Tuesday, April 29, 2014

The Delmar Hotel

Last week I was at the regular meeting of the Bethlehem Historical Association and a gentleman walked up and handed me a folder containing some old documents. This is one of the many reasons I love my job. People hand me fascinating objects that open a window into local history.

One was a bill of sale between Norman Crum and William M. Dunn regarding the Delmar Hotel dated May 31, 1910.

Here’s the list of items sold:

I, Norman Crum,….do grant and convey…all my right, title and interest of, in and to the business conducted by me at the village of Delmar aforesaid in the hotel known as the “Delmar Hotel”; and all the stock, furniture, pool tables, cash registers, chairs, tables, stoves, and all bar room fixtures, excepting front and back bar; also all furniture in said hotel and rooms thereof, excepting piano and stove in parlor first floor, and bed and furnishings in upper front, side board and extension table in dining room, safe in upper floor; Also conveying to said party of the second part all stored ice, ice bars, picks, barrows and tools in ice house, two wagons, one cutter, one set of eight double harnesses, dee  pitted picks, shovels and rakes, all lawn swings, settees as now in use in and about said Delmar Hotel except as stated.

I imagine pool playing patrons enjoying a game while piano music plays in the background, perhaps sipping an iced beverage from one of the two bars.  Outdoor space was just as important back then as it is now with lawn swings and settees for relaxing.

All of this got me thinking –do I have a picture of the Delmar Hotel?  Well, sort of…

This is a picture of the Four Corners about 1909 looking west along Delaware Avenue.  I can crop several local landmarks that are not readily seen at first glance.

Delmar Hotel

Paddock Store

Men lounging on the steps of the post office, now I Love Books.

The white, decorative porch in the background belongs to the Blanchard house
 which was about where the clock is today.

"The Past is a Foreign Country"

"The past is a foreign country. They do things differently there."

So begins an article by Paul Ford that appeared in the Feb 2014 issue of Wired magazine. The quote is from L.P. Hartley who wrote it in 1953.  The article itself is called "The End of Then" and subtitled "Past? Present? Online, It All Runs Together" and it has got me wondering about the past and the present and maybe the future.  As is often the case, I think about these things through a local Bethlehem history lens.

Ford points out that in our digital era "the past is now present and all around us."  If you doubt that, take yourself over to Archive.org or Google books and take a look around.

One local history reference is Howell & Tenney's History of Albany County.  Deep in the boxes of the town's archive is a fragile looking edition of this essential local history book.  But, low and behold, it is available digitally on both of the above sites.  On line looking for Bethlehem Civil War veterans I found a digital copy of The Heroes of Albany* which I can easily search for Bethlehem names. Census records? Browse them on line. High school year books? Browse Bethlehem Centrals from 1929 to 1986 at the Bethlehem Public Library's website. Check out the Albany group at Flickr for lots and lots of old Albany photos with quite a few Bethlehem ones mixed in. 

You can drown in all the history floating around the internet.  As Ford notes "suddenly we find ourselves living in an online realm where the old is just as easy to consume as the  new."

In the interest of not drowning in digital history, I suggest dipping your toes in actual physical history.
Engage all of your senses. How can you touch, smell, hear, see and taste history?

In the ultimate irony - I had a hard time finding a digital copy of the entire article even at wired.com.  So, here's a jpeg copy.

*In that foreign country of 1866 Albany, they really knew how to write a book title: The Heroes of Albany. A memorial of the patriot-martyrs of the city and county of Albany, who sacrificed their lives during the late war in defense of our nation 1861-1865, with a view of what was done in the county to sustain the United States government; and also brief histories o the Albany regiments.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Greetings from Slingerlands?

A while back I purchased this intriguing postcard from eBay for a couple of bucks.

Greetings from Slingerlands, N. Y. it says.  Really?  Where in Slingerlands might this be?

Back in the day, Slingerlands was known as Normanskill.  By the mid 1800s it was beginning to be known as Slingerlands Corners.  Find yourself a map and trace the outline of the Normanskill (or Normans Kill or Norman's Kill - but that is a debate for another day) and you'll see that it is close to what we think of a Slingerlands today. McCormack Road used to be the main road from Albany, over the creek and into the hamlet.

So,maybe the river shown is the Normanskill; however I don't know of a location near Slingerlands with a road that parallels the creek like in the picture.  Pop over here http://docs.unh.edu/NY/alby50ne.jpg and look at the USGS map from 1950 and see what you think.

Maybe a part of Blessing Road - but the landscape just doesn't seem right.  My conclusion is that this is a stock image that the postcard manufacturer labeled as Slingerlands.

And if you are curious, the back of the card is shown below.  True collector's love postcards that were never used.  I prefer to wonder about the story of the person who mailed it and the person who received it.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Search for Sarah Sprong

Today I had a wonderful Bethlehem history moment.

For next month's Our Towne Bethlehem I am writing about the Sprong House in Slingerlands.

I've got a great photo portrait of Mr. J. White Sprong and several of the house itself.  You'll have to wait for the May issue for the then and now photos of this lovely Victorian on Kenwood Avenue.  Looking at J.White, I got to wondering about Mrs. Sprong.

Often when reading old documents I get frustrated/annoyed with the constant reference to married women by their husband's name.  Mrs. John Smith was visiting friends.  Or, Mrs. Jones was feeling poorly this week. When searching old newspapers for a woman, I have to remember to look under the husband's name as well.

Luckily for me, Mrs. Sprong's full name, Sarah Lyons Sprong, was listed in her obituary - which,by the way, she shared with her husband.  Also in the obit was a reference to her work with the Slingerlands branch of the American Red Cross.  Here's a clipping.

My wonderful aha moment came when I remembered that I have a photograph of a group of Slingerlands Red Cross ladies from 1918, and most of them are identified.  A quick trip to the archival storage room at Town Hall and sure enough, there is Mrs. J.W. Sprong, her daughter Miss Bessie Sprong, and even Mrs. Winship.

Sarah Sprong is the first woman from the right standing in the back.
 Bessie is third from the right standing in the back.

Mrs. Winship has the dark colored cap in back row, 5th from right.

Here's the best I could do identifying this Band of Nobel Women.