The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) has announced the 2013 Thomas Phelan Endowed Lecture. Franklin Vagnone, Executive Director of the Historic House Trust of New York City, will present an illustrated lecture titled, “The Anarchist Guide to Historic House Museums”. The lecture will be held at 10:00am on Saturday June 22 at Bush Memorial Hall on the Russell Sage College campus. The lecture is free and open to the public.
In his presentation, Mr. Vagnone lays out a series of systemic changes that he thinks historic house museums need to enact in order to be around 20 years from now. Continue reading →
The Historical Society of the Town of Colonie is hosting a special presentation by Timothy Myers on West Troy (now Watervliet) Pottery, on Sunday, March 10, 2013 – 2:00 pm at Town of Colonie Library, 629 Albany Shaker Road, Colonie (Albany County). Pottery from West Troy was shipped west and north on the Erie and Champlain Canals and may be found in many areas of the country. Continue reading →
A massive, iconic Confederate flag, torn down by a Colonel Elmer Ellsworth, a soldier born in Saratoga County and widely remembered as the first Union officer killed in the Civil War, is now on display at the New York State Museum.
The 14-by 24-foot Marshall House Flag is being exhibited in South Hall through Feb. 24, 2013 in conjunction with the nearby 7,000-square foot exhibition on the Civil War. An Irrepressible Conflict: The Empire State in the Civil War is open through September 22, 2013 in Exhibition Hall. Continue reading →
For more than ten years a group of community volunteers has been convening an Annual Underground Railroad Public History Conference sponsored by Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region (URHPCR).
The theme of this year’s conference will be, “Milestones to Freedom: Emancipation Proclamation, Harriet Tubman, and the March on Washington – a Legacy and a Future.” The year 2013 is the 150th anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation, the 100th anniversary of the death of Harriet Tubman and the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. These, and other key anniversary events, are milestones along the road to achieving Martin Luther King’s vision articulated in his “I Have a Dream” speech. This 12th annual conference on the Underground Railroad seeks to connect the Underground Railroad, these key events and present day struggles for freedom and justice. Toward this end the committee solicits proposals that elaborate, analyze and articulate these stories, connections within them and their relationship to the present.
Proposals are invited that address reinterpretations, teaching, new research, and that illustrate how such research can be used to celebrate the story historically and contemporarily, as well as other proposals related to the Underground Railroad in the past and its relationship with us today.
The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) offers walking tours of historic downtown Troy on Saturday mornings this September and October. Tours depart from and return to the Market Table at the Troy Farmer’s Market at 10:30 am. Each week brings a different theme for the tours, which are led by RCHS staff and frequently incorporate historic photographs and readings from letters and diaries.
September’s History Walks are part of the Hudson River Ramble. The Hudson River Valley Ramble celebrates the trails, the river and the historic and cultural resources of the Hudson River Valley Greenway and National Heritage Area. For more information about the Ramble visit www.hudsonrivervalleyramble.com Cost: $5 per person/ RCHS members free. Reservations can be made by calling 518-272-7232 x12 or email firstname.lastname@example.org . For more information, visit www.rchsonline.org
Saturday, September 8 Green Island Bridge Discover this historic Hudson River crossing point and the various bridges that have been built at this site.
Saturday, September 15 Uncle Sam’s Life in Troy This tour takes you to sites associated with Samuel Wilson, the “real” Uncle Sam. You’ll also visit the RCHS museum, which includes artifacts from Samuel Wilson’s life and images of our national symbol.
Saturday, September 22 Amazing Architecture Stroll the streets of downtown Troy and find a rich built environment. Tour showcases Troy’s architectural gems as you explore the range of styles found in Troy.
Saturday, September 29 The Marquis de Lafayette Visits Troy For much of 1824 & 1825, Lafayette, the hero of the American Revolution, made a triumphal visit to the US, including visiting Troy twice. Follow in his footsteps as he was shown the bustling city that Troy had become.
Saturday, October 2 Underground Railroad Troy was a hotbed of abolitionism. Walk to where history was made including the site of the rescue of Charles Nalle.
Saturday, October 13 Amazing Architecture Stroll downtown Troy and you’ll find a rich built environment. This tour showcases Troy’s architectural gems and range of styles.
Saturday October 20 Monumental Troy Join us as we look at the many monuments that remind us of wartime sacrifice, famous events and the people who left their mark on Troy.
Saturday, October 27 Murder and Mayhem Who knows what ghosts might haunt the streets of Troy? You will, after taking part in this walk through the more colorful stories of Troy’s past
RCHS is located at 57 Second Street, Troy NY 12180.
When Sally Svenson, an summer resident of Lake Luzerne and occasional contributor to Adirondack Life magazine, was writing Adirondack Churches: A History of Design and Building (2006, North Country Books) , she stumbled upon the life of Eliza Warren Price, known as Lily, Duchess of Marlborough.
Lily, who was born in Troy, NY in 1854, was reported in an old history to have provided the funds for a chapel at st. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Lake Luzerne. That turned out to be a questionable assertion, but Svenson found Lily’s obituary in the New York Times and was hooked on her incredible life story which is told in Lily, Duchess of Marlborough (1854-1909): A Portrait with Husbands (2011, Dog Ear Publishing). Continue reading →
On May 10, 1862, as the nation was consumed by the ravages of the Civil War, Troy NY faced a devastating fire. As a train crossed the Hudson River on the Troy-Green Island Bridge, a spark from the engine ignited the wooden bridge. The fire spread rapidly, ultimately destroying over 600 buildings in the heart of the city in only six hours. Newspaper accounts, personal letters and even artist renderings depict a city in chaos as people struggled to save their homes and businesses. The Rensselaer County Historical Society (RCHS) has opened a new exhibit commemorating the 150th anniversary of Troy’s Great Fire. The exhibit runs through August 18, 2012. Stacy Pomeroy Draper, RCHS Curator, said, “The Great Fire is one of Troy’s most significant events as it dynamically altered the look of the city. As many local towns learned after the hurricane and tropical storms of last year, natural disaster can dramatically change a location in the blink of an eye. The story of Troy’s rise after the fire is one that can inspire us today to rebuild after a tragedy.”
Advances in fire fighting technology, such as the use of steam-powered fire engines were applauded for their role in saving the city, and citizens joined together to re-emerge from the catastrophe. Well known architects designed new buildings in the latest styles and new building codes were introduced mandating the use of fire resistant building materials.
The exhibit focuses on four main themes- Troy in the 1860s, Mid-19th Century fire fighting techniques, the event itself known as The Great Fire of May 10, 1862 and the aftermath, including personal impacts, changes to city code and fire safety. A number of early photographic images, several recently discovered, show the city just before the fire and document the devastation.
Artifacts on display include firefighting equipment such as fire buckets, a rare fireman’s jacket and helmets. Accounts of the event from local newspapers and eyewitness descriptions found in personal letters, several of which came to light as research was undertaken, tell the story firsthand. A number of fire related artifacts from public institutions and private lenders will also be on display for the first time, including a toy steam fire engine from the FASNY Museum of Firefighting in Hudson, New York.
Programming during the exhibit will include a trip to see the extensive fire collections at the FASNY Museum of Firefighting. RCHS will lead a walking tour of the district impacted by the fire on Saturday, May 12 at 10:30am. The tour departs from the Market Table at the Troy Waterfront Farmers’ Market. Tour is $5 per person, free for RCHS members.
Stacy Pomeroy Draper, RCHS curator, is available to give illustrated lectures about the fire.
The exhibit is sponsored in part by B-Lann Equipment Co., John G Waite Associates and the Troy Uniformed Firefighters Association.
Illustration: Grandma Moses, “The Burning of Troy in 1862″- (1943)
One of our contentions at the Hudson River Valley Institute has always been that you can go anywhere by starting exactly where you are. The closest I ever came to losing this argument was at a Teaching American History conference with a gentleman from New Mexico. “It’s easy for you – the Hudson Valley has nearly 400 years of colonial history and documented prehistory before that,” he said “all we have are aliens (Roswell) and those German POW scientists from WWII.” (He had just finished a presentation about the latter). But he went on to explain that even in that state’s most isolated towns, there was at least one war memorial with the names of local soldiers who served their country, and when they shipped out, they charted a course around the nation and the world leaving a path for students today to trace through history. ?In Poughkeepsie, the most elaborate memorial may be the Soldiers and Sailors Monument on Little Market St. Across from that monument is Adriance Memorial Library, where two original cannon from the USS Monitor are on display. Most of us learned about the battle of the Monitor and the Merrimack in grade school. Some of us have learned since that the USS Merrimack was converted by the Confederate navy into the ironclad CSS Virginia. Larger than the Monitor and with more guns, it decimated the wooden fleet at Hampton Roads on the first day of the battle, March 8, 1862. But the Monitor arrived overnight and was able to use its shallow draft, low freeboard, and revolving turret to devastating effect the when the battle was rejoined the next day. It was a decisive victory for the Union and a turning point in naval technology.?
But how did we get from Poughkeepsie Library to Hampton Roads, Virginia, and why is Archeologist and conservator David Krop, of the USS Monitor Center, coming from the Mariner’s Museum in Newport News, Virginia to Marist College to lecture about that battle on Thursday April 19 at 7:00 in our Nelly Goletti Theatre? [pdf]
?One of the four champions and financiers of the Union’s first ironclad was John Flack Winslow. At the time, he was co-owner of the Albany Iron Works, living near Troy, NY. Once he successfully obtained the approval of the President himself and a contract with the Navy, he and his partners oversaw an accelerated construction project and the launch of their unique ship on January 30, 1862. Years later, Winslow would retire to a sylvan estate on the banks of the Hudson, on the north end of present-day Marist College Campus. Once here, he got involved in local railroads and presided over the bridge company that would eventually construct the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge: today’s Walkway Over the Hudson State Historic Park.?
So here, amongst our region’s embarrassment of historic riches, is the nearly-lost tale of a local entrepreneur and patriot who was once heralded as a “benefactor of the nation.” All of it took to place Poughkeepsie at the heart of one of the most important naval battles in history was to read the plaque accompanying a cannon outside the local library.
The 11th Anniversary Conference on the Underground Railroad Movement, sponsored by the Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region Conference, will be held at Russell Sage College in Troy, April 13-15th. This year’s conference, “The Underground Railroad Turned On Its Head – Old Themes, New Directions,” focuses on new research on the Underground Railroad, slavery, abolition and the 19th century. Old assumptions such as “There is little documentation of the Underground Railroad”, “The UGRR was a string of safe houses to Canada” and numerous other ideas are challenged by new research and interpretations. The conference will feature:
Friday, April 13, 2012
An Educators’ Workshop
Opening Address – Manisha Sinha, PhD “Fleeing for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves and the Making of American Abolitionism”
Saturday, April 14, 2012
Keynote Address – Barbara McCaskill, PhD “A Thousand Miles for Freedom: A New Take on the Old Story of William and Ellen Craft, the Georgia Fugitives”
Artists in Residence – Miles Ahead Jazz Quartet
Spectres of Liberty Experience history – step into the recreated Liberty Street Presbyterian Church of Henry Highland Garnet
Over 20 Workshops, plus Vendors & Displays
Sunday, April 15, 2012
A bus tour of UGR Sites in Rensselaer County by Kathryn Sheehan, Rensselaer County Historian.
The Underground Railroad History Project of the Capital Region researches, preserves, and retells New York’s regional history of the Underground Railroad, highlighting the role of African-American freedom seekers and local abolitionists.
Rensselaer County Historian Kathryn Sheehan will lead a tour of Mt. Ida Cemetery, which features some of the oldest headstones in the city of Troy, and the Poestenkill Gorge, a favorite destination for picnickers, photographers, and nature enthusiasts for centuries.
The waters of the Poestenkill collect in Dyken Pond, then make a dash for the Hudson River below. The Mt. Ida falls drop roughly 85′- into a gorge of crumbly black shale, make a right angle turn, dropping a further 75′- into a massive pool. This source of water power fueled several industries along the Poestenkill’s banks in the 19th century. Hidden History – Mt. Ida Cemetery and the Poestenkill Gorge will be held on Tuesday, March 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm. The cost is $15 per person and $12 for RCHS members.
The Rensselaer County Historical Society and Museum (RCHS) is a not-for-profit educational organization established in 1927 to connect local history and heritage with contemporary life. RCHS is located at 57 Second Street, Troy NY 12180.
Photo: Mills along the lower Poestenkill Gorge at the foot of Cypress Street including the Griswold Wire Works, Tompkins Brothers machine works, and above Manning Paper, which occupied earlier Marshall textile mill buildings. Courtesy Troy Public Library.