Friday, November 11, 2016

Aaron Burr's Bethlehem Connection

Hey Yo, I'm just like my country
I'm young, scrappy and hungry
And I'm not throwing away my shot!
Alexander Hamilton

I'm the damn fool that shot him.
Aaron Burr

Thanks to the Daughter, I have been obsessed with Hamilton the Musical for weeks now.  My other obsession, of course,  is local Bethlehem history.  Maybe I can connect the two? Yes I can thanks to Aaron Burr and the Nicoll family of Cedar Hill.   And thanks to Alice Begley, historian for the town of Guilderland, I don't even have to write much of an article.

Pop on over and read this...

According to Begley's article,  Aaron Burr visited the Nicoll family at their Cedar Hill estate in April 1785, just before Richard Sill's marriage to Elizabeth Nicoll (which happened on May 2, 1785.) Elizabeth's parents are Col. Francis Nicoll and Elizabeth Salisbury and their home, known as Bethlehem House, is where Burr was a guest.  It still stands in all of its brick elegance on Dinmore Road.

Francis, a stalwart of the Revolution in his own right, is the son of William Nicoll and Anna Van Rensselaer.  And through the Van Rensselaers, the Nicolls are connected to the Schuylers.  Yes those Schuyler Sisters from the musical.  Begley's article notes that Peggy, Angelica and Eliza Schuyler were cousins and friends of Elizabeth.
Aaron Burr, circa 1809. Painting by John Vanderlyn

So now my task is to look for the Alexander Hamilton connection.  He did marry Eliza Schuyler after all.  I bet he was a guest at Bethlehem House as well.

Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Marcus Reynolds - Hessberg House - Mystery Solved!

I wrote recently about buildings in Bethlehem designed by architect Marcus Reynolds. The article ended with the mystery of the Hessberg's home.  Where was it? Is it still there? What happened to it?

A reader commented about the Hessbergs showing up in the 1925 New York census at their residence in Bethlehem on River Road.  (US Census reports consistently show them at their Albany residence.) In the picture below, you can see Samuel and Rose Hessberg.  Scan down and you'll see William H. Weisheit, chauffeur.  Dawn Pratt of the Bethlehem Historical Association responded to that by calling up her friend Bill Weisheit, grandson of William. And, oh yes Dawn tells me, Bill's grandfather worked for the Hessbergs and passed down many stories.

Where was the house? Turns out it was at the location of today's Job Corps, on River Road, the former Our Lady of Angels Seminary.  The seminary was opened by the Vincentian Fathers in 1961. They built a very modern facility devoted to the training of parish priests. It closed in 1972, and, after much local controversy, Job Corp opened in 1977. Job Corp is a federal operation that provides residential vocational training.

Seminary brochure circa 1962.

Samuel Hessberg died in 1931, Rose in 1953.  I don't know when the property passed to the Vincentian Fathers.  The house was likely torn down to make way for the seminary buildings.

Previous to the Hessbergs, Allison Bennett notes that the Job Corp property had been owned by Van Wie family and that an early, brick, Dutch style house had been there. Her article, dated 1964, says the circa 1732 house was long gone.  A Van Wie family cemetery is still there with 13 interments dating from 1820-1871.

Job Corps circa 1983.
So, thank you Dawn for following up.  She's even got a line on a picture of the Hessberg house - supposedly Job Corp has a photo.   Stay tuned!