The tale of 922 Broadway
This is a story in three parts. It’s about a modest little building that made history and wound up as a pile of rubble.
First, the salient points from a 1939 newspaper article:
“Part of the original Patroon Grant, the dwelling was believed to have been the residence of a colonel attached to the Van Rensselaer House, which stood on the side of the present A&P Building [remember, this was 1939], at the foot of Tivoli. The Judge family lived there since 1898; prior to that, Mrs. Judge’s mother, Mrs. Mary Kalvalage, occupied the building for many years. All beams and supports are of hand-hewn oak, and except for gas and electricity and minor changes, the house is still in its original state.”
The article goes on to state that the attic was insulated with crumpled up posters dated 1732, which led to the conclusion that was its construction date. But they were wrong, as we will see.
A HOLDOUT IN A CHANGING NEIGHBORHOOD
From the turn of the century, what was then upper Broadway gradually transformed from a residential to a business neighborhood. The Kalvelage family- Bernard, Mary, Minnie, Annie, Henry, Matthew, Catherine and Gertrude (at one time or another) – called 922 Broadway home until around 1914. That year, the family moved to 6 Pleasant Street, and rented the house out to Joseph Rice, a machinist, and Harry Warren, a bookkeeper. In 1916 Gertrude Kalvelage married Joseph P. Judge, who moved into the Pleasant Street home with the group. Gertrude Kalvelage, however, died in 1917. Her mother, Mary, vacated 922 Broadway and gave it to her now-widowed son-in-law, Mr. Judge.
Joseph Judge remained in that little house, despite the sprawling businesses that cropped up next door over the years, like the Columbia Distilling Company, the Columbia Storehouse & Service Company, William A. Lee furniture movers, Select Tire Service, and several automotive garages. In 1943, he accepted a buyout offer from the Slade Tractor Company.
Here’s where Edgar S. Van Olinda picks up the story.
WRECKERS REMOVE LANDMARK
922 Broadway Goes Way Of World; Built About 1734
By Edgar S. Van Olinda
November 7, 1943
When this article appears in type, one of Albany’s oldest houses will be but a memory. It bore the number 922 Broadway, on the west side, between Kirk place and Pleasant street. About a year ago the writer, who had often noticed the Dutch atmosphere of the house, with its steep, peaked roof, had The Times-Union photographer take a picture of it, which is shown today.
For those who still have nostalgic leanings towards the preservation of historic landmarks of this old Dutch city, it might seem a civic oversight in not acquiring such a house, and instead of tearing it down, move it to some public park, there to be available for any interested to visit. With the exception of the Schuyler mansion and the Ten Broeck mansion, there are no other pre-Revolutionary houses within the city limits which are of interest to antiquarians.
Strangers coming to Albany are disappointed not to see some evidences of the earlier Albany. We have to point out to them some of the modern replicas, such as the Fire Alarm building, in Delaware avenue; the old Van Heusen and M. L. Ryder houses in State Street and the former Albany Insurance building. Incidentally, this red brick office building, with its stepped roof, and bearing the date 1811, is not as old as the numerals might indicate. It is the year that the company was formed.
BUILT ABOUT 1734
Well, let’s get back to North Broadway and the missing house. The last Albanians to live there was the family of Mr. and Mrs. Joseph P. Judge. Mrs. Judge was a Kalvelage and Mr. Judge is an employee of the city of Albany, connected with the City Hall. Mr. Judge could not furnish very much of historic information regarding his old home, except that it was sold last May to the next door neighbor, Slade Tractor company, who bought the property to build a landing platform for its immediate use. It seems to be the consensus that the house was built about 1734, 209 years ago. When the Coyle wrecking employees were working in the cellar, one of the men found an English penny dated 1721 and other American coins of later mint.
As may be seen by a glance at the photograph, the lower part of the house was built of what appears to be Holland brick. It was the practice to load the ships coming to the New World with a cargo of bricks for ballast. However, many of the earlier brickmakers of Albany copied the small size of the imported brick, and it probably would “stump the experts” as to which was local or which was the imported product. As we examined one of the bricks carefully, we would make an inexpert guess and say that these did come from Holland.
The interior of the house was of heavy timbered construction, put together with heavy pegs of wood in lieu of nails. There was an old Dutch fireplace in the main building which, in later years, had been boarded up. The ruthless hand of time and the unimaginative wrecking implements in the hands of the workmen destroyed the efficiency of the fireplace, and at last glimpse, this throwback to the past was merely a pile of bricks on the floor of the main room.
Time was not available to trace back the history of the house. After spending some hours in the County Clerk’s office, we did find some of the former owners to be a J J. Myers. an Andrew B. Kirk and an Ed DeL. Palmer. As to who built it and occupied it originally, we could not discover. It would he interesting to know the early history of this house, which must have been one of the very few in Broadway when it was erected, and certainly one of the few remaining, if not the only one up to a month ago, still standing to give us an idea how the pioneers of Albany lived 200 years ago.
This city lost one of its finest links to the past when the Van Rensselaer mansion in North Albany was taken down, brick by brick, and re-erected on the campus of Williams College, where it serves as a fraternity house at the present time. The low stone building across the street where the Patroons collected their rents, and well within the memories of the present generation, also gave way to progress. The old St. Peter’s Hospital building at Broadway and Ferry street still gazes with “spectral eye” on the traffic for Troy and Menands, a building of which the nucleus was another of the many Van Rensselaer mansions, Progress must be served, we suppose, but it is like losing an old friend when these old buildings are discarded and torn down. How about a “Society for the Preservation of Old Landmarks”?
OK, HERE COMES THE SURPRISE
Given the tools then at his disposal, Mr. Van Olinda did his due legwork. What he lacked, however, was the access we now have to a computerized search engine of Albany’s historical newspapers.
One such search resulted in a detailed history of the old Staats Corner (State and South Pearl Streets), from The Argus of April 17, 1887.
Disputing the common belief that Philip Schuyler once lived in the house on Staats Corner, the Argus wrote:
There is nothing in the records that…show that Philip Peterse Schuyler, as his name was written by his sons, built or ever lived in the house [on the corner of State and South Pearl]. On the contrary, it can be shown from them that his residence at first was on or near the present site of Van Benthaysen’s printing house. From there he removed to his farm house on “ye flattes” near “ye great islande,” yet standing near Island Park, and that he subsequently built the old house that stood near “ye breuerie,” and yet remains on its ancient site. That house is now known as No. 922 Broadway and is the second, if not the actual oldest building standing in the city. In this house the first Schuyler died, May 9, 1683.
So, the image you see here is a 1937 photograph of what was the oldest building still standing in the city circa 1887. It’s that very same building whose destruction Van Olinda mourned half a century later. Good thing he didn’t realize that little house was built in the 17th Century and had a significant history, or else he might have had a coronary witnessing its demolition.
Were this modest structure preserved, it would now be over 340 years old, and not only the prize of Albany’s architectural history, but one of the most ancient structures in the entire country.
Where 922 Broadway once stood is now a bland, one-story building housing Noteworthy Resources of Albany, Inc., a nonprofit organization doing very good things for the community. Chances are, no one there has any idea how very noteworthy their little plot of land truly is.
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