Why is there a fish atop Albany Academy?

albany academy fish weathervane

Flying fish

By Akum Norder

In our love for all things quirky, we have long been cheered by sight of the fish atop the Albany Academy building at the corner of Academy Road and Hackett Boulevard in Albany.

So... why is the storied private school crowned by a fish?

albany academy fish weathervane original spotWait, there's more. See that ball underneath the fish? It's a pumpkin.

The weathervane used to top the Second Presbyterian Church at Chapel and Lodge streets. During church renovations in the 1920s, architect Marcus T. Reynolds, a former Academy student, arranged for the weathervane to come to the Academy.

In 1931 the fish and pumpkin came uptown to the new Academy building, which Reynolds designed. (The old academy, in Academy Park near the Capitol, is now the administration building for the city school district.)

The school also acquired the church's bell, which rings in the tone of E flat (in case you were wondering).

The fish -- the school holds that it's a codfish -- and pumpkin are symbols of the Academy.

Yes, okay. But what do they mean?

The fish is a common Christian symbol, of course. An understandable choice for a church. But in a 1955 editorial in the school newspaper (named the "Fish and Pumpkin," naturally), editor-in-chief Peter E. Mebel explained, "The parish of the Second Presbyterian Church originated in New England, and the cod and pumpkin merely reflected their thanks for the bounty of the earth and the sea."

To tell the truth, it doesn't look all that much like a codfish to us. The tail shape appears to be wrong.

But whatever the species, the fish on the weathervane is reportedly 8 feet long and weighs 230 pounds. Quite a catch.

Comments

I was in my first car accident because of that fish. My best friend and I left before our senior liturgy at AHN to get some fries at Mcdonald's and smashed into someone in front of us because we were looking at the fish.

I grew up right up the block! Fish was my first word, probably has something to do with that old weathervane.

I love All over Albany precisely for posts like this. Thanks for the humorous backstory on a piece of Albany history.

Other things I'd like to know:

why is there a sailboat atop the Albany Co. Family Court

and

what is that triangle squiggly thing on the church/temple (not sure what it is) in center square?

I think that the Second Presbyterian Chuch is a Philip Hooker.
Can anyone confirm this?

@ Dave:

The Second Presbyterian Church is attributed to Hooker, but I do remember seeing somewhere that there is some controversy about it. The book on Hooker's works, A Neat Plain Modern Stile (sic), says just that Hooker “may have provided plans” for the church.

Hooker did design the first Albany Academy building.

Katie, I believe the weathervane atop the Family Court building is a replica for the Half Moon, similar to the one on the B&H building.

When I went to school there the monthly paper was called "The Fish and Pumpkin". Fertility symbols are odd for a school, aren't they?

The Half Moon is part of the Albany County seal, so it would make sense to have it on a county building.

The "church/temple" in Center Square is the Wilborn Temple, which is a Christian church that used to be the synagogue for Congregation Beth Emeth, now located near Albany Academy.

They definitely have a triangle as their weathervane. I've always presumed that it's half of an original Star of David. What I don't know is, what happened to the other half? Did it fall off and it was never repaired? Or was the Star of David turned into the triangle as an intentional symbol of the new church, maybe as a makeshift representative of the trinity?

And of course it's the D&H (Delaware & Hudson) building, which I'm reminded of every time I try to Google the B&H building.

@akum

Do your research ;-)

Second Presbyterian church had been formed in 1813 as the main church for the city's relocated New Englanders thus a tie symbolized by the cod fish and golden pumpkin atop the weathervane.

Just googled this weathervane atop of the Academy and found this article. AOA is awesome.

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