Views of Albany then, now online

Albany looking north from State Street.jpg

A view of Broadway from the corner of State Street in 1910.

The Albany Public Library has a pretty impressive collection of the city's history in the Pruyn Room -- its local history room at the main branch of the library on Washington Avenue. And as of this week, for the first time, some of those images are now available online.

APL has been working with New York Heritage -- "a free online portal designed for researchers and history buffs" -- to digitize the collection in the Pruyn Room. The library's starting with a series of photos from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, and an interesting scrapbook with before-and-after shots of downtown Albany, the O'Brien Federal Building, and 787.

"Views of Albany" -- a collection of about 25 photos from the Pryun Room, plus the scrapbook -- is currently the extent of what's online. But Stephanie Simon, APL's public information officer, says they'll be adding more soon and will continue to do so. "We have more than 1,500 black and white pictures of Albany in the Pruyn Room. There are also newspapers, books, city directories, minutes from city council meetings, maps, pamphlets and other documents that cover history that goes back a couple hundred years," says Simon.

A few of the photos in the current online collection:

Suffrage parade Albany NY.jpg
A suffrage parade forming at Albany City Hall in June of 1914.

Laying the Cornerstone of the Courthouse.jpg
The laying of the cornerstone at Albany County Courthouse in 1914.

Corner of South Pearl and Division (APL).jpg
The corner of South Pearl and Division Streets, around 1932.

Among the thousands of Pryun collection items not yet digitized is this shot of the old public market that operated near the Capitol building:
Public Market Albany (APL Pryun Collection).jpg

And the signatures of Herman Melville and his brother from a local club register:
Melville signatures APL.jpg

Urban renewal scrapbook

The scrapbook -- Urban Renewal in Albany -- is also really worth a look. This album -- created for Jack McEneny during his time as a city commissioner by a former Albany historical research assistant, Florence Powell -- is filled with captioned before-and-after photographs documenting the reshaping of streets, demolition of buildings, and construction of 787 and the Leo O'Brien building. It's interesting to see photos of buildings and people who once lived and worked in the area, right next to pictures of 787 as we know it now.



The former Martin Drug Company at Broadway and Clinton Ave. One of the signs in the photo on the left: "MUST RELOCATE Due to Progress."

Historian Florence Powell and her collie, "whose daily runs had an important part in making possible this Bicentennial Collection of photographs of the old and the new of the City of Albany, New York."

While you're browsing the APL's collection, you can also check out collections from other local libraries, colleges and historic groups, including the Saratoga Springs Public Library, Siena Collegeand Albany Law.

The Pryun Room at the Washington Avenue branch of the APL has limited hours, but Stephanie Simon is hoping people who find the digital collection interesting will arrange to drop in and check out the rest of the collection.

The APL advertises on AOA.


Thank you for this great post highlighting Albany Public Library's historical collections! I help manage the Capital District's contributions to the New York Heritage web site, and I am pleased with the commitment Albany Public Library has made to continue adding items to their online collection. I invite everyone to visit and explore the site at There are almost half a million items from all over Upstate New York on the site. Users are invited to add comments and tags to individual items. Although this feature is relatively new and hasn't been used much yet, we have already gained some interesting additional information about some of the images through user comments.

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