee of Safety.  He personally questioned a suspected soldier about the conspiracy and while he could not retrieve a confession, Lafayette was sure that there was a treasonous plot forming in Schenectady.  The suspicion was based on a report that British Major Christopher Carleton, nephew of Canada’s Governor Guy Carleton, was seen in Schenectady making preparations and gathering information. An attempt was made to capture Major Carleton and Lafayette even offered a reward of fifty guineas for his arrest. Lafayette’s suspicion was correct and Major Carleton went on to run a very successful raid along the shores of Lake Champlain in the fall of 1778.
Lafayette’s second visit to Schenectady occurred on his momentous tour of the United States which began on August 15, 1824. According to Larry Hart, Schenectady’s Common Council created a committee in 1824 to convince Lafayette to visit Schenectady. The committee was made up of some of Schenectady’s most prominent citizens including Union College President Eliphalet Nott, James Duane and John Vrooman among others. This committee met Lafayette on his way from New York City to Albany and while Lafayette couldn’t make the visit right away, he promised to visit the next year.  The newspaper, The Schenectady Cabinet had been dedicating a page per issue to Lafayette’s visit to America. The Cabinet was so sure that Lafayette would visit Schenectady after his trip to Albany that in their September 7th, 1824 issue they stated that “La Fayette, it is understood, may be expected in this city within a few days.” The proclamation was a bit premature, as Lafayette was not able to make his visit until June 11, 1825 on his way back from Little Falls.
Certificate from Schenectady Mayor Issac Schermerhorn stating that Major Joseph Sunsaul (sp?)
 helped escort General Lafayette to Governor Joseph Yates' Stafford House in Albany,
dated September 26th, 1825. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Schenectady was more than ready for his scheduled arrival. As Lafayette was traveling down the partially constructed Erie Canal from Little Falls on the day before his Schenectady arrival, members from an arrangements committee traveled up the canal to meet the esteemed general and his party. When the committee reached Lafayette, a messenger was sent back to Schenectady to tell everyone what time he would be arriving. At 7 p.m. on Saturday, June 11, cannons and heavy artillery that were set up on the canal bridge near Water Street shook Schenectady, notifying its inhabitants of Lafayette’s arrival.  According to a September 26, 1933 recollection of the visit from the Schenectady Union-Star, “All was bustle and suppressed excitement. The people crowded the canal bridges and assembled on both banks of the canal all the way from the flats to the City Hall.” The continuous shout of “Welcome Lafayette” rang along the streets. The packet boat that carried Lafayette and his party eventually reached City Hall where they were greeted by Mayor Isaac Schermerhorn. He was then introduced to the Common Council and surviving Revolutionary War heroes. Over forty years after the end of the American Revolutionary War, General Lafayette still recognized James Lighthall, one of the veterans who served with Lafayette during the war. Lafayette went on to express his appreciation to Schenectady at a dinner in the Givens Hotel by saying that “Schenectady had been most kind in times of danger to a young commander who now comes here after a lapse of 47 years, to offer his affectionate devotion, good wishes and the tribute of his old and new feelings of respect and gratitude.” Lafayette's visit to Schenectady only lasted three hours, but his legacy resonated with its residents.

Part of Governor Joseph Yates' farewell address to General Lafayette. Yates writes that
Lafayette's heart "beat with the throb of patriotism and now ours beat with gratitude for him."
 Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.

Copy of Lafayette's response to Governor Yates' farewell address, written by Lafayette's secretary Auguste Levasseur.
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.  
Lafayette Street is one of the most prominent examples of the Marquis' influence here. When a new street was to be opened in the early-1800s citizens of Schenectady suggested naming it Lafayette Street instead of Division Street.  The Common Council agreed and unanimously voted to name it Lafayette Street. Lafayette’s visit influenced the arts in Schenectady as was witnessed in a play called The Pageant of Schenectady by Constance D’Arcy Mackay. The Pageant of Schenectady was produced in 1912 and featured Lafayette’s highly esteemed visit. It was a five-part play commemorating the 250th anniversary of the founding of Schenectady. Performed on May 30th through June 1st in 1912, it follows Schenectady’s history from the early Native Americans to “The Intellectual and Industrial Forces of the City of Today.” Lafayette’s visit to Schenectady apparently stuck out in the mind of the playwright who dedicated an entire episode of the play to Lafayette’s arrival. Titled “The Welcome to Lafayette”, this episode follows Mrs. Van Epps, Elsbett Van Epps, Barent Sanders, and a group of children as they organize a reception for Lafayette. Mrs. Van Epps remarks that “To think of him is to remember the cause of American Liberty.”

Excerpt from Harold A. Larrabee's "Lafayette at Schenectady."
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Lafayette’s death also had a lasting impact on several Schenectadians including Union College philosophy professor Harold A. Larrabee who wrote a poem in 1934 titled "Lafayette at Schenectady." The poem was presented at Union college in 1934 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of Lafayette’s death and is a moving and interesting recollection of Lafayette’s life and his visit to Schenectady.  It is steeped in history and in the foreword Mr. Larrabee states that the poem is “based on authentic records, and sources could be cited for nearly every line.” 27 years after Larrabee’s poem was recited, Mayor Malcom E. Ellis proclaimed May 20, 1961 as Lafayette Day in Schenectady. In his proclamation, Mayor Ellis said that he “enjoins all of our citizens to pay grateful homage to the memory of Marquis de Lafayette by appropriate civic ceremonials.” While “appropriate civic ceremonials” doesn’t sounds all too exciting, Ellis’ proclamation shows that even over 100 years after his death, the people of Schenectady were still thinking of Lafayette and wanted to honor his memory.

Friday, December 11, 2015

Wayne Tucker Postcard Collection

Before the rise of Email and Facebook, postcards were a quick and easy way to keep in touch with friends and relatives. Postcards really became popular at the turn of the 20th Century and postcard collecting, uncommonly known as Deltiology, followed soon after. One such collector was former Glenville resident, Wayne Tucker. Mr. Tucker passed away recently and  graciously willed his postcard collection to the Schenectady County Historical Society. Mr. Tucker was an avid collector of postcards and the donated collection comprises 19 binders filled with thousands of postcards, trade cards, and other ephemera. The majority of the postcards relate to the City of Schenectady, but they also cover many of the towns and villages in Schenectady County. The collection is quite comprehensive and will often have postcards of the same place or landmark from different years, showing how it developed over time. Since there are postcards from various time periods, the collection also shows how postcards evolved over time. Below is a sample of the collection, but be sure to visit the Grems-Doolittle Library at the Schenectady County Historical Society to view the whole thing.

Illustrated postcards of city scenes were very popular and are some of the most common. This one shows the Van Curler Hotel from the Scotia side of the Great Western Gateway Bridge.

Freed's Big Liquor Store was founded in 1898 on Broadway in Schenectady. Herman Freed operated the store until prohibition hit the U.S. He then temporarily retired from the liquor business to open Schenectady's first used car dealerships. In 1934, Mr. Freed opened another liquor store at 111 Broadway. 
Schenectady after the blizzard of February 14, 1914. This is an example of a real photo postcard. This type of postcard is often unlabeled as any extra printing required more money than many postcard printers were willing to spend.
This postcard shows the bird's-eye view of Rotterdam Junction.  

Many of the real photo postcards show scenes from everyday life. The first postcards features the Scotia Fire Department, along with the baby of  one of the firefighters. The second shows men working on Mariaville Road/State Route 159.

Along with postcards, this collection also has quite a few trade cards. By the 1880s, many businesses used trade cards to advertise their goods. This card advertises the rejuvenating powers of Burdock Blood Bitters.

 Similar to modern advertisements, businesses used cute animals and kids in their advertisements. I'm not sure what a cat playing with a sword has to do with H.F. Smith's One-Price Clothier, but I would shop there after seeing this card.

Staff and volunteers have started indexing this collection and the index should be on our website in the next few months. A big thanks goes out to Wendy LeBlanc and the family of Wayne Tucker for facilitating the donation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle

 Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
The Sesquicentennial of Rotterdam was an 8-day event from July 10th to July 18th, 1970 commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of the town of Rotterdam. Each day in the Sesquicentennial had a different theme, with events that  corresponded to that theme. Saturday, July 14 was "Government & Veterans Day" which included tours of Rotterdam Town Hall, a mock town hall meeting, a veterans memorial service, and the 14th Calvary demonstration of Civil War and Revolutionary War guns and cannons. The Sesquicentennial was meant not only to celebrate the anniversary, but as a way to bring the residents of Rotterdam closer together. One way of doing this was by creating chapters of the Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle.

Photo of the Untouchables chapter of the Brothers of the Brush. Seated: John Papp, Buddy Dunn, Bill Stoddard, Tom Keough. Standing: Dom DeVito, Jack Dunn, Curt Rodd, Bernie Armstrong, Jr., David Martin. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Members of the Brothers of the Brush agreed to grow facial hair, and wear the official badge and derby on official "Sequi-celebration days". Participants signed a charter and came up with a name for their Brothers of the Brush chapter. The charter for the Brothers stated that "Members of this organization, being civic-minded boosters of Rotterdam, N.Y. and Rotterdam's Sesquicentennial, hereby agree to wear, as evidence of their loyalty and interest, either full Beards, sideburns, mutton chops, mustaches or other hairy facial appendages, and will wear the official 'Brothers of the Brush' button, the official headgear, and other regalia as directed by the 'Brother of the Brush' from now on henceforth, until July 18, 1970."  Rotterdam historian and photographer John Papp was the chairman of a chapter named the Untouchables. Other chapters included the Bristle Boys, Colonial Clubbers, Stumpjumpers, and Uncle Bill's Hillbillies. Uncle Bill's Hillbillies were known to walk around Rotterdam carrying either a shotgun or a small pig. Members of the Hillbillies were also known to lock their members up in the stocks as shown in the photo below. 
Photo of Uncle Bill's Hillbillies chapter of the Brothers of the Brush. Seated: Mickey Symanski, Tony Famiano, John Green, Matt Malejka, Tony Gallo, Gary Deluke. Standing: Fred Geddes, Andy Senese, Gil Woodside, George Grezeskowiak, Reed Hart, Les Jacobs, Norm Hart (in the stocks), Newell Calkins, Russ Welch, Fred Smulovitch, Jr., Stan Rogowicz (in the stocks), Bob Hart, Lee Archer, Biff Fontaine, Chuck Hebert, Frank Famiano, Pete Starson, Tony Marollo. Pigs and dog are unnamed. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
A funeral procession was organized for the late Mr. Ray Zor who was "made obsolete by the unwillingness of many Rotterdam men to shave." He was then eulogized by Reverend A.W. Burns on June 4th 1970, saying that "We come here not to praise, but to bury Brother Ray Zor. On Monday mornings he has sliced our cheeks and chins and shed our blood, as though for the remission of our sins of the weekend..." Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
Sisters of the Belle also known as Sesqui-Belles, were required to dress in clothing similar to that of the 1800s on Sesqui-celebration days and had to wear their official membership buttons at all times. Like the "Brothers", Sisters of the Belle formed chapters of about 10 members with names like the Flaming Belles, Tinkerbelles, Bushels and Bonnets, and the Liberty Belles. The belles would also go door to door selling commemorative coins and plates, as well as men's ties and bonnets. Both the Sisters of the Belle and Brothers of the Brush were subjected to fines for not participating. The events of the "Sisters" included a fashion show with prizes for best period costume, most authentic dress, and best hoopskirt design. Other activities included needlework, crafts, and baking. One afternoon, the Sesqui-belle chapters known as the Keekees and the Dingalings met up for a game of softball. While some of the belles were playing, others were dressed in old-fashioned bathing suits and picnicked on the field.

The Tinker Belles Chapter of the Sisters of the Belle. Seated: Karalee Duckwald, Shirley Ennis, Pat Wilsay, Vera Brown, Betty Simpson. Standing: Ethel Morris, Marilyn Nold, Diane Pedersen, Alice Miller, Theresa Morris, Gay Hofmann. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection. 

Turtle Belles Chapter of the Sister of the Belle. Seated: Debra Papp, Eileen Papp, Arlene Rose, Jenny Gordon. Second Row: Dorothy Peek, Hedy Hyjek, Ida Chignon, Virginia Hopkins, Cathy Adair, Melvina Borst, Dolores Papp, Gladys Montanaro. Third Row: Mary Dingman, Linda Nuttall, Leoline DeVito, Virginia Charbonneau, Clara Cromer, Pat Guynup, Margaret Miller.Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.
The Sesquicentennial was a success and its profits (no doubt helped by the Brothers of the Brush and Sisters of the Belle) were divided among a variety of community organizations.

More photos from the Sesquicentennial. Courtesy of The Rotterdam Story Yesterday, Today & Tomorrow from the Grems-Doolittle Library Collection.

Monday, November 16, 2015

Larry Hart News Negatives Part II

As promised, here are some more images from the Larry Hart news negative collection. Also, a reminder that the Grems-Doolittle Library has been digitizing some of our photo collection and putting the images on the New York Heritage Digital Collections site which you can find here: http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16694coll45. Our current collection on the site focuses on sports and recreation in Schenectady. More photos are added periodically, so check back every once in a while to see what's new.

This photo from the 1954 Scotia Golden Jubilee parade shows the Scotia Chamber of Commerce Queen and her court. Scotia's Golden Jubilee was a week long event that featured speakers, parades, fireworks, athletic contests and more to commemorate Scotia's fiftieth anniversary.

Two soap box derby racers racing down the track.
Operators at the switchboard at the Telephone Company Building on Clinton Street.
This great night shot of Schenectady shows some of the old standbys of downtown, including Woolworth's and Wallace's.
The 1949 Christmas Parade featured this huge inflatable "train".

Robert Kennedy addressing a crowd in Schenectady's City Hall.
Political rally for Harry Truman at Schenectady's Union Station in 1948.
Kids dancing at a block party on Weaver Street in 1954
Some acrobatics from a trick rider during a parade.

Monday, November 9, 2015

Larry Hart News Negatives Part I

It always feels nice to finish a large project. One such project was the scanning of the Larry Hart News Negatives from our Larry Hart Collection. Volunteers Victoria Bohm and Robert J. Jones digitized almost 5,000 negatives from this collection in order to make them more accessible for researchers. Larry Hart was a photographer and reporter for the Union-Star as well as a reporter for the Schenectady Daily Gazette where he remained a columnist until his official retirement in 1980, although he continued to write freelance. He was mainly a political reporter but, is probably best known for his historical column, “Tales of Old Dorp” which first appeared in the local section of the Daily Gazette on May 14, 1974, and ran through the 1990s.

This collection is a compilation of both black and white and color negatives in a variety of sizes. The subject matter of the negatives varies widely and there are negatives of accidents, fires, building openings, and demolitions (as seen in this previous blog post: http://gremsdoolittlelibrary.blogspot.com/2012/11/accidents-fires-openings-and_19.html).  As well as images of sports and recreation, construction, farm life, parades, and street scenes all throughout Schenectady County. The photos below are some of my favorites, and since it was tough to pick out so few, a second blog will be posted next week that features some more of these great scenes of life in Schenectady.

This photo from July, 1948 shows Freihofer's blacksmith making horseshoes for their delivery horses. Freihofer's ended delivery by horse and wagon in 1962

The News Negative Collection features behind the scenes photos of the Daily Gazette. In this photo, a copy reader for the Gazette is working at her desk, wearing what looks to be a hands-free Dictaphone.
Construction worker showing his patriotic spirit.
Think this young fisher by the Mohawk River caught anything? 
This rather adorable photo was taken in the old headquarters of Schenectady's fire department on State and Veeder. It was opened on July 1, 1900 and used as a fire house until the new central station on Erie boulevard was opened. After it closed as a fire station, the Schenectady Police Department used it as the headquarters for its traffic division and it became known as the traffic barn. The building was condemned in 1950 and razed in 1956.

Up to his neck in pumpkins!
The testing of a tank (Possibly an M48?) made by ALCO. This photo was most likely taken at the U.S. Army Reserve Center in Niskayuna where they had a testing ground for new tanks. Comment below, or email Mike at librarian@schenectadyhistorical.org if you know what type of tank this is.

Ever wonder what the inside of the clock tower in City Hall looks like? This photo from the 1950s shows a man repairing the clock mechanism.
This amazing night time shot taken from Broadway highlights Schenectady's industrial side. 
-Mike Maloney

Monday, October 26, 2015

"Fadeaways? Curves? Speed? We Had 'em All": The Illustrious Career of Pitcher Frank Mountain

Special thanks to Julie Mountain for sending us articles and information on Frank Mountain and to library volunteer Diane Leone for compiling this information.

Between the ages 10 and 14, my friends and I would gather for weekly games of Wiffle Ball in the court next to my house. We formed our own league, had our own constantly changing rules, decided what counted as a home run (over the power lines, over my neighbors fence, or if we managed to hit the street light), made some drastic modifications to the bats we used, decided whether a player running the bases would be considered out if he was hit with a thrown ball, and tried a few different types of ball (later experiments with a tennis ball led to unhappy neighbors and bruised hands). Like the residents of Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 1791 who banned bat and ball games within 80 yards of the newly built meeting house, I’m sure our neighbors often wished to ban us from playing ball in the court. Similar to our ever changing rules, rule changes in professional baseball during the late-1800s happened quite frequently and Schenectady’s Frank “Curley” Mountain was one of the preeminent players during this evolving period of baseball.

Frank Mountain was born in Fort Edward, NY on May 17, 1860 to David and Elizabeth Mountain. The family moved to Schenectady in 1865. Frank would play sandlot ball while going to class at the Union Classical Institute, and would often head straight for Union College’s field. As a student in high school, he wasn’t technically allowed to play with the college students on campus, but his skill on the field made him a welcome addition. Mountain pitched one game for Union College in 1879 and at least 10 in 1880 before officially enrolling in Union in 1881. As a freshman, Mountain debated with Union Professor Cady Staley about the physical and mathematical possibility of throwing a curveball. It was widely believed that the curveball was an optical illusion and Mountain was set on proving that the ball actually curved. According to Reverend W.N.P Dailey in the St. Johnsville Enterprise, the debate was ended when Mountain “placed his teacher so that unless he moved suddenly in the straight pitch the curved ball at the plate would have hit him.” Staley was amazed by the pitch and would go on to have Frank demonstrate his curve for physics classes. Mountain and fellow student Daniel McElwain would lead Union to win the 1881 championship of the New York State Intercollegiate Baseball Association.
Frank Mountain shown in the front row, second from the right, and the Union Class of 1884. Courtesy of Julie Mountain.
He made his professional debut in 1880 for the Troy Trojans back when Troy had a professional baseball team. It wasn’t until 1883, when he was playing for the Columbus Buckeyes, that he really showed his skill as a pitcher. Pitchers during this era would often play full games, and Frank Mountain was no exception. During the 1883 season, he pitched 59 games for a whopping total of 503 innings pitched. He was also known to pitch double headers, 4 games in a row, and would often play the field when not pitching on his “day off” due to his skill as a hitter and fielder. His best season was in 1884 where he won 24 games, lost 17, and had a 2.45 earned run average which was the fifth best in the American Association. He also pitched a no-hitter against both the Washington Nationals and the Cincinnati Red Stockings during that season. Unfortunately, this brutal pace took a toll on Mountain’s arm and by 1885, he became a coach and trainer (one of the first to coach from the bench) while occasionally playing first base or in the outfield. His last Major League appearance was on August 17, 1886 while playing for the Pittsburgh Alleghenys.

The 1884 Columbus Buckeyes. Pitchers Frank Mountain and Ed Morris are shown in the front row. Mountain and Morris pitched a total of 94 games in the 1884 season. Courtesy of the issue #37 of Old Cardboard (http://www.oldcardboard.com/enews/2007/enews37/enews37.htm).
Mountain moved back to Schenectady, started a family, and worked at General Electric as the Assistant Fire Chief for about 40 years. An unidentified 1921 article titled “Frank Mountain Craves Chance to Pitch Them Over to Babe Ruth” profiled Mountain. In the article, he states that he would like to be back in the game “with his old-time pitcher’s cunning” to face off against Babe Ruth. The article also focuses on some of the changes that have occurred in baseball since his heyday. According to Mountain, the pitcher would never think of taking instructions from the catcher, as he would be able to decide which pitch he threw by sizing up each batter. It is also reported that he discovered the spitball and frequently used a “moist delivery to secure a fairly slow ball that broke with a drop as it crossed the plate.” He also played during a time when baseball gloves were optional. Even if players chose to wear a glove, they were more like a leather work glove and lacked padding or webbing. One of the first instances of adding padding to a glove was in 1885 when Providence Grays shortstop Arthur Irwin attempted to protect two broken fingers by padding his glove.
An example of the type of glove players "subject to sore hands" would wear in the early 1880s. From the 1880 issue of the Spalding Base Ball Guide courtesy of The Smithsonian Library on Archive.org (https://archive.org/details/spaldingsbasebal1880chic).
In 1938, Frank Mountain was given a silver pass which gave him lifetime admission to any Major League Baseball game. The pass came as a complete surprise to Mountain who said that receiving the pass was one of the happiest moments of his life. He passed away on November 30th, 1939 and was buried in the Most Holy Redeemer Cemetery. His legacy lives on through great granddaughter  Julie Mountain, who also graduated from Union 103 years after Frank. She feels that his efforts to leverage Union and engineering professors to demonstrate that the curve was real and not an optical illusion is important to show his commitment to learning and education. Julie very kindly sent us her research on Frank Mountain for this post and is working to nominate Frank for the Buck O'Neil award for his early contributions to the game. If anyone has any additional information about him please contact her at Mountain_299@hotmail.com.

Frank Mountain kept his signature handlebar mustache (a bit difficult to see in this photo) throughout his life. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Library.
Vintage baseball leagues have been making a comeback in recent years. The Atlantic Base Ball Club based out of Brooklyn plays home games on the grounds of the Smithtown Historical Society in Long Island, but have been playing at the Annual Ommegang Brewery Festival in Cooperstown, NY. Follow this link to watch a clip of the Atlantics: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5I98ACObgnw.

The Grems-Doolittle Library has been digitizing some of our photos on sports and recreation in Schenectady through the New York Heritage website. This collection features photos of the Schenectady Blue Jays, the J.C. Baseball Club, and the Schenectady Whirlwinds, with more being added periodically. Check it out at http://nyheritage.nnyln.net/cdm/landingpage/collection/p16694coll45.  

                                                                                                                                         -Mike Maloney

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Schenectady's Haunted Past: Victorian Spectres in the Stockade

This post was written by SCHS's Assistant Curator Kaitlin Morton-Bentley

As Halloween draws near, it is the time of year to think about haunted houses and ghost stories. The Stockade neighborhood is over 350 years old and has seen its share of characters come and go. Our Candlelight Walking Tours held every Friday in October explore these stories, some which have been written down decades ago by folklore enthusiasts and some which were told to us firsthand. 
Undated photograph of Green, Front, and Ferry Street.
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Photograph Collection
New for this year is our Victorian Candlelight Tour. Victorian culture was passionate about death and mourning. The nation experienced an unprecedented loss of young life during the Civil War, leaving families looking for ways to recognize the passing of their loved ones. Elaborate mourning rituals developed, including dressing in black for months or years and withdrawing from society. A woman in mourning might write on stationary edged in black or wear jewelry made from the woven hair of a deceased loved one. Victorians embraced death and mourning, and it is no surprise that some of our best stories come from that time period, including three stories about ghosts near Green Street.

There is a story about a little boy ghost in a Green Street apartment, perhaps the young son of one of the servants who lived in the Ellis brothers’ mansion. The boy may have lived in a small servants quarters building just behind the mansion and would have run back and forth between the two.  He is dressed in brown pants and jacket with a white shirt and is known to be mischievous by throwing candlesticks and other small objects in the present day apartments. The woman who lives in this apartment has reported several encounters with this boy ghost. At night she felt a hand touching a sore spot on her spine, making the pain go away, but when she woke up there was no one there. She once saw a candle wiggle out of its holder by itself and fly across the room to hit the wall. She believes the young ghost wants attention, so if she talks to him, he does not cause as much mischief. When she loses items she asks the ghost to put them back before she starts searching, and they usually return on their own. This little boy ghost is a benevolent spirit and just wants to have a little fun.
The blurred faces give this photo an eerie, otherworldly quality.
Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Photograph Collection 
The original burying ground for the Stockade was located about halfway down Green Street. By the 19th century the burial ground was getting crowded, and they decided to build a new and bigger cemetery called Vale Cemetery. All of the people buried in the old cemetery were moved to Vale. Vale was one of the many new Victorian rural cemeteries, built not just to hold graves, but to serve as a place of nature where the living could enjoy picnic lunches and strolls alongside those who had passed on. Vale Cemetery was dedicated in 1857. Just south of Vale Park there used to be a grand mansion, which was known to be haunted. Dishes and trays were snatched from maids’ hands, and forks and spoons were grabbed as guests tried to eat. Dishes rattled in empty rooms, windows mysteriously opened and closed, and doors banged when there was no wind. The mansion was torn down decades ago. Perhaps the ghost was a spirit whose grave had been moved from the Stockade to Vale Cemetery and did not care for its new neighbors?

Ferry at Front Street, 1892. Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Photograph Collection
Further down the road, Green Street meets Front Street, another street filled with older houses. In one such house there is a recent story about a young woman who rented an apartment. The landlord told her she probably wouldn’t last long, because the building was haunted. She told the landlord that she did not believe in ghosts. She soon learned why so many tenants had left before. Doors would open and shut by themselves, and at night her blankets were pulled off her by invisible hands. One morning she woke up to all her things strewn about the apartment. There were cold spots in the rooms that wouldn’t warm up no matter how high she turned up the heat. The young woman decided she couldn’t take it anymore and informed the landlord she would be moving out immediately. The last nights she spent there were peaceful. Clearly the spirit who lived there was not in favor of having a roommate.

While there haven't been any reports of hauntings at 26 Front Street (that we know of), this
 photo of residents at 26 Front from the late 19th Century shows an example of Victorian fashion.
 Courtesy of the Grems-Doolittle Photograph Collection
Come see the sites of these stories and hear even more about the haunted past of the Stockade! Candlelight Walking Tours will be held Friday October 9, 16, 23, and 30 at 7:00pm and 7:30pm. Tickets can be purchased online at schenectadyhistorical.org/walking-tours. For further information contact exhibits@schenectadyhistorical.org.