Monday, July 16, 2018

Bethlehem Bikes!

I hope you enjoyed this month's Our Town Bethlehem about bicycles.  It was intended to be a short summer piece, mostly photos with long captions.  Then I started researching cycle paths and side paths and was totally hooked.  Pop over to http://www.ourtownebethlehem.com/  and give it a read.  While you are at it, pop over to http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2015/08/25/when-bikes-werent-just-something-on-the-side  for a great article and map of those local side paths.

One story I did not expand upon in Our Towne is the one about the John Kemp Starley and the Rover safety bicycle.  It is fascinating! 

Starley's safety bike came out in 1885.  I imagine he called it the Rover because one could rove over the roads freely and safely.  He designed it in response the to dangerous Penny Farthing or high wheel bikes.

Top is a high wheel, bottom is the classic "safety" bicycle.

In 1897, J.K. Starley & Co became the Rover Cycle Company.  After J.K.'s death, the company carried on manufacturing motorcycles and Rover motor cars.  One of its first cars was the Rover Eight two-seater, and eventually we have the iconic Land Rover brand of automobile and even the modern day Range Rovers.  While the corporate structure has certainly changed over the years, it still all ties back to the original Rover bicycle!  Pop yourself over to https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rover_Company  for more info. And check out these pictures of the Rover Eight http://www.lightauto.com/Rover%208.html

I read about Starley in Carlton Reid's Roads Were Not Built for Cars which expands on the idea that early bicycle enthusiasts lead directly to the take over of the roads by automobiles. (PS I was able to borrow this book through the Bethlehem Public Library's eBooks program.)

And finally, I found this great picture at the Albany Institute website. Now I am wondering about the the connections between bicycles and sewing machines!

Photo circa 1895 from the Albany Institute of History and Art

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Family Dynamics

Just for fun, here's a throw back for your Thursday afternoon...


The little girl is Marge Terrell and that is her mother giving her the side eye.  Circa 1912 - Marge was born in 1907.  The photo was taken at the family farm on Long Lane where Sabic is today.

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Delmar Fire Hall postcard

I am always on the lookout for old Bethlehem postcards and found this one a while back at an antique show.  And it is a gem. Until I saw this, I had never seen a picture of the old Adams Hotel with the Delmar Fire Hall sign over the door.  The dealer said the post card itself dates from 1915 to 1920. 





The writing on the back is interesting too.  It is written in pencil and seems old but is not dated or signed.  Below is the transcript.  It certainly leaves one wondering about the who and the why.
This is the building where we go each election day to safe-guard our rights. I wonder how many others like myself have had them taken from them by the very ones who was trusted with them.


PS: The old Adams House is located on Delaware Avenue at the corner with Adams Street.  It is now the Chabad Center.

Friday, April 27, 2018

The Delmar Post Office under construction

In the continuing saga of old things that come my way, enjoy these pictures of the Delmar Post Office under construction.  Be sure to look in the background for some long gone Four Corners houses and buildings. All photos taken by Garret Dillenback of Slingerlands.

June 3, 1939

June 3, 1939

June 27, 1939

June 27, 1939

August 28, 1939

September 28, 1939


October 29, 1939

January 2, 1940

++++++++++++++++++++++

Be sure to check out the website of the Friends of the Slingerlands Burial Vault and help us preserve a little cemetery that memorializes a family that had a huge impact on the Town of Bethlehem. https://sites.google.com/view/slingerlandvault

Monday, April 16, 2018

The Slingerland Family Burial Vault - HELP

I am one of those people who loves old cemeteries.  To me they are a direct connection to people of the past.  I enjoy walking the rows and wondering about the families there.  What is their story? Who are they? How do they fit into the history of the town or village? How are they remembered?

That's me on the right along with Bob Mullens, Sue Virgilio and Kathleen Bragle at the vault site back in January. 
Thank you Times Union for the photo.  Go to their web page for some great articles... Timesunion.com
Are you aware of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault?  I've known about it since
before I was town historian.  It is tucked away off of New Scotland Road, behind the old Mangia property,  and, when I first encountered it, a wreck, over grown and vandalized.  I was sad to find out the town owned it.  In fits and starts they would go in and hack back the weeds.  But they always grew back. 

Surely you are aware of the Slingerland family?   We've got a hamlet named after them and individuals named Slingerland still live here.  I know lots of stories about them.  Like the fact that John I Slingerland was a raging abolitionist even tho (or maybe because) his family had owned slaves.  Like the fact that the first Slingerland in our area, Tenuis, in the late 1600s got in trouble with both the Mohawk and the Mohican Indian tribes when he tried to buy land here.  Or how about  William H who got the Suburban Water company going?  Or his daughter Grace who was essential to running the company after he died?  Or how about Tunis who fought in the American Revolution while his four sons remained loyal to the British? I could go on and on about Slingerland family connections in Bethlehem.

So, the vault has been on my radar.  Then, quite a few things lined up to make this the opportune time to focus on the vault and get it property restored.  The Mangia property had sold, development proposals were being floated and conversations about the historic character of the neighborhood were happening.  I met Sue Virgilio, a direct descendant of John I Slingerland who is buried in the vault, who was thrilled to discover the vault, but not so thrilled about the condition.  I knew we had a new town administration starting in January 2018.

Now was the time to make a fresh start and focus on the future of the vault.  I helped organize the Friends of the Slingerland Family Burial Vault and we are committed to preserving the vault, making it accessible once again to the public, and keeping the maintenance ongoing into the future.


And we need your help.  It is hard to ask people for money, but I am going to do it right now!

We need your money!  Any amount big or small is greatly appreciated.

Please give to help restore this neglected part of Bethlehem history - the Slingerland Family Burial Vault.  If we all come together as a community, we can make this gem shine.

Pop over to the website for pictures, progress reports, budgets and the all important DONATE  button.

https://sites.google.com/view/slingerlandvault/home

OR

We've got a GoFundMe too!

https://www.gofundme.com/slingerlandvault

Thank you so very much!


Sunday, April 1, 2018

The Railroad Y.M.C.A. at Selkirk

April's Our Towne Bethlehem article focuses on the Selkirk Y.M.C.A.  Pop over to their website for a read.  In doing my research, I came across a booklet called The Story of the Railroad "Y"  by John F. Moore published in 1930.  Inside is a full description of the Selkirk Y that is a wonderful read.  So, quoted below is the whole thing.  The chapter is called "An Inspection Trip."  Enjoy!


     We are at Selkirk, a division point on the West Shore Railroad. Selkirk is a tiny, scattered town with a post office, a small store or two and a few residences. About a mile away, however, is located one of the great freight yards of the continent. Here hundreds of miles of steel rails offer their waiting hospitality to freight cars coming from all directions, those from New England come over the recently opened Alfred H. Smith bridge and here transfer their freight for redirection, or pass through Selkirk to their destination.


Men attend a religious service in a coach near the Selkirk Railroad Y. 
Courtesy of the Bethlehem Historical Association. 
     Through this yard trains carry merchandise to all sections of the land; here hundreds of railroad men spend their "lay-over” hours while their fellows continue to keep open the ways of commerce. We see a Railroad Association building costing nearly $400,000. For, consistent with its general policy, the New York Central Railroad decided upon the erection of such a structure coincident with the opening of the yard.


     This building faces a busy public highway, before it stands a row of fine old trees giving welcome shade, while around it shrubs and flowers bloom in all their beauty. The Selkirk Association is generally known by the title of the lovely poem by Sam Walter Foss—"The House by the Side of the Road.” It is a home away from home, and to the army of railway workers employed at the Selkirk yards, temporarily or permanently, the building is far more than steel, wood and stone—to them it is a living thing, an exemplification of practical Christianity; it ministers to their comfort as a loving mother might. It shelters, entertains and protects them, it fires them with fresh enthusiasm for their tasks, it gives to them new appraisals of life’s values.


The Selkirk Railroad Y about 1930.
     The secretary, who formerly was a locomotive engineer, and his wife live in the building. It is their only home and they work unceasingly to make it comfortable for the boys of the road. Mrs. Paul shares with her husband in the administration of the work, and to tired railroad men coming in from hard runs she brings a refreshing remembrance of home ties and things held dear. Only a Christian motive leads men and women to service such as this, spending and being spent in isolated freight yards, giving the best of strength and affection to others. As we visit Selkirk we come to understand more clearly the underlying secrets of success in the Railroad Y M C As.


     Some idea of the scope of the work of this association is suggested by items given in a recent annual report. "Y" The membership was 982; more than 217,000 meals were served during the year in the restaurant; the beds were used 51,000 times, nearly 1,000 a week; more than 17,000 bath and 88,000 hand towels were used. At Selkirk cleanliness and godliness walk hand in hand.

    
A crowd watches a baseball game circa 1927.
It is a summer Sunday evening. The spacious grounds are crowded with men, women and children. Farmers and their families have come from miles away, some in automobiles, others driving faithful old Dobbins. The adjacent town has sent its quota; railroad men, some in their Sunday best, others in working clothes, are scattered here and there. It is the vesper service of the Selkirk Railroad Association, the lovely twilight hour in which it pays its tribute to Him whose name it bears. Reverently we stand for a little on the edge of this open air congregation to share in its simple and beautiful worship.


 ****************


Did you catch the reference to the poem - A House by the Side of the Road?  Growing up, I remember wondering about a cross stitch my grandmother had made with the phrase "Let me live in a house by the side of the road and be a friend to man."  Now, all these years later, I know where it comes from!  

The House by the Side of the Road

by Sam Walter Foss (1858-1911)
There are hermit
souls that live withdrawn
In the peace of their self-content;
There are souls, like stars, that dwell apart,
In a fellowless firmament;
There are pioneer souls that blaze their paths
Where highways never ran;-
But let me live by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
Let me live in a house
by the side of the road,
Where the race of men go by-
The men who are good and the men who are bad,
As good and as bad as I.
I would not sit in the scorner’s seat,
Or hurl the cynic’s ban;-
Let me live in a house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I see from my house
by the side of the road,
By the side of the highway of life,
The men who press with the ardor of hope,
The men who are faint with the strife.
But I turn not away from their smiles nor their tears-
Both parts of an infinite plan;-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
I know there are brook-gladdened
meadows ahead
And mountains of wearisome height;
That the road passes on through the long afternoon
And stretches away to the night.
But still I rejoice when the travelers rejoice,
And weep with the strangers that moan,
Nor live in my house by the side of the road
Like a man who dwells alone.
Let me live in my
house by the side of the road
Where the race of men go by-
They are good, they are bad, they are weak, they are strong,
Wise, foolish- so am I.
Then why should I sit in the scorner’s seat
Or hurl the cynic’s ban?-
Let me live in my house by the side of the road
And be a friend to man.
 
The cross stitch hangs in my upstairs hallway.  I do like the sassy quote on the bottom piece!





Friday, March 30, 2018

Emmett House on River Road

One of the best parts of my job is when I get to visit historic Bethlehem homes.  Yesterday I got the chance to go through the Samaritan Shelters property on River Road.  Samaritan is closing up shop and they are looking for a buyer.  I, of course, was more interested in the historic house (built circa 1837!) and the families who lived there.

This view is circa 1900 (sorry for the bad quality - it is a snapshot of xerox copy!)

This view is stolen from Google Maps.
Samaritan has been here about 40 years providing a vital service for troubled youths.  They purchased the property from the Schmitt sisters - Claire and Marie. 

Local lore, says the two sisters grew to despise each other and literally walled the house in half, Marie on one side and Claire on the other.   At some point the addition on the rear was made - maybe in the 1950s - in an attempt to run a boarding house for teachers.   Both Claire and Marie were teachers in the Bethlehem Central School District.  Claire from 1931 to 1965 and  Marie taught at St. Anne's School in Albany from 1928 to 1935 and then at Elsmere School from 1935 to 1969.

From census records, it looks like the family landed on the farm as early as 1905 when they show up in the NY census.  In the 1910 US census, they are clearly on the property.  We've got George and Mary Schmitt (both 39 years old married for 10 years, he's a farmer) and four kids: Claire, Marie, George Jr and Eva.   In 1920, they are still there, but baby Eva (who was 2 in 1910) is no longer on the family list.  She probably passed away but I couldn't find a record of that.  Local lore does say that one child died young, and perhaps haunts the place.  Is this Eva?   The 1920 census also indicates that Anna, a daughter aged 5, has joined the family.  Right up to the 1940 census (the last one available to the public) the Schmitt's are living in the house: George and Mary, Claire, Marie and George Jr.  Anna is in the 1930 census but not in the 1940.  By that time, she has likely become the Mrs. Jacob Nester mentioned in the obituaries I found.

Mary died at the house in November 15, 1951 (she was a Dettinger by the way) and George the following March, 1952.  Of the teaching sisters, Claire died in 1976, and Marie hung in there until 1993. 

This is the barn that was on the property until about 1980.
A 1916 reports says George and Mary grew hay on the 140 acres that they owned. 

But who owned the house before the Schmitt tenancy? This is where things get murky.  I've been promised a copy of the deed, which goes back to the Patroon era, but I haven't seen it yet. 

The 1891 Beers map is interesting because it has a Mrs. Smith on the spot where the house is and there is a an J. Dettinger just around the corner (on today's Bask Road).  Remember Mary was a Dettinger.  The 1866 Beers map has A.E. Sweet, and the 1854 map has  D. Winne.

The house itself has good bones.  It is solid brick. In the basement, great wooden beams, as well as steel ones, hold up the 200+ year old sections.  While the walls upstairs have been paneled over and the floors carpeted, there are plenty of signs of old wood work and moulding including a marble fire place surround.  There is still an old carriage barn on the property, altho the big barn was removed years ago. 

All in all, it is an intriguing historic property in Bethlehem!

PS: Samaritan Shelters named the place Emmett House.  As far as I know, there were no Emmetts that lived there.