Albany is a 400-year old city with many fascinating tales of historical legends, infamous bootleggers, literary luminaries, and other "famous faces" walking the streets. Keep reading for exciting stories about the time that these "famous faces" spent in Albany. We will also highlight local spots related to these figures that you can still visit today.
Thar she blows! Did you know that Herman Melville, famed author of Moby Dick, spent part of his youth living in Albany? Unfortunately, Melville’s father died when he was 12, so it is assumed that his time in Albany was not a happy one. He briefly attended the Albany Academies, but had to quit after his family fell into financial despair after his father’s death. But, he spent several years working and living in New York's Capital City! Keep reading to discover local sites in Albany with ties to this great American novelist.
Herman’s mother, Maria Gansevoort Melville, was the daughter of General Peter Gansevoort of Albany. The Gansevoort family were pillars of the original First Dutch Reformed Church (located closer to State Street). The historic church is still open today, but now located on the corner of North Pearl and Orange Streets. All visitors have to do is ring the bell, then wander through the church to view the oldest pulpit in the United States and marvel at the Tiffany stained-glass windows.
Melville’s childhood home in Albany still stands today! It is a pink building in Clinton Square, located to the left of McGeary’s Irish Pub. Search for the historical marker situated on Orange Street between Clinton Square and North Pearl. The marker notes, "Herman Melville - author of "Moby Dick" studied and worked during formative years in Albany 1830-1838. Family home at 3 Clinton Square 1834-1838." After perusing the outside of his childhood home, swing into McGeary's to raise a pint and cheers to Melville!
Who knows? Maybe the Hudson River provided a touch of inspiration for some of Melville's future writings. Let the Hudson River inspire you on a trip to Albany! Hop in an Upstate Kayak Rental and explore the shores of the river. Pedal along the scenic paths at the Corning Preserve on a CDPHP! Cycle, Albany’s bikesharing program. Herman Melville was a sailor for part of his life, so you could also channel the spirit of Melville and jump aboard a Dutch Apple Cruise! The sightseeing cruise is a great way to see the sights and learn about the history of Albany.
CH Evans Brewing at the Albany Pump Station often has historic brews (Albany Ale!) or craft beers inspired by local spots (Quackenbush Blonde!) on tap. This Spring, swing by the Albany Pump Station to enjoy a pint of “Melville’s Wit,” inspired by the literary legend. It is an American-style wheat beer that was brewed with wheat, oat malts, 100% DDH Citra, dried orange peel, coriander and a clean American ale yeast. Plus, the brewery is located in the original pump station for the Albany Water Works, so visitors can enjoy a dash of history with their pint of ale.
“White Whale Wednesdays” Book Club
To celebrate Melville’s 200th birthday (this year!), Historic Albany Foundation Discover Albany & NYS Writers Institute are hosting a Moby Dick Book Club at the Albany Pump Station. History buffs and book worms are all welcome for a fun discussion of the the American classic on White Whale Wednesdays! Over the course of six months, commit to reading this American classic novel. The book club will chat for an hour with a Melville enthusiast (maybe while enjoying a Melville Wit!) and then enjoy a Melville/Moby Dick centered program. April 10, May 8, June 12, July 10, August 14 & September 11 | Price: $5 HAF Members & $10 General Public (Per Night)
Click here to start planning your Herman Melville-inspired getaway to Albany with a full itinerary.
If you are interested in more "Literary Legacy" programming, click here for more details.
Header Photo: (ca. 1944) Herman Melville, head-and-shoulders portrait, facing left. , ca. 1944 [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress, https://loc.gov/item/2005694855/.