Category Archives: General Albany History

Mrs. Leland and the Leland Opera House

In early May 1876, the former Albany Theatre (later St. Paul’s Church, the Academy of Music and most recently the Trimble Opera House) became the Leland Opera House, owned by Warren F. Leland (with his brother Charles E. Leland a silent partner) and Alexander Dickey.[i] On May 31, 1876, the Leland brothers and Dickey leased the building to John W. Albaugh for a period of five years at an annual rate of $10,000[ii]. Albaugh had been the theater’s manager since November 1873[iii] and before that had been stage manager at its predecessor, the Trimble Opera House.[iv]

Leland Opera House about 1890

The new Leland Opera House opened on August 28, 1876, with a performance of “Rosedale,” starring Richard Fulton Russell. The Albany Argus reported:

Leland Opera House, more attractive, handsomer and brighter than ever, was thrown open to the public last evening for the coming fall and winter season. Within was a large, brilliant, fashionable, elegant, refined and critical audience. Beauty, wit, grace and fashion came to do homage at the Thespian shrine. It was very swell from the Pompeiian lobby to the new crimson drop. There were lovely gushing women attired in the latest mode of the goddess fashion; sparkling diamonds glittered and flashed; jaunty hats and ribbons and flowers moved prettily, promiscuously and coquettishly. There were men in immaculate ties and kids, and, of course, the inevitable and ubiquitous small boy, who stamped and whistled and sweltered in the gallery. It was a brilliant, picturesque scene, perfectly fitting the beautiful and delicate colored scene surrounding it.[v]

That first season continued in September with performances of “Flying Scud” and in October with Lucia di Lammermoor featuring the Kellogg Grand English Opera.

Flyer for “Flying Scud” Sep 1876

Flyer for Lucia di Lammermoor Oct 1876

1876 also saw a major event for one of the theater’s proprietors: Charles E. Leland married actress Rosa St. Clair. Far more than Charles, it is Rosa M. Leland who made the Leland Opera House the success that it was, and who deserves to be remembered as its eponym.

Rosa M. St. Clair

Rosa M. Leland

Rosa was born in New York about 1853 as Rosa Marian Delaune (also reported as Dealaune or De Laune.) Rosa’s father died when she was an infant, and Rosa’s mother remarried. Rosa had a half brother, Garrett F. Kelly, with whom she was very close. Assuming the stage name Rosa M. St. Clair[vi], Rosa first came to Albany as part of Sallie Partington’s stock company, hired by Lucien Barnes for the Trimble Opera House’s 1871-1872 season. She made her debut as a walking lady (a non-speaking role in which appearance alone was important), but by the end of the season she had taken leading roles. It was during this season that she and Charles E. Leland fell in love, but Rosa continued her career. During the 1872-1873 season, she appeared in Daly’s Theatre, New York City; in 1874 she played at Booth’s Theatre under managers Henry C. Jarrett and Henry David Palmer; in 1875, Rosa toured the United States with Adelaide Neilson.[vii]

Rosa then left the United States, and spent two years in a Paris convent[viii]. She returned to the United States on December 6, 1875 aboard the same ship as Charles E. Leland[ix]. We assume that Charles had convinced her to return and to marry him, since they were married soon after her return, the same year, that Charles E. Leland opened the new Leland Opera House.[x] Following her marriage, Rosa gave up the stage, with the exception of one tour (described below) and appearances in Leland Opera House benefit performances.

While Rosa had given up her stage career, she must have wanted to keep her hand in the business. In 1880 Charles E. Leland bought out his partner, Alexander Dickey, and became sole owner of the theater. When John Albaugh’s lease expired in 1881, Leland leased the theater to his wife, who would be its manager for the next eight years. On September 22, 1881 the Leland Opera House opened its 1881 – 1882 season, with Mrs. Charles E. Leland it leasee and manager.[xi]

Albany NY Evening Times 1881 Dec 24

Mrs. Leland quickly showed her sure hand in managing the opera house, with appearances by major stars of the day. For example, that first season saw appearances by Joseph Wheelock, Rose Keene and Miss Mary Anderson, “America’s Tragedienne.”[xii] And the second season featured Nat Goodwin and his wife Elizabeth Weathersby in “Black Flag.”[xiii]

No wonder that Rosa was highly regarded by the city of Albany. One commentator gushed:

The present manager is Mrs. Rosa M Leland, who for the past three seasons has demonstrated perfectly that a woman can run a theatre successfully in every respect provided she has the tact, enterprise, and necessary experience. Mrs. Leland (prior to her marriage), was a successful actress, and in that capacity acquired a knowledge of what is necessary for proper stage effect, attainable in no other way. Her wide acquaintance with the profession, and that which is best in it added to natural executive ability, has had much also to do with her success. The uniform opinion of press and public has been that never has Albany had a better theatre than under her management. Plays of the best order, actors of the highest rank have been seen at the Leland in quick succession.[xiv]

Several sources report that Rosa and Charles Leland’s marriage was not a happy one. This may be inferred from Rosa’s return to the stage “after many years’ absence” in January 1883[xv], and from her  November 1883 tour with the Madison Square Company to California to play the role of Mrs. Dick Chetwyn in Bronson Howard’s “Young Mrs. Winthrop.”[xvi] That same year, she and Charles E. Leland divorced.[xvii]

Theater Pass, 1884 1885 Season (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Theater Pass, 1887-1888 Season

Rosa continued her successful management of the opera house, with the assistance of her half brother, Garrett F. Kelly. In addition to the benefit performances for the opera house[xviii], Rosa was generous in offering the stage for benefits for other organizations, including the Diocesan League, Exempt Fireman and the Actors Fund,[xix] as well as the Burgesses Corps and the Albany Musical Association.

Charles Doring Band Benefit 1883 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Albany Music Association Benefit 1888 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Over the next years, with the opera house a success, Rosa expanded her business operations. During the winter of 1886-1887, she opened a theatrical agency in New York City. In the spring of 1888, she was able to purchase the theater building, and became both its owner and manager.[xx]

Leland Opera House during the blizzard of 1888

While she was only about 35 years old, these efforts must have taken a toll on Rosa’s constitution. During the summer of 1888, she took a three-month trip to Europe to regain her health[xxi]. But hardly had she returned, when in October 1888, her brother Garrett F. Kelly died.[xxii] Ill and depressed, grieving for her brother who had been her main support, in the late autumn of 1888 Rosa gave up the business. She leased the building to Henry R. Jacobs for a period of five years.[xxiii]

Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Her health, however, never recovered, and Rosa Leland died on March 10, 1889. Her funeral was held at the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, and her pallbearers included many of the city’s most prominent citizens.[xxiv] She is buried, with her brother Garrett, in St. Agnes Cemetery in Menands.

Rosa Leland’s Tombstone, St. Agnes Cemetery

We will continue our story of the Albany Theatre, with the next episode covering the brief period as the H. R. Jacobs Opera House.

[i] “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland,” Albany Morning Express 08 May 1876; “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History – The Curtain Rung Up on the Last Act – A Foreclosure Suit Commenced” Albany Evening Times Dec (probably 27) 1880; Daily Argus 11 May 1876.

[ii] “The Leland Opera House: Its Lease to J.W. Albaugh” Albany Evening Times 01 Jun 1876.

[iii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House: Appearance of Albany’s Oldest Theatre Under New Management” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889.

[iv] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 309.

[v] “Leland Opera House: Brilliant Opening Last Evening,” Daily Argus 29 Aug 1876.

[vi] The earliest reference to her stage name is a December 1871 article mentioning that the “charming actress” was too ill to perform and was under the care of three doctors (Daily Albany Argus 22 Dec 1871.)

[vii] “A Popular Manager: Mrs. Rosa St. Clair Leland’s Successful Theatrical Career,” Albany Evening Journal 12 Apr 1887; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away – A Notable Woman – Obituary Notes,” Albany Evening Journal 11 Mar 1889. A notice following Rosa’s 1871-1872 debut season was less than enthusiastic about her acting skills, saying that she “manifested splendid taste in dressing, and fair talent in minor parts.” “Dramatic Personals,” Albany Evening Times 21 Aug 1872.

[viii] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”.

[ix] Adriatic ship’s manifest for a journey departing from Liverpool, England and Queenstown, Ireland and arriving in New York City 06 Dec 1875; a scan of the document is available on Ancestry.com. Listed in the same ship’s manifest, immediately adjacent to  Rosa and Charles, were George Burlingham (the Delavan Hotel’s manager), and David Rose (partner in an Albany carriage-making firm). “Personal” (Daily Argus 06 Dec 1875) describes the arrival of Leland, Burlingham and Rose in New York, but does not mention Rosa. Leland, Burlingham and Rose had sailed for Europe together two months earlier (“Personal,” Daily Argus 05 Oct 1875).

[x] “A Popular Manager: Mrs. Rosa St. Clair Leland’s Successful Theatrical Career”; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland,” Albany Times 11 Mar 1889.

[xi] “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”.

[xii] Classified advertisement, Albany Evening Journal, 24 Dec 1881.

[xiii] Classified advertisement, Albany Evening Journal, 18 Sep 1882.

[xiv] H. P. Phelps (compiler), The Albany Hand-Book (Albany: Brandow & Barton, 1884), 101.

[xv] “Theatrical Chronology,” The New York Clipper Annual for 1883, 2.

[xvi] “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”. The Sacramento Union carried multiple references to such a production in March 1883. Rosa appeared in the same play at a Leland Opera House benefit shortly afterward (Albany Morning Express, 27 Apr 1883).

[xvii] “Entre Nous,” The Theater, volume 5, number 10, March 11-18, 1889, page 212.

[xviii] In addition to the 1883 “Young Mrs. Winthrop” event mentioned above, Rosa Leland performed in at least four other benefits: as Mrs. Beresford with Lester Wallack in “Impulse” in 1885; as Belinda Treheone in “Engaged” in 1886; as Mrs. Vane with Miss Rose Coghland and Osmond Tearle in “Masks and Faces” in 1887; as Lady Millicent with Dion Boucicault in “The Jilt” in 1888. (“The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away ”)

[xix] “Death of Mrs. Leland,” Albany Evening Journal, 11 Mar 1889.

[xx] “The Highest Bidder: Mrs. Leland in New and Successful Role,” Albany Times 24 Apr 1888; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”.

[xxi] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”.

[xxii] “Death of Mrs. Leland”.

[xxiii] “Chat By the Way,” Albany Evening Times 19 Nov 1888; “H.R. Jacobs Opera House: Appearance of Albany’s Oldest Theatre Under New Management” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”.

[xxiv] “The Hand of Death: Rosa M. Leland Passes Away”; The Theater, volume 5, number 10, March 11-18, 1889, page 212; “Obituary – Rosa M. Leland”; Albany Times 13 Mar 1889.

 

The Trimble Opera House

After the fire of January 1868, the blackened façade of the Academy of Music (formerly the Albany Theatre and St. Paul’s Church) stood alone and forlorn on South Pearl Street for almost two years. There was wide public interest in building a new Academy of Music, but progress came very slowly. In November 1868, Hugh J. Hastings sold the property to John M. Trimble’s widow, Mary Ann Trimble.[i] Then in March 1869, New York State chartered a corporation named “The Academy of Music in the City of Albany,” whose aim to was issue stock to fund a new theater.[ii] Later that month, three trustees were elected, one of whom was the owner of Albany’s Delavan House, Charles E. Leland, who will figure prominently in this story.[iii]

The Delavan Hotel (credit: Albany Group Archive)

But it was only in November 1869 that Mrs. Trimble took action, in conjunction with Lucien Barnes, husband of her daughter Ada G. Trimble[iv]. Barnes (the uncle of William Barnes, Jr., head of the Albany Republican organization[v]) had been chief clerk and cashier at the New York State Department of Insurance[vi], and no doubt helped his mother-in-law arrange the issuance of $40,000 in bonds, mortgaged by three trustees, among them (once again) Charles E. Leland.[vii] Mary Ann Trimble leased the theater to Barnes for a period of eleven years at a nominal rate of $1,000 annually, conditioned on his paying the principal and interest of the bonds.[viii]

Barnes hired architect Thomas R. Jackson, who had produced the designs for the Academy of Music six years earlier. The building went up very quickly, and was complete only 51 days after work began.[ix] The day before the grand opening, the theater was opened for the stockholders, with refreshments served by Charles E. Leland’s Delavan Hotel staff.

Of the Opera House itself we cannot speak in too high terms of praise. It is certainly one of the most beautiful places of amusement in the country. The decorations are superb, the fixtures unexcelled, and the entire outfit the best money can buy. No expense has been spared to make it, in all respects and every particular, equal to any of the metropolitan theatres. The private boxes are magnificently furnished – each one being a parlor of itself. In fact not anything is lacking to ensure comfort and pleasure to the patrons of the establishment.[x]

The next evening, December 31, 1869, the new theater opened with a production of Richard Sheridan’s The School for Scandal.

Playbill for Opening Night at the Trimble Opera House, 31 Dec 1869

Only four days after the theater’s reopening, a tragedy occurred, when the music director, Conrad Louis Underner, died suddenly during a performance.[xi] “Lewey” was the son of well-known local music Conrad Underner, with whom he had played in the orchestra of the old Albany Theatre.[xii] He was also a composer of several marches. Lewey’s brother, John Underner, was also a composer and organist at St. Paul’s Church in 1847, when it was in the former Albany Theatre.

Marie Bonfanti in The Black Crook (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collection)

A highlight of the first season was the production of “Black Crook,” featuring lead dancer Marie Bonfanti. This production played for a full month to standing-room crowds, and seems not to have created the furor in Albany as it had in New York City, despite the then-scandalous sight of women in tights.

Cover to the Black Crook Demon Dance

Chorus of The Black Crook (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collectdion)

The season of 1870-1871 included such stars as

  • Joseph K. Emmett (who later built the mansion that became Wolfert’s Roost), playing “Fritz, Our Cousin German”
  • Lotta (born Charlotte Mignon Crabtree)

Joseph K. Emmett as “Fritz” (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Lotta (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collection)

Franceska Janauschek (credit: New York Public Library Digital Collections)

Joseph Jefferson as Rip Van Winkle (credit: University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection)

 

Despite this glamorous season, Barnes was having financial problems. In late 1871, Mary Ann Trimble issued two additional mortgages on the property to allow Barnes to repay Charles E. Leland and Alexander Dickey “for money loaned, and work, labor and services, and material.” Another condition of Barnes’s’ lease was that he was to pay all taxes and water bills. He had failed to do so, and the Albany County Treasurer was threatening to sell the building at public auction if payment was not made.[xiii] Barnes’s financial problems were likely compounded by marital problems: Barnes and Ada Trimble were later divorced.[xiv]

By May 1872, Barnes was insolvent, and was declared bankrupt in July of that year,[xv] his only asset the value of his lease from Mrs. Trimble.[xvi] He left as manager on July 31, 1872, having taken gross receipts of almost $215,000 in the two and a half years of his lease.[xvii] In December 1872, Mrs. Trimble sold the property to Warren F. Leland (on behalf of his brother, Charles E. Leland, and Alexander Dickey, holders of the mortgages on the property), who leased it to Aaron Richardson,[xviii] and in May 1875 (avoiding complications of Richardson’s pending divorce) conveyed the premises to Richardson’s sister, Sarah Phillips, with a mortgage. Phillips soon failed to comply with the terms of the mortgage, and the theater was again in receivership.[xix]

Warren F. Leland purchased the theater from the receiver at public auction on May 6, 1876, paying $8,000 and assuming encumbrances of an additional $60,000.[xx] “Mr. Leland, as soon as he was handed the deed by the referee, proceeded to the Opera House, and took formal possession of it. Hereafter it will be known as the Leland Opera House…” [xxi]

[i] Albany County Clerk Deed Book 219, pages 207-208, dated 28 Nov 1868. “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History – The Curtain Rung Up on the Last Act – A Foreclosure Suit Commenced” Albany Evening Times Dec (probably 27) 1880.

[ii] “The New Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 19 Mar 1869.

[iii] “Meeting of the Corporation of the New Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express, 29 Mar 1869.

[iv] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 376.

[v] “Proctor Sells Leland,” New York Clipper, 21 Jun 1922.

[vi] Phelps, 376.

[vii] Phelps, 376.

[viii] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”.

[ix] Phelps, 376-377.

[x] “The Reception at the Trimble Opera House,” Albany Morning Express, 31 Dec 1869.

[xi] “Sudden Death,” Albany Morning Express 04 Jan 1870.

[xii] “’Lewey’ Underner – His Early Connection with the Orchestra of the Old Pearl Strreet Theatre.” Albany Morning Express 08 Mar 1868.

[xiii] “The Trimble Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 21 May 1872.

[xiv] Ada Trimble married twice more, both times to actors. A marriage to Harold Forsberg ended in divorce in 1884, after repeated reports of domestic abuse. [One incident is graphically described in the Daily Argus for 5 Jun 1874]. She married for the third and final time to Frederick Bryton in 1887. [“At the Theater,” Trenton Evening Times 16 Oct 1887]

[xv] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”.

[xvi] “Lucien Barnes’ Bankruptcy,” Daily Albany Argus, 2 Sep 1872.

[xvii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889

[xviii] “The Trimble Opera House: Its Legal History”

[xix] [“The Opera House: More Litigation – A Suit to Foreclose the Mortgage” Albany Evening Journal 30 Nov 1875.

[xx] “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland,” Albany Morning Express 08 May 1876.

[xxi]  “The Opera House Sold to Warren F. Leland”.

The Academy of Music

After St. Paul’s sold its building on South Pearl Street to Hugh J. Hastings in October 1862, the building sat vacant for a year. In October 1863, Hastings announced that he had leased the theater to John M. Trimble for a period of ten years, with the right to purchase it after five years.[i]

It is [Trimble’s] intention to fit up the place in splendid style, regardless of expense, in order that it may be made worthy of the support and patronage of our citizens. Mr. T. proposes to introduce all the latest improvements; and in point of ornamentation and decoration to make it fully equal if not superior to any place of entertainment in New York, Boston or Philadelphia.[ii]

Old Bowery Theatre, New York City (credit: Wikimedia Commons)

Trimble hoped to have the building ready by the holidays. Trimble certainly had the skills and experience for the task. He had built rebuilt the Bowery Theater in New York City in sixty days, and in his career had built, renovated or designed thirty-four theaters.[iii] Trimble had been blind for several years, so the task of drawing the plans fell to his colleague Thomas R. Jackson.[iv]

 

 

Two early accounts of the renovation of the building claim that when the church floor was removed, the pit and orchestra were found just as in the original theater, and a copy of the program from the final performance was recovered.[v] Given the scope of the 1839 renovation, it is hard to believe that that much of the original structure could have remained.

Just before the theater reopened on December 28, 1863, the Albany Morning Express gushed that Trimble,

as if possessed of the Lamp of Aladdin, … willed the transformation of old St. Paul’s Church into a fairy palace; and presto! the job is done, and done on a scale of liberality and magnificence that far more than realize the wildest expectations of the most exacting and fastidious; all that his vast and various experience, refined taste, and a lavish expenditure of money could produce are centered on this superb edifice.[vi]

The author of this article was also pleased that the new design included “no bar, saloon, or other depot of abomination.”[vii]

An early production at the new theater was a first for the city of Albany: the performance of fully-staged opera. In January 1864, the impresario Jacob Grau brought his company, Grand Italian Opera in America, to Albany, where it presented Lucrezia Borgia. “It was the first time a complete operatic performance, in costume, and with full orchestra, had ever been given in Albany.”[viii]

Mary Provost (credit: Univeristy of Washington Libraries)

Later that year, in appreciation of his renovating the theater, Albany presented Trimble with a benefit performance, subsidized by a committee of prominent local figures, including Thurlow Weed, Erastus Dow Palmer, Albert B. Street, Erastus Corning, Jr. and John Tweddle. The resident company donated its service, as did the leading lady, Mary Provost.[ix]

 

 

 

 

 

Edwin Forrest as Hamlet (credit: University of Illinois Special Collections)

Another highlight of this first season was the appearance of Edwin Forrest, who played in three Shakespeare plays, Hamlet, Othello and Macbeth, in a single week. Forrest had first appeared at the Albany Theatre in 1825 when he was barely out of his teens. By 1864, he was an established star.[x]

Academy of Music Playbill 1865

The seasons of 1863 through 1867 were financially very successful, with average annual receipts of $15,000.[xi] But John M. Trimble’s health declined in the last year, and his daughter Ada G. Trimble assisted him. When John Trimble died in June 1867, the lease was assumed by his widow, Mary Trimble. Miss Trimble, then only about 24 years old, reluctantly agreed to take on the role of manager.[xii]

Albany Morning Express 28 Jan 1868

The Academy of Music’s 1867 season began on September 2, with Ada Trimble as manager.[xiii] In December of that year, the mortgage (presumably the mortgage on the sets, costumes and props) was paid in full.[xiv] On January 27 and 28, 1868, Charles Barron starred in Hilda, and was scheduled to perform the role the next night.[xv]

 

 

 

Charles Barron (credit: Wake Forest University Special Collections)

Early in the morning of January 29, 1868, a fire was reported in John Burk’s concert saloon, next door to the theater. The fire was contained, and soon thought to be out, but as the firemen were leaving, fire was discovered in the theater. Within half an hour, the entire building was in flames.[xvi] Later that day, a local newspaper reported that “the building was burned to the ground, with the exception of the front wall, which is all that now remains of the original structure of 1825.” Hastings, the owner of the building, had the entire value of the building covered by insurance. For the Trimble family, however, the loss was total.[xvii]

Academy of Music after the January 1868 fire (Harper’s, 15 Feb 1868)

In our next segment, we will see how the theater rose from these ashes, this time known as the Trimble Opera House.

[i] “Fire This Morning,” Albany Evening Journal 29 Jan 1868.

[ii] “An Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express, 13 Oct 1863.

[iii] “John M. Trimble, Architect and Theatrical Manager,” New York Times 9 Jun 1867, quoting the obituary from the Albany Evening Journal.

[iv] “Albany Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 22 Dec 1863.

[v] H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 216 and Collections of the History of Albany, Volume 2 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1867), 37.

[vi] “Albany Academy of Music”.

[vii] “Albany Academy of Music”.

[viii] Collections of the History of Albany, Volume 2 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1867), 182. A notice about plans for the engagement appeared in Albany Morning Express 22 Dec 1863. Grau’s obituary (New York Herald 15 Dec 1877) mentions that he was the manager for Isabella Hinckley, one-time soloist in St. Paul’s choir.

[ix] “Testimonial to John M. Trimble,” Albany Morning Express 15 Jun 1864; “Benefit of John M. Trimble, Esq.,” Albany Morning Express 18 Jun 1864; “Testimonial to John M. Trimble,” Albany Morning Express 20 Jun 1864

[x] “Academy of Music,” Albany Morning Express 27 Oct 1854.

[xi] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House,” Albany Evening Times 17 Aug 1889.

[xii] Jane Kathleen Curry, Nineteenth-century American Women Theatre Managers (Westport CT: Greenwood Press, 1994), 122.

[xiii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House”.

[xiv] Collections of the History of Albany, 329-330.

[xv] Classified advertisement, Albany Morning Express 28 Jan 1868.

[xvi] “Fire This Morning”.

[xvii] “H.R. Jacobs Opera House”.

The Albany Theatre on South Pearl Street

Local newspapers wrote the Leland movie theater’s obituary in the spring of 1965, with the headline “Curtains for Albany’s Oldest Theater”[i] A little less than a year later, the wrecking ball demolished its last remaining wall. The last photograph of the building, labeled “Last Days of a Landmark,”[ii] shows the building just before demolition, and briefly describes its past glories. The side and rear walls had already been demolished, and the marquee and fire escape removed, displaying, for the first time in that century, its graceful 1825 façade.

Albany Times Union 3 Feb 1966 [credit: Albany Group Archive]

Most in Albany would know the theater in its last, sad state, showing salacious films at bargain prices. Few would remember its glory days, when the best of British and American actors played Shakespeare on its stage, when Charlie Chaplin performed some of his first comedy, or when it was early part F.F. Proctor’s chain of theaters. Certainly few Albanians would remember that this building had also housed St. Paul’s Church for almost a quarter of a century. Over the next several posts, we will tell a bit more of the story of this marvelous old building in its various forms, as the Albany Theatre, St. Paul’s Church, the Academy of Music, Trimble Opera House, Leland Opera House, Henry R. Jacobs Opera House, Proctor’s Leland Theater and finally simple The Leland.

 

Green Street Theatre [image credit: Albany Group Archive]

In 1825, Albany had a population of 16,000. It was a city on the move, with the Erie Canal completed that year, and business already beginning a boom that would double the population by 1840. And the city had no theater. The first theater, on Green Street, had opened in 1813, but survived only five years. The city was again without a theater. In January 1824, a group of prominent businessmen formed a joint stock company, and raised subscriptions for a new theater, to be located on South Pearl Street. They hired Philip Hooker to design the building, and construction began in August 1824 on the west side of South Pearl Street, between Beaver and Hudson. [iii]

Albany Theatre Stock Certificate of Volkert P. Douw

Albany Theatre Stock Certificate of Philip Hooker

Albany Theatre Gideon Hawley installment receipt

The Albany Theatre (sometimes called the Pearl Street Theatre) opened in May 1825, under the management of Charles Antonio Gilfert. Gilfert was manager for only one year, but that year was among the finest the theater was to have. The Albany audience saw the great Junius Brutus Booth, patriarch of the Booth theatrical family, in twelve different roles.

St. Paul’s Second Building on Pearl Street

Junius Brutus Booth as Brutus [image credit: University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection]

Booth ended the season with a week in which he took major roles in three Shakespeare plays. In this single week, June 17-24, 1825, he played Shylock in The Merchant of Venice, the title role in Othello and Brutus in Julius Caesar.

Edmund Kean [image credit: University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection]

Another star of the Gilfert period was Edmund Kean, “The Monarch of the British Stage,” who first appeared in the fall of 1825. Kean was joined by Edwin Forrest, then at the beginning of his career, but destined to become one of the great American Shakespeareans of his generation. Forrest perfected his craft here in Albany, playing in Shakespeare histories and tragedies with Kean: Othello (Kean in the title role, Forrest as Iago), Julius Caesar (Kean as Brutus, Forrest as Titus), and Richard III (with Kean again in the title role and Forrest as Richmond).[iv]

Edwin Forrest, age 21 [image credit: University of Illinois Theatrical Print Collection]

Forrest was only 20 years old, and quite a wild young man. He once escaped arrest by reciting Shakespeare to the Albany watchmen, known as leather-heads, who were trying to break up his party. He was not so lucky on a second occasion, and spent the night in another Hooker-designed building, the Albany Jail, located on the southeastern corner of Howard and Eagle Streets. The next morning, he was reprimanded by police justice John O. Cole, in words from Othello: “ – what’s the matter/ That you unlace your reputation thus,/And spend your rich opinion for the name/Of a night brawler? Give me answer to it!”[v]

Philip Hooker’s Albany Jail, after its conversion to the Albany Hospital

Despite these stars, the seasons were not financial successes, and Gilfert resigned in May 1826.

The farewell benefits now began, and were, many of them, poorly attended. To show to what a strait even the best actors were reduced to fill the house, it may be noticed that for Forrest’s farewell benefit, Hyatt, the comedian, played Richard! Forrest supporting him as Buckingham! The season, having proved disastrous, closed May 2d, Gilfert being unable to pay his company, many of whom were left destitute. Forrest himself was forced to leave his wardrobe at his boarding-house, as security for arrearages, when he went to New York. As before stated, a majority of the company were re-engaged by Gilfert, when he opened the Bowery, October 23d, 1826.[vi]

Between Gilfert’s exit and 1829, a period of three years,the theater had eight managers, none of the them able to make a profit, despite a continuing string of well-known actors. The one manager we should mention is George Vernon (born George Verrall), who in addition to his acting and management skills, was also an artist. In the same period, he designed the ornate pulpit, screen and altar for St. Paul’s church on Ferry Street.[vii]

Albany Theater [image credit: Albany Times Union, artist Perry Van Guysling]

A somewhat more successful period was between 1829 and 1836, when William Duffy and William Forrest (brother of Edwin Forrest) managed the theater. This was interrupted by William Forrest’s death, and then finished by Duffy’s death in 1836 at the hands of one of his actors, John Hamilton, in a fight next door to the theater at the Rising Sun Tavern.[viii]

The downward spiral continued, with another five managers between 1836 and 1839. The final manager, H.W. Preston, carried on until early 1839, when the stockholders, tired of losing money every season, sold the building to St. Paul’s Church. The last performance, on March 30, 1829, was “The Hypocrite.” After the main attraction, the playbill also promised (in jest we assume) another offering: “After which, the interlude of H.W. Preston, The Manager in Distress.”[ix] The next day, Preston surrendered his lease to the Albany Theatre Association.

Despite the financial problems, The Albany Theatre featured some of the best of British and American actors. We have mentioned Booth, Kean and Forrest. But there were many other famous actors of the time who appeared in the Albany Theatre:

We will continue the story in our next post, as we see the theater came to be the home of St. Paul’s Church.

[i] Albany Knickerbocker News 30 Mar 1965.

[ii] Albany Times Union 3 Feb 1966.

[iii] A full description of the theater may be found in H.P. Phelps, The Players of a Century (Albany: Joseph McDonough, 1880), 63-64:

The new theatre is situated on the west side of Pearl street, extending to William; sixty-two feet front, one hundred and sixteen feet deep; height in front, forty feet; divided into a basement, principal and attic story. The entrance to the boxes is by three lofty arched openings; the piers and arches are of free stone, beautifully rusticated; they occupy three-fifths of the front; the entrances to the pit and gallery are on each side in plain brick work. Above the rusticated basement, the center is embellished with six stone pilasters, supporting an entablature and angular pediment; the pilasters are coupled at the angles, and the order is the antique Ionic; the cornice only is continued the whole length of the front, which is crowned with a bold balustrade, surmounted with appropriate acroteria. The outer lobby is entered by two steps, from which you are conducted by easy flights of winding stairs to a spacious corridor surrounding the first tier of boxes. Over the outer lobby in the second story is an elegant saloon or coffee room, with an adjoining chamber, and over these in the third story, are similar rooms for refreshments The auditory is divided into a pit and three tiers of boxes, the gallery being in the front of the third tier; the boxes advance one seat in front of the columns which support them; the second and third tiers are brought forward on arches springing from the capitals of the pillars. The ceiling is in the form of a dome, painted in stone-colored panels, with rosettes. The glass chandelier is to be lighted from above and lowered through the fret worked circlet in the centre of the dome. The proscenium and the panels of the boxes are to be splendidly ornamented. The stage is fifty-eight by fifty-two feet, above which are painting rooms, carpenters’ galleries, etc. An adjoining brick tenement contains a green-room and very comfortable dressing rooms. The whole is furnished in handsome style, and is somewhat larger than the Baltimore theatre. Mr. P. Hooker is architect, and Mr. Grain the scene painter. The probable cost, including lot, is about $25,000.

[iv]

The hard novitiate of Edwin Forrest was now drawing near its close. Securing a stock engagement with Charles Gilfert manager of the Albany Theatre he opened there in the early fall and played for the first time with Edmund Kean then on his second visit to America. The meeting with this extraordinary man and the attention he received from him were foremost among the directing influences of Forrest’s life. To his last hour he never wearied of singing the praises of Kean whose genius filled the English speaking world with admiration. Two men more unlike in mind and body can scarcely be imagined. Until now Forrest had seen no actor who represented in perfection the impassioned school of which Kean was the master. He could not have known Cooke even in the decline of that great tragedian’s power and the little giant was indeed a revelation. He played Iago to Kean’s Othello Titus to his Brutus and Richmond to his Richard III.

[Brandon Mathews and Laurence Hutton, Actors and Actresses of Great Britain and the United States (New York: Cassell & Company 1886), 38]

 

[v] Players of a Century, 85-86.

[vi] Players of a Century, 103.

[vii] As described in Albany Gazette 25 Aug 1829:

The screen is 24 feet wide, supported by four octagonal gothic columns, in panel work, and rising about 18 feet from the chancel floor. The columns are finished at the top with pinnacles, ornamented and encircled with carved leaves and vines; in the centre of the screen and immediately over the pulpit, there rises a pediment supported by clustered columns and an arch; the pediment also surmounted with a richly ornamented pinnacle extending to the ceiling and standing in relief, in a niche prepared to receive it. The top of the screen and bases of the pinnacles are finished with castellated battlements, and the panel work in quatre foils.

[viii] We don’t know whether this sort of violence was typical of the Rising Sun. In 1863, a new bar, Oriental Palace Hall, opened in the same block. It was definitely a violent and seedy place. When it closed in 1874, the Daily Argus described it as a “vile den.” [Daily Argus 24 Oct 1874]

[ix] Players of a Century, 215-216.

Captain John Cooke

It is Veterans’ Day again, and time to remember those of the St. Paul’s family who served in the military. We have mentioned veterans of two twentieth century wars. A year ago, we celebrated our one-time organist and choirmaster, T.F.H. Candlyn, who served in World War I. And we have mentioned those from St. Paul’s who died while fighting in the Second World War. Today, we reach back into the preceding century, to a man who fought with the United States army in two wars. But there are other reasons to remember this man, who contributed significantly to Albany’s entertainment and musical life in the middle third of the nineteenth century.

John Cooke was born in England about 1797. He came to the United States in 1820 as part of the circus band with the Page, Austin and Tufts Menagerie. By 1825, he was in Providence, Rhode Island, where he formed his first band.

National Band of New York, performing with the Menagerie of June, Titus, Angevine& Co., 1834

Shortly afterward, he moved to Albany, where his first job was again as a band musician, with a circus situated on North Pearl Street, now the site of the Capital Repertory Theater. Settled in Albany by 1830, John Cooke quickly established two institutions that formed an important part of the city’s entertainment: the Albany Brass Band and Castle Garden.

The Albany Brass Band (often referred to as Cooke’s Brass Band), was Albany first wind band, and during the antebellum period the only source of popular wind music here. Between 1830 and 1861, the band played at many public events, and sponsored concerts, military events, dances, cotillions and balls. The band was also associated with Albany’s Republican Artillery. The band drilled with the soldiers, and accompanied them on a formal visit to New York City.

In 1833, Cooke created Castle Garden, a pleasure garden located on State Street, near Dove “from whence a spacious view of the river and the surrounding countryside for several miles can be had.” But the view was hardly the only entertainment. Castle Garden was known for its fireworks, some designed by “Mons. T. Alesander, from Paris, an artist well known, and who has distinguished himself as a pyrotechnist.” Displays included such exotic and extravagant exhibitions as The Battle of Algiers, Bengola Lights, The Chinese Lychenaise, and Zannia Peruvia. There were also balloon ascents (one conducted by Louis Anselm Lauriat “the celebrated aeronaut”), and refreshments, including “ice cream, soda water and many other delicacies of the season.”

Neither the brass band nor Castle Garden produced much income. But their popularity, and the personal affection felt for Cooke, can be gauged by the numerous benefits for him, each attempting to cover the losses of the season.

Cooke volunteered for the army during the Mexican War of 1846-1848. He was appointed a First Lieutenant in the 2nd Regiment of the First New York Volunteers. Cooke ended that conflict as a captain of artillery, and used that title for the rest of his life.

Albany Morning Express 31 Jul 1857

During the 1850s, Cooke’s Brass Band continued its busy schedule of balls and cotillions. Castle Garden had closed as a pleasure garden in 1845, but for much of this period Cooke continued a smaller business as a bowling saloon at the same address. “Saloon” should not be understand to mean Captain Cooke was serving alcohol: advertisements make it clear that this was a soda parlor, serving ice cream during the summer months to quench the thirst of the bowlers.

With the advent of the Civil War in 1861, John Cooke joined those responding to President Lincoln’s call for 75,000 volunteers. When that three month enlistment expired, Cooke, now 64 years old, volunteered as a captain in Company F of New York’s 91st Infantry Regiment.

Two years later, in May 1863, while leading his men on an assault of a Confederate battery, Captain Cooke was injured at the siege of Port Hudson, Louisiana. A bullet struck his right shoulder and lodged against the bone, shattering the arm. Cooke was evacuated to St. James Hospital in New Orleans, where he spent 44 days. He was mustered out on June 22, 1863 and by August of that year had returned aboard ship to New York City, on his way home to Albany.

Captain Cooke wanted to return to military service, but his health would not allow it, nor it seems was he able to return to work with his band or his saloon. In 1867, a newspaper reported that he was “in the most indigent circumstances.” It had been hoped that the Constitutional Convention of 1867 might award him a pension, but that did not happen. Instead, his friends held yet another benefit, this time a concert at Tweddle Hall.

Tweddle Hall, northwest corner of State and Pearl Streets (image credit: Albany Institute of History and Art)

In 1870, Captain John Cooke was appointed a messenger in the Adjutant General’s Office, and he held that position until his death in December 1875. Cooke’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s church on Lancaster Street, the service read by our rector, J. Livingston Reese. The building was crowded with his many friends, and particularly the musical and military groups with which he had been associated. A contemporary newspaper praises the music, both choral and instrumental, which would have been led by our organist and choirmaster, Edward Savage.

St. Paul’s Chancel before 1901

St. Paul’s, Late 19th century

The procession from St. Paul’s to Albany Rural Cemetery must have been very impressive, with uniformed enlisted men and officers of the Ninth Brigade, the 10th and 25th Regiments and the 91st Volunteers, as well as Albany’s Burgesses Corps. Klein’s Band was joined by 45 bandsmen of Doring’s Band and the Albany City and Tenth Regiment Bands. Veterans from Post 21 of the Grand Army of the Republic were represented as well. From St. Paul’s, the process moved west on Lancaster to Swan, north on Swan to State, east on State to Broadway, and thence to the Albany Rural Cemetery. We are told that “[a]ll along the route of the procession the streets were occupied by an immense concourse of people.” Cooke’s tombstone at Albany Rural reads simply “Capt. J. Cooke.”

Captain John Cooke’s tombstone, Albany Rural Cemetery

A final memorial was made to the old veteran the next year, with the publication of “Captain Johnny Cooke’s Grand March,” by James Haydn Waud, organist at Albany’s Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception. It is dedicated “to the surviving members of the Albany Brass Band.” The cover displays the only likeness of Captain Cooke that we have been able to find. It shows him late in life, heavily bearded, with his crippled right arm supported in a sling.

“Captain Johnny Cooke’s Grand March,” by J. Haydn Waud

Albany and the New York Times

Would you be surprised to learn that the plan to create the New York Times was made here in the city of Albany? And that two of the three principals involved were then members of St. Paul’s vestry? Well, both statements are true, and here is the story.

Albany in 1848

Albany Harbor in 1856 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

The Albany in which the plan for the New York Times was hatched was a bustling place, sitting at the crucial intersection of the Erie Canal and the Hudson River. Goods from the American Midwest flowed into Albany through the Erie, Champlain and Oswego canals, and were transferred at the canal basin for shipment to New York City. This flow supported large numbers of wholesale and retail businesses. According to the 1840 census, Albany had 53 commission house, 35 importing houses, 440 retail dry goods stores, 612 grocery and provision stores. And because those goods had to be paid for, there was also a busy financial connection between Albany and New York City, already then the financial center of the country. Albany’s population was also growing quickly: from 24,000 in 1830, the population had reached almost 34,000 by 1840 and would exceed 50,000 by 1850.

Albany Basin in the 1850s (credit: Albany Group Archive)

St. Paul’s vestry elected in 1848 was representative of this thriving business environment. The two wardens were businessmen with ties across the state and region: William H. DeWitt, a dealer in lumber, and John Tweddle, a malt and hops merchant. Both of these businesses involved major trade across the state and throughout the region, and an especially strong connection with New York City. Two of the vestrymen were also major businessmen. Four vestryman were involved in banking and finance; only two were professionals (one a doctor, the other an attorney).

Bank Note Brokers

Of the four vestrymen involved in banking and finance, two were bank note brokers. At that time, regional banks could issue paper currency. Currency issued by Albany banks was accepted at full value here, but only at a reduced value in New York City; the reverse was true for currency issued by New York City banks. Bank note brokers made their money by buying Albany bank notes at a discount in New York City and carrying them back to Albany where they were redeemed at full value; they could then purchase New York City bank notes at a discount in Albany, and redeem them at full value in New York City. One of our vestrymen reported routinely carrying $20,000 in cash on the steamboats between the cities in this operation.

These two bank note brokers, members of our vestry, were Edward B. Wesley and George Jones. Both were New Englanders, both born in 1811, who had come to Albany for business. And it is they who were instrumental in establishing the New York Times.

Edward Barton Wesley

Edward Barton Wesley

Born in Leicester, Massachusetts, Wesley came to New York City as a young man. He found employment with a steamboat line that ran between New York City and Albany and quickly learned that he could make extra money by speculating in goods (fish, butter, eggs, vegetables, “nearly everything in the market”) in the New York markets, and shipping them to Albany where he sold the produce for a profit. From this beginning, he moved into brokering bank notes. By 1845, he had set up a brokerage partnership in Albany with Norman S. Washburn. That same year, he was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time.

George Jones

George Jones

Jones was born and raised in East Poultney, Vermont. As a teenager, he worked as a clerk and errand boy in a local grocery store. There Jones became friends with Horace Greeley, who was a printer’s apprentice in a newspaper operated by the owner of the grocery store. Like Wesley, Jones went to New York City as a young man. After other business experience, in 1841 he found employment with his friend Horace Greeley, working in the business office of Greeley’s New York Tribune. Here he met Greeley’s editorial assistant, Henry Jarvis Raymond, who was destined to become the third principal in the founding of the New York Times.

In 1842, George Jones moved to Albany, at first running the Albany News Depot, a news agency selling newspapers from New York City and other major cities of the United States and England, as well as magazines and books. In about 1847, he sold the News Depot, and started brokering bank notes, using a desk in the offices of Edward. B. Wesley. It was shortly after this that Jones was elected to St. Paul’s vestry for the first time. Jones had several personal connections to members of St. Paul’s: he also rented office space from Leonard Kip (a member of the church, and brother of William Ingraham Kip), and one of his closest friends was banker Edward E. Kendrick, our treasurer and a member of our vestry.

All Three in Albany in 1850

So, by January 1850, both Wesley and Jones were in Albany, working as bank note brokers in the same office, and serving on St. Paul’s vestry (they were both reelected in April 1850) and the vestry’s finance committee. Jones’ former colleague Henry J. Raymond was also in Albany, having recently arrived as a newly elected member of the New York State Assembly.

New York State Capitol, 1860 (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Jones and Raymond had discussed creating their own newspaper during their time together on the Tribune in 1841 – 1842, but nothing had come of these plans. Thurlow Weed, politically powerful owner of the Albany Evening Journal, had offered to sell his newspaper to Jones and Raymond in 1848; that offer fell through when one of Weed’s partners refused to sell his shares. Jones and Raymond again discussed the newspaper idea during the legislative session of 1850, but the time seems not to have been right.

Across the Icy Hudson in 1851

The plans only became concrete in early 1851, with Raymond again in Albany, in this legislative session having been elected Speaker of the House. There are two stories about how the discussions were renewed, and both involve a walk across the ice-covered Hudson River, from Albany to the Hudson River Railroad station in Rensselaer.

Across the Icy Hudson (1850)

According to one account, Jones and Raymond were walking across the Hudson to meet Raymond’s father’s train. “When half way over,” Raymond again suggested a new newspaper. Jones responded that he was doing well in his bank note business. Raymond pointed out that a bill was pending in the Assembly which would make the business far less profitable and suggested (jokingly, perhaps) that it would be in his interest to see that the bill passed, if it would encourage Jones to join in his venture.

According to the other account, it was Jones and Wesley who were crossing the Hudson in order to buy copies of the New York newspapers when Jones asked Wesley to join him in his plans with Raymond.

Founding of the New York Times

Whatever the sequence of events, the bill on bank note brokers did pass, and both Wesley and Jones joined Raymond. The original partnership was known as Raymond, Jones & Co., with Jones and Wesley each putting up $20,000 in cash to begin production. The company’s Articles of Incorporation were signed by Raymond, Jones and Wesley. The first issue of the new newspaper, then known as the New York Daily Times, was issued on September 18, 1851, with Henry J. Raymond as editor, and George Jones as business manager.

First edition New York Daily Times, 18 Sep 1851

Jones’ and Wesley’s later roles at the New York Times and St. Paul’s Church

When Jones resigned after only six weeks’ due to bad health, Edward B. Wesley became the Times business manager, and served in that role for most of the newspaper’s first ten years. At the end of his long life, he was angered that Jones was given more credit than he as a founder of the newspaper. Jones, he argued, may have had a larger role in the initial founding, but he (Raymond) was the one who built it up over a decade and ensured its survival.

Edward B. Wesley was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of seven years, from Easter 1845 until Easter 1852. He lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1906 at the age of 95, his obituary in the New York Times describing him as “The Dean of the Speculators.” He would be pleased to know that it also gave him full credit as a founder of the Times, as well as the Union Trust Company.

George Jones

After his resignation, George Jones was not involved with the newspaper for many years. When Raymond died suddenly in 1869, however, he returned to the Times and was its publisher for twenty years.

As long-time publisher of the New York Times, Jones deserves considerable credit for its success. In 1870 – 1871, he supported and encouraged the Times’ investigative journalism into the abuses of Tammany Hall. Jones refused a bribe of $5 million (the equivalent of well over $100 million today) by the city controller, Richard B. “Slippery Dick” Connolly, to stop the attacks.

Thomas Nast cartoon, showing Richard B. Connolly and William M. Tweed

George Jones was on St. Paul’s vestry for a total of eight years, from Easter 1848 until
Easter 1856. He also lived the rest of his life in New York City, and died there in 1891.

Conclusion

Although Wesley and Jones were not Albany natives, and lived here for less than twenty years, we can take pride in  the role our city played in bringing them together in business and in the vestry room of St. Paul’s Church. The next time you pick up a copy of the New York Times, remember the thriving business, financial and social connections between the city of Albany and New York City in the 1850s that brought the newspaper into being.

 

Creighton R. Storey and the Trinity Institution

If you’ve ever driven down Third Avenue on Albany’s South End you may have noticed a group of subsidized houses known as the Creighton Storey Homes. Who was Creighton Storey and how did he come to be honored in this way? The answer tells us something of the Albany Diocese’s history in social services, and (you shouldn’t be surprised to learn) touches significantly on the history of St. Paul’s Church.

Creighton Storey Homes

Creighton Storey Homes

Creighton Richard Storey was born in Ireland in 1864, and came to this country as a teenager. He attended Colgate College and then Hamilton Theological Seminary. Although as a boy he had been confirmed in the Church of Ireland (a member of the Anglican Communion), he chose to become a Baptist pastor, and served congregations in Syracuse, Kingston and Buffalo. Through these years, he came to understand his ministry as service to those both within and outside the church. In each city, he established social service programs. But there were objections to Storey’s concentration on outsiders: he resigned his positions in Baptist churches in Kingston and Buffalo when church leaders insisted that he stop these “outside” activities.

Creighton R. Storey

Creighton R. Storey

First Baptist Church, Albany (credit: Albany Group Archive)

First Baptist Church, Albany (credit: Albany Group Archive)

After resigning the position in Buffalo, Storey had trouble finding another post because of his reputation for concentrating on social work. He finally accepted a position at First Baptist in Albany, then very much down on its luck, with a handful members and unable to even promise him a salary. In response to the Panic of 1907, he started providing a free breakfast to the unemployed in the church basement.

Albany Industrial Brotherhood Flyer, page 1 (credit: NYS Manuscripts and Special Collections)

Albany Industrial Brotherhood Flyer, page 1 (credit: NYS Manuscripts and Special Collections)

A year later, Storey organized the Albany Industrial Brotherhood, housed in a building next door to the church and dedicated “to helping men help themselves.” Services included assistance in finding jobs, and a workshop making wire implements such as rug beaters and kettle forks. From the beginning, Storey seems to have been successful in attracting support from different churches, and involving influential young business men to serve on his board and committees. Over the next years, the Brotherhood’s services were extended to include night classes to teach trades, and providing employment in chair caning and upholstery workshops.

But the pattern in Kingston and Buffalo was repeated: when First Baptist decided to sell their building and move to a new building on Delaware Avenue, Storey was asked to come with them, but only if he was willing to abandon his social services programs. Storey resigned his post at First Baptist in early 1911, saying farewell to both that congregation and “to the pulpit altogether” in order, he said,“to devote his entire attention to brotherhood and settlement work”. He initially planned to expand the Brotherhood into a full social services agency, providing services for the entire family. To accomplish this, he had begun negotiations to purchase First Baptist’s building. Storey had an option on the building and (backed by “a number of influential men”) had until March 9 to raise funds.

For unknown reasons, these plans failed, and Storey looked for another way to support his programs. Knowing that Trinity Church in Albany was

William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany (courtesy Library of Congress)

William Croswell Doane, Bishop of Albany (courtesy Library of Congress)

in serious financial difficulties, he spoke with the Albany Episcopal diocesan bishop, William Croswell Doane (an early supporter of the Brotherhood), and volunteered to serve as Trinity’s rector, with the understanding that he would be able to continue the social service programs previously supported by First Baptist. Doane agreed, and convinced the city’s Episcopal churches to contribute $1,000 a year for his programs.

 

In April 1911, within a few months of his resignation from First Baptist, Storey’s entire family was confirmed at St. Paul’s, and that spring and summer Storey preached at St. Paul’s as well as St. Mark’s Chapel (St. Paul’s free chapel just off of Morton Avenue). In November of 1911, Creighton Storey was ordained to the deaconate, with the support of St. Paul’s vestry. By July of 1912, he had been named rector of Trinity Church, and had plans for hiring a full-time social worker and creating a full program of services.

Trinity Institution in 1937 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Trinity Institution in 1937 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Over the next 28 years, Creighton Storey offered a wide range of social services and a thriving summer camp. In 1928 these services included hot lunches for school children (charge: 3 cents for those able to pay), a boys club, scout troop, Jewish scout troop, girl scout troop, a mothers club, a sewing club, two kindergartens and an Americanization class. The Trinity Institution building also included space for neighborhood groups, an Albany Public Library branch and an employment bureau.

Children enjoying the 3-cent lunch (Albany Evening News 25 Jan 1927)

Children enjoying the 3-cent lunch (Albany Evening News 25 Jan 1927)

 

As with the Industrial Brotherhood, Storey continued to include

Albany Evening News 15 Dec 1916

Albany Evening News 15 Dec 1916

prominent young business men on Trinity Institution board of directors. These “Albany Blue Bloods” provided financial backing for the enterprise, but as importantly, served to publicize the Institution’s work.

St. Paul’s involvement did not end with Storey’s ordination: St. Paul’s vestrymen served on the Trinity Institution’s board, the women of St. Paul’s St. Margaret’s Guild provided the hot lunch program on day each week, and the church regularly raised funds for the Institution’s summer camp. Among those “Blue Blood” board members was Randall J. LeBoeuf, Jr., whose father,  Randall J. LeBoeuf, was a St. Paul’s warden. And another of our own, Elsa Ridgway, was on the Trinity staff from 1920 until 1947, most of that time as Director of programs for girls and women. Miss Ridgway was a life-long member of St. Paul’s, and president of the Altar Guild and Women’s Auxiliary. Her father was Frederick W. Ridgway Sr., St. Paul’s vestryman from 1901 until 1915; she was the sister of Frederick W. Ridgway Jr., the sister-in-law of our organist and choirmaster, T.F.H. Candlyn and aunt of Donald Shore Candlyn.

Trinity Institution Annual Report for 1930 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Trinity Institution Annual Report for 1930 (credit: Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library)

Creighton Storey was to be Trinity’s rector from 1912 until his death in 1930, overseeing a revival of the congregation in that period. More importantly, he created the Trinity Institution (often referred to as the Trinity Institute, and now known as the Trinity Alliance), which for almost 100 years now has been helping the people of the South End. The Trinity Alliance and the Creighton Storey Homes serve as important reminders of our church’s and our diocese’s outreach to Albany’s South End.