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.


  1. Hi,. Susan:
    I am the grandson of the Mary E. VanOostenbrugge, the daughter of James B. Lyon -- I guess that makes me the great grandson of James B. Lyon Jr.? In any event, I spent much of my childhood in that "Swiss Chalet" in Cedar Hill (I was happy to hear that it's been restored), which is the roundabout reason why I’ve come to follow your work, even though I never really lived in the Town of Bethlehem.

    I've been puzzling over the winged lions in the image -- I recall the larger monuments at the edge of the property, of course, and I vaguely recall similar ones in my grandmother’s garden (I wouldn’t be surprised if many of them are still on the property), but after several decades, I don’t have a clear recollection of any with wings.

    I had wondered if the child in the photo might have been my grandmother — though she would have been four years old in 1923, too young to have been in this photo (and she had only brothers).

    If you recall where you think you might have seen these, I’d be very, very interested!


  2. Hi Brian and Susan! Susan, you saw that picture at our house, the Swiss chalet built for Willis MacDonald that later served as the home of the Lyon family. We have owned the home since 2011. I believe the girl in the photo is Betty Van Oostenbrugge, or at least that's what we were told when we obtained the photo. It was purchased in the estate sale before we bought our house and donated to the Albany Institute by Norman Rice. The lion bench was originally in the garden at the Lyon estate that burned in the 1960s. The winged lions and pedestals were moved to the chalet property at that time and still are here today. We are currently planting a garden around them! The middle bench segment was purchased by our neighbors along with two sets of large lions that they moved to Barent Winnie Rd. One set that marked the entrance to our home off River Rd. is now back at the entrance to the original Lyon property while the others guard a home that was originally part of the Parsons estate. Brian, are you local? Would love to hear your memories of our home!

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  3. Hi, Christine:
    I had been wondering if the child in the photo might have been my Grandmother. I think that's entirely possible -- perhaps the setting in the photo makes the child seem larger than she actually is (she would have been only four years old in 1923).

    I'm intrigued to hear that the photo seems to have come from my family -- though, when I think about it, where else would something like this have been likely to come from? I don't recall ever seeing it, though I've developed a much more keen eye for artifacts like this with age.

    I recall there was an arrangement of statuary on a small hill to the left of the driveway (which led to what we used as the main entrance, though I suppose that could have been the back of the house), next to a garage. To the side of that I recall a small garden, with the statue of a female figure. That's where my mind's eye would place the objects in the photo, though I have no more substantial memory than that.

    I think my favorite part of my Grandmother's house was the third floor, which we referred to as the attic. By this time, it was used entirely for storage, though a few of the rooms had wallpaper that was obviously designed for a children's room (I recall something cowboy-themed).

    I loved exploring the property around the chalet -- there wasn't much to the Lyon Estate by then, of course, though there were a few old structures in the woods, and a small child's playhouse.

    I've long been away from the area (I live in Northern Westchester County), but once-in-a-blue-moon I'll find myself wandering toward Albany -- I've been tempted to visit the house. If you wouldn't mind contacting me privately at (I had to obfuscate the email address to get it past Google!), I'd love to learn more about what's become of it in the many, many years since I was last there!

  4. Thank you all for reading and commenting!