"[F]inely situated on three hills on the [west] bank of the Hudson..."

kenmore hotel albany ad appletons guide 1893

An ad for the Kenmore Hotel from the Appletons' Guide. The building is still there, of course, on Pearl Street in downtown Albany.

That BBC show that featured Albany recently was using a 19th century railroad guide book as a sort of map for exploring the United States.

So, we thought it'd be fun to look up the Appletons' General Guide to the United States and Canada to see what was included in the full section about visiting Albany during that period.

The chunk of text about Albany is below. What struck us about it is how many of the buildings are still here today -- if not necessarily used for the same purposes.

This is from the 1893 version of the guide. The BBC show -- Great American Railroad Journeys -- was using the 1879 version.

Hotels, etc.--Delavan House (in Broadway, near the E. R. depot), Kenmore (N. Pearl St.), and Stanwix Hall are first-class hotels. American, Globe, and the Mansion House are less expensive. Prices are from $2.50 to$4 a day. Reading-rooms at the State Library, in the Capitol ; at the Young Men's Association, in Washington Ave.; and at the Y. M. C. A., in N. Pearl St [it's the building at Steuben and Pearl]. Electric-cars to different parts of the city and to Troy. There are three iron bridges to Greenbush.

[The Kenmore Hotel building still stands -- it's at Pearl and Columbia in downtown Albany. The Delavan and Stanwix on Broadway no longer stand. The old YMCA building is still there, at Pearl and Steuben.]

Albany, the capital of New York State, is finely situated on three hills on the W. bank of the Hudson, six miles below the head of tide- water. It was founded by the Dutch as a trading-post in 1614 and called Fort Orange, and, next to Jamestown in Virginia, was the earliest European settlement in the original 13 States. Its present name was given it in 1664, in honor of the Duke of York and Albany (afterward James II). It was chartered in 1686, and made the State capital in 1798, since which time its population has increased from 5,349 (in 1800) to 94,923 in 1890. Albany has a large commerce from its position at the head of navigation on the river, as the entrepot of the great Erie Canal from the W. and the Champlain Canal from the N., and as the center to which several important railways converge.
Broadway is the important wholesale business thoroughfare near the river, while the chief retail stores are on Pearl St. State St. leads by a steep ascent from the Federal Building to Capitol Square, in which are the public buildings, and then extends for a mile beyond.

[The "Federal Building" is still here -- it's the SUNY building on Broadway right next to the federal courthouse building.]

The *New Capitol, to the W. of the site of the old Capitol, was begun in 18Y1, and is now occupied by the Legislature of the State. It is of Maine granite, in the renaissance style, and stands on elevated ground ; its tower is to be 320 ft. high, and will command a fine view. The structure is 300 ft. N. and S. by 400 ft. E. and W., and with the porticoes, when completed, will cover more than three acres, and the walls are 108 ft. in height. The *State Library, in the W. side of the Capitol, contains 156,493 volumes, and an interesting collection of curiosities and historical relics. The University of the State of New York has its offices in the Capitol. The *City Hall, in Eagle St., foot of Washington Ave., is built of rose granite. The City Building , in S. Pearl St., contains various offices of the city government.

[City Hall is still there, of course. We're not sure what the "City Building" was.]

The U. S. Government Building, cor. State St. and Broadway, is a handsome edifice. The State Armory is in Washington Ave., near Lark St.

[Yep, the same armory at Washington and Lark today.]

The Young Men's Association with a library of 12,000 volumes and a reading-room, occupies Harmanus Bleecker Hall in Washington Ave., the Association using the "Bleecker bequest " of $120,000 to build the hall. On the opposite corner is the fine office-building of the Delaware & Hudson R. R.

[Harmanus Bleecker Hall is still here. We're not sure which building "fine office building" on the opposite corner is.]

The *State Geological and Agriculture Hall contains the natural history collection of the New York State Museum and those of the New York State Agricultural Society.

[The Geological and Agriculture Hall was at State and Lodge.]

The Medical College, cor. Eagle and Jay Sts., is a prosperous institution, with an extensive museum ; and in State St. is the Law School of the Albany University.

[The medical college building was on a spot where the ESP is today. There's a sign on Eagle Street marking it. Here's a photo of the old Albany Law building on State.]

Of the more than 50 churches in the city the *Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (in Eagle St.) and the Church of St. Joseph (cor. Ten Broeck and 2d Sts.) are the most noteworthy. The Cathedral seats 4,000 persons, and its stained-glass windows are among the richest in America. A fine altar and other additions have been made. All Saints Episcopal Cathedral (Bishop Doane) is situated at Elk and Swan Sts. St. Peter's (Episcopal), cor. Lodge and State Sts., is a handsome Gothic structure, and owns a service of communion plate presented by Queen Anne to the Onondaga Indians.

[All those churches still stand. St. Joe's is unoccupied.]

The Second Reformed Church in Madison Ave., the First Presbyterian on the cor. of Willett and State Sts., and Calvary Baptist Church, cor. State and High Sts., are recent and handsome edifices.

[We're pretty sure Second Reformed Church was at Madison and Swan, knocked down for the ESP, as was the Calvary Baptist Church (High Street was wiped away). The First Presbyterian is still there.]

The Fort Orange and Albany Clubs have fine houses.

[The Fort Orange Club is still there, of course. Was the Albany Club the University Club?]

Dudley Observatory, founded and endowed by Mrs. Blandina Dudley, stands on Observatory Hill, near the N. limits of the city. During 1892 the erection of a new observatory on an elevation above Lake Ave., near its junction with the New Scotland plank-road, was begun.

[That Dudley Observatory building no longer exists -- it's now the site of the Capital District Psychiatric Center.]

The Penitentiary, 1 mile W. of the city, is a model prison, and near it stand the Poor Houses.

[No longer there. They were both at what's now New Scotland Ave and Myrtle.]

Greenbush, with its famous Van Rensselaer House, East Albany, and Bath-on-the-Hudson are populous suburbs on the opposite side of the river.
The State Normal School occupies a building in Willet St. fronting Washington Park. The Female Academy, and the Albany Academy, for boys, are leading schools. In this building Prof. Joseph Henry, with a mile of wire, constructed the first electro-magnetic telegraph. The High School (Academy Square) is at the head of the public-school system.

[The State Normal School was the forerunner of UAlbany -- the Willett Street building burned down. The old Albany Academy Building is still there, in Academy Park across from the Capitol. The old Albany High School building -- the city's first -- was on Eagle Street, about where the Albany County Court House now stands.]

An interesting relic of the early days of the city is the old Schuyler House, in Schuyler St. near S. Pearl, which was burned down in 1759, and immediately rebuilt, portions of the original walls remaining. It was the residence of Colonel Peter Schuyler, the first Mayor of Albany. Washington Park, 81 acres, in the W. part of the city is a beautiful pleasure-ground. It contains a bronze statue of Robert Burns, presented by the Scottish citizens, and a bust of Dr. James H. Armsby. The sum of $20,000 was bequeathed by Henry L. King for the erection of a fountain.

[Schuyler House -- still there. The Burns statue -- still there. The King fountain -- still there.]

Getting there: Leading up to the part about Albany, there's a section about traveling along the Hudson River valley, "some of the most picturesque scenery in America." You could take a steamship from New York City to Albany -- day boats left at 8:45 am and arrived by 6 pm, overnight boats left at 6 pm and arrived at 6 am the next morning.

There were also trains running up both sides of the river -- the eastern route took 2 3/4-4 hours, and the western side took 3-4 hours.


Earlier on AOA: In search of a vacation without aggravation


The City Building was a massive Victorian pile at 21 Pearl St which contained offices and the city jail. By the 1920's it had the upper stories lopped off and the interior gutted, and with a new facade it became the Ritz Theater which lasted until 1964. It is part of the Times Union Center site now. http://www.timesunion.com/news/slideshow/Historic-Albany-theaters-116452/photo-8571133.php

Fascinating information! What a world we live in when Albany's infrastructure peaked a century ago and began its slow decline.

Sean, I think you misspelled "America."

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