Wednesday, July 26, 2017

An Adams Street Deed

A friend of mine let me borrow the abstract of title/deed to her property on Adams Street.  It traces her small suburban plot back to two large tracts of land leased by the patroon.  One is 162 acres leased by Stephen Van Rensselaer to Garrit Walley on March 8, 1793.  The other lease is dated May 9th, 1803 and is between Van Rensselaer and James McKie.

The McKie lease was assigned to Nathaniel Adams (a familiar Delmar name) in 1854. "thus Nathaniel Adams became seized of the parts of said land lying South of Delaware Turnpike and West of New Scotland Road, and as he acquired also the leasehold title, the leases were extinguished, and he became the owner in fee of said premises."

Are you with me so far? The deed describes the tracts with links, chains and a pitch pine tree. It cites the annual rent for both properties in bushels of wheat, fat foul and a day's service with carriage and horses.  All pretty straight forward stuff.

This is the Walley lease, only 16 bushels of wheat.  The larger McKie tract requires "27 bushels of wheat and one-half bushel of clean merchantable winter wheat." Both required four fat fowl and a day's service.

But did you notice the really intriguing bit? McKie's lands are west of New Scotland Road. Moreover, the first line of the abstract (this section was completed in 1912 by E.W. & E.B. Rieck, Attorneys at Law.) states "I am informed that the distance from the center of the New Scotland Road to the West side of Adams Street on the South line of Delaware Turnpike, Delmar, N.Y. is 584 feet."

And then there is this map.

What isn't New Scotland Road in Slingerlands?!

Apparently, back in the day, what we know as Kenwood Avenue, was New Scotland Road. I did not know this - a new history fact!

I think the Riecks were confused as well.  Otherwise why start with that info about the distance to New Scotland Road?  On Google maps, you can measure the 584 feet and it puts you pretty squarely on Kenwood Avenue.  Very cool!  Sadly, the old maps do not have a lot of street names.  I did look in the Family directory of Delmar, published in June 1913, and there is no New Scotland Road in Delmar, just Kenwood Avenue so I don't know when the switch over took place.

Another fun aspect of this document is the restrictions placed on the lot when it was subdivided out by the heirs of Nathaniel Adams in 1912.

"Subject to restrictions that the parties of the second part will not sell or permit to be sold upon the premises and spirituous liquors, wine, beer, ale, porter, cider or any other intoxicating drinks, nor use the premises for any other purpose than for a residence or dwelling, and to erect a house to cost not less than $2000 and to set same at lease 32 ft. from Adams St. and to set outbuildings not nearer than 50ft. from Adams Street. "

What a fascinating glimpse into Bethlehem history!

Friday, July 21, 2017

Along the Delaware Turnpike

My next article for Our Towne Bethlehem is about the old Albany and Delaware Turnpike.  (You might be sitting in traffic there a lot this summer.) I came across this little article, and it made me smile.  Watch out! Mr. Scrafford's horses were on the loose in Normasnville in 1897.

 I think "a new Osborne Marker" is some sort of road sign, maybe a mile marker.  Google, however, is stumped.

The article is from the June 11, 1897 Altamont Enterprise.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

More about those pesky Guy Park lions

Three years ago I wrote about those pesky Guy Park lions.  Go read it now.

If you've ever been down to Henry Hudson Park you know the lions I am referring to.  And you  know that in recent years the ones that used to be on River Road have been moved and there are now two pairs along Barent Winne Road.  Both sets of lions are inscribed with the name Guy Park.

This morning I've been reading some old deeds I found in a folder related to the nearby Barent Winne house and dock.  Included was a transcript of the will of John Taylor Cooper.  The will is dated December 27, 1866, and specifically refers to the "farm and country seat town of Bethlehem known as Guy Park" (which by the way he bequeathed to his wife Angelica.)

My earlier blog entry cites a newspaper from 1969 which says

 “J. B. Lyon bought the estate in 1887 from the well-known James Fenimore Cooper.  Mr. Lyon called it Guy Park after the area in England from which he came."

So, apparently, both Cooper and Lyons called the property (and I do know it is the same property) Guy Park.  But why? Why?  Is it after a place in England? 

The only Guy Park I could find in England is Guy Street Park in London which is nearby to Guy's Hospital which was founded by Thomas Guy (1644-1724) who, wonderfully, was a printer and bookseller, just like J.B. Lyon.   

And, finally, to muddy the waters even more, a clipping from the Times Union from September 1897 about a party at "The Lions" which even includes a picture of the house.

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: 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.