Exploring Albany's inglorious past and dubious future

Hurstville, The Love Nest, and a Race Track

Let’s begin with this article by Allison Bennett, which originally appeared in The Spotlight, May 1, 1985 [edited for space here]. I’ve added details from Paula Lemire’s research:

Hurstville, a hamlet that no longer exists, was located about two miles southwest of the city, along the Albany and New Scotland plank road. Some years before and after the turn of the century everything along New Scotland Rd. beyond So. Allen and as far as the Normanskill Creek was referred to as Hurstville.

William Hurst was born in Lincolnshire, England.in 1823. He emigrated to America in 1861, settling as a farmer in the Town of Bethlehem. He was well liked in the area and served as president of the Albany County Agricultural Society, presiding over some of its early fairs. Later, he would also serve as superintendent of the County Almshouse on what is now New Scotland Avenue.

Hurst purchased a tavern at the southwest corner of New Scotland Avenue and Krumkill Road. It was known as the Log Tavern, for a log cabin that previously stood on the site. He also acquired a tavern on the opposite corner which had been owned by one Matt Tanner. Hurst erected a large hotel there. Matt Tanner’s Hurstville Ball Room, across the street from the Hurstville Hotel, was bought out soon after these ads appeared in 1872.

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The post office was located in the hotel for some time, but becoming too much of a responsibility for Hurst, it was transferred to the toll gate house that stood opposite the present entrance to Albany Municipal Golf Course. The post office was abolished when rural free delivery came along in 1902.

Hurst also operated a trotting track for horses on the east side of New Scotland Rd. from the present Hurst Ave. to Whitehall Rd. The Hursts bred horses for racing, and trained and boarded race horses owned by others. The “sport of kings” was quite popular in those early days and anyone who could afford a racing horse was eager to be involved in the sport.

Many men in this area used to earn their daily bread by working an industry that is no longer in existence. The sand that was used make molds for metal castings was very common in the New Scotland-Whitehall Rd. section. Tons of molding sand were removed from the area and shipped to foundries in all parts of the world. The section west of So. Allen St. was particularly rich in this important industrial sand. Euclid, Lenox and Buckingham Drive also had real deposits. The topsoil was removed to expose the underlayer of sand, and later this topsoil was replaced.

The work provided manual labor jobs for many diggers and haulers, there being no industrial machinery at that time. The sand was hauled to Coeymans and then loaded on river barges. Frank Kakely owned three trucks that he used to haul sand for the Whitehead co. for 10 years, until that firm left the Hurstville area in 1924.

The old plank road (present New Scotland Ave.) began near Albany Hospital at the lower toll gate, operated for many years by the family of Robert W. Fivey. The upper toll gate was then near the present entrance to Albany Municipal Golf Course, and there was another toll gate near the present railroad underpass in the village of Slingerlands. The toll fare was five cents for a single rig and 10 cents for a team. Those paying the toll at one gate did not have to pay leaving the other gate. There was no charge for “foot passengers.”

The plank road was built and owned by the Albany, Rensselaerville and Schoharie Plank Road Co., chartered on March 25, 1850. The single-lane plank-paved portion was bordered by an unpaved strip, and when horses and wagons approached each other, one was required to turn out, often deep into mud.

From a Knickerbocker News interview with Robert Fivey (January 6, 1951): “As the automobiles skim over the present concrete pavement, I contrast it with the leisurely pace of less than half a century ago. I can still see coming along the plank road the team-drawn wagons, hauling flagstones or a load of hay that was going to the hay markets down on Madison Ave. or Grand St. The wagons would creak over the highway, coming back empty at night. On weekends the wheels of the carriages of the wealthy and the middle class would turn sharply over the planks, the occupants all ‘going out for a ride.’ ”

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Joe Kennedy provided this 1891 map:

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“A great part of Albany’s old flagstone walks came from Reidsville, atop the Helderbergs. The flat sheets of slate were large and only four or five could be carried on a wagon at one time. A seven-foot boom was used to lift and lower the flags, and the wagon brakes were used as a brake for the boom rope. Yet these hardy men went through all that work – loading, driving to Albany, unloading and returning home – all for a couple of dollars. There was a stone yard on Dana Ave. where the flagging was dumped.”

William Hurst died at the age of 53 in 1876. His sons continued to operate the Hurstville Hotel. By the 1920s, it had been leased to an Arthur Wicks and, during the height of Prohibition, was known as “The Love Nest.”

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hurstville2The Love Nest was destroyed by fire on election night, 1929.From a 1954 Charley Mooney column:“The old Love Nest, a hostelry that was quite a rendezvous in the Prohibition era, stood at the southwest corner of New Scotland Ave. and Krum Kill Rd.

“The old place went out of business, someone started to strip it plank by plank and finally, on Election Night of 1929, someone finished it off by tossing a match in and the hotel was no more after a spectacular fire.

“The old corner on which it stood saw some startling transformations after that. Paul Carroll, who owned the land, installed a flock of sheep there, and folks used to come from far and near to look them over.

“Once the sheep had disappeared from the New Scotland Ave. scene another bit of history was made. Two attractive young ladies took over the filling station that had been erected on the corner, and started operations.

“They got their pictures in the newspapers with the announcement they were going to change tires, grease care and do all such jobs personally, but they didn’t stick around long, business being not what they had anticipated it would be.”With the 1920’s came the ease of transportation by auto and bus and the desire of inner city folks to move “out to the newer sections.” In 1969, the hamlet of Hurstville was annexed into the city of Albany. By then, the hamlet extended as far south as the Normanskil and included the present sites of the Academy of the Holy Names and the Albany Municipal Golf Course. Albany’s growth obliterated Hurstville and the farm fields along Whitehall Rd.

 

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