Have you noticed I am on something of a street name kick? This month I thought I’d explore some street names in Selkirk. Thatcher Street has always intrigued me because I wonder if there is a connection to Thacher Park. Hackett is interesting because I wonder about connections to Hackett Blvd in Albany. But Selkirk is not giving up its mysteries easily, if at all
Thatcher Street in Selkirk is one of those old streets that can still be traced on early maps of Bethlehem. It is clearly there on the 1854 Gould, and 1866 and 1891 Beers maps with prominent property owners J. Elmendorf, A.J. Ten Eyck and of course Selkirk. Unfortunately, those early maps don’t include street names. While often street names are connected to local family names, that is not working out here. Looking at the maps and in the Census, there are no families with the name Thatcher (or Thacher) living in the general Selkirk area. None. There are members of the Thacher family living in Delmar, most prominently, Kenelem and Catherine, who moved there in the early 1940s.
While street identifications are hit or miss in the census records, there are some hints. The 1920 U.S. Census uses the terms Selkirk Village and Selkirk Road, and in 1930 Hackett Gardens appears along with Selkirk State Road and Beaverdam Road. In 1940, Thatcher Street appears, but no families named Thatcher.
We are left to wonder. Is there a story connected to how a thatcher is a person who uses thatch to cover roofs? Maybe there was someone in the hamlet who did that? Maybe people just liked the name? Maybe it goes back to Albany’s prominent Thacher family which included several mayors. Maybe it is the road to Thacher Park – but that doesn’t really make sense. Thatcher Park by the way, was donated to the state as a park in 1914 by Emma Treadwell Thacher in honor of her husband John Boyd Thacher (aunt and uncle of Kenelem Thacher mentioned above.)
And what about Hackett Gardens? It was a development that began when the Selkirk Rail Yards came through. In 1926, there were frequent real estate ads in the Knickerbocker Press newspaper touting the “Land Boom” and that “Selkirk is the future city of the largest rail yards in the world.” The exuberant ad goes on to say “A large city is being created at Hackett Gardens in Selkirk. Property values will increase by leaps and bounds. But will you be among those to benefit by this large increase? Not unless you own real estate there.” 95 years later, you can look up the tax map for this area and see the paper streets of Vassar and Harvard, and the many lots that were laid out for Hackett Gardens, none of which were built on.
While Selkirk did not boom quite like the ads proclaimed, development did happen around Hackett Street and Whitehead Street. Whitehead Street is named after Samuel G. Whitehead. After he retired from the successful Whitehead Brothers sand company, Whitehead turned to building and developing Hackett Gardens. In its February 3, 1928 issue, the Altamont Enterprise noted that “Hackett Gardens is prospering better than ever. Mr. Whitehead sold two houses last week with prospects for a third soon. He has several houses to be put up in the spring. He thinks in a few years Hackett Gardens will be quite a nice little settlement.” The previous summer, the Coeymans News Herald noted that eight new houses were going up at Hackett Gardens with seven of them being within three blocks of each other. All of them were of different architectural styles.
A walk along Hackett and Whitehead Streets today reveals the varying architectural styles, from charming bungalows to sleek modern ranches. It does not however, reveal the source of the name Hackett. Again, there are no Hackett families to be found living in Selkirk around the time that Hackett Gardens got going. Perhaps inspiration was drawn from nearby Albany where Hackett Blvd was going strong, named after William Hackett another Albany mayor.
So, now we’ve got two Albany mayoral names, Thatcher and Hackett. A theme perhaps? Selkirk is hanging on to its mysteries. Be sure to let me know if you know anything about this nice little settlement.
|Behind this street sign are several Maple Avenue bungalows. |
They are similar to the ones on Whitehead and Hackett.
Flashes and Dashes
The Cedar Hill Schoolhouse Museum, home of the Bethlehem Historical Association is now OPEN Sunday afternoons from 2 to 4 PM. Stop by and check out the new exhibits including Woman Suffrage, School Days, and Rivers, Roads & Rails. BHA is also starting a new program called Saturday Family Time where a family can reserve the museum for their exclusive use with play-based learning activities for elementary aged children. https://bethlehemhistorical.org/
Second Saturday History Hikes and Paddles are underway hosted by yours truly. Go to the BHA website for a schedule or look for the Bethlehem Parks & Recreation Department’s seasonal brochures May 8 is a history hike at South Bethlehem and June 12 is a walk at Bethlehem Cemetery. https://register1.vermontsystems.com/wbwsc/nybethlehem.wsc/splash.html
Mark Saturday, May 22 on your calendar for the inaugural Four Corners/Elsmere Self-Guided History Walking Tour. As her Girl Scout gold award project, Isabella Richardson has researched and created a self-guided walking tour brochure through the Four Corners area, down Kenwood to Elsmere, along Herber and back to Delaware. Stop by her table at the municipal parking lot on Kenwood Avenue at the Four Corners between 10 and 2 pm and pick up a copy and take a walk. Digital copies of the tour will be placed on the Historian's page on the town website as well. Feel free to email me if you have questions, firstname.lastname@example.org
And one more Selkirk bit...
While researching this article I took another look at a typewritten page in the town’s archives called “Houses in Selkirk after 1883, when the railroad came through.” The undated page contains the remembrances of an unidentified Selkirk resident. Item number one reads: “Manlius Skinner had the first post office in 1883 and owned what is now Elmore’s store. He married Ana Skinner, sister of Clifford’s father, and they both went on the Klondike Gold Rush 1897-8, when I presume they sold the store to John Vrooman, Anna’s father.”
While there is a lot to unpack there, what intrigued me most was the reference to the Klondike Gold Rush. Usually, one reads about single men heading out on the hunt for gold but here we’ve got both Anna and Manlius going west. What is their story? How did it all turn out? I don’t know. Despite the unique name of Manlius, my research so far has turned up nothing. Always more questions than answers!
|The Selkirk School, District #2, has been an anchor on Thatcher Street since it was built in 1928.|
|I so enjoy Selkirk social media circa 1928!|