Uncover and Discover Albany:
Rare Stories and Mysteries of New York's Capital City
Albany, NY – We've scoured our city for the most interesting facts and stories about Albany. Here,we present some quirky and eyebrow-raising stories! Let’s get to the facts…
- This weekend, Albany will celebrate its 64th annual Tulip Festival in historic Washington Park. Hundreds of thousands of tulips will bloom in anticipation of a beautiful summer in Albany. However, what many don’t know is that the ground they are walking upon was once the not-so-final resting place of 40,000 city residents.
The cemetery was sectioned off by churches until 1868, when the headstones and bodies were removed and brought to other cemeteries throughout the Albany area. Old maps show entire city blocks where the park now sits. Those houses- some of which were mansions- are nowhere to be found; their stories are erased from history.
- Today, Albany is a well-kept city with beautiful boulevards and monuments to past leaders and the freedom democracy affords us. However, Albany wasn’t always so beautiful. In the past, people disposed of their waste in the streets and, in Albany’s case, pigs would freely roam the streets scouring for their next meal.
In the late 1700s, a law was created to prevent these pigs from running loose on the streets. It wasn't until June 10, 1854- after more than 50 years on the books- that the law was first enforced. This resulted in the capturing of more than 15,000 pigs. That must’ve been a sight to behold!
- The NYS Education building is one of the greatest examples of beautiful architecture in Albany. The story of how it came to be, however, is not as beautiful. Dr. Andrew Sloan Draper, the first Commissioner of Education of New York State negotiated with the NYS Legislature for two years to build an education building by the Capitol. At that same time William Croswell Doane, the first Episcopal Bishop in Albany, was already building the Cathedral of All Saints on the block that Draper desired.
One week when Bishop Doane was out of town, Draper sneakily used his political clout to grab all surrounding properties and obscure the view of the Hudson River from the new Cathedral. Though Draper got his way, some believe he got his comeuppance when a fire in the Capitol destroyed some of the state library before it could be moved to the newly finished Education Building.
- Ever heard of a man who served as mayor for the majority of his life? Mayor Erastus Corning II of Albany was elected 11 times, and served as mayor for 43 years! His term spanned 1940 through 1983 when he passed away from heart problems at age 73. Corning’s’ name lives on with the Corning Tower – the tallest building in New York State outside of New York City. The Corning preserve, a nature trail on the Hudson River, is also named in his honor. However his name can be found elsewhere, including in “Ripley’s Believe it or Not”. Corning appeared in “Ripley’s” due to how long he had been mayor.
- Long before Erastus Corning II was mayor his great-grandfather, Erastus Corning, founder of the New York Central Railroad, also served as Albany Mayor from 1834 to 1837. He was a known critic of Abraham Lincoln, which brings us to our next story...
On February 18, 1861, just after being elected President, Lincoln stopped in Albany as part of his whirlwind 83-city tour to Washington. While Lincoln was dining at the Executive Mansion with the then-Governor Morgan, 23-year-old John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s would-be assassin, was on stage at Albany’s Gayety Theatre on Green Street performing as Duke Pescara in The Apostate (remember this...). The two men were mere blocks from each other, but their paths did not cross.
While performing a few nights before, Booth had landed on a prop dagger while falling as part of his role in the final scene. He appeared the next night with bandages on his shoulder, and performed the fencing scene with his left hand. Four years later, on the night Booth assassinated Lincoln, he gave one final performance… as Duke Pescara in The Apostate. The details of this story are incredible. Read more about this story here, including how Booth was almost killed in Albany by his girlfriend.
About the ACCVB:
The Albany County Convention & Visitors Bureau, Inc. was established in 1976 to promote the civic and commercial progress of the community through increased development of conventions and tourism. ACCVB currently represents more than 300 member businesses and assists each year in hundreds of regional meetings. ACCVB also operates the Albany Heritage Area Visitors Center, Henry Hudson Planetarium, and the Albany International Airport Information Center. For more information, call 518-434-1217 or 800-258-3582 or visit www.albany.org.