Items tagged with 'Carl Johnson'

Six huge institutions that set up here... almost

Stanford campus

Not the Capital Region, obviously... but maybe it could have been. / photo: Flickr user Daniel Hartwig (CC BY 2.0 cropped)

By Carl Johnson

It's Other Timelines week on AOA, in which we'll be looking at alternate histories of this place, about big and small things that did or did not happen.

Nationally-famous universities, a coordination point for the modern world, huge centers of industries, tech, and the economy -- they all happened here... almost.

For Other Timelines week, Carl Johnson shares a handful of huge institutions that almost ended up in the Capital Region...

Downtown Albany BID alternate history-in-post ad

ACCVB alternate history in-post ad

FOGS alternate history in-post ad

CDPHP in-post ad

MHHS alternate history in-post ad

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Recalling the grocery stores of Albany's past

Empire Food Market Albany Lyon Block storefront

The Empire Food Market -- "Albany's Premier Food Center" -- in the old Lyon Block building in downtown Albany. (The building was knocked down during the Empire State Plaza construction.) / via the Albany Public Library History Collection

By Carl Johnson

The trick of time is that it passes slowly, and changes are incremental, so you can hardly notice it happening. The world of today looks mostly like the world of yesterday to us, and yet there have been a thousand little changes over the years that separate those worlds. When things change all at once, it seems a revolution, but when they change little by little, it just seems the passing of time.

Grocery stores are one example. Sure, 50 years ago, they were selling milk and meats, frozen foods and Cap'n Crunch, just as they are today. And yet everything about them has changed.

Supermarket Week 2016 CDPHP in-post ad

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Work Week: Local jobs -- 150 years ago

albany lumber district 1875

Maybe there would have been a job for you in Albany's booming lumber district.

By Carl Johnson

Some folks have argued that our area, now christened Tech Valley for its apparent boom in nanotech, computer chips, and pharmaceuticals, has been a tech valley all along, going back to the introduction of an amazing bit of transportation technology called the Erie Canal. But it's fair to say that the job options brought about by the current boom, most of which seem to involve lab coats and neoprene gloves, are a far cry from the job options brought about by any earlier boom in the Capital District.

Imagine it's 1863, and you're a young Albany resident ready to join the workforce. You might have had some schooling, if your family could afford it; school rates weren't abolished until 1862. You probably didn't have any high school, as the city's first free high school didn't open until 1868.

Did it matter? Not much -- very few jobs of the day required anything by way of schooling. They were more likely to require some form of apprenticeship, a medieval form of on-the-job training (and a bit of serfdom) all but lost now.

So, what might you have set out to be, 150 years ago?

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A bid to make Owney famous again

owney postal dog

Dog star.

By Carl Johnson

There's a Kickstarter project currently up for funding that would create a graphic novel about Owney, Albany's famous traveling dog. From the St. Louis-based team behind The Secret Around-the-World Adventures of Owney, the Postal Dog:

What if Owney had made some unexpected detours during his travels around the world and had some exciting adventures along the way? He was always going his own way, so it wouldn't be altogether surprising.
We imagined him not just stopping in Japan and China, but crossing into India, the Middle East and Europe on his own before sailing back to the States. He would have had a chance to see a world very few people saw at that time. He might have befriended postal workers of distant countries or met famous contemporaries like the Lumiere Brothers in Paris...

If their project is successful, Albany's most famous pooch could be famous once again.

What? You don't know about Owney?

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Buying a bicycle: Carl Johnson

Carl Johnson bike 2.jpg

Carl in Troy

By Carl Johnson

AOA is taking a little R & R this week. While we're enjoying a little summer, we've rounded up a few experts to share their tips for making summer fun simpler. Enjoy!

In most people's minds, summer is the time for biking.

But maybe you haven't ridden for years, and you find all the new bicycle styles and technology more than a bit daunting. Don't let that keep you from getting back on a bike and enjoying the absolutely amazing riding that the Capital District offers.

Here are some tips on how to buy a new bike.

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The other Albanies

By Carl Johnson

Okay, we all know we're not the only Albany in the United State. Though we are the oldest Albany in the US, and still the biggest.

And, as it turns out, many of those other Albanies were named in honor of this Albany...

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What is the oldest business in Albany?

rb wing and son building ghost sign

R.B. Wing and Son once had a claim to the title.

By Carl Johnson

Update: Carl's found one that's even older.

Over at Hoxsie I recently unearthed a 1905 ad for Danker Florist, which is still going strong today. And that led to the question: What might be the oldest business still running in Albany?

There are a few contenders.

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Albany, academic fashion trendsetter

RPI academic robe

Bright.

By Carl Johnson

Albany didn't really have a full-fledged university until the 1960s -- it missed its chance when the Albany Rural Cemetery board miffed Leland Stanford.

But by that time, the city had already left a lasting mark on American academia: the standardized cap and gown.

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The longstanding New York tradition of "investments in legislators"

new york state senate chamber bw

Among the many paths used to influence in this chamber over history: "the society of young ladies."

By Carl Johnson

Andrew Cuomo and state legislative leaders are expected to officially announce a collection ethics reforms today. In a late Friday press conference about the deal, Cuomo called the proposals "tough and aggressive."

Advocates of legislative ethics reform can take pride in being part of a long tradition. Nothing is new under the sun -- and even less is new in the New York State legislature.

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A future in plastics and billiard balls

John Wesley Hyatt marker.jpg

One word: Plastics.

By Carl Johnson

"There's a great future in plastics. Think about it. Will you think about it?"

That's what Mr. McGuire said to Benjamin Braddock in The Graduate. That classic movie line was uttered almost exactly a century after John Wesley Hyatt first envisioned a future in plastics -- right here in Albany.

It started with an accident -- and a billiard ball.

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The Moses fountain in Washington Park

Moses statue Washington park Albany

And thou shalt smite the rock, and there shall come water out of it, that the people may drink.

By Carl Johnson

Anyone in Albany knows the Moses fountain in Washington Park. But few know how this biblical tableau came to be one of the most striking features of the park, or why it is called the King Memorial Fountain.

So, why is this splendid fountain there -- and whom does it memorialize?

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An entire library of Albanians

cuyler reynolds, joseph henry, henry james

Cuyler Reynolds, Joseph Henry, Henry James

By Carl Johnson

Last week, AOA wrote about Bill Pettit, whose library consists of Moby Dick. Lots of Moby Dick.

A century ago, a prominent Albany institution suggested a slightly broader collection -- an entire library of books written only by Albanians.

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The highway that was almost buried under Washington Park

mid-crosstown arterial park downtown rendering

What could go wrong?

By Carl Johnson

Ever wondered why the Dunn Memorial Bridge provides a ramp to thin air? Why the Livingston Avenue exit of I-90 is so overbuilt, and ends so abruptly? Why there are extra tunnels underneath the Empire State Plaza? Or why Corporate Woods has its own highway exit?

They're all vestiges of a highway system that was never built.

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The Livingston Avenue Bridge

livingston avenue bridge medium

It's spanned the Hudson a long time. How long? Well...

By Carl Johnson

The Livingston Avenue Bridge, the graceful and anachronistic swing bridge that carries trains across the Hudson River at Albany and still swings open to let larger ships reach Troy, has been part of the landscape longer than anyone now alive. It is often cited as dating to the Civil War.

Like many local legends, that's partly almost true.

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Dissected Maps

Dissected Map

Made in Troy.

By Carl Johnson

Before he moved to Springfield, Massachusetts to publish the famous dictionary with his brothers, Homer Merriam had a little business in Troy. Merriam, Moore & Co. made globes, maps, and something called a "Dissected Map" -- a type of puzzle that's still popular today.

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The Albany Penitentiary

Albany Penitentiary .jpg

The Albany Penitentiary once stood near what today is the V.A. hospital.

By Carl Johnson

From petty thief to Lincoln assassination conspirator, if you were a criminal in Washington D.C. in the 1860's -- you were going to be sent up the river.

Way up the river. To Albany.

The Albany Penitentiary served for decades as the prison for the District of Columbia.

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Elkanah Watson and the paving of State Street

Dutch_Rowhouses_Albany_1789.jpg

Albany - Pre Watson

By Carl Johnson

Elkanah Watson was a forward thinker. When he came to Albany from Massachusetts as a trader back in 1789 he had some big plans for making his adopted city a better place to live.

But Elkanah Watson learned very quickly that in Albany, no good deed goes unpunished.

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Ichabod Crane: the Capital Region connection

The_Headless_Horseman_Pursuing_Ichabod_Crane.jpg

Ichabod Crane just sounds scarier than Jesse Merwin.

By Carl Johnson

Washington Irving, perhaps the first great American writer, is still well-remembered in his Hudson Valley haunts. Irving created Rip Van Winkle, the legend of the Headless Horseman and more. His home along the river in Tarrytown, "Sunnyside," is a tourist attraction, and in 1996, North Tarrytown decided to rename itself Sleepy Hollow.

It is said that it was among the old Dutch of Tarrytown that Irving first heard the tale of the ghost of a Hessian soldier who had lost his head to a cannonball during the Revolution. But it was in the Columbia County village of Kinderhook, that Irving found his model for Ichabod Crane, the timid schoolteacher who is frightened off by the headless apparition.

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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.

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Running on Albany time

the first dudley observatory

The first Dudley Observatory, in north Albany.

By Carl Johnson

In our global civilization, we're accustomed to dealing with time zones and standard definitions -- Greenwich Time, Eastern Time, Daylight Savings Time.

If one plan from before the Civil War had succeeded, the Northeast might have been on Albany Time.

It started in 1851, with the founding of the Dudley Observatory.

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Albany bashing has a long history

North Pearl Street 1800s

Was Pearl Street dead back in the day?

By Carl Johnson

The recent item proclaiming Albany to be one of America's 10 dead cities was just the latest in a long tradition of bashing our capital city.

Who knows when Albany-bashing began, but I found evidence of it that dates back to 1789, and is a kind of reminder that in all criticism, you have to consider the source.

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The Normanskill's Norman

the Normanskill with Delaware Ave overhead

Delaware Ave above, the Normanskill below.

By Carl Johnson

Around Albany, many of our most familiar place and street names come from notable local figures.

Louis Menand was a noted horticulturist of his time; Daniel Manning published the Albany Argus and became US Secretary of the Treasury. Slingerlands was named for farmer Teunis Slingerland.

So, who was the "Norman" of the Normanskill?

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Dead non-presidents

DeWitt Clinton $1000 Note.jpg

Former NY Governor DeWitt Clinton shared space with Columbus on the $1000 U.S. note.

By Carl Johnson

Some politicians get streets or courthouses named after them. Some get a statue in the park. A very few exceptional public figures are memorialized on our coins and currency -- and Albany can lay claim to four famous figures whose portraits have appeared on our money.


After the jump, a few of the Albany pols. who were (or are) on the money:

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Where Menands got its name

orchids

What do exotic flowers have to do with this Albany County village?

By Carl Johnson

If you live in the Capital District, you hear the name Menands on a regular basis. You may live there, drive through the Albany County villiage, or just hear it on the news and in conversation.

So what is a Menand?

Well, the question really is who was Menand?

For the answer, you'd have to look back to the late 1800s, when everyone from well-to-do collectors of exotic flora, to prosperous homeowners with gardens, to cemetery visitors who wanted to pay tribute to a loved one -- would go to Menand's.

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Al-Tro Park: the Capital Region getaway in Menands

al-tro park street scene

Al-Tro Park: "Pleasure Island" in Menands.

By Carl Johnson

A century ago, Albanians looking for summertime fun didn't get in the car and drive for hours to a Six Flags or a water-park.

They got on board a trolley car or steamship and headed to Menands to find the finest in 19th-century entertainment.

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The Piano City

Boardman_Gray_and_Co_piano_at_Glen_Eyrie_castle.jpg

A decorative Boardman & Gray

By Carl Johnson

In the mid 1800s, as a single collar factory in Troy blossomed into dozens, Albany became famous for manufacturing a product of its own -- pianos.

In an age when people made their own music, the growing middle class felt no home was complete without a piano. So when J. & H. Meacham began manufacturing pianos around 1829, it set off a boom that could have given Albany fair claim to the nickname of "Piano City."

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Troy's paper boats

By Carl Johnson

Waters Balch Paper Boats Gazetteer 1870One of the joys of living near the Hudson River is seeing the rowing clubs plying their sleek craft across the water at dusk and dawn. The Hudson has long been a favorite of rowers, and for a few decades after the Civil War, it was home to a race-winning curiosity: the paper boat -- created in Troy.

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Lincoln Park -- from beer, bricks and beavers

lincoln park beaver park plan 1914

A plan for Beaver Park from 1914

By Carl Johnson

Sure, the Washington Park has the Olmstead pedigree, the stately splendor, and a spooky rep as a former graveyard. But the land that became Albany's Lincoln Park has the more interesting history -- a history that includes beer, bricks, borrowing and... the beaver.

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Thacher Park's namesake

thacher park indian ladder trail lower

The Indian Ladder Trail at Thacher Park

By Carl Johnson

Lately we've heard a lot about Thacher Park -- because of the potential closing, the protests and now the possible reprieve. And in all this coverage, you've probably heard the park called by its full name "John Boyd Thacher Park."

So, who was John Boyd Thacher? And why did they name a park for him?

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Recent Comments

My grandmother has Alzheimers and sometimes comes to stay with us in Troy. Last week the absolutely highlight of her day was seeing the hundreds of crows that came streaming by the window at our apartment. I watched her go from completely unresponsive to engaged... stringing questions together and returning to her old joyful self for the half hour she watched those birds was enough to endear crows to me forever.

If you see someone running around throwing bird seed in Riverfront Park yelling "COME ON DOWN, BIRD FRIENDS!", it's me.

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