Why Stanford isn't in Albany

Leland_Stanford.jpg

Leland Stanford of Watervliet

By Carl Johnson

The University at Albany surely has its fine points, but even its greatest advocates would agree, it's no Stanford.

But it could have been Stanford.

Literally.

Leland Stanford was born in Watervliet in 1824 (the area that is now part of Colonie). His father was a tavern keeper on the Schenectady road, who later ran the Elm Grove Hotel in Roessleville. Leland left home at 17 to study in Clinton and Cazenovia. He apprenticed in law in Albany, was admitted to the bar in 1848 and eventually married Jane Lathrop, the daughter of a prominent local family.

He briefly practiced law and politics in Wisconsin. But his brothers had followed the gold rush to California, and Leland soon joined them. He established a retail store in Sacramento, but stayed active in politics and was elected governor of California in 1861. That same year, he and some other Sacramento businessmen founded the Central Pacific Railroad Company, which proved to be of much greater interest. He served only one term as governor, but remained president of the Central Pacific for many years, becoming one of the richest men in the United States.

The Stanfords had only one child, Leland Junior, and they were grief-stricken when he died suddenly of typhoid at the age of 16 during a family vacation in Europe in 1884. Despite their huge success and influence in California, they wanted their son buried where their families were from. The Troy Press wrote in 1891 that, "at the same time he had in mind a disposition of his millions that should forever celebrate the name of his son and that should be useful to the public."

A university, for instance. The Press reported that Stanford began negotiations with the Albany Rural Cemetery Association to purchase a site for a mausoleum, and at the same time looked to buy 350 acres of land, including his birthplace, just west of Albany in order to build Leland Stanford, Jr. University.

So how did Stanford University end up in Palo Alto instead of Albany?

If the Troy Press is to be believed, it may have been the greed of the cemetery association, whose officers "it is said, knowing Mr. Stanford's great wealth and his greater grief, seemed to be of the opinion that they could get from him a little more for the mausoleum site than a person of ordinary means would be asked. The sum which it is said they endeavored to extort was $75. . . ." [about $1,700 in today's money].

Stanford may have been fabulously well-to-do, but apparently he didn't like being taken advantage of. The Press says that on discovery of this fact, "He shook the dust of Albany from his feet and went back to California, where he immediately entered upon the development of his university project." He endowed the new university with $20 million. And he put his son's mausoleum on his own unfinished new estate, which became the home of Stanford University. After Leland died in 1893, Jane led the development of the university.

Stanford_Mausoleum.jpg

The family did not entirely break their ties with Albany, however. In 1886, before the university's cornerstone had been laid, Mrs. Stanford established a building on the site of the old Lathrop mansion in Albany, near the Fort Orange Club, as the Lathrop Memorial Home for Children, intended as part day care ("for children of working mothers"), part orphanage. The building stood until 1933.

Albany would have to wait until 1962 before it finally had a university.

Comments

And...Stanford opened its doors on 0ctober 1, 1891 and its first student was Herbert Hoover. Happy Birthday Stanford U !

Greed and stupidity driving people away from Albany and New York State. Some things never change.

Oh man! Greed cost us Stanley!

http://cs.stanford.edu/group/roadrunner/

NOOOOOOO!!!!!!! I guess I'll just have to drive my own VW around, autonomously. *sigh* ;)

Stanford in Albany would not have been the Stanford we know in southern California. They did major work for DARPA on what would be the forerunner of the Internet - that was influenced in large part by their location. There are tons of other reasons.

@Alex, Palo Alto is in Northern California

We used to have a huge Halloween party at the Mausoleum when I was at Stanford. Good times.

Wow, this would have changed the whole area immensely

Say Something!

We'd really like you to take part in the conversation here at All Over Albany. But we do have a few rules here. Don't worry, they're easy. The first: be kind. The second: treat everyone else with the same respect you'd like to see in return. Cool? Great, post away. Comments are moderated so it might take a little while for your comment to show up. Thanks for being patient.

What's All Over Albany?

All Over Albany is for interested and interesting people in New York's Capital Region. In other words, it's for you. It's kind of like having a smart, savvy friend who can help you find out what's up. Oh, and our friends call us AOA.

Search

Recently on All Over Albany

Gawking at the new Schenectady train station

In a bit of a surprise the new Schenectady train station opened this past Wednesday, a few weeks ahead of the announced schedule. The $23... (more)

A little push up the hill

Wrapped into my update this past week about what it's been like to use a bike as one of my primary ways of getting around... (more)

A collection of castle day trips

This part of the country is dotted with castle-like structures, full of history, mystery, romance, and fairytale. Here's a handful of castles that are within... (more)

Classics of Science Fiction at The Linda

A multi-day get-together called Classics of Science Fiction will be at The Linda in Albany November 1-4. Blurbage: Guests include authors, artists, podcasters, cosplayers, business... (more)

Cuomo leads in Q-poll, NTSB still hasn't examined limo from deadly Schoharie crash, Schenectady and GE

Q-poll shows Cuomo with strong lead The latest Quinnipiac University poll shows Andrew Cuomo with a 23-percentage point lead over Republican challenger Marc Molinaro. [Spectrum]... (more)

Recent Comments

I ride every day to work, and also after work for exercise. I love the concept of being a person who happens to ride a bike. There's a level of bike riding, with the high performance gear and sleek clothing, that makes riding seem like its not for everyone. I try to avoid markers like that, and always wear regular clothing/shoes/backpack with dumpy-looking bike. One concession is bike gloves.

A little push up the hill

...has 1 comment, most recently from Danny C

Today's moment of mural

...has 3 comments, most recently from Rich

A year later I'm still using a bike to get around town -- here are a few thoughts about how that's worked out

...has 13 comments, most recently from Randal Putnam

It's looking like it could be a relatively warm winter. Probably.

...has 2 comments, most recently from Jeff D

Now is a good time to get a flu shot

...has 5 comments, most recently from Beck