Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Bethlehem Central School District History Research Project

My friend Beth Anderson is researching the history of the Bethlehem Central School District and would really like your input!  Pop on over to this Spotlight article for complete details.

     Beth Anderson, a Bethlehem graduate who taught English at the high school for 25 years, has recently undertaken a project to document the history of Bethlehem Central School District from those earliest years — and she’s asking the community for help filling in the considerable gaps.
     Anderson is hoping to connect with individuals who may have family members who remember the district’s earliest years or those who have memorabilia from older family members that were educated in Bethlehem. “I love digging and researching and finding,” she said. “And people need to understand what’s behind what they have.
     “Don’t let the history be lost,” urged Anderson. “We need to know what the foundation is and what we came from. I’d love any information, stories, old photos, any little ephemera or old programs. Any little thing that represents how it was in the early days of the district.”

Anyone with anything to share can reach Anderson at:
eeanderson58@gmail.com or (518) 439-3185.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

A New View of a Bethlehem Gas Station - Updated!

A new-to-me picture turned up on my desk this morning.  While I've never seen this view before, I know exactly where this picture was taken.  Care to take a guess?

Ok folks, here is the site today.  And there is still a Mobil gas station there.  You can just make out the Pegasus in the old picture above.

It is Comstock's station at the corner of Feura Bush Road and 9W.

Saturday, May 6, 2017

25 Years Ago - Circa 1992

As you know, one of the fun parts of my job is the random things that turn up on the historian's desk. Last week, the town's planning department must have been cleaning house because I received a draft copy of a historic structures inventory completed in 1992 for the L.U.M.A.C. (i.e. the Land Use Management Advisory Committee.) Flipping through the pages, what struck me are the places that are gone and the places that were falling down then but all fixed up now.  What a difference 25 years can make.

Here are some favorites.

  Here's the Ironweed House (AKA the Dillenbeck House) on New Scotland Road in Slingerlands. Top is 1992, bottom is 2008.

 I always think of this one as the Moon House because of the moon shape cutouts in the shutters.  It is on the corner of Elsmere and Feura Bush Roads.  Top is 1992, bottom is 2008.

This is the Gerrit Oliver House which dates to the late 1700s.  It is at the end of Meads Lane near Delaware Avenue and is slowly returning to the earth. The top picture is 1992. The middle is 2009 and the bottom one is from Google Street View. I'm not sure of the date, but probably from 3 or 4 years ago.  (I only know this because I live not too far from here and the Street View of my house shows my old blue car.)

Now this one I was surprised to see still standing in 1992.  This big old place with its Second Empire style - love that massive mansard roof - used to be off of Krumkill Road across from where Schoolhouse Road comes in (the stub of road on the roundabout would have lead to this house.) According to LUMAC, is was built by J. I. Jacobson in the early 1850s.  His daughter (name unknown 😆) married J. L. Blessing and they remodeled and enlarged into the Second Empire style. Below are some pictures of the house from the late 1970s.  The place must have come down not too long after the 1992 picture.

And finally, this farmhouse, gone but not forgotten.  It was the Kelderhouse home, later part of Heath's Dairy.  It was located at the corner of 9W and Wemple Road.  Above is 1992, below is from Bing Maps and the house is just barely visible in the trees to the left of the barn.  Bottom is the same view from Google, and the house is gone.  Go enjoy those old barns while you can - they are sure to go soon.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Captured Moments at the Albany Institute

So last weekend I attended the Albany Institute's Beer & the Erie Canal fundraiser and wandered into their exhibition Captured Moments: 170 Years of Photography from the Albany Institute.  What a wonderful show with many, many interesting local history photographs.  Below are a couple of my favorites, because they are from Bethlehem of course.  My apologies for the poor quality - this fundraiser involved beer after all - and I snapped these with my phone.  Get on down to the exhibit before it closes on May 21!!!

Notice the Hudson River in the background of this photo?  It was likely taken at the Learned family property in Selkirk.  Judge William Law Learned purchased property on the bluff over looking the river in 1870 for a summer getaway.  The property later came into the Peltz family through the Judge's grandson Wiliam L.L. Peltz. The Katherine pictured above is probably the Judge's wife.  The 1880 U.S. Census has the Judge, his wife Catherine Dewitt, three daughters (Mary, Grace and Mable), his mother-in-law Elsie DeWitt  and three servants (Jennie VanReekum, Minnie Digner, & Maria Shanahan) living on State Street in Albany.

This photo intrigued me for a couple of reasons.  I've written about Gustave Lorey on this blog before - he was a noted Albany photographer.  Also, I think this photo was taken at the Lyon Estate at Cedar Hill.  Somewhere I've seen a picture of that winged lion statue with the curved bench. Must do some further digging.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

100 Years Ago Today the U.S. Entered World War I

The Bethlehem Historical Association has published a special edition newsletter commemorating the U.S entry to World War I which was 100 years ago today, April 6, 1917.  Head on over to their website, bethlehemhistorical.org , and look for the DOCUMENTS tab at the top.

So never mind the link to BHA website - I am having trouble getting the PDF to load, really not tech savvy here - but I wanted to publish this blog post on the actual day - so I am publishing it - and will fix the link to the newsletter as soon as I can!

Also, there is a great round up of World War I info in today's Times Union newspaper.  Here are a couple of links.



And finally, below is the article I wrote for the February 2017 edition of Our Towne Bethlehem that takes a look at John Dyer, a Bethlehem veteran of the war.

I often close these blog posts by saying "Enjoy!" but that doesn't really work for today's post.  So, I think I'll end with BHA's motto: Live for Today, Dream of Tomorrow, Learn from Yesterday.

Bethlehem During World War I
A Look at John Adams Dyer

100 years ago in April, the United States of America entered World War I. Centennials such as this offer a time to pause and reflect and wonder about our local history during a transformative era in American history.

Perhaps you’ve heard of Nathanial Adams Blanchard?  The Blanchard Post in Delmar is named after him and every year before the Memorial Day Parade, the members of the post lay a wreath at his gravesite.  Blanchard, son of Grace Adams and Clarence Blanchard, was killed in action in France on November 9, 1918, just two days before the armistice of November 11.  But have you heard of his cousin, John Adams Dyer?  His story too has a tragic ending.

John Adams Dyer is the son of Jessie Adams (sister of Grace) and Zeb A. Dyer.  The couple married in 1889 and their son John was born in Delmar September 24, 1891. Zeb was a prominent lawyer active in the Democratic party and elected Albany County District Attorney in 1899. He died of typhoid fever at the age of 43 on September 18 1904.  John was not quite 13 years old.
The Dyers lived right next door to the Blanchards on Kenwood Avenue in the heart of the Four Corners.  One can imagine the cousins, four years apart in age, hanging out together. Dyer went to the Albany Academy and was on the baseball and hockey team. His time there, with the academy’s emphasis on military procedures and training in leadership, would have served him well after his enlistment. When he filled out his Draft Registration Card, Dyer listed his place of address as Delmar and occupation as automobile salesman with H. E. Lishman in Troy, NY.

Congress declared war on Germany on April 6, 1917, but it took time for the U.S. to gear up.  On June 26, the first 14,000 troops arrived in France to relieve the war battered soldiers of France and Great Britain.  It wasn’t until the summer of 1918 that U.S. troops arrived in Europe in large numbers. The Selective Service Act was enacted in May of 1917.  From these registrations, the U.S. military built up and by the end, over four million people had been mobilized for the war effort.  John Dyer was among the first rounds selected for Albany County.  On September 8, 1917, he was inducted at Delmar, and he and other Albany County men soon found themselves on a special train bound for Camp Devens in Ayers, Mass.

Camp Devens was the regional cantonment set up to train the draftees.  Dyer was assigned to 76th Division of the National Army, Company L of the 303rd infantry.  By the time his unit was sent overseas on July 7, 1918, Dyer was a Sergeant.  The 303rd was part of the American Expeditionary Forces.  Reportedly, the 76th was assigned to a depot division at St Aignan, France and the division was soon broken up with cadres of soldiers going to the front to replace and relieve those already in place.  One source for the 76th division “battle honors” lists the St. Mihiel Offensive, a successful drive by General Pershing’s forces against the Germans.

Here we lose track of Dyer specifically.  Was he assigned to the frontlines in France?  Did he experience the horrors of trench warfare? The blasts of artillery? The fumes of mustard gas? The death and destruction? We simply don’t know.  His record indicates that he served overseas from July 7, 1918 until July 9, 1919.  At the time of his honorable discharge on July 30, 1919, he was a Second Lieutenant. Dyer then came home to Delmar, and lived with his mom.  

We know he continued as a car salesman, and later was a salesman for Dearstyne Brothers, purveyors of fine cigars.  He was a member of the Masters’ lodge of Masons, the Knights Templar and the Shrine.  The local newspapers have a few mentions of Dyer after he came home from the war.  In 1922, he helped organize a social for the Delmar Democratic Club (a concert and dance at the Delmar fireman’s hall). In 1923 there is a mention of his name in a long list of attendees of a Tawasentha Chapter DAR card party and dance also held at the Delmar firehall. And then there is this headline from the January 2, 1925 issue of the Altamont Enterprise: “John Dyer Dies of Gas Fumes in Delmar Garage.” His mother Jessie found him behind the wheel of his car in a closed garage dead from carbon monoxide poisoning. He was just 33 years old

What to make of this tragic story of a life cut short? Bethlehem’s local history is part of the story of our national history. Many from Bethlehem served overseas in the military during World War I.  Many others remained behind and supported the war effort on the home front.  What was Bethlehem like 100 years ago?  The Bethlehem Historical Association is exploring questions like these and is looking for your input.  Was one of your relatives a Doughboy serving on the Western Front? Perhaps one of your family was part of the Woman’s Land Army or served with the Red Cross?  Please consider sharing your information. You may contact me at sleath@townofbethlehem.org or contact Karen Beck of the Bethlehem Historical Association, 439-9260, bethhist1965@gmail.com.

Monday, March 27, 2017

Texaco tanks then and now

Here's a fun then and now for your Monday morning.  A gentleman from Innovative Surface Solutions wondered if I had an old photo of the tank farm on River Road in Glenmont.  Yes I did and here it is.  He then returned the favor with the now photo.  Enjoy!

And in case you are curious, here's the info from the back of the old picture.

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Thoughts about Glenmont and Frazertown

As often happens after my Our Towne Bethlehem articles are published, new info and insights come out.  Way back in January, I wrote about Frazertown, Glenmont and the Anders Road area.  The Maiers of Anders Road, were kind enough to stop by my office and share some cool things they found in their yard.

The wooden objects are keg taps or spigots.  The one in the foreground was made by John Sommers. Below is one of their advertisements from 1908, plus, just for fun, the masthead of the magazine it came out of.

 The bottles are fun too.  The dark brown one is for cod liver oil. The middle one reads: Anderson & Co., Home Brewed Ale, Albany, NY and dates from about 1870.  The clear one on the right reads: A.F. Dietz, Altamont, Albany Co., NY and has a picture of a cow on the back.  It dates to about 1888.
Also in the photo is a piece of blue and white pottery and the bowl of a clay pipe. The pipe is probably from the mid 1800s.

The Maiers also shared a story about the name Glenmont that I had never heard before. They told me that the beginning part came from The Glen, a large estate up on River Road just north of Glenmont Road, and the second part of the name is from The Mont or The Mount, a large estate just up the hill on Glenmont Road on the north side. Put the two estate names together and you have Glenmont. Hmmmmm, could I verify this story?  Well, no.  But the way did lead down some interesting paths.

First up The Glen. Based on old maps and the story told by the Maiers, I think this is a reference to the Hurlbut farm (sometimes spelled Hurlburt), pictured below in a photo I stole from Google.  The book Albany Chronicles describes it as "the country-seat at Glenmont, upon the eminence west of "The Abbey."

In the late 1890s there are a few snippets in the Glenmont section of the Altamont Enterprise referring to Mr. G. D. W. Hurlbut, but I was unable to find any references to a property called The Glen.Here's one of my favorites from March 1899.  Note it refers to another estate by name, but not Hurlbuts.

Mr. G. D. W Hurlbut is Gansevoort DeWandlaer Hurlbut (1857-1901) son of Elisha Hurlbut (noted NY Supreme Court justice) and Catherine C. VanVechten Hurlbut.

The other property in the story is The Mont or The Mount.  I believe this is the Patterson farm located up the hill from Anders Road off of a long driveway on the right. Conveniently, this property at 111 Glenmont Road is for sale if you would like to spy it out. Top picture is from Zillow.  The bottom one shows the house back in the day and is courtesy of the Bethlehem Historical Association.

BHA records indicate that this is the Patterson house, Glenmont Hill which matches up with the old maps of the area. The town's OARS system says the house was built in 1901, which lines up with the tenancy of John J. Patterson.  A search of the Altamont Enterprise did not turn up any info regarding a property called The Mount.  I did turn up the tragic story of John Patterson (John J.'s father) and his nephew James Patterson.  Both were killed in September 1898 in an accidental explosion at their stone quarry.

So, I very much like the story of The Glen and The Mont, but so far have not found any primary sources to back it up.  For now, I'll call it plausible but not proven.

And a final note...wonderfully, the 1880 US census has the Frazers, Hurlbuts and Pattersons all on the same page.

Dwelling house 285 is the Fraziers (John and Ann and their daughters Jane, Kate, Mary, Sarah & Elizabeth.)
Dwelling house 286 is the Pattersons (head of household John and his son John J. daughter Louisa Rockefeller and her husband BR, nephew James Patterson, plus 4 other single adult men.)
Dwelling house 293 is the Hurlbuts ( E.P. and wife Catherine, sons Gansevoort and Ernest, plus George Pattendon farm laborer, Catherine Cahill and Elizabeth Callahan domestic servants and Elizabeth Callahn, cook.)