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Julia James Ridgway, Proprietess and Licensed Plumber

It’s Women’s History Month and I’ve been reading Susan Ingalls Lewis’s book on female proprietors in Albany between 1830 and 1885. We think of nineteenth century business as an entirely male affair. Unexceptional Women[i] shows us otherwise: many women throughout the country operated businesses in that period.

In fact, businesswomen abounded in the nineteenth-century United States. Rather than exceptional pioneers, these women were unexceptional contributors to their family economies and local communities. Neither notorious nor particularly notable, the vast majority were home-based micro-entrepreneurs who faced many of the challenges that today’s working women assume are unique to the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries.[ii]

Much of the book details the experiences of women seamstresses and milliners, and of others operating small shops in Albany. But Lewis devotes a chapter to female entrepreneurs, exceptional women who took risks to expand their businesses. Once of her examples in this chapter is Julia Ridgway, whom she describes as “a woman of exceptional drive and ambition.”[iii] Julia, you won’t be surprised to learn, was a communicant of St. Paul’s Church, and matriarch of a family with a deep connection to the parish.

Julia James was born in Manchester England about 1819. She married Frederick W. Ridgway, and by the early 1840s, the couple had emigrated, and they were living in New York City. Frederick and his brother Jonathan were the “& sons” of “J. Ridgway & Sons,” a plumbing firm in lower Manhattan that seems to have begun work there in connection with supplying water from the new Croton Aqueduct. By 1843 the sons had established a plumbing shop in Albany. Jonathan soon left Albany for Boston, but Frederick continued the business here, and prospered.[iv]

In 1851, F.W. Ridgway died suddenly at the age of 34. His young widow, the mother of two children under the age of 10, initially tried to sell the business[v]. But within a year she had decided to carry the business on by herself. In 1852 Julia advertised that as “proprietress and licensed plumber to the Albany Water Works” she would continue her late husband’s business, and boasted that the New York State Plumbing Establishment “is one of the largest in the State, and is well known throughout the country as one of the leading establishments in the Plumbing business.”[vi]

Albany Evening Journal 1852_04_08 page 1

Albany Evening Journal 08 Apr 1852

An advertisement in the 1853 city directory gives more detail on the scope of Mrs. Ridgway’s business two years after her husband’s death, promising “[o]rders executed in any part of the United States by competent workmen.” She also lists a wide variety of household and industrial equipment for sale. An illustration of a household water closet, with toilet, sink and bath, is prominently displayed.[vii]

Munsell's Directory Albany 1853 page 445

Munsell’s Albany Directory And City Registry for 1853, page 445

Julia Ridgway did not merely keep the business going. She expanded and innovated, so that by 1865 the business was valued at triple the figure at her husband’s death a dozen years earlier. A Dun Mercantile Agency credit examiner in 1865 reported that Ridgway was “doing the best bus[iness] of any firm or man in the line in Albany,” and, he added, “clearly making money.”[viii]

I’ve been unable to find a photograph of Mrs. Ridgway. As you picture her, please don’t think of Josephine the Plumber in those 1970s Comet Cleanser advertisements. I doubt that Julia Ridgway ever donned a pair of coveralls and climbed under a sink. She was the business brains of the operation, providing capital, doing the accounting, and managing the business, but leaving the plumbing to her employees.[ix]

Part of Julia Ridgway’s success may have been due her relationships with her partners. For the first years, she relied on her husband’s foreman, Herman Henry Russ, who was also a St. Paul’s communicant.[x] As the business grew, she took on Russ and Edmond Nesbitt as partners, organizing as Ridgway & Co. When Nesbitt left the firm in 1871[xi], she reorganized the business again, as Ridgway & Russ. The business continued under that name until 1898, when her son Frederick W. Ridgway (who had been managing the firm since 1871) and Russ formed separate firms.[xii]

Grace Church from flickr group v001

Grace Church, Albany (credit: Albany Group Archive)

Like Elizabeth Maria Starr Hawley (about whom I wrote several years ago), Julia Ridgway was the head of a family that included several generations of active parishioners at St. Paul’s. Julia and her daughter Mary Elizabeth became communicants in 1868, transferring from Grace Church[xiii]. Mary Elizabeth married Charles Carmichael Gould at St. Paul’s in 1876.

Frederick W. Ridgway

Frederick W. Ridgway

Julia’s son Frederick W. Ridgway (1849 – 1915) was confirmed at St. Paul’s in 1867. He was a parishioner for the rest of his life and a vestryman from 1901 until his death. Three of this second F.W. Ridgway’s children were closely associated with the parish. Dorothy White Ridgway (1891 – 1979) married our organist, T. Frederick H. Candlyn and was an active member until the couple left Albany in 1943. And I’ve already written about his elder daughter Elsa Ridgway (1884 – 1956), the long-time director of girls’ activities at the Trinity Institution, and about his son Frederick W. Ridgway Jr. (1896 — 1916), an active volunteer with our Sunday School.

[i] Susan Ingalls Lewis, Unexceptional Women: Female Proprietors in Mid-Nineteenth Century Albany, New York, 1830—1885 (Columbus: The Ohio State University Press, 2009).

[ii] Lewis, 2.

[iii] Lewis, 131.

[iv] Amasa J. Parker (ed.), Landmarks of Albany County New York (Syracuse: D. Mason & Co, 1897), 142.

[v] “To Plumbers,” Albany Evening Journal, 31 May 1851, 3.

[vi] “New York State Plumbing Establishment,” Albany Evening Journal 30 Mar 1852, 3.

[vii] Munsell’s Albany Directory and City Registry for 1853 – 1854 (Albany: J. Munsell, 1853), 445.

[viii] Lewis, 131-133.

[ix] Lewis, 133.

[x] “Herman Henry Russ,” The Plumber’s Trade Journal Steam and Hot Water Fitters Review, volume 43 (Feb 1908), 160. Russ’s wife Catherine was confirmed at St. Paul’s in 1863, and their daughter was baptized here the same year. Herman and Catherine became communicants in 1875 and 1880, respectively. Their children were confirmed here, and Herman’s funeral was held at St. Paul’s in 1908.

[xi] “Dissolution,” Albany Evening Journal 25 May 1871, 3.

[xii] Parker, 142. See also The Metal Worker, volume 1, number 9 (17 Sep 1898), 52.

[xiii] Grace Church had been founded in 1846, with financial support from St. Paul’s. In 1865, the church (then located at the corner of Washington Avenue and Lark Street) was unable to support itself financially, and St. Paul’s provided our assistant minister, Edwin B. Russell, to serve as their rector. That relationship lasted until 1866.

Donald Shore Candlyn

Donald Shore Candlyn

Last Sunday, I shared some of the treasures of Christmases past that were preserved in the four folio volumes of Grace McKinlay Kennedy’s Memory Book. Today marks a more solemn occasion, one that Mrs. Kennedy has also preserved. Today is the 75th anniversary of the death of Donald Shore Candlyn.

I’ve written about Donald Shore Candlyn, who died heroically in the Battle of the Bulge. But reading through Mrs. Kennedy’s scrapbooks, I’ve found some more details. First, an original photograph of the 19-year-old sergeant. And also the citation for Candlyn’s posthumous Silver Star, contained in a letter to T.F.H. Candlyn from Major General Edward F. Witsell of the Adjutant General’s Office, dated 20 Aug 1945. Military censors have replaced both the precise location of the events and Candlyn’s regiment number with asterisks.

Silver Star

For gallantry in action near ****, on December 26th, 1944.

On the evening of 26 December 1944, Company E, ** Infantry Regiment, completed a successful attack and entered the town of ****. Communication lines between the company and the Battalion Command Post had been disrupted by enemy fire and as the company failed to establish contact by radio, it was necessary to send a runner to the Command Post for further orders. The man assigned this mission was held up by heavy enemy fire, and did not get through. Sergeant Candlyn, assistant mortar section sergeant, volunteered. He ran forward through intense fire, and before reaching the Battalion Command Post was killed by a sniper’s bullet. His unusual courage under enemy fire and his aggressiveness in action reflect the highest credit upon Sergeant Candlyn and the armed forces of the United States.

 

Veterans Day 2019: Dirk Roor

Memorial plaque for World War II Dead

In a previous post, I wrote about  the 255 men and women from St. Paul’s church who served in the Second World War and about the plaque bearing the names of those who died in that service. That post concentrated on one of those names, Donald Shore Candlyn. On this Veterans Day, I’d like to tell you about another of the fifteen named.

Dirk Roor (Knickerbocker News 17 May 1934)

Dirk Roor was born in Albany in 1925. Both of his parents were recent immigrants from the Netherlands, and the first time we find Dirk mentioned in the newspapers is this picture of him, age 9, dressed in a traditional Dutch costume, including wooden clogs.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dirk had been baptized in Albany’s First Reformed Church, but his mother (who had beem widowed in 1934) enrolled him in T. Frederick H. Candlyn’s choir of men and boys at St. Paul’s. The next time we find him mentioned in the newspapers, he is again in costume, but this time for Halloween, posing with other trebles from St. Paul’s choir and the choirmaster’s wife, Dorothy Ridgeway Candlyn.

Choirboys’ Halloween. Dirk Roor is at left.  (Knickerbocker News 28 Oct 1938)

Dirk is probably also in this formal picture of the 1937 St. Paul’s choir, but I have been unable to identify him.

St. Paul’s Choir, with T.F.H. Candlyn, 1937

After graduating from Albany High School, Roor enlisted in the Army Air Forces in March 1944. He was a turret gunner on a B-24 Liberator that was declared missing in a combat mission over Hungary in March 1945, and his mother received confirmation of his death five months later. At the time of his death, three months before the German surrender, Sergeant Roor was 19 years old.

Sgt. Dirk Roor (Knickerbocker News 24 Aug 1945)

Dirk Roor is buried in his parents’ native country, in the American cemetery in Margraten, the Netherlands.

 

 

 

St. Paul’s Rectory on Greenway North, Albany

Another recent acquisition for the archives is this photograph of St. Paul’s rectory at 5 Greenway North, Albany.

St. Paul’s Rectory, 5 Greenway North, Albany (1948)

This photo was published in the Albany Times Union for February 28, 1948, when the church purchased the house for its new rector, Oliver D. Carberry. The Lancaster Street rectory was rented to Lena B. Henning, who ran a boarding house there. In 1951, St. Paul’s sold the former rectory to Mrs. Henning for $10,500, and used the proceeds to pay off part of the mortgage on the Greenway North house.

Carberry, whose tenure lasted from 1948 until 1954, was to be the only St. Paul’s rector to live at 5 Greenway North. When his successor, F. Graham Luckenbill, was called in 1955, the vestry sold the Albany rectory and bought a house at 65 Burhans Place, Elsmere.

 

Photographs of St. Paul’s, Lancaster Street: 1962-1964

This week I was able to acquire a photograph of St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building that I had never seen before. Originally published in the Albany Times Union, it shows the church as it looked late in the winter of 1962.

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, March 1962

The publication date, March 28, 1962, is a significant one: this was the day after the Temporary State Commission for the Capital City announced that the State would take 98.5 acres of downtown Albany by eminent domain for the South Mall. St. Paul’s Church was in the middle of this “take area.” You can read the story of the congregation’s efforts to save the building in an earlier post.

I earlier shared this photograph taken just a few months later, around April of 1962.

St. Paul’s, freshly painted, about April 1962

But this new discovery provides an opportunity to post three other photographs from our archives that also show the building in the three years before its demolition in October 1964.

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, August 1963

 

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, early 1964

St. Paul’s Lancaster Street, 1964

Where was St. Paul’s Lancaster Street Building?

Where was St. Paul’s Lancaster Street building? Sounds almost as silly as asking “Who is buried in Grant’s tomb?”

The answer of course, was on the south side of Lancaster Street, halfway between Hawk and Swan. But the building (and 98 acres in the heart of Albany), was demolished in 1964 to make room for the South Mall. So let’s reframe the question: where, in what we now call the Empire State Plaza, was St. Paul’s building? Many think it was near where the Center for the Performing Arts (popularly known as “the Egg”) now sits, but we’ve known for some time that it must have been farther west, somewhere between Agency Buildings 3 and 4.

Thanks to the New York Public Library, we can now answer the question precisely and definitively. The NYPL web site has images of a detailed 1876 map of Albany showing the church’s location. And they recently added software that allows the user to lay the old map precisely over the current Google map of the same area. The result is below.

1876 Map of St. Paul’s neighborhood, with overlay of 2014 Google map

The darker portions of the image are from the Google map. You can clearly see the edge of the Plaza Concourse in blue near the bottom right corner; the large green rectangle is the park-like area on the Plaza’s northwest corner, between South Swan Street and Agency Building 4 (shown in dark gray). In the bottom left in orange is the South Mall Arterial and immediately above it is Agency Building 3, also in dark gray.

The older map appears in lighter shades of gray, showing the streets, lots and major buildings as they existed in 1876.  And yes, hovering  just off the north corner of Agency Building 3 is the ghostly  St. Paul’s, labeled simply “Church.”

St. Paul’s Church and Rectory

The Plaza’s Central Air Conditioning Plant and Transformer Vault lies beneath what was once an entire city block, the block on which St. Paul’s stood. As we’ve mentioned before, St. Paul’s hopes for staying in their building as part of  the South Mall  were dashed when the block was chosen for the cooling and heating facility. St. Paul’s rector, Nelson F. Parke, reported that at a meeting with St, Paul’s vestry in September 12, 1962, the State’s Assistant Commissioner of Housing

told us quite bluntly that plans for the South Mall in the block bounded by Lancaster, Hawk, Jay, and Swan Streets were such that the continued existence of the Church at its present location was entirely impossible, that the demolition of the Church was inevitable, that we would have only three years in our edifice before it was torn down, and that the possibility of our being able to relocated in the South Mall area was extremely remote.

But St. Paul’s was not to have even three years. In May 1964, the Commissioner of the Office of General Services wrote St. Paul’s new rector, J. Raymond McWilliam, to inform him that

Our present schedule calls for the completion of construction plans and specifications for the Central Air Conditioning Plant and Main Transformer Vault by July 1, 1964. They would then be advertised for bids calling for initiation of work by about mid-August. The site extends from Chestnut Street on the north to Jay Street on the south, and the area to be excavated includes the entire Church property.

This work will require the severing of underground utility lines (gas, water, sewer), the relocation of the underground telephone duct system, and the closing of Jay, Lancaster and Chestnut Streets. The extensive excavation (which at the site of the Church will average about 30 fee in depth) and the other construction activities will create such disturbance in the general area that even if it were possible to program the construction so as to delay the need for the Church property as long as possible, I believe the conditions would soon become disheartening to your congregation.

The commissioner ended the letter by asking that St. Paul’s vacate the building by the end of August 1964, almost a year earlier than had been promised. The last service in the Lancaster Street building was held July 26, 1964, and the building was demolished in October of that year.

Diagram of proposed Empire State Plaza microgrid

St. Paul’s location has been in the news again lately, when it was announced that the main switchgear for the new heating and cooling system would be placed int the central air conditioning plant, precisely where St. Paul’s stood until its demolition in October 1964,

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is demolished to make way the South Mall Oct. 19, 1964, in Albany, N.Y. Historic buildings and streets 1960s, Empire State Plaza. (Times Union archive)

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.