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We Need a 2020 “New Deal” Public Works Program

By Don Rittner

Twenty million Americans filed for unemployment already with more to come. Most sources are comparing this to the great Depression of the 20s and 30’s. During that time President Franklin Roosevelt created his New Deal Program that comprised a number of works projects to get people working again. Notable were the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA, 1933, formerly the Emergency Relief Administration (ERA)); the Work Projects Administration (WPA, 1935), which replaced FERA in 1935; the Civilian Conservation Corp (CCC, 1933); and the Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS, 1933). Others included the Farm Security Administration (FSA), the National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933 (NIRA) and the Social Security Administration (SSA).

There are now a number of elected officials talking about creating a new version of the WPA. I believe a new version of WPA, CCC and HABS should also be considered.

The Works Progress Administration (WPA)

The Works Progress Administration (WPA; renamed in 1939 as the Work Projects Administration) was part of Roosevelt’s American New Deal agency that employed millions of mostly unskilled men to carry out public works projects. This included construction of public buildings and roads, laying sidewalks, creating parks, a Federal Writer’s Project, and more.

According to the Library of Congress, At its peak in 1938, the “WPA provided paid jobs for three million unemployed men and women, as well as youth in a separate division, the National Youth Administration. Between 1935 and 1943, when the agency was disbanded, the WPA employed 8.5 million people. Most people who needed a job were eligible for employment in some capacity. Hourly wages were typically set to the prevailing wages in each area. Full employment, which was reached in 1942 and emerged as a long-term national goal around 1944, was not the goal of the WPA; rather, it tried to provide one paid job for all families in which the breadwinner suffered long-term unemployment.”

The LOC also reported that in one project, Federal Project Number One, the WPA employed musicians, artists, writers, actors and directors in large arts, drama, media, and literacy projects. The five projects dedicated to these were: the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), the Historical Records Survey (HRS), the Federal Theatre Project (FTP), the Federal Music Project (FMP), and the Federal Art Project (FAP).

In the Historical Records Survey, for instance, many former slaves in the South were interviewed. Theater and music groups toured throughout the United States, and gave more than 225,000 performances. Archaeological investigations under the WPA were influential in the rediscovery of prehistoric Native American cultures, and the development of professional archaeology in the US.

The WPA was a national program that operated its own projects in cooperation with state and local governments, which provided 10–30% of the costs. It ended on June 30, 1943, as a result of low unemployment due to the worker shortage of World War II. The WPA had provided millions of Americans with jobs for eight years.

Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC)

The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) was a voluntary public work relief program that operated from 1933 to 1942 basically for unemployed and single men. Originally it was designed for ages 18–25 but it later expanded to ages 17–28. The CCC was a major part of Roosevelt’s New Deal that provided manual labor jobs related to the conservation and development of natural resources in rural lands owned by federal, state, and local governments. The program was designed to provide jobs and to relieve the stress that millions of families who had problems finding jobs during the Depression

At one time there was 300,000 men working and over nine years three million participated in the program. By working on a CCC project the person received shelter, clothing, food, and $30 a month (now worth $590 in 2019). The young worker had to send home $25 of that to his family. Not only did the CCC become the most popular of the New Deal, it provided a healthy environment, improved their physical strength and increased their chances of getting a job. It also increased appreciation for nature and natural resources. It was a time when early environmentalists like Aldo Leopold was writing and helping develop an environmental philosophy towards stewardship. In 1935 Leopold and Arthur Carhardt created the Wilderness Society. A year later The National Wildlife Society is formed.

Remember the great Dust Bowl of the Great Plains also occurred at this time in 1933.

Throughout its history some 2,000 CCC camps were open, millions of trees were planted, and roads, fire towers, buildings and bridges and many other public works are built. More than 2.5 million people served until the program ended in 1942 due to with World War II  and the draft. Other federal programs, including the Tennessee Valley Authority and the Soil Conservation Service, also started during FDR presidency.

The CCC operated separate programs for veterans and Native Americans. Approximately 15,000 Native Americans participated in the program, helping them deal with the Depression.

Much of the CCC operated in the Adirondacks but covered the whole State. They planted trees for example, some six million in 1934 in one location. There were 20 CCC Camps throughout the State in 1933. Camp number 72 was located in Delmar and the work related to fish and game work on a grouse farm (Now Delmar’s Five Rivers). Two camps, numbers 77 and 78, were in Cherry Plain in Rensselaer County. Camp 77 worked on truck trails and cut line between refuge and hunting grounds. Camp 78 worked on fish and game work, cleaning areas for flooding. The camp had 400 men on the Capital District Game Refuge and worked on stream development of the Black River and included stocking with fingerling brook trout. The Delmar Game Farm was established during this time with a goal to develop better and more economical ways of artificially propagating game birds and animals. Special attention was given to Ruffed Grouse but also quail and pheasants. It is now known as Five Rivers Environmental Education Center. Cherry Plain State Park was the other result.

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)

In 1933, The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) became America’s first federal preservation program to document America’s architectural heritage. The government was noticing the destruction of much of our history in the name of progress. Creation of the program was motivated primarily by this perceived need to “mitigate the negative effects upon our history and culture of rapidly vanishing architectural resources.” This was also happening at the same time that historic Williamsburg was being restored and the historic and national sites were being developed within the National Park System.

According to the Library of Congress, “Architects interested in the colonial era had previously produced drawings and photographs of historic architecture, but only on a limited, local, or regional basis. A source was needed to assist with the documentation of our architectural heritage, as well as with design and interpretation of historic resources, that was national in scope. As it was stated in the tripartite agreement between the American Institute of Architects, the Library of Congress, and the NPS that formed HABS, “A comprehensive and continuous national survey is the logical concern of the Federal Government.” As a national survey, the HABS collection is intended to represent “a complete resume of the builder’s art.” Thus, the building selection ranges in type and style from the monumental and architect-designed to the utilitarian and vernacular, including a sampling of our nation’s vast array of regionally and ethnically derived building traditions.”

Thousands of photographs and detailed drawings were produced many from the Capital District. It did not stop the destruction of the historic sites however and in many cases, especially in the Capital District, the photographs and drawings of important historic sites are all that exist.

LOCAL WPA PROJECTS

During the WPA era there were several notable WPA projects in the Capital District.

ALBANY

The Federal Post Office (Now James T. Foley US Court House) on Broadway.

The James T. Foley US Court House on Broadway was built in 1934-34. This was actually built as the Post Office. The building had an exterior bridge connecting the nearby rail station with the post office and occupied the entire first two floors. Inside this beautiful building was a series of murals painted by Ethel Parsons: “Marble pilasters divide the main lobby into nine bays, each articulated with a ceiling mural. Artist Ethel M. Parsons painted the oil-on-canvas murals in 1935, depicting each of the seven continents as well as the North Pole and the United States. Interspersed with the murals are plaster plaques by Italian artist Enea Biafora Portraying famous Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, as portrayed on the earliest U.S. postage stamps. With the exception of the murals, the ceiling is covered with aluminum leaf.”

Parsons who was a painter, engraver, and textile designer has a number of works that can be found in St. Bartholomew’s Church, Church of St. Vincent Ferrer, NY; St. Stephen’s Church, Stevens Point, WI; Mutual Casualty Ins. Bldg.; Stevens Point, WI; Christ Church, West Haven, CT; Trinity Church, Ft. Wayne, IN; Church of the Epiphany, Roslyn, LI, NY; Brooke General Hospital Chapel, U.S. Army, San Antonio, TX; stained glass windows: Dana Chapel, Madison Ave. Presbyterian Church, N.Y; St. John’s Episcopal Church, Bernardsville, NJ, 1961; portrait, ex-pres., John Henry Barrows, Oberlin College, and 1958; 30 religious triptychs for U.S. Armed Forces. 1962-64.

In the post office/court house, she nine painted large maps each 15′ square, also decorations for ceilings in two court rooms, three judge’s rooms, postmaster’s room, seven lobbies, stair halls and elevator lobbies. There is a great bio of Ethel by her great niece on the Web showing great photos of her work in the post office building. You can read it here:

https://gplart.com/ethel-parsons-paullin

The Federal Post Office on Broadway was built in 1935. WPA Photo from 1935.

One of Parson’s beautiful murals in the former post office.

Photo of Parsons. Source her great niece’s website that has an excellent bio on Amy. https://gplart.com/ethel-parsons-paullin

Loudonville Reservoir

Located in Colonie off Albany-Shaker Road the Loudonville Reservoir’s Basin C was constructed by the WPA. In a 1940 report it stated:

“Basin C, Loudonville Reservoir, huge concrete retainer, holds 93,000,000 gallons, a guarantee of ten days supply for Albany against any stoppage. Worked with double shifts excavation exceeded rate set on Basins A and B, build under private contract. Concrete was laid in 98 days. … The City of Albany several years ago expended more than $6,000,000 to develop a mountain water supply eliminating the old supply that was derived from the Hudson River. The new WPA built Basin was the last link in the new supply.”

Building the reservoir in May and October , 1936. WPA Photo.

The reservoir today. From the All Over Albany Web site, 2015.

 

Here is a video showing the construction:  https://www.criticalpast.com/video/65675064809_Works-Progress-Administration_water-reservoir_workers-constructing_women-stitch-garments

 

Bleecker Stadium

Bleecker Stadium, Clinton Ave. between Swinburne Park and Ontario St.

This could be considered one of the early adapted-reuse projects. Bleecker Stadium is one of the largest man made earthen structures in the world. Originally part of a complex of conduits and reservoirs it supplied Albanians with drinking water from the Pine Bush during the 19th century. In 1934 it was turned into a stadium It seats 10,000 and has two baseball fields, a football field, a quarter-mile track, jumping and vaulting pits, and tennis courts.” Originally started by Roosevelt’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration (TERA) program it was finished by the WPA in 1940 when they built the Georgian colonial style clubhouse.

Building Bleecker Stadium in 1934. WPA photo. Albany Institute of History and Art phjoto.

Bleecker Reservoir in 1860 showing location of distribution pipes.

Bleecker Stadium showing ball field and club house in back, circa 1940. Albany Institute of History and Art photo.

Bleecker today. Photo from the Stadium Website.

Albany Guide

The WPA, through the Federal Writers’ Project of New York State (American Guide Series) also published an “Albany Guide,” a tour guide to the city. They also wrote “New York – A Guide to the Empire State” in 1940.  You can read it here: https://hdl.handle.net/2027/mdp.39015019212193

 

Other Albany projects included paved mile of city streets with red and yellow brick (some can be seen on West Lawrence and Kent Streets)

TROY

Troy also had WPA projects. The current post office on Fourth Street was begun in 1936 and finished in 1938, replacing the previous post office on the same site. There are two murals in the lobby painted by artist Waldo Peirce in 1939. He was known as “the American Renoir.” See his biography at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldo_Peirce

The two murals are entitled “Rip Van Winkle” and “Legends of the Hudson.”

Waldo Peirce and his Legends of the Hudson mural in the Troy post office lobby.

Where’s Waldo? Found him on Wikipedia.  Photo from the 1930s.

Troy Reservoir

Unknown location in Troy.

The WPA constructed a reservoir for the City of Troy in 1937. I haven’t been able to locate the exact location but there is a photograph of it.

WPA built reservoir in Troy. Unknown location. WPA Photo.

Spring Avenue Parkland

Most people in Troy probably do not realize that the 2000 feet strip of land on Spring Avenue between Locust Avenue and Linden Avenue is a park and the road is called the Barker Parkway. There was a rallying cry there to develop a park along the road when Mayor James W. Fleming ran against Alderman John A.R. Kapp in 1921. Fleming vowed to:

“Mayor Fleming Pledges the Immediate Development of Frear Park, the Barker Parkway and All Other Recreation Centers.”

In 1928, Troy’s Alderman Nielsen introduced a resolution requesting the city to provide shelters and benches on the Barker Parkway, on Spring Avenue. The resolution recited the fact that the city has men at work beautifying the park and gives commendation to the authorities for enhancing the value of land that was deeded to the city by Mrs. Stephen E. Barker and C. W. T. Barker. This resolution was adopted.

On May 19, 1933, the Troy Times announced the following:

“Beautifying Barker Parkway.

“The planting along the Barker Parkway on Spring Avenue of 2,800 pine trees turned over to the city by the Nature Study and Garden

Division of the Troy Woman’s Club calls attention to the possibilities of beautifying and making available to the public this fine gift of almost primitive woodland ravine in the very heart of industrial and business Troy. The earliest possible opportunity should be taken to plant there a variety of native trees to supplement the many stately elms and others and to replace the ancient deadwood which was removed after the property was presented to the city. Much work of this kind, with necessary grading and improving, can now be done as an unemployment project, looking forward to the time when the city’s resources will permit of planting shrubs, vines and flowers and laying out walks and adding a brook or two. Without any very extravagant outlay the Barker Parkway could be converted into one of the most beautiful and most accessible of city parks, an enticing resting place that would contribute to the delight of Trojans who love nature and enchance the beauty of one of the leading highways through the canter of the city.”

On January 17, 1934, it was announced that work was started that day for the beautification of Barker Parkway and Approximately 40 workers were engaged at first in grading and filling in the land and later three residences on the property will be removed and the property landscaped and improved.”

“The land was acquired by the late Mrs. Stephen Barker and deeded to the city in 1919 for the purpose of a public park, which should preserve the rustic beauty of the drive. It is approximately 300 feet in width and extends a distance of approximately 2,000 feet from Locust Avenue toward Linden Avenue.”

On March 3, 1934 the city approved the park along Spring Avenue and for demolishing of the old buildings on the Barker Parkway (two wooden structures, one brick building).

In 1935 the commissioner of Public works recommended improvement of “Barker Parkway on Spring Avenue by removal of billboards and other unsightly material and the conversion of the parkway into a picnic grounds as a pleasing entrance to the city proper and planting of trees on the slopes of Prospect Park, on Barker Parkway and along Campbell Avenue. “Parking facilities will be arranged and the parkway will be suitable for picnics.” “Five thousand small pine trees received from the State Conservation Department are to be planted there.”

By the 1950s things look different. In the spring of 1954, the Troy Record put the city on notice:

IT NEEDS CLEANING

Entries into Troy should be as attractive as they can be made. First impressions are likely to influence permanent impressions. A dirty street into town implies carelessness on the part of the authorities and slipshod government.

One of the entries to Troy is Spring Avenue. It is a little more than an entry; it is a busy thoroughfare from a part of the Fifth Ward and beyond to the business center of the city. It should be attractive. It was given to Troy by the Barker family as a memorial. It is a beautiful wooded highway. It ought to be called Barker Parkway—and kept like a parkway. Or it ought to return to the picturesque name it possessed for a century—the Hollow Road.

At the present time it is unsightly. Debris lies along the curbs. Indeed, there is a certain amount of fire danger if a cigarette stub were dropped among the leaves and old papers that are lying about

We do not blame the Public Works Department for this situation. At the end of the winter season there is more clean-up work to be done than any ordinary force can achieve promptly. It takes time to get things in shape. But we do hope Spring Avenue will be “redd” up very soon, it is one of the charming highways of the area and should be kept charming.”

Apparently things did not go so well and the area became neglected. An editorial in the Troy Record on May 2, 1961 said this:

“Troy is sadly deficient in beauty. Our parks have few flowers and most of our shade trees have disappeared from the streets. Weed infested vacant lots are tolerated to an extent that assures the city the highest pollen count in the state. The city budget contains thousands of dollars appropriated to remove dead trees but not one dollar for shrubs or flowers. The main arteries of the city are neglected and weed grown to the point that traffic signs are obscured.

The Junior Chamber is demonstrating how a display of pride in the appearance of the community can work wonders. How splendid it would be for Troy to have other organizations follow suit. Spring Avenue, for instance, possesses great natural beauty. The thoroughfare should rightfully be known by its correct name—Barker Parkway. But how can a weed cluttered, vine tangled jungle along a main approach be termed a parkway? This travel artery, and others in Troy, could be transformed from ugliness to beauty by the city’s civic and service bodies. In the event the members of the organizations stake out a piece of the city and accept responsibility for its improvement many helping hands will volunteer to assist And Commissioner Quigley will be first in line, we may be sure.”

That didn’t do the trick so another editorial in August 2, 1961,said this:

“An outstanding example of neglect of a potential beauty spot is found in Spring Avenue below Campbell Avenue, once known as the Old Hollow Road and more recently, Barker Parkway. The land adjoining the thoroughfare was given the city for park purposes. Instead, the strip along the thoroughfare is a jungle of weeds and vines. No great expense or effort would be required to transform the area into a place of beauty.  

Barker Parkway will remain a tangle of weeds and underbrush as long as Trojans tolerate the neglect. Here is an opportunity for civic-minded Trojans to band together and make the site attractive. The beginning must be made at the citizen level. City planners and private citizens concerned for the morale of their home town on inquiring into the method used by other cities to relieve drabness by planting and decorating have discovered that citizen groups organize, plan and supervise the work. Trojans can work wonders in their city, if they care to do so.”

At one point in time a baseball diamond was put in the park for little league. In the 60’s one of the springs that emanate from the glacial deposits was made into a public springs and thousands of people still use it today. There were many springs throughout the city in the 19th century where the Rensselaer Plateau ends at the river plain. There was one on 9th Street, North Fourth at the brewery of T.J. Sands (1870), one at “Mr. Lutzelberger’s Park,” and Sheldon & Green’s foundry on Sixth Street, below Broadway and extending back to Seventh Street.

 

Barker Parkway, AKA Spring Avenue is suppose to be a dedicated park. However there seems to be a number of houses that were built after it was given to the city and should be investigated to see if it violated the donation by the Barker family.

Barker Parkway between Linden Ave (top left) and Locust Avenue (top right).

 

Other Troy projects included the Menands Bridge, renovations of public schools, sidewalks in Lansingburgh, removal of trolley tracks on Second Avenue, improvements of the Tomhannock and Quackenkill reservoirs and a new roof on City Hall.

 

First Precinct Station House, South Troy

The First Precinct building was built just to the south of the firehouse on city owned property. It was occupied as a police station from 1900 to 1944 when all the precinct houses were consolidated in the Central Police Station located at the Northwest corner of State Street and 6th Avenue. While the Central Station was built in 1923 the precinct houses stayed intact until the 1940s

In 1935-36, the building underwent repairs and a face lift as a WPA project. There is a plague on the front facade that says: “Improved by Works Progress Administration 1935-1936.” A new facade was added as well as interior renovations. New brick work was added to the North facing wall but not the South facing wall. Throughout its history many arrests were carried out and the jails used. A corner of the building on the North facing wall on the East end was later filled in. This “Corner notch” was due to the fitting in of the building footprint abutting the fire tower that use to be located there. Shortly after the consolidation of the precincts into the central police station, the building became the American Legion and VFW Post Hall. The building at the time was listed as 318 Third Street. In 1952 it was VFW Post 628 and remained so until after the 1970s when it became a private residence or apartment house.

A new entrance was added by the WPA in 1935-36 but the South facing building wall was not changed due to its hidden character by residences next to it. Photo by Don Rittner.

Troy Armory

The original Troy Armory was located at the southeast corner of Ferry and River Streets but burned in 1917. It was replaced in 1920 by the current building now own by RPI. In 1940 it received a $21,510 dollar WPA funding for “improvement of the building and grounds of the Troy Armory… It was in line with national defense policy.”

In 1970, Rensselaer was finally able to finalize an agreement with New York State to purchase the Armory and nine acres of land between 15th St. and Burdett Ave. As part of the agreement, RPI would contribute $1.6 million and 20 acres of land in East Greenbush for a new Armory. It has been used for concerts and other events by the college since then.

SCHENECTADY

In Schenectady, you will notice in some of the neighborhoods sidewalks with WPA stamped right in them. Most WPA projects focused on improving Schenectady’s infrastructure. Fortunately we know a great deal about Schenectady WPA projects from student Scott F. Power who wrote a thesis at Union College in 21011 called Schenectady’s New Deal: An Investigation of the WPA in the City of Schenectady. Most of the following information is taken from his excellent thesis (no doubt getting an A). In his thesis he states that WPA workers built schools, highways, and parks. They constructed pressure outlets and dams, and built swimming pools and outdoor ice-skating rinks, built schools, highways, and parks. They installed 1.5 inch curbing along both sides of Lafayette Street, specifically between Hamilton Street and Union Street. In1935 WPA workers graded and surfaced, with run of bank gravel, Fourteenth Street, Fifteenth Street, and Sixteen Street; all located within the city’s Tenth Ward (Bellevue). To improve traffic conditions, they filled and widened the intersection at Duane Street and Altamont Avenue, thereby alleviating congestion. The majority of WPA projects in Schenectady between 1935 and 1941 included street repair and building construction, building renovation, and recreational improvements. In 1936, the WPA extended Watt Street between Altamont Avenue and Michigan Avenue in the Schenectady’s Eighth Ward. The Central Fire Station on Erie Boulevard and Fire Station No. 7 located on Fourth Avenue were renovated, repaired, cleaned, and painted by relief workers who subsequently installed proper electrical work throughout both buildings. In July 1936, the Council appropriated $7,500.00 for the construction of several sewer outlets near Fuller Pond. Workers deepened and cleaned the creek situated at the Pleasant Valley Park and Fuller Pond draining outlet (currently situated between Park Road and Interstate 890 in the neighborhood of Hamilton Hills). The project also called for the Fuller Pond outlet sewer pipe, as well as the sewer pipes located on Van Guysling Avenue and Broadway. Similar improvement work was done on Ocean Street between Campbell Avenue and the city line. The construction included the building of catch basins, culverts, as well as the laying of sewer drains and gravel.

In January 1937, the Common Council appropriated $500.00 to repair the top floor of the Old Central Fire Station. Workers were asked to repaint, plaster, and rewire the fire station, as well as install necessary plumbing. Similarly, sanitary sewers and appurtenances were to be constructed on streets throughout the Fourteenth Ward (in the vicinity of Jay Street). Also in 1937, Elliot Street to State Street was graded, curbed, and surfaced with run of bank gravel, along with Marshall Avenue from State Street and Wagner Avenue between Albany Street and Watt Street. Similar work was done on Weaver Street in the vicinity of the railroad underpass. Sewers and catch basins were added to the street to facilitate adequate drainage along the lower elevation points of Weaver under the railroad. Concrete curbs and sidewalks were constructed along Ferry Street between State Street and Union Street to allow for adequate pedestrian traffic. Fire hydrants, catch basins, and telephone poles were installed along Ferry Street. Proper fill and grading facilitated the extension of Cheltingham Avenue to Osterlitz Avenue near the intersection of Osterlitz and Poplar. Poplar Street was then graded between Broad Street and Osterlitz, followed by the installation of a one hundred and fifty foot reinforced concrete culvert, bituminous macadam, and storm sewers to facilitate the flow of rain and river water. In 1938 a 6” water main was installed under Eastholm Road between State Street and Consaul Road, followed by the necessary curbing, paving, and grading required for its proper installation. The WPA demolished the Second Police Precinct located on Third Avenue and erected a new building complete with plumbing, heating, and electrical work. The WPA also built or refurbished park and recreational facilities throughout Schenectady. Five outdoor ice skating rinks were constructed throughout the city in 1936. Located in Central Park, Hillhurst Park, Riverside Park, Second Ward Park, and Willet Street playground, these ice skating rinks provided an outdoor recreation option for local residents and families. In 1936, the pool located in Riverside Park was renovated. Workers installed showers, constructed a springboard, and built a bathhouse complete with restrooms and changing facilities. In 1937, the playground at Howe School was reconstructed. WPA workers installed new equipment, steps, fencings, and proper drainage to allow for youth recreational activity within the Baker Avenue neighborhood. In addition, the WPA created hot beds and potting houses in Central Park and Pleasant Valley Park, therefore contributing to the beautification of Schenectady’s parks and recreational facilities. In April 1938, workers helped coordinate leisure activities that included the establishment of several athletic leagues, specifically, a basketball, hockey, and soccer league, as well as boxing, wrestling, and handball association. Thus, the WPA contributed to the development of local recreation. Out of the forty-eight projects created, eight of them were not blue-collar construction in nature.

A few of the major WPA projects include:

The Steinmetz Park Pool

Originally called the Second Ward Park, in 1935 ““WPA workers constructed a wall of fieldstone around the pond,” turning it into what was for years a popular swimming pool. The pond still exists but is no longer used for swimming.”

Schenectady Municipal Golf Course

This WPA project started in 1933 and was designed by golfer A. F. Knight, the inventor of the famous “Schenectady Putter, ”and Jim Thompson. See my 2009 article on Knight here:

https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/puttering-into-fame/299/

The golf course was finished in 1935 and was funded by the precursor to the WPA; the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA, begun in 1933 and the Civil Works Administration (CWA, 1933-34)) workers (and possibly WPA workers) constructed this golf course. “The Course stretches to 6600 yards (6000 m) and features fast, undulating greens and tight fairways blanketed within grasses and native vegetation. It was ranked by Golf Digest “Best Places to Play in 2004” and earned a three-star rating.” Those undulating greens are sand dunes from the former Pine Barrens that covered most of Schenectady. It has the highest sand dune in elevation in the former Albany Pine Barrens. Over 1400 people worked on this project.

The club house is sitting atop a 10,000 year old sand dune from the former Albany Pine Barrens that once covered Schenectady. Photo from their Web site.

Schenectady Post Office Extension

This project started in 1933 and took two years to complete. The historic main post office was originally constructed in 1912 and received a New Deal extension undertaken on the east side between 1933 and 1935.

Gifford Road Improvement

This WPA project worked to improve Gifford Road in Schenectady in 1939. WPA work included “grading, surfacing, installing drainage facilities, digging ditch, changing course of creek,” and performing related tasks. Of the $7,555 total cost of the project, the WPA appropriated $5,255.

Post Office Mural In Scotia

Inside the post office is a WPA sponsored mural titled “The Glen Family Spared by French and Indians—1690.” Sponsored the New Deal Treasury Section of Fine Arts. It was painted by artist Amy Jones (1899–1992) in 1941. It is 5’6″ by 12′ depicting the sparing of the Glen family during the 1690 Schenectady massacre, a key turning point in the early history of Scotia.

Her bio states this: “Amy Jones was an American artist and muralist and was one of the founding members of the Saranac Lake Art League. Though most known for her watercolors, like Sandy Acre that is in the permanent collection of the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Jones also did illustration work for magazines and books. She won national competitions to complete post office murals for the post offices in Winsted, Connecticut; Painted Post, New York and Scotia, New York. Several major U.S. corporations hold over twenty of her works.”

From the “The Living New Deal” web site: https://livingnewdeal.org/projects/post-office-mural-scotia-ny/ Title: “The Glen Family Spared by French and Indians–1690” Painted by Amy Jones in 1941.

Amy Jones. From Wikipedia.

 

HISTORIC AMERICAN BUILDINGS SURVEY (HABS)

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) and the Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) was another New Deal program. This program was designed to document achievements in architecture, engineering, and landscape design in the United States and its territories through a comprehensive range of building types, engineering technologies, and landscapes. The Library of Congress holds the photos and documentation.

“Administered since 1933 through cooperative agreements with the National Park Service, the Library of Congress, and the private sector, ongoing programs of the National Park Service have recorded America’s built environment in multiformat surveys comprising more than 581,000 measured drawings, large-format photographs, and written histories for more than 43,000 historic structures and sites dating from Pre-Columbian times to the twentieth century.”

The Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS) began during the Great Depression in December 1933, when Charles E. Peterson of the National Park Service submitted a proposal for one thousand out-of-work architects to spend ten weeks documenting “America’s antique buildings.”

Above and below. Albany Dutch House on 674 Broadway in Albany. Photo and drawings from HABS program around 1933. From HABS, Library of Congress. Example of WAP historic survey. Buidling is demolished.

 

HABS became a permanent program of the National Park Service in July 1934 and was formally authorized by Congress as part of the Historic Sites Act of 1935. The Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) was founded in 1969 to parallel HABS, providing for documentation of engineering works and industrial sites. In October 2000, the Historic American Landscapes Survey (HALS) was permanently established to document historic landscapes. The HABS/HAER/HALS collections are at the Library of Congress. Today’s documentation is produced primarily by students pursuing degrees in architecture and in history, and the HABS, HAER and HALS programs have proven to be an important training ground for several generations of architects, engineers and historians.

 

“NEW” NEW DEAL CAPITAL DISTRICT PROJECTS

So what could we do with a New New Deal in the Capital District?

In Troy, photograph every building, do a historic inventory of the remaining historic structures and compile a searchable database and add individual histories that anyone can explore.

Turn Barker Parkway into the park it was dedicated to be in the 1930s. There is ample room to put picnic benches, plants some trees (again) and flowerbeds. Perhaps some walking trails off the road. Fix up the spring works.

Rescue Prospect Park. Bring it back to its early twentieth century splendor. FIX the damn swimming pool. There are only four like in the world.

Bring back Mt Ida Preserve. People have been using the falls for enjoyment for centuries. There will always be a few nuts that will kill themselves jumping off the cliff. You don’t prevent everyone from enjoying it because of a handful. Never understood that logic. Stop being ashamed that you’re the home of Uncle Sam. Embrace it. Create a museum if you must but stop ignoring the fact that it’s America’s Icon and the city is connected with it. No more Brother Jonathan. Create a Bell Museum. There is thousands of Troy made bells ringing around the world. Promote it. Open up the riverfront. Turn what’s left of the Burden Horseshow Buildings in South Troy into a Quincy Market. Get rail back to Troy. The original Troy & Greenbush Railroad still goes to Adams Street, where there use to be a train station. Guess what that rail is rated suitable for passenger service. Take down the Taylor Apartments, get rid of the bridge onramp and off-ramp on River and redevelop that section of River to Division Street. Do some damn archaeology. Matthias and Jacob Vanderheyden’s homes are there for the exposing (remember them, two of the three founders of Troy?). I would like to build a replica of the U.S.S. Monitor and have it moored on the river. Just a few ideas off the top. Be creative (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/exploring-underutilized-tunnels-subways-alleys-and-other-cool-spaces/5189/).

Albany?

Without rehashing all the proposals I have made over the last twenty years just read about them now. Why not try my Albany Historium (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/welcome-to-the-albany-historium/3044/) or the Rittner-Wolcott Albany Plan of Preservation of 2000 (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/the-albany-plan-of-preservation-preserving-albanys-undiscovered-city/2531/, or The Albany Greenbelt (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/the-albany-greenbelt-revisited/4876/) of 1984. How about excavating the remaining portion of Fort Albany on Broadway and turning it into a tourist trap? Or even the original Fort Nassau (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/preserve-fort-nassau-and-fort-nassau-2-and-fort-nassau-3-and/4853/). Take unique places in the city and spiff them up. Be creative (https://blog.timesunion.com/rittner/exploring-underutilized-tunnels-subways-alleys-and-other-cool-spaces/5189/).

You already gave up any Dutch history you had. You lost the Half Moon and didn’t even get the Onrust. How stupid. You tore down your Dutch History and even had a teenager admonish you in a poem in 1835 for doing it!! That was 185 years ago! Lesson not learned! There is part of a Dutch House left at 48 Hudson. Help Historic Albany Foundation restore it.

Photograph every building, do a historic inventory of the remaining historic structures and compile a searchable database and add individual histories that anyone can explore. In Albany you have a head start. I created an antebellum building inventory a few years ago for Historic Albany Foundation. Use that for starters. Start preventing continuous demolition by neglect.

Schenectady

Oh brother. You just tore down the oldest buildings outside the Stockade on State Street and put up modern crap that looks like everything else going up in the Capital District. What is it with your guys? Are you all sharing the same CAD program? You just destroyed any vestige of one of the most important military roads west, the original road to Van Velson’s mill, the Westinghouse home sites, etc. Metrowreck has total power it seems to destroy Schenectady’s remaining historic sites unabated.

Fix the Stockade. You need a gyroscope trying to navigate the sidewalks. Keep the original slate and bluestone but at least straighten them out. Bury the wires and bring back the original character of the original village. And ignore the loud mouths.

If you haven’t already make the Woodlawn Pine Bush Preserve Forever wild, you know, like you said you would years ago?

Photograph every building, do a historic inventory of the remaining historic structures and compile a searchable database and add individual histories that anyone can explore. When I was the city and county historian I created a countywide database. It’s a start.

You built a new train station and there is nothing in it talking about the importance of Schenectady having the first continous passenger railroad in America, or the fact that it was the railroad hub during the 19th century with several railroads go every direction before 1850?

I wish I had more but you already destroyed most of your history.

FOR THE ENTIRE CAPITAL DISTRICT

Photograph every building in Troy, Albany and Schenectady and create a database with their histories.

Hire some photographers and compile a photographic history of the daily life in the Capital District for a time capsule. Create a coordinated arts council and finance it so local artists can create murals and artworks throughout the area.

Create a job bank of historic artisans. Teach men and women how to do historic plasterwork, make wrought and cast iron, historic brick laying and repointing, and other artisan historic building techniques that homeowners of historic buildings can hire to restore their homes authentically.

Utilize these talents to help all the local historical societies that maintain historic buildings or museums. Every one of them that I have visited has falling plaster, leaks, foundation problems, plaster falling, etc. Non-profits are barely holding on as it is with very little money for this kind of upkeep.

Free sidewalk program where properly trained artisans can repave all the sidewalks in the cities. Plant trees. Create more specialized urban parks and playgrounds. Create historic walking trails in the cities like they have in Boston and New York City, for example.

Fund youth to create documentaries and other film projects based on their neighborhoods.

The Capital District is missing out on millions of dollars in tourist money. Two of the most visited historic sites by tourists deal with railroads and the Civil War. American railroading began in Schenectady. Troy helped finance and build the USS Monitor that turned the war in favor of the North, and had the first military reconnaissance using air balloons. Schenectady built tanks and the famous M-1 tank killer in World War II, and it goes on and on. Albany invented perforated toilet paper. Ok, not every invention was monumental but the point is the Capital District should be one of the most frequent visitation sites for heritage tourists along with the other top cities like Boston, Santa Fe, Philadelphia, Charleston, Williamsburg, New Orleans, and Washington D.C. We have MORE history than any of those cities.

Heritage tourism is considered one of the fastest-growing segments in the industry and in 2018 was a $171 billion annual spend.

According to the American Bus Association, Eighty-one percent of U.S. tourists are considered “cultural tourists,” and 56 percent of the U.S. population indicated it included at least one cultural, arts, historic or heritage activity or event while on a trip in the past year. Cultural tourists spend more and stay longer: Average spend is 60 percent more at approximately $1,319 per trip, as compared to $820 for the traditional, domestic leisure traveler. Cultural tourists take 3.6 trips vs. 3.4 trips annually.

Forty-one percent of cultural tourists are affluent and well-educated baby boomers. They tend to engage with locals through immersive experiences, seek to enrich their lives, and prefer leisure travel that is educational. Forty percent will pay more for distinctive lodging. Millennial are a growth market for heritage tourism, as 73 percent want to engage in a destination’s arts and cultural assets, while two-thirds rated authenticity as extremely important in their travel decisions.

So what are the benefits of heritage tourism? Carolyn Childs from MyTravelResearch.com puts it in perspective.

Economic Benefits of Cultural and Heritage Tourism

  • Injects new money into the economy, boosting businesses and tax revenues
  • Creates new jobs, businesses, events and attractions, thus helping diversify the local economy
  • Supports small businesses and enables them to expand
  • Promotes the active preservation and protection of important local resources
  • Builds vital relationships among and within local communities
  • Helps encourage the development and maintenance of new/existing community amenities

Social Benefits of Cultural and Heritage Tourism

  • Helps build social capital
  • Promotes preservation of local traditions, customs and culture. UNESCO now recognizes intangible cultural heritage as being as important as buildings. A market for and traditional projects provides the economic support for keeping these skills and traditions alive
  • Promotes positive behavior
  • Helps improve the community’s image and pride
  • Promotes community beautification
  • Builds opportunities for healthy and useful community relationships and partnerships
  • Provides research, education and work-placement opportunities for students
  • Creates enjoyable opportunities for both local residents and visitors attracted to the cultural arts, history and preservation
  • Boosts local investment in heritage resources and amenities that support tourism services

These are just a few ideas that probably will never happen. We live in the oldest historic continuously  settled community in America and history has shown that those in elected positions could care less. Not one of them over the course of the last 50 years has put together a program to recognize this history. Most have talked the talk, but fallen flat on their face when it came to the walk.

The only thing worse than an ignorance of history is a willingness to show it.

 

 

 

Some Pandemic Thoughts

 

Some Pandemic Thoughts

By Don Rittner

 

Life is like a teeter-totter. Some days the weight on the other end is too heavy and you are high in the air. Another day the weight is too low and you are sitting on the ground. But each day you strive to have the other weight equally balanced.

The Chinese have observed this Ying/Yang for centuries. It’s the opposite but complementary forces of nature that we see and feel all around us. You cannot have up without down, peace without war, love without hate, and so on.

This pandemic is also reflecting the Ying/Yang. There are those that find peace and satifsfaction with the world slowed down. There are those that strive in the hustle bustle trying to keep up with the fast pace of being on the front lines.

No matter where you fit it in, it certainly is time to reflect on what is going on and how it is affecting yourself and those around you. Without throwing blame on who caused it, how slow it is being dealt with, or a myriad of other complaints, it should be a time for everyone to stop for a moment and think about this point in time. Mother Nature has put us in time out. A microscopic virus has brought humanity to its knees. We need to think about what we are going to do as a society when we can go back and try to figure out what a “normal” life is again?

Do we really want to go back to the job we hate? Is it necessary to continue living the lifestyle we had before this? Who really are our friends? And what have I done with my life up to this point. Has it been fulfilling? Have I contributed anything to the world? Should I? Does my anger or hatred for someone or something worth the effort?

For those that have found it difficult to stay sheltered in place, ask yourself why? Is it because you don’t like what you’ve become because of it, or finally realize who you really are? Have you found yourself selfish, a “round the wagons” approach of dealing with this crisis? Or simply do nothing at all but ride it out? Or did you decide to volunteer, make masks, donate money, or in some way feel you needed to do something to help your fellow human?

It is easy to cast blame on the President, Republicans or Democrats – pick your poison – for the mess, but all of us share part of the blame. It took two million years for humans to populate the earth from Eve to reach 2.5 billion in 1950. Since then, in only 70 years, the population has risen to almost 8 billion! We have ignored early warning signs that we are seriously destroying the very home we call Earth. Thousands of species are becoming extinct each year from our actions. Some of these may be a cure for cancer or other major disease now or in the future. Before scientists discovered the anticancer compounds in the wildflower Madagascar periwinkle, endemic to that island in the mid-eighteenth century, most people who developed Hodgkin’s disease died. Two alkaloids in this plant were found to cure childhood leukemia and in recent years used in combination chemotherapy has treated numerous cancers

(see https://www.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/act.2010.16609?journalCode=act).

Severe weather increase has caused millions of dollars of damage and death to those hit by tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or fires. Yes we always had those but the increase in severity has not gone unnoticed

(See https://www.carbonbrief.org/mapped-how-climate-change-affects-extreme-weather-around-the-world).

Millions of acres of forest are being destroyed, you know, the very forests that put oxygen in the air for us to breathe? Acres being destroyed so you can buy a burger for a buck

(see http://www.mightyearth.org/burger-king-commits-to-stop-destroying-rainforestsin-13-years/).

Oceans being so filled with our plastic garbage that it is being found in the deepest trenches coiled around species we didn’t know existed up to this point

(see: https://interestingengineering.com/new-species-with-plastic-in-its-body-found-in-deepest-trench-on-earth).

Things are serious. A quarter of Americans are unemployed and millions struggling to pay their bills, feed their kids, or maintain a shelter. The pain and suffering for the deaths caused by this virus, deaths that in three months have surpassed the total number of Americans killed in Vietnam, are shocking. The economy is a wreck.

People’s behavior during the pandemic has also been interesting to follow. Those who refuse to take precautions like wearing masks, social distancing, “Give me Liberty or Give me Death” chants, and protests, and conspiracies. Many of them the same people who have bomb shelters and who are survivalists, who as we can see now would not stand a chance if they really had to stay indoors for any length of time. Do you really think that haircut or tattoo you are risking your life for is that important. No one will see it in the casket.

We really do need to do some soul searching on where do we go from here. Just what are our life priorities? Do we go back to “Normal?” I hope not. Normal is what got us here. Will we start looking at our fellow humans in a new light? Maybe like we really are all in this together, you know, a bunch of walking bipeds on a small rock floating in space? With nowhere else to go?

 

 

Don’s Online Digital Art Gallery

by Don Rittner

 

The Capital District is full of great artists.  Every month -before the COVID apocalypse- I enjoyed going to Troy Night Art (especially The Photography Center of the Capital District), Arts, Letters and Numbers (art colony in Averill Park), and Albany’s First Night (especially the Opalka Gallery and Albany Institute), to name a few.  These monthly gatherings allowed our artists to show their visions and even make a dollar or two by offering up their works.  With the Shut-in going on and no set date for it to end I decided to offer an online digital gallery each month.  Local artists will still have a venue, albeit an online one, and for we art lovers now will have a chance to view their latest creations. Hopefully those with some spending money have an opportunity to acquire these works.  So enjoy.  Each artist can show one or two items followed by a short bio and contact info.  I will do this monthly until Mother Nature lets us out of time-out.  We will start out with the man who started the digital art medium, Laurence Gartel, the Father of Digital Media Art.

1.  Laurence Gartel

Self Portrait, 2017

 

Lion Head, 2017.

 

LAURENCE GARTEL, is known to the world as the “FATHER” of Digital Art for over 40-years. His career started working side by side with video guru Nam June Paik at Media Study/Buffalo in upstate New York. He taught Andy Warhol how to use the Amiga Computer in order to produce the album cover for Debbie Harry (Blondie). Growing up in New York City during the Punk Rock era he was friends with Stiv Bators, Sid Vicious, Joey Ramone, Wendy O. Williams, and exhibited his work with Robert Mapplethorpe. Creating Digital Art before the birth of the personal computer his work has been exhibited with the Museum of Modern Art, Long Beach Museum of Art, Princeton Art Museum, Norton Museum of Art as well as included in the permanent collections of the Smithsonian Institution’s Museum of American History, Bibliothque Nationale Paris and Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum, London. Gartel received the FotoMentor Lifetime Achievement Award from the Palm Beach Photographic Center in 2009.

Gartel has traveled the world exhibiting and projecting his work in Australia, Spain, Germany, Italy, as well as going to India, creating a Bollywood Music/Video for Universal Entertainment. He has been commissioned to produce artwork on Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Red Hot Chili Peppers, as well as for corporations such as Coca Cola, Philip Morris, Walt Disney, National Basketball Association, Gibson Guitars, Bang & Olufsen, and known to most for his ABSOLUT GARTEL ad for Absolut Vodka.

The year 2015 could have been its own book. Gartel was the Official Artist of the 57th Annual Grammy Awards, Los Angeles. He “wrapped” the large-scale, one of a kind Grammy Statue with his Digital Art printed to vinyl right here in South Florida. He was the Artist of the NASA MMS Mission, at Kennedy Space Center, as well as being the Artist of the Newport Jazz Festival wrapping a one of a kind Trumpet to honor the career of Miles Davis. Gartel unveiled the First National State Art Car at the Capital building in Concord with Governor Maggie Hassan, reading letters of  Commendation from the House of Representatives, Senate, and Congress. Gartel participated in the Los Angeles Street Art Fair creating a commissioned Dodge Viper Art Car and was the Visionary of the 3D Print Conference in Santa Clara. Gartel showcased his 1978 groundbreaking “Self Portrait” film at the 7th Annual Cairo International Video Festival. He finished the year creating the Official Artwork for the Monaco International Film Festival.

His concentration the last several years has been focused on Art Cars, the first commission being the TESLA Electric Art Roadster during Art Basel Miami Beach in 2010. He was the “FEATURE” of the 113th New York International Auto Show with his own 30,000 square foot Pavilion in 2013. Mercedes Benz commissioned Gartel to create a very special Art Car to celebrate their “13th Million Friend on Facebook. Gartel unveiled a $250,000 Renntech Mercedes SL65 V-12 Art Car at Fisher Island Club during Art Basel Miami, December 2014, an Award Winner “Best of Class” at Amelia Island 2015.  His “Care-Connect” VW Amarok represents the First Solar Satellite Art Truck. Gartel branded  the Oslo Motor Show and produced a BMW Mini  LIVE for the Norwegian public in October, 2016. Gartel unveiled an Alfa Romeo “Giulia” Art Car to America in March 2017.  His current museum show: “WARHOL vs GARTEL HYP POP” was shown at Palazzo Bufalini, Spoleto, Lucca Center of Contemporary Art and Art & Co, Lecce, MomArt in Liguria on the Italian Riviera, as well as book signings with Galerie Zum Harnisch during Art Basel Switzerland. Gartel’s Art graced the Front Cover of Boca Magazine, January 2018, and Pompano Magazine February 2018 issues respectively. Gartel produced a Maserati Car Art which opened and closed racing season in Saratoga Springs, NY commissioned by the #DePaulaDriveForCharity. GARTEL’s recent exhibition “Digital Titan” was held at the Palm Beach Photographic Museum, West Palm Beach. Gartel’s permanent Miami installation is located at the Overtown Courthouse Lobby along with his “Welcome to Miami” installation at Richard Branson’s Virgin Miami Central Rail station. His latest commission “Legends of Rock and Roll” is on permanent display at the new Seminole Hard Rock Guitar Hotel.

Visit the Artist’s website: www.gartelmuseum.weebly.com

2. Jon Christopher Gernon

Sleeping Beauty oil on wood with 24k gold 24”x24” framed $1200- Offers welcome!

“It’s all Alchemy & Witchcraft, mixed with a bit of beauty & humor. If done correctly then you Magic.” Making art is a strange thing. Artists have an idea, a feeling, a spark and put paint to canvas, clay to form, notes to music and pen to paper. We try to communicate this idea in the hope that the viewer, listener or reader “gets it”. Getting it is where it all goes to hell. Why do we even have to “get it”? Today the world is filled with such negativity and the access to it is a fingertip away. There are artists that relate their frustration through their work that is sometimes incredibly uplifting and beautiful and sometimes…well, completely depressing and emotionally heavy. The artist and the recipient have different ideas, different thought patterns going on. Sometimes, most of the time in the case of my work it’s very simple; I want you to create a story. I want you the viewer to leave feeling… happy. This new body of work is for you to have ideas and stories. Your own Myths and Fables . Don’t be caught up in what the artist has to say but be part of the story and the artwork you see before you. Make believe is a wonderful place to live. Jon Gernon is a painter, printmaker and independent curator living in the Eastside of Historic Troy, NY. His current works focus on creating modern day fables, allegories and lore. Jon is a former gallerist and gallery director with over 25 five years of curating and designing exhibitions. His personal work has been included in over seventy group and solo exhibitions including at the Attleboro Arts Museum (Attleboro, MA), The Morris Graves Museum (Eureka,CA), The Hyde Collection (Glens Falls, NY), The George Segal Gallery at Montclair State University (Montclair, NJ). The Kinsey Institute at Indiana State University (Bloomington, In). In 2015 his work was part of the traveling Contemporary Magic Realism Exhibition in Denmark, England, and the United States. His work has been written about and published in American Art Collector, Fine Art Connoisseur, Art Alternative, Juxtapoz, Southwest Art, Artscope, Wallstreet International, Hyperallergic. www.jongernon.com

3. Tony Murray

The Narcissist 1,600. 28X24X10

 

What Are You Looking At 1,700. 64X10X28

Tony Murray  is a self taught artist whoʼs work has been in over 75 Nationwide and Regional juried art shows and exhibits. His eclectic works involve various media such as drawing, scratchboard, painting, videography, sculpture and photography. More recently Tony has concentrated his efforts into a new medium called

“Sculptography” which combines his sculpture and photography. His works begin with a title or a word and then he begins the process of creating that vision into captivating verisimilitude while informing

otherworldliness. His goal is that the viewer takes a moment and explores the deeper meaning of what is being illustrated.

Tony Murray scrtchbrd@yahoo.com.

518-618-5181

4. Elissa Halloran

MusicMan. 12”x 4”. $25

PeaceMan . 8”x 3”. $20

Elissa Halloran has been designing and selling jewelry in the capital region since 1988. In 2001, she opened her eponymous store on Lark Street in Albany, selling her work along with the work of many local artists. She started making her “Skeleton Guys” about 15 years ago-she has shown them at the UAG and Ultraviolet Cafe. She can be reached through FB messenger, DM on Instagram and phone 518-432-7090.

5. Gina Verrelli

Unknown Covid-19. Digital.

Gina Verrelli is from Upstate NY and graduated from Sage College with a Graphic Design degree.  She works in many mediums such as painting, linocuts, and photography. She has been included in several art shows sponsored by the Colonie Art League and has won awards of her artwork throughout the years.  Her photos were included in an exhibit commemorating the Bicentennial of Washington Park in Albany in 2006 and and at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Her art work reflects the transformation in her life that lead her toward people, events, and circumstances that feed her life’s passions and her discovery of artful outlets. webg1@att.net.

6. Matty Vee

“Uncle Sam 2020” Oil on canvas 24”x30” $650

 

“Uncle Sam 2020; paying respect.” Oil on panel. 10”x12” $300

Matt VanAlstine is an oil painter from Upstate NY, currently residing in Troy. He has degrees in the arts from Hudson Valley Community College and CUNY Brooklyn College. VanAlstine’s work is a combination of traditional portraiture and landscape painting with elements of surrealism and humor.” Mattyvpaint@gmail.com Ig: @themattyvpaint  Phone: 5186412289.

7. Kelsi Lee

“Lioness” Wood Burn (Pyrography) on live edge basswood. (Sold)

Artist Kelsi Lee works in mixed media artworks; nature-inspired in pyrography on wood, hand crafting botanical resin keepsakes and more. From realistic, expressive depictions of wildlife (and pet portraits) to imaginative conversation starters.

“Imbued Ink” is the business name, custom artwork more than welcome. Browse available pieces online and easily reach the artist, instagram @imbued_ink_customs or other social platforms.
instagram.com/imbued_ink_customs
facebook.com/imbuedink
www.imbuedink.com

8. Ann Norsworthy

“Dawn to Dusk” Black and white on metallic pearl paper adding an ethereal glow to the light passing through the window panes. Professionally printed, Framed and matted limited edition. Finished size 21”x 27” $190

“Summer Studio.” Black & White archival matte finish, limited edition print 12, 18″ $60.

Ann Norsworthy is an Artist from Schenectady, New York.

Art has influenced Ann from a very young age, first experiencing the world as shapes and colors, then as symbols, and finally defining them as they relate to surrounding spaces. After-school art classes were the highlight of her youth until college when Design and Art History sparked her appreciation and love for the creation of others that further inspired her work.

Photography is the most prolific area of Ms. Norsworthy’s work. She is also passionate about ceramics, watercolor, sketching, painting, and teaching individuals and inspiring community through art.

Ann has won numerous awards from exhibitions at galleries around the Capital Region including Albany Center Gallery and Red Hook Community Arts Network, 2012, 2013, 2014. Her photography has been recognized by Henry Horenstein as Juror for PHOTOgraphy exhibition 2012, and has had images added to the Getty Images collection, 2017.  Following a long illness Ann resumed her work in 2018 and offered private lessons from her home studio Summer, 2019.
https://www.facebook.com/AnnNorsworthy.Studio/

9. Susan Rivers

“Dancing with Marilyn”. It is a collaboration of a wood cut print by Marilyn Ramsdale, printed on fabric and incorporated into fiber art collage. Size is 8″ x 10″ $50. Free shipping.

For more info please visit
GreentreeFiberArts.com.

 

 

Fifty Years of Earth Day Plus One

A Personal Recollection

By Don Rittner

 

Our small blue planet has been spinning for a few billion years and slowly evolving and experimenting with all types of life forms. Some would say it made a big mistake a few million years ago when it let a few treetop dwelling mammals land on the ground. The impact of human beings on this planet has been remarkable — but not always good!

Our insistence on a philosophy of global manifest destiny has not only put the planet in jeopardy, but to even the survival of the very species carrying out this suicidal policy.

In October 1969, John McConnell, a son of an Iowan preacher, who also became a Presbyterian minister himself with the addition of being an peace activist, author, editor, businessman and most importantly an advocate for the environment, decided to do something about the demise of the planet. He was already familiar with organizing. He organized “Meals for Millions” in 1962 in San Francisco to feed displaced Hong Kong refugees and organized the “Minute for Peace” radio broadcast in 1964. In 1968 McConnell designed the Earth Flag, depicting the planet as seen from space.  He even proposed sending up a satellite for peace after the Russians launched Sputnik! I have been trying to resurrect that idea with Elon Musk, but that’s another story.

John Mcconnell, Father of Earth Day

At age 59, McConnell, who passed in 2012 at age 97, proposed to celebrate a day for the Earth to Peter Tamaras of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.  Tamaras suggested that McConnell write an Earth Day Proclamation. McConnell presented one to San Francisco’s mayor, Joseph L. Alioto. McConnell also presented his Earth Day concept to the UNESCO’S National Conference: Man and his Environment in November 1969. It was well received. I remember reading about it and was interested in the environment at the time being a longhaired rock and roller and activist. In those days we were fighting against our involvement in the Vietnam War, civil rights, overpopulation, social and legal injustice and just about everything else we thought was wrong with the world.

On March 1, 1970, Mayor Alioto issued McConnell’s proclamation as the “Earth Day Proclamation for San Francisco.”   It was the first Earth Day. Celebrations included the raising of the Earth Flag in Golden Gate Park, and the park provided seedlings that were delivered by the Red Cross to schools in the San Francisco area.  The Sierra Club, Jr. Chamber of Commerce, colleges, and grade schools all participated with special programs and celebration.

Even three year Jennifer helped clean up the Pine Bush.

I had begun college in 1969 at the University at Albany and in 1970 some friends of mine, George Keleshian, John Wolcott, and environmental professor Lou Ismay, decided to have a environmental clean up that year to celebrate the first “Earth Day” in which the press had dubbed the event, name stolen from McConnell’s Earth Day the previous year. Keleshian was the president of the P.Y.E (Protect Your Environment) Club at SUNYA. With the cooperation of the City of Albany DPW we cleaned up tons of trash and even abandoned cars from a unique ecological area called the Pine Bush in the western part of Albany and under immense developmental pressure. It was the year I started the Pine Bush Historic Preservation Project, a group of students who helped me study and try to preserve this unique region. Much of the land was under control of owners who were aligned with the infamous O’Connell-Corning Democratic Machine (no relation to John). In a nutshell, today there are more than 3000 acres of Pine Bush preserved with a million dollar Discovery Center, so one could say it was a successful project.

During the 1980s, my late childhood friend Raoul Vezina and I did editorial cartoons to combat the Reagan-Watt-Burford administration as they tried to dismantle environmental legislation at the time.  Our toons were published weekly in the Knickerbocker News, an Albany daily newspaper and were found tacked to many legislative walls at  in Washington D.C. You can download our book free here:(https://archive.org/details/NALRittnerVezinaReduced/page/n3/mode/2up)

First Earth Day cleanup in the Pine Bush began in 1970. Photo of Don Rittner by local newspaper.

McConnell chose the Vernal or Spring Equinox that normally occurs on March 21st as Earth Day. This is the time each year when the Sun crosses the equator and has a 12-hour day/12 hour night (equal length) on the whole planet.  In late 1970, McConnell contacted UN Secretary General U Thant and obtained his support for making Earth Day a global holiday, one that would be celebrated each year on the Spring Equinox.

For centuries, humans have been celebrating the Spring Equinox in various ways from simple celebrations, sacrifices, to even building complex stone circles such as Stonehenge. In fact, some calendar systems, including our own Old English calendar, had March as the first month of the year; some Asian countries still do.

During our annual Earth Day cleanups in the Pine Bush during the 1970s, we hauled out furniture, abandoned cars, bags of trash that have been dumped over decades. Today there are more than 2000 acres of this endangered ecosystem preserved, a testimony of the success of the beginning of the environmental movement in Albany.

In February 1971, U Thant signed the Earth Day Proclamation written by McConnell. To show the UN’s commitment to celebrate Earth Day, the Peace Bell was rung on March 21, 1971— and has ever since. The Peace Bell was a gift from Japan and was made from coins given by school children to further peace on our planet.  McConnell also was successful in getting many world leaders to sign his proclamation  that included 35 signators among them anthropologist Margaret Mead, former Senator Eugene McCarthy, Nobel Prize-winning former President of Costa Rica Oscar Arias, Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, and astronaut Buzz Aldrin. The original was donated to Swarthmore College in 2013 and now part of their “Peace Collection.” John’s Star of Hope proclamation which was signed in 1998 by world scientists is also part of the collection. This was his attempt to get a satellite of hope in space.  See the New York Times article on it published on October 29, 1998.

At this first ringing, U Thant called on people of all creeds and cultures to observe a few moments of silence, and reflect on their role in the nurturing of Earth and their commitment to its care.

John’s Earth Day Proclamation was signed by many world leaders.

Also back in 1969 (Sept.) in Seattle, Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, a noted environmentalist (they weren’t called that then) announced there would be a national environmental “teach-in” in the spring of 1970. Nelson was a long time proponent of environmental legislation that includes banning the use of DDT, Agent Orange, controlling strip mining, mandating fuel efficiency standards in cars, and preserving the 2000-mile Appalachian Trail. It was also easy for him to get media attention being a US Senator.

Unfortunately, for John McConnell, the April 22 Earth Day received more media attention than his UN International Earth Day, and the national media took the environmental “teach-In” moniker and used the term ‘Earth Day’ instead — and it has stuck ever since. However, the UN still observes International Earth Day every Spring Equinox, and founder John McConnell always tried to be there.

So, each year both are celebrated worldwide but in America the April date has been the one used the most (weather is better) and around the country various activities take place.

I met John in a rather odd way. In 1992, I had authored the first book on how to use this brand new thing called the Internet for a social cause – to save the world environment. My book EcoLinking-Everyone’s Guide to Online Environmental Information (Peachpit Press) had received a ton of reviews and articles about this attempt to use the Net for a social cause. No one at that time really had a clue what the Internet was to become – well actually I did (see below)

My prediction on the Internet in 1994. This quote was in “The Greens Go Online: Interactive Media and the Environmentalist.” Jane B. Singer, Science Communicators Interest Group, Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication, August, 1994. School of Journalism, University of Missouri-Columbia.

Our major environmental concerns at that time were Acid Rain, Over Population, and destruction of the Amazon Rain Forest. I look back and chuckle since there were only ten Web sites in the whole world at the time my book was published. A bit naïve I guess but the goals were sincere. Also beginning in 1992 I produced and hosted a couple of radio shows called INTERNET FM and INSIDE THE NET on local radio stations in New York’s Capital Region. I interviewed many of the early movers and shakers during the evolution of the Net. During the summer of 92, the year EcoLinking was released, I began hosting an online forum for the Society of Environmental Journalists on America Online. So my book and reputation was getting around the country. In early 1993 I received a telephone call from John who had read the book and was congratulating me and told me about his efforts. We became good friends and I told him I would be glad to help him in his cause and to stay in touch with email.

During the 1980s, my late childhood friend Raoul Vezina and I did environmental cartoons called NATURALIST AT LARGE that were published in the local newspaper.

 

EcoLinking was the first book in 1992 to show how to use the brand new Internet for a social cause.

I recall humorously those days because John would send me an email and five minutes later would call me on the phone to see if I received it. Long distance calls were expensive in those days of no cell phones. I would always tell john the idea of sending email was to save on long distance calls. To the day he died he still would send me email then call. Some habits are hard to break.

In 2000 at the beginning of the new century I put together a conference in Troy, New York, called the Capital District Preservation Conference in September and invited a number of local experts to speak on five panels on environment, archaeology, historic preservation, legal issues and planning as it related to the Capital District in New York State. I invited John, then 85 years old, and not in the best health, to be the keynote speaker which he accepted. I have him on tape somewhere and will digitize it some day. Because John was a bit computer challenged I hosted a Website for him for a few years called “Earth Day –The Real Story.” John was creating a new project called “Earth Day Trustees.” In 2004, I was writing a biology encyclopedia (along with one on chemistry and atmospheric science) and asked several leading scholars to write essays for the book and I asked John to write an essay on science and spirituality that I thought should be included, particularly on how his faith and the love for the environment co-mingled. I include it at the end of this column.

Like everything both of us were busy with our lives and for the last few years before his death I lost touch with him. But I did get a chance to talk to him one last time shortly after he submitted his essay for my bio book. He was losing his hearing and his eyesight. I learned about his death in the newspaper and was quite saddened by it. The planet had lost a major champion.

I often wonder what John would think and be doing today watching the effects of climate change wrecking the planet he loved, and a virus holding humanity hostage. Knowing John he would be organizing a new organization and speaking out as he did all his life I bet!

In the 1990s, I renewed NATURALIST AT LARGE with my friend Mark Delfs for a short time  A picture is worth a thousand words.

It’s been fifty years plus one of the annual scorecard on the environment that we call Earth Day. Many of the issues we have brought to light over the years were addressed and even improved like water and air pollution, protecting endangered species, effects of technology, for example, but we have a long way to go. We knew the climate was changing in 1970. It was about Acid Rain but that certainly was climate changing. Over the last few years the damage has accelerated as we watch glaciers disappear, severe weather wrecking havoc, droughts, fires, you name it. We also now have a federal government administration doing its best to unravel all the progress we have made.

In 2017, I rewrote EcoLinking making it a complete hands on environmental activist manual using the Internet.

Even though we are shut in, Earth Day will still be celebrated. Several groups are sponsoring an Digital Earth Day Exhibit. It is a digital mosaic of drawings submitted by anyone and once the quarantine is over will be exhibited in New York City at one of the Global Climate Change events. The invitation is below. Be sure to contribute if you can. There is no better time to call attention to our planet. Both of us are endangered.

 

My art submission for the NYC digital exhibit.

 

The following essay was written by John McConnell for my book Encyclopedia of Biology A to Z published in 2004.

A message from John in 2009.

Mark and I still get an occasional point of view across.

 

A Boston Corner in the Art World

By Don Rittner

 

When I was a teen in the 1960s there were three books that I read that had an influence on me and fostered my interest in history. Writer and artist Eric Sloane wrote all three. Museum of Early American Tools (1964), A Reverence for Wood (1965), and Diary of an Early American Boy (1962) gave me insight on early Americana through the life of a young boy’s diary in 1805 and what life was like using early technology and the greatness of nature (in particular trees).

Everard Jean Hinrichs aka Sloane was born in New York City and when growing up he lived near the famous type designer Frederic W. Goudy. Sloane studied art and lettering with Goudy. He then went to the Art Students League of New York and changed his name to Eric Sloan because his teachers George Luks and John French Sloan suggested that students not use their real name so that early inferior works would not be attributed to them. He took the name Eric from the middle letters of America and Sloane from his mentor’s name.

Eric Sloane. Pix from http://www.ericsloane.com/

After running away from home in 1925, at age 20, he worked his way across the country as a sign painter. With his typography background he easily created advertisements for everything from Red Man Tobacco to Bull Durham. This unique hand lettering calligraphy can be seen in all his books.

Sloane came back to New York City and then settled in the New Milford, Connecticut, area where he started painting rustic landscapes in the tradition of the Hudson River School. In the 1950s, he spent part of the year in Taos, New Mexico, where he painted western landscapes and particularly depictions of the desert sky.

As a painter he produced over 15,000 works (mostly oil on Masonite) and because of his interest with the sky and weather he landed commissions to paint works for the U.S. Air Force and the production of a number of illustrated works on meteorology and weather forecasting. Sloane is even credited with creating the first televised weather-reporting network, by arranging for local farmers to call in reports to a New England broadcasting station. He is considered the first TV weatherman. On a side note Albany’s Joseph Henry created the first national Weather service in the 19th century.

Sloan’s first clients were aviators and his passion for clouds was developed by his flying experiences. Photo by Don Rittner.

Sloane ‘s interest in New England folk culture, Colonial daily life, and Americana inspired him to write and illustrate many Colonial era books on tools, architecture, farming techniques, folklore, and rural wisdom. Every book included detailed illustrations, hand lettered titles, and his wit and observations. It is those books that turned me on to local history. He was married seven times and died in 1985 while walking down a New York City street.

Sloan’s love of the clouds was developed because some of his early clients were flyers including Wiley Post who taught Sloane how to fly. During his first flight he fell in love with clouds. His first cloud painting was purchased by Amelia Erhardt. He was considered the best cloud painter of his time and his largest cloud painting graces the entire wall of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C.

Earth Flight Environment. Sloane’s painting located in the Museum’s entrance gallery.

It just so happened that a man named Arthur Kerber had befriended Sloane many years ago while living in Connecticut.

Back in August of last year, my friends Gina Verrelli and Carolina Muñoz Awad, a visiting artist from Chile, and I went to the Hillsdale area to see some local art. On our way to visit an art gallery located in a barn, we went through an area called Boston Corner. Any prize-fighting historian will perk up because this little corner of nowhere was pretty famous in the 19th century.

Boston corner. Sloan would paint this if he were alive today. Photo by Don Rittner.

Boston corner. Photo by Don Rittner.

 

We happened to see an art gallery in the middle of this nowhere, well actually Boston Corners (Millerton). Boston Corner is a hamlet of the town of Ancram and the town of North East New York in Dutchess County. It was formerly part of the town of Mount Washington, Massachusetts and was ceded from Massachusetts to New York on January 11, 1855, because its geographical isolation from the rest of Massachusetts made maintaining law and order difficult. It was called Boston Corner because well it was the western most point of the state from Boston.

At one time three railroads—the New York Central’s Harlem Line, the Poughkeepsie and Eastern Railway, and the Rhinebeck and Connecticut Railroad—once served the hamlet. Not any more.

Here is a description from Capt. Franklin Ellis in, “Boston Corners and Weed Mine, Ancram, Columbia County, New York”. History of Columbia County, New York. 1878. p. 407.

“Boston Corners is a small hamlet situated at the junction of the three railroads running through the town. It contains one hotel, one store, one blacksmith-shop, a fine depot, and about a dozen dwellings, of which nearly half are [to the south] in the town of North East, in Dutchess County. The name was given to the locality when the State of Massachusetts owned the triangular tract of land lying west of the Taghkanic [i.e. Taconic] mountains. The mountain formed an almost impassable barrier between this spot and the seat of civil authority, and it became a sort of “city of refuge” for criminals and outlaws of all classes, who fled to it to escape from the reach of the officers of the law. On this account it also became a resort of prizefighters, who could here carry out their brutal and inhuman purposes secure from the interference of the authorities. The celebrated fight between John Morrissey and Yankee Sullivan occurred here. For these reasons it finally became necessary to make some change to enable the civil authorities to enforce the laws protective of peace and property, and in December 1848, the inhabitants petitioned to be annexed to the State of New York. The State of Massachusetts consented in May 1853. The cession was accepted by New York, July 21, 1853; confirmed by Congress, Jan. 3, 1855; and the corner was annexed to Ancram NY, April 13, 1857.”

There are Sloane paintings everywhere in the home of Arthur A. Kerber. Photo by Don Rittner.

It was the fight between Morrissey and Sullivan that brings it home. Morrissey was from Troy and of course later on became congressmen and founded the casino and racetrack at Saratoga. I knew about the fight at Boston Corner but never had seen it, nor even knew it still existed.

So as we were driving through this historic spot, we saw an “Open” flag hanging on the tree in front of a colonial house and we decided to make a pit stop.

Green River Farm and Gallery as it is called is owned by Arthur A. Kerber, the fellow who knew Eric Sloane when he lived near him years ago and became good friends. To my amazement, Arthur’s gallery, or I should say house is full of original Eric Sloane’s paintings and art – hundreds of them.

His book on early American tools was full of illustrations such as this one. Photo by Don Rittner.

Arthur is also no stranger to the Capital District since he once was on the board of WMHT, our local PBS station here. Arthur gave us a tour of his house and hundreds of Sloan works of art. He is in the antiques business and he operates out of his house and barn. He also does appraisals, framing, conservation of art and consulting. A tour of the house revealed Sloan’s works on the walls, in the corners of rooms, leaning on chairs and on chairs, and just about everywhere else. All for sale of course. Some of the paintings were featured in many of Sloane’s books and I recognized several of them from my early reading days. Sloane liked to paint airplanes, barns, rural landscapes, Southwestern vistas, clouds, the sky, covered bridges, and farm views. All of these can be found at Arthur’s gallery.

 

Arthur A. Kerber holding one of Sloane’s Taos paintings. Photo by Don Rittner.

I would suggest reading some of Sloane’s books. He wrote 38 of them. If I could afford it I would have several of Sloane’s works hanging on my wall.

And remember the story about changing his name. Later in his life, he bought back or traded for some of his earlier work which he burned as he felt it was inferior.

Visit The Green River Gallery at 1578 Boston Corners Rd in Millerton, NY. It’s only 57 miles or an hour’s drive from the Albany area. Hours at Saturday 10-5, Sunday 12-5 or call for appointment at 518 789 3311 and ask for Arthur. Tell him I sent you.

The famous Morrissey-Sullivan boxing match took place in Boston Corner in 1853. Photo by Don Rittner.

Barns were a favorite of Sloane’s. Photo by Don Rittner.

 

The small museum of the Roeliff Jansen Historical Society Museum in Copake Falls (on the way to the gallery) has a small exhibit on the “Fight of the Century.” Photos by Don Rittner.

 

From Faith to Arts Letters and Numbers

By Don Rittner

When one thinks of Averill Park (formerly Sand Lake) a few things come to mind for locals. One is it was the brief home of a young comedian Jerry Lewis who worked at an ice cream shop on main street for about a year while attending high school.

A second piece of history is that during the 19th century James Gill Averill during Memorial Day Parades rode on his horse, “Moscow,” a Civil War horse that is now buried with him in the Sand Lake Union Cemetery.

James Gill Averill headstone with his horse buried next to him.

The third historical fact is not so rewarding. Horatio F. Averill, a lawyer and son of the same James Gill Averill, was the person who turned in Charles Nalle, a runaway slave from Virginia, and who was working as a coachman for Uri Gilbert, Mayor of Troy in 1860. After Nalle’ famous escape with the help of Harriet Tubman, Averill was persona non grata in Troy. He moved to West Virginia after that. Unfortunately Sand Lake was changed to Averill Park in his honor in 1882 because he was instrumental in developing the area.

Horatio F. Averill. From the Internet.

However, for many people living in Averill Park, a more important part of the village’s history was Faith Mills located on Burden Lake Road not far from the village center. Textile mills are nothing new for Averill Park. There have been such mills in the area since the days of the American Revolution.

Faith Mills was the brainchild of Peter McCarthy, a Troy industrialist. He often would sit on the porch of his home  and watch people coming and going at the Knowlson’s Beverwyck Hosiery Mill, a mill that was operating at the time across the road. The mill closed in 1896 and he decided to create a new company and took over the mill in 1897 and it was renamed Faith Mills, Inc. Among the incorporators with him was William D. Mahony as secretary and manager who then lived at 169 Second Street in Troy. Robert McCarthy the son of Peter McCarthy was secretary of the corporation and his grandson Peter also began working there. The adjoining McCohnie Mills was also purchased. Mahony was originally from Indiana but his parents moved to Troy when he as eight years old and attended school there eventually going to a textile school to learn the trade.

Knowlson’s Beverwyck Hosiery Mill, would become Faith Mills. Photo Town of Sand Lake.

The new mill received the unusual name as told by RPI’s Dr. Palmer Baker, “It seems that when Mr. Mahony was first asked to become associated with this enterprise, he was reluctant to leave the work in town in which he was then engaged lest this venture out here in the country should be unsuccessful. His wife and friends encouraged him to accept the responsibility. “Have faith, Will,” they said. “Have faith.” He finally accepted on the basis of faith; faith in the community, faith that there was need for what the institution could produce, faith that it could be made to succeed under the system of free enterprise and the American way of life, an faith in himself and in those who could be associated with him.” So the company was named the Faith Mills.

William D. Mahony. Sand Lake HIstorical Society.

The wooden mill building burned in 1907 and the first building of the three that comprise the mills now was built to replace it, a two story main mill building 260 x 60 feet. The lower mill building or second mill was built in 1912 and the office building or building three was built as a recreation hall in 1918.

The mills were originally powered by water and later converted to electricity. When the water level had dropped by more than six feet one spring, the town citizens, more than 300, had presented a petition to allow The Albany Southern Railway to supply electricity for both McLaren Mills at West Sand Lake and the Faith Mills. There was an attempt to get power from the Wynantskill Hydro Electric Company but the motion was defeated. A dam was built in 1923 to generate electricity for the complex and was used until 1956.

During World War I the mills delivered 100,000 winter undershirts at $1.35 each on August 21 and another 21,000 on the 29th. On September 17, another 336 at $1.25 each was delivered and on Aug 21, 100,000 pairs of winter drawers at $1.35.  Finally on September 17, 496 Paris of winter drawers at $1.25 each.

In 1920 the company built the Faith Mills Community Clubhouse. It had social activities for mill workers as well as towns folk. Inside were a movie theater, four bowling lanes and cafeteria and meeting hall with stage. The company also sponsored annual banquets, clam steams and other events for their workers throughout the years,

Faith Mills Community Clubhouse (demolished). Sand Lake Historical Society.

In 1934 the mills got a contract to furnish $50,000 worth of shirts and shorts for the Civilian Conservation Corps. This deal furnished 30,000 pairs, a combination of summer undershirt and cotton and wool mixed drawers at 94 cents a pair, and shipped to San Francisco to be distributed to men in the West Coast camps. They also shipped 30,000 cotton wool mixed undershirts at $.905 each. In 1938 they scored again and just in time since the mill was closed for a week and half. This time it was also for the CCC.

These wool union thermal suits kept many a person warm during the cold months.

In 1940 Faith Mills acquired the Wynantskill Manufacturing Co. on Ford Avenue and the Thermo Mills in West Sand Lake. Mahony was also chairman of the executive committee of the International Talc Co, Inc., of New York. Mahony was president and treasurer of both Faith and the Wynantskill company. Thermo was refitted for making knitted wear.

During the 1940s, residents from Averill Park, Sand Lake, and West Sand Lake made their living working at Faith Mills. At this time 250 to 325 people worked there during the seasons. Considering the total population of these three communities was about 1500, Faith Mills was a major employer. Some 200 people regularly worked here and the remaining people resided within a 20 miles radius of the plant. The combined weekly payroll of the estimated 250-325 workers was between $5,000-$6,000 dollars. To put that in perspective, $1000 of purchasing power in 1940 is worth $18,372.00 in 2020.

Postcard.

This payroll was distributed of course mostly in the local communities for rent or mortgages, food, clothing, etc. During the summer peak hours when the mill was making its winter lines, wives of the regular workers could also work there supplementing the family income. That also went for older children 18 or older who could make some money for school or extra spending money. It was a true family operation.

Faith Mills had an annual Christmas banquet for its workers and in 1945 they invited every serviceman and women to attend who lived in the Town as special guests of honor. About 70 attended the event at the Crooked Lake Hotel.

Spinning looms holding bobbin spindles. Sand Lake HIstorical Society.

 

However, there were problems. During this period of the 1940s the demand for heavy underwear was falling and new lines had to be developed. Faith adapted and started making cloth for men’s topcoats and overcoats. Knitted good versus woven coats also became more demanded. The popularity of the knitted overcoats were met by the addition of more knitting equipment at the mills. They made both yarn and cloth as a result. Raw material in the form of foreign and domestic wools, alpaca, camel hair and mohairs arrived in bales and stored until needed. The wool had to be processed first before it could used by first removing the burrs or foreign material and then carded which combed the fibers into parallel positions and then it is spun. Here the wool was drawn out and fibers twisted into long yarn, which made it ready for knitting.

The mills, known as a knitting mill, bought the raw material, kitted the yarn and then made the underwear.

During World War I and II, the mills was called on to make clothing. They made underwear and knitted overcoats material. When work slowed down the mill made sweaters and other cloths to keep the workers busy. During World War I they made winter underwear for America, Canadian and British troops.

The Sewing room in 1953 now is used by Arts Letters and Numbers.

In August 1940 the Army ordered from Faith, 6,889 pairs of Woolen Drawers at 89.46 cents a piece. In April 1941, $89,411 for 75,000 undershirts, $87,413 for 75,000 woolen drawers. In 1941 Faith receive two contracts for $97,000 for 40,000 pairs of heavy weigh drawers and $140,200 to supply 40,000 woolen undershirts. In December of that year they received contracts for $60,200 for 50,000 woolen drawers, and $128,150 for 100,000 woolen undershirts. They continued during the war to get sizable contracts.

The cutting room in 1954. Sand Lake Historical Society.

 

On April 20, 1942, Mr. and Mrs. James Yokubait and family who ran the Faith Mills Boarding House since 1940 moved to Fort Plain. On November 14, 1942 Mr. And Mrs. Joseph Face took over and moved into the Faith Mills Boarding house, which they then operated.

The Faith Hills Boarding houses now are used by residents of Arts Letters and Numbers.

The Face family was not your average family. Prior to taking over the boarding house, Joseph worked for the Shakers at the South Family in Mount Lebanon tending to the cows and horses. Joseph had two sons, Joseph Jr., and the younger Elroy (Roy).

The younger Roy pitched and played shortstop at Averill Park High School and had no intention of playing professional baseball. After Roy finished high school in Averill Park he trained to become a carpenter but then he joined the army toward the end of World War II. By 1948 he was still playing local ball but the rest is history.

Elroy (Roy) Face.

According to his Wikipedia entry:

Elroy Leon Face (born February 20, 1928) is an American former professional baseball relief pitcher. During a 17-year Major League Baseball (MLB) career, he pitched primarily for the Pittsburgh Pirates. A pioneer of modern relief pitching, he was the archetype of what came to be known as the closer, and the National League’s greatest reliever until the late 1960s, setting numerous league records during his career.

Face was the first major leaguer to save 20 games more than once, leading the league three times and finishing second three times; in 1959 he set the still-standing major league record for winning percentage (.947), and single-season wins in relief, with 18 wins against only one loss. He held the NL record for career games pitched (846) from 1967 until 1986, and the league record for career saves (193) from 1962 until 1982; he still holds the NL record for career wins in relief (96), and he held the league mark for career innings pitched in relief (1,211⅓) until 1983. On his retirement, he ranked third in major league history in pitching appearances, behind only Hoyt Wilhelm and Cy Young, and second in saves behind Wilhelm. Nicknamed “The Baron”, he holds the Pirates franchise records for career games (802) and saves (188).

Roy is now 91 and living in North Versailles, Pennsylvania. He should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame with his record.

“The Baron”, still holds the Pirates franchise records for career games (802) and saves (188).

In June 1944 Faith Mills won its second “E” Award from the government. In June 1943, Faith Mills was notified by the Navy that their blankets had kept alive about 50 half frozen sailors from a wrecked ship who had been exposed without shelter in a blizzard for 30 hours. One officer reported “At least fifty men are alive and fighting today because of the warmth and protection offered by those blankets.” At the time Faith was making underwear for army and blankets for the navy, heavy overcoat fabric for lend-lease to Russia’s armies, underwear for the Red Cross and lining cloth for service uniforms. They also made unusually heavy underwear for use by the armed forces in Iceland and Greenland. Faith also had a mill in West Sand Lake and both employed about 350 workers.

In December 1943, the Mills received an “E” Army- Navy Production Award. The “E” award was made by the government for companies that made prompt conversion to war work and notable record of production. The ceremonies included Dr. Ray Palmer Baker, dean of RPI, Lt. Col Herman C Kilber, executive officers of the Procurement division at Philadelphia representing the army and Comm. H. B. Southworth, executive officer of the Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps at RPI. Faith Mills president William D. Mahony accepted the award and declared that “Fifty-four of our fellow workers are now in the armed services. They will be glad to know that their former co-workers have been awarded this inspiring symbol. Let us consider it a challenge to redouble our efforts to back them up.”

Ad for workers in the 1940s.

In January 1945, the mills received its third “E” Army- Navy Production Award which gave the mills a second white star to their “E” banner that was given to them for high achievement in the production of war materials. The newspaper reported that Robert P. Patterson, Undersecretary of War said, “In maintaining the fine record which first brought you distinction you have set an inspiring example for your fellow American on the production front. This award stands as a symbol of your great and continuing contributions to the cause of freedom.” In August 1945 it won its fourth Army-Navy E Award for production. It was one of the first mills to win four awards. Lillian Kelly, Lois Shaw and Edward Bass received an “E” pin since they were not employees at the time of the third award. General Allen R. Kimball who arrived back in the area from his tour in France got a tour of the mills. During the war Faith made about $10 million dollars worth of overcoats, blankets, underwear and other woolen materials.

Faith Mills was more than just a workplace however. It was integrated into the fabric of Averill Park society. The company sponsored a softball team. In August 1946 the team was leading the Echo League with 7 wins against 1 loss. Their red, white and blue uniforms were paid by William Mahony, manager of the mills. They lost the championship to Stephentown but an All Star squad was put together to play them and it was managed by Joe Warren of Faith Mills. There were five Faith Mills players on the All Star Squad.

By 1950 Faith Mills wanted to unionize and on May 24, 1950 a meeting was called between workers’ representation and management. The company requested a National Labor Relations Board election among employees to see if they were to be represented by a union. The workers walked out the previous week after the company failed to arrange a meeting with workers reps. It was stated by Sy Cohen, international rep of the CIO Textile Workers Union that 95 % of the workers joined and would not return to work without a contract. The union lasted for a short time. On May 22, the firemen were allowed to back to tend to the boilers while the strike of the other 150 workers continued. The company called for a vote of the employees to see if they wanted a union. Eventually the workers were represented by Local 1122, CIO Textile Workers. They did receive a raise ending the eight-week strike. A new contract in 1955 gave the workers, some 200 of them, another wage increase under a new contract.

Faith Mills Delivery truck. Sand Lake Historical Society.

The company warned the workers that they would shut the mill down if they went on strike. The workers did not believe it. Shortly after the mill was closed and Faith Mills was no more.

Bobbins from Faith Mills were turned into decorative pens and sold on the Internet.

On October 19, 1951, William Mahony, long time president of Faith Mills, died at his home after a long illness. In his will, he left money to local institutions such as St Henry’s Church, Averill Park Methodist Church, Averill Park Baptist Church and also his general superintendent of the mills, his secretary, and his personal attendant. His personal household furnishings were auctioned off in 1952. He was also involved in local civic and business affairs in Averill Park particularly with the National City Bank as President. He left $100,000 to create a parochial school for St. Henry’s Church that was known as the William D. Mahony Memorial School

In retrospect, it was the beginning of the end for Faith Mills.

A year later, negotiations were underway to sell Faith Mills. Hard times had fallen on the mill. From January to May the mill had no orders and petitioned the federal government for aid in meeting the stiff competition now coming from the South. Southern textile mills continually underbid the northern textile mills. Faith, which had 225 people, was operating at 50% capacity and down to less than 100 employees since January. While civilian orders were fair for the time the military orders were gone.

In February 1952 it was rumored that Faith Mills would be sold to a New York Company. In November of 1952 the carding and spinning mill and premises at West Sand Lake was sold to the Troy Yarn Mills for $45,000. The West Sand Lake property was closed and not in operation at the time.

In 1955, the mills were sold to a syndicate headed by First Albany Corp of Albany and Victoria Investment Co Limited of Halifax, Nova Scotia. Most of the stock was sold by the estate of the late William D. Mahony

In 1956 the mill, only the third in the country that made men’s woolen underwear, sold for $77,000. In today’s money that is $721, 826.16. It included all of the property in the Town of Sand Lake and one in Troy called the Wynantskill Manufacturing Company (31 Ford Ave in Troy), to J. T. Flagg Knitting Co. Inc. It was a division of Flagg-Utica Corp, manufacturers of underwear, sweaters, knit sportswear, sleeping garments and swim trunks in Utica. Their operations in Florence and Aniston, Alabama made men’s and children’s sweatshirts, polo shirts and tee shirts. Jewett T. Flagg of NYC president of Flagg-Utica told the workers that the mill would continue under Faith Mills and the approx. 170 workers would keep their jobs. Arthur M. Butler became general manager of Faith Mills. He had been with Faith for more than 40 years. Much of the stock had been acquired the September before by First Albany Corp, Mahony Estate, the previous president when alive, and Victoria Investment: LTD of Canada. It was sold by First Albany and Victoria.

In 1958 the mills employed 175 locals who manufactured men’s underwear both winter and lightweight and the Navy approved “Thermo underwear” similar to the present thermal type underwear we now use. It was considered Averill Park’s “big business.”

On November 5, 1959, 96-year-old C.A. Smith died. He worked for the mills for 42 years and was the first man to work for the new mill after it was purchased from the former Knowlson Knitting Mills.

In 1960 the mills was awarded military contract to furnish 60,000 cotton wool mens knit undershirts for $151,851.61

On July 23 1962, the mills reopened after a shutdown of six weeks under a new management that believed “textiles can be manufactured at a profit in the Northeast.” George Souhan of Seneca Falls, president of Souhan Textiles Inc. announced that applications were being accepted for more than 150 people to work in the new mill. The plant opened with about 20 employees though 54 were hired. A second and third shift was proposed. John Herron became the new mill superintendent and general manager. Flagg-Utica had sold the mils to Souhan and transferred the mills on August 10. It was announced that renovations would make the mill “bigger and better than ever.” The new mills would make woolen yarns for sale to the knitting and weaving trade. It did not last long and Kenneth Lally of the Lally Knitting Mills bought the mill.

In November 1965 the mills was again sold to William H. Ebel & Son warehouses of corrugated shipping containers that was located at 31 Ford Ave in Troy. The sale included the four buildings on Burden Lake Road and was purchased from Herman E. Orovan of Great Neck, LI. The new purpose of the buildings besides warehousing the corrugated containers was a floor-sweeping compound to be made at the mills. Some 15 Men would be employed at the start. The buildings have about 100,000 square feet of space. The main building had been leased to a knitting firm and the buildings were being renovated to suit the Ebel Firm. The Ford Avenue plant burned to the ground in 1968.

For a great article about work in the mills read Dick Castle’s excellent article “My Memories of the Operation of Faith Mills, Averill park, New York” published in Sand Lake Historical Society Newsletter (read it here: https://sandlakehistory.org/faithmls/index.html ). Castle worked at the mills as did his father and he takes you through the whole process along with great photos.

By 1966 there was no more Faith Mills. The building at 1548 Burden Lake Road, all 42,291 square feet of it, is now owned by Faith Mills Associates LLC in Stamford, Ct. The second floor is rented by Arts Letters and Numbers Inc. from NYC who also owns 1554-1560 Burden Lake Rd, the former Faith Mill Boarding Houses, 1525 Burden Lake Road and the lower mill at 1530 Burden Lake Road. The upper mill building is now used by Worden Safety Products and Signature Stones, Inc. The third tenant on the second floor at 1548 Burden Lake Road is the rest of our story.

Present Faith Mills building now used by Arts Letters and Numbers on the second floor.

Meanwhile, as Faith Mills was making clothes for the military in Averill Park, a few miles east in nearby Albany David Gersten was born and growing up between New Scotland and downtown Broadway. His father, owner of a family truck firm, built heavy-duty trucks on Broadway.  Jacob Becker, his great grandfather came to America at age 15 from Germany and worked in a blacksmith shop in Burden Lake, at Hoags Corners, for three years eventually finding his way over to Albany by 1894. By 1905 Jacob was a Pattern and Model Maker at 15-17 Church Street and living at 156 Chestnut Street.  By 1915 he was a blacksmith at 49 Quail where he worked and lived. Eventually the family started building wagons and sleighs and then heavy truck fabrication and brakes on Broadway. The Beckers not only built things they invented them as well.  George F. Becker invented and patented a tail light latch in 1928, a compartment for storage in cars or trucks (the rear storage trunk) in 1936 and more.

Three patents by George Becker in 1928, 1936 and 1937.

Dave remembers growing up and even working at the shop, J. Becker & Sons on Broadway, which is now housed in the former Albany Trolley Barn.  Under the tutorship of a World War II vet and master machinist and mechanic, called “Bear,” Dave learned his craft and it left a lasting impression. He remembers the shop having the largest number of hydraulic presses north of New York City and he also remembers exploring and hiding out in the nooks and crannies of the old trolley barn now truck company.

Novelist Bill Kennedy was also a friend of the family and grew up a few feet from the Becker Truck Shop and use to hang out in the shop with his great uncles when David was a teenager. Paul Grandahl, former Times Union features writer and now head of the Writers Institute, edited a book about Kennedy and talks about their hanging out in the old “Limerick” neighborhood and in particular the Becker truck shop. Dave considers what he learned in the old neighborhood a “school.” They took care of what they were doing and knew how to do it.  With stiff competition from big companies, the Beckers turned to selling truck parts but still operate out of the old trolley barn on Broadway.

David Gersten, William Kennedy and Paul Grandahl.

Dave went to School 19, Hackett Middle School, and Albany High School and took drafting in vocational school. He wanted to move to New York City and found an architectural school there and transferred to Cooper Union.  He became a protégé of John Hejduk (1929-2000), the dean of the School of Architecture and famous for his interest in the fundamental issues of shape, organization, representation, and reciprocity. It was the beginning of what Dave feels was a real neighborhood and started teaching there when he graduated. The Cooper Union neighborhood became his life and he has been teaching there since 1991.  Later he became associate dean and was acting dean for two years, but went back to being a professor. That experience opened up a philosophy of craft is a culture and he always linked art, music, and philosophy to the roots to the craft he came from.

While at Cooper Union, he was exposed to poets, anthropologists, surgeons, and all kinds of diverse people who either taught there or gave talks. That community taught him what is possible when you bring multiple minds together. That combination of growing up in Albany and the Cooper Union neighborhood gave him the idea of trying to find a way to broaden the diversity of voices in what we think is education and led him believing in community and difference of voice.

He wanted to expand the experiences understood as education by creating new structures and spaces for creative exchange across a wide range of disciplines such as Architecture, Visual Arts, Theater Arts, Film, Music, the Humanities, the Sciences and Social Sciences. As he developed into an internationally recognized artist, architect, writer and educator he knew that he eventually wanted to create a space that would bring all of this together, but not in New York City. He wanted to bring his dream to a place in upstate New York, a place he knew intimately and where his family owned a camp – Burden Lake.

David Gersten discussing art at Arts Letters and Numbers in 2019. Photo by Don Rittner.

In 2001 he acted on that dream. He created Arts Letters and Numbers (ALN), a vehicle in which to develop his dream into reality. David purchased a building at 1525 Burden Lake Road in Averill Park, NY, the lower mill of the former Faith Mills. It was boarded up, had no water, and needed a lot of renovation but he was determined to make it work. He put on a new roof, put in a well for water, and began giving workshops with the first drawing some 25 people. That was the beginning and for the next two years he kept inventing new summer workshops as they worked on bringing the mill up to code.

The lower Faith Mills building was the start of Arts Letters and Numbers.

In 2015 he acquired the 1859 Greek Revival house (former mill president’s home and later nursing home) up from the mill at 1543 Burden Lake Road and directly across from the upper Faith Mills building. This allowed ALN to open its doors as a year round operation. In 2013 he formalized the operation and founded Arts Letters and Numbers, Inc., as a New York based non-profit education organization. He also purchased the two former mill workers houses at 1554-1560 Burden Lake Road to increase the capacity of residents in the program. It has been five years of year round programming which has seen as many as 40 residents representing 23 countries.

In 2015 David acquired the 1859 Greek Revival house (former mill president’s home and later nursing home) up from the mill at 1543 Burden Lake Road so that year long activities could occur.

David’s goal of bringing different voices together has surpassed expectations and he has made it an aim to invite people who share his founding principles to become a fellow of the organization.  His personal philosophy of saying yes instead of no allows people to use their creativity to develop and implement their ideas.

After four years of renovating the lower mill it was clear that there were some code issues the Town required that needed to be addressed but were costly so he rented out the second floor of the upper Faith mill.

Present site of Arts Letters and Numbers on the second floor of the upper Faith Mills building on Burden Lake Road in Averill Park.

Recently ALN was awarded a NYSCA grant to support the long awaited renovation of the Mill. The grant in the amount of $145,000 is part of the New York State Regional Economic Development Council’s Mid-Size Capital Fund for 2019-2020.  The grant will support a crucial step allowing ALN to complete Phase One of the lower mill construction; transforming the first floor of the Mill into a place of Public Assembly. The plans include a full wood and metal shop, and a multi-use public space for theater, music, films, exhibitions and performances.

An introduction to some of ANL’s present and past residents.

Carolina Munoz Awad

Carolina Munoz Awad is from Chili and has a Bachelor and Masters in Architecture. She learned about ALN in 2019 when a student she met in Copenhagen during an exchange program in 2016, told her about it. ALN’s David Gersten was this student’s thesis professor in NYT (RISD). Before coming to ALN, she worked at a studio and a university in Santiago and was a researcher for a professor but was not happy there. While it was in a comfort zone she felt she was not doing anything for herself and decided to come to ALN.

Carolina Munoz Awad. Photo by Don Rittner.

For Carolina, she felt it was a perfect fit and a good decision to come to ALN. Her dream was living and working at a lake house and for a community and that fits well with the mission of ALN. While she had no preset idea of what she wanted to do, as opposed to other artists who already knew their art, Carolina had no idea, or materials to bring from Chili, only herself and a passion. David assured her not to worry about it and just do it. Something will come. And it did. She started working in plaster and fabric and worked on process and the role of making and playing with the material.

Throughout high school Carolina wanted to be a doctor but she also had an artistic side and this balance between science and art was a passion all through high school. She did very well as a student and started medical school and after one year realized she hated it since it was artistically frustrating. She was one month from finishing Med school and a switch went on – she was not going to finish it. She decided art school but she was told she could not attend for at least a year so it was suggested she try architecture. Though she never saw herself as an architect, she decided to give it a try and during her second year realized she enjoyed it, after all she could structure environments and make things. Yet, when she graduated she didn’t know what to do because in reality it was not her passion. She didn’t want to design houses and bathrooms. While in Copenhagen she enrolled in the Danish Academy of Fine Arts. Last year she came to ALN.

Carolina Munoz Awad working with fabric and plaster paris as a medium. Photo by Don Rittner.

She began experimenting with casting plaster and making all kinds of objects with it. She has cast mountains and pyramids by measuring angles and then sewing material together and filling them with plaster. By placing them together they looked like mountain ranges, landscapes, or whatever the imagination fired up. It started as a geometry experiment and found herself sewing patterns in the morning and casting in the afternoon.

When she makes castings she really never knows what the final result will be and that is part of the excitement of the process – unknown colors and textures are often the result. In different light or placement in various locations they often take on different appearances and moods. A casting from the same mould can look or feel different from the previous casting. Carolina is like a chemist reformulating her ideas from fabric to plaster each time.

When asked about her stay at ALN she responded by saying that her “biggest reward from ALN was the freedom to be able to create in an environment full of artists of many different medias. Sometimes when you hear about artistic residency, the first image is just of painters, maybe some sculpture, but mostly common medias. But when I got there and discovered there were also filmmakers, photographer, musicians, writers, painters – architects like me who wanted to do art – it blew my mind.

All together in a one month program, having the opportunity to share common meals, where age, genders, race, profession, media, language, didn’t matter. We all were vibrating in the same direction towards freedom of expression and community.”

Carolina’s residency ended in October and she moved back to Chili but has applied to attend a Masters in Fine Arts program in NYC. In February of this year, she will be back at ALN as part of a team on site from February to May and while here during the first week of February will be part of “Love Burn” in Miami, which is a local version of “Burning Man” as building team with a group of NYC based artists. Burning Man is an annual event n the western United States at Black Rock City, a temporary city erected in the Black Rock Desert of northwest Nevada. It is about 100 miles north-northeast of Reno, and a thriving year-round culture generated by a global community of participants. Love Burn is an annual beachfront camping event developed by Burning Man participants for Burners from around the world and hosted in Miami, Florida

Adela Wagner

Adela moved to New York City from the Czech Republic seven years ago and thought it would be for only a year. Back in the Czech Republic, at the early age of 6, she became a professional singer, opera to be exact, and performed all over Europe. She found herself active all the time and developed a creative rhythm at a young age. She found herself singing first and third parts and studying school work in the middle. While Prague was slow paced living, her opera was in the fast lane, and so NYC seemed liked the place to be.

Adela Wagner discussing (and showing) balance and her studies in art while a resident at ALN in 2019. Photo by Don Rittner.

 

Unfortunately, she had an injury at 17 and was not able to sing again. Her mother was a graphic designer and typographer and her father an artist who builds houses from the ground up, makes puppets and builds computers from parts. Adela unfortunately found herself with nothing to do. Opera and singing were no longer a viable option.

However, art was in the family blood. Her father gave her a camera early on and she started shooting everything and found herself winning second place prize in a photo contest. Coming from a family culturally pessimistic, realistic and strict, there was no sugar coating on her father’s feedback on her art. Yet in 2007 she submitted her work to a European international competition on cultural diversity. Anyone under the age of 18 could submit and her entry was titled “Alter Ego.” She placed at first prize representing the Czech Republic. She looked at diversity in Czech, and made a point to seek similarities instead of things that divide us. It was obvious that activism and social justice was in the blood. She went to Denmark at age 19 for a ten-day residency lead by professional artists of all mediums from all over Europe. While there she created both music and photography but going forward decided to focus on photography. That eventually morphed into film, interactive art, and immersive installation on social justice issues.

When she graduated from high school she looked at various Czech university and degree programs and found that art degrees were missing very good teachers and mentors. Schools were turning out cookie cutter students and so Adela decided instead to study international business and diplomacy. She already spoke French, English, Spanish and the Czech language and adored math and science, so why not. She worked at SONY, NIKON and a local ad agency. She combined her studies of international relations and working in the arts. In the Czech Republic, the country was still recovering from communism and most of the photography commissions were outsourced.

She taught photography as an adjunct at the University of Economics in Prague but aware she didn’t know everything and wanted to learn more so she moved to New York City. She formed a student based non-profit called “Indivisuals” connecting artists and helping them develop and execute large-scale projects oriented on education or charity work. Adela formed a habit of saving money to cover her expenses but her early start in New York City was rough. Once she saw a chair that reminded her of one from back home, and so she carried it 4 blocks all the way to her apartment. The beginnings were tough, but Adela found a great deal of support and help from a woman named Nicole Haran who not only hosted her for her first Christmas in Brooklyn, supported her art, but also became family to her.

Art collaboration with a new artist friend Mary Prescott, composer and pianist, brought Adela to Arts Letters and Numbers on a 10 day intensive residency, to work on an opera and create visual art. While initially there was some friction in differences of work style, they became long time collaborators and close friends.

Since then, Adela’s work has been exhibited around the world. She has a project called “All People Are” focusing on breaking of stereotypes and generalizations that traveled throughout Europe during the refugee crisis. She has been working full time in the city as a photographer, curator and visual activist. She came to ALN in 2019 for a short residency. Most recently, at ALN she worked on a large-scale installation of mass shootings in the United States, which was represented as data visualization. It was an interactive exhibit and a call for action incorporating tactile and auditory experience. In fact, she had to update it during her opening night to depict yet another mass shooting that happened the same day. It is to become a traveling exhibit.

Adela Wagner currently lives in Brooklyn’s Crown Heights neighborhood. She acts as a director of grant program “Dream Bigger,” focused on high impact large-scale installations, and actively collaborates with FIGMENT Project an arts based non-profit. She is currently working as a human rights advocate, visual activist and is a grant recipient of NERT 2020 Civic Ignition. Her art practice lies at the intersection of many different art forms, from music to photography, film, through installation and immersive art. She creates conceptual projects reacting on sociopolitical realities in hope to activate change, and move from thought and awareness to action.

Sophia Krupsha

Sophia originally is from Kingston, Pennsylvania, but recently been bouncing between there, State College, Pennsylvania, and Fryeburg, Maine. She was an only child, but grew up with a very close extended family. Her parents worked when she was young, so she was often the village child being passed around to her relatives. However, being in a close family did not mean there wasn’t conflict but despite all of the in fighting she has remained fairly close.

Sophia Krupsha discussing her artwork at a public showing at ALN in 2019. Photo by Don Rittner.

Sophia grew up with strong Polish add Slovak Catholic traditions and the understanding of how valuable family is. She also grew up in the aftermath of the anthracite coal industry. She is a descendant of coal miners and breaker boys and because of both her family history and education, her work is heavily influenced by the history and residue left behind in this area of the Rust Belt.

While she doesn’t remember a lot about her early childhood, she does remember that she was very interested in art from the beginning, specifically drawing and coloring. Her mother probably has bins of her ‘masterpieces’ from throughout her childhood. She believes that the first time she actually began to seriously work on her artistic skill was about the age of 11. At that time she was very much into the Japanese style of comics known as manga and anime, and she wanted to replicate the style into her own character designs. She consistently drew through high school, and was introduced to painting in her senior year.

While she was originally intending to go to college for immunology, she switched her major last minute to fine art. Through deep reflection and consideration, she decided she would rather be happy by pursuing something she enjoyed instead of wealthy by something she was not entirely confident in at the time. Strangely, her hobby became her career choice and vice versa. She felt that he owed it to her family if not herself to pursue something that her parents worked so hard to give her – the choice to do what she wanted regardless of personal wealth.

She has been painting ever since.

She learned about ANL over this past spring (2019). She felt it necessary to continue her education in an unconventional way over the summer and gave herself some time to focus on her direction since she felt somewhat lost. She decided to mass apply to many residency programs with the expectation that she would likely be rejected due to her inexperience; however, much to her surprise, she heard back from one and it was ALN.

She immediately felt a great sense of relief since it validated to her that this was the correct career path followed by the desire to attend. She could not let an opportunity like that pass, so through some creative thinking, she was able to continue to work and intern AND go to the residency. It never felt like a question to her whether she was attending or not. Her attitude was that she would do whatever it took to go.

Sophia stayed at ALN for 2 weeks starting in the beginning of July. 5. She feels that ALN has done a great deal for her. She truly believes that she would not be where she is today in terms of her work and her career without it. Through her short time spent there, she participated in events such as T-Time with Rob and Diane, group lectures and critiques, and studio visits. She was also a member of the unofficial swim club, and made many good memories out on the beautiful lakes they all had access to. She feels she met extraordinary people from around the world, and made many invaluable connections. Most importantly though, she accomplished what she set out to do that summer, and that was to find the right road to take to better her work.

Having the opportunity to engage with such a diverse and close-knit group of artists and neighbors alike greatly benefitted how she saw her work and led her to discover the right path to take. She developed much love for the ALN program, and recently came back to exhibit again despite the distance.

ALN 

ALN works by charging tuition of sorts. A resident can apply for almost any length of time from one week to months. One applies to the program and with it you get your room and board, and dinner, a common meal, which many find a great communal experience. There are shared rooms and a resident is free to do whatever she/he wants to do. Residents are pretty much responsible for their own stuff and they can help with chores around the house and mill if they like. There is a house meeting every Tuesday at 11AM where residents sit and talk about what they are doing and at dinner you can discuss the day. After dinner there is open Mike where you can sing, show videos, discuss their projects, etc. There is Tea Time (not really tea but it starts with a T) with elders in the Averill Park area which is a way for community folks to get to meet and associate with the residents of ALN, most of which come from other parts of the world. Tuesday is Ping Pong. Everyone brings food, music, local folks help with a “food run,” and community involvement is important. Every third Thursday, artists from around the community are invited to show or perform their art at the upper mill. The public is welcome. I had the privilege of showing some of my own art during this time.

My friend Gina Verrelli found ALN while we were location scouting for my feature film, Karen or Bust. During our explorations we found another art colony in Salem and used part of it in some scenes in the movie. When Gina found ALN they had just begun to create a monthly (third Thursday of each month) art night that allowed any artist, not just residents at ALN, to showcase their art and network with fellow artists.

Gina and I attended one such event  and decided that it was a place we would like to explore further. The next time we revisited in August of 2019 I made friends with a former resident there, Ursula Bustillos Daza, an architect from Bolivia. Ursula is a founding member of the NGO Portal Urbano that is a sustainability think tank and represents Bolivia at the United Nations in the city. We quickly became friends and I discussed an environmental project that I had in the back of my mind and she was working on the annual International Day of Peace and Ecology and decided to try and do the project as an exhibit during that day at the UN. While we only had a few weeks we accomplished the task and had a successful exhibit on September 5, and later I was able to exhibit at ALN. This is the kind of positive force ALN has become. If it was not for ALN and their monthly open exhibits I would never have met Ursula and would never have created the exhibit, especially in such a short time and in a uniquely important location as the UN.

ALN’ s mission is to bring diverse people together and form a collective voice and community. Our exhibit is proof of that vision’s success.

Don Rittner and Ursula Bustillos Daza at the United Nations International Peace and Ecology Day in September 2019 where they exhibited their environmental “Where Do You Stand” interactive panels exhibit. Photo by Gina Verrelli.

 

 

 

 

 

Scanmarker a must have research tool!

By Don Rittner

 

Ok, here is my checklist before I go out the door in the morning:

Got my keys? Check!

My iPhone? Check!

My wallet? Check!

My pants on? Check!

A writing implement? Check?

My hat? Check?

My Scanmarker? Check?

 

Wait, what was that last one you ask? The Scanmarker is a little portable device that everyone should own, especially students. The Scanmarker is a small lightweight digital pen size scanner. There is a USB corded version or the “Air” version which is cordless and connects via Bluetooth. The latter is the one I am reviewing. The Scanmarker works on both PC and Mac.

The Scanmarker comes with a carrying case.

 

 

If you are a student, researcher, or human, the Scanmarker is a must have tool. This lightweight pen size scanner scans at a whopping 3000 characters per minute. That is a full line of text within one second. You are limited to text size from 4 to 24 point. You can however adjust the scanning speed.

It does not matter if you scan as a lefty or a righty. You can set the scanner settings to accommodate either way.

You are not confined to your computer desktop either. There is an app so you can use it with your smartphone (iPhone for me), and other mobile devices.

I was having trouble getting it to connect to my iPhone via Bluetooth until I realized it was already connected to my iMac. Normally you would not have both on at the same time. Once I quit the application on my iMac it connected flawlessly on my iPhone.

The Scanmarker scans directly into programs such as Word, text apps, and web browsers. I tried to use it in Excel and while it works, as long as you keep hitting the tab button to move the data. I think I would like it if they brought a Table scanning option back (use to have it). Since I was not able to try it I can’t comment on its reliability. A great option would allow you to scan a word, lift the pen which would put the word in one cell, then scan the second word, put that in adjacent cell, etc. Or better yet, if the software could simply realize you are scanning a series of cells. You can do that manually (in the settings) of course but it would be nice if it were done automatically.

Here is the real kicker. Scanmarker can read over 40 different languages and translate them while you scan. What languages do you ask? Albanian, Azerbaijani, Brazilian, Bulgarian, Chinese (S Vert), Chinese (Simple), Chinese (T Vert) Chinese (traditional), Corsican, Croatian, Czech Danish, Dutch, English, Esperanto, Estonian, Fijian, Finnish, French, Galician, German, Greek, Hebrew, Hungarian, Icelandic, Irish, Italian, Japanese, Japanese Vert, Korean, Korean Vert, Latin, Latvian, Lithuanian, Moldovan, Norwegian, Polish, Portuguese, Romanian, Russian, Scottish Gaelic, Serbian, Slovak, Slovene, Spanish, Swedish, Swiss German, Tagalog, Turkish, Ukrainian, Xhosa, Zulu.

Yes Zulu too! In my case, I deal with a lot of research from the Netherlands but I do not speak or read Dutch. So you can scan in Dutch and have it translate on page to English, etc. It evens scans barcodes (CMC7 and BVR). If you would like it to read out loud while it scans it does that too. The trick is to make sure you scan quickly and straight across the page. I am really impressed how fast it scans and processes the information.

Once you set it up with software on your computer you can select whether to scan directly within scanmarker itself or select the doc icon and then place your cursor where you want it to appear, for example a blank Word Doc. It is that easy. There are settings for scanning text, image, numbers and barcode. In the manual it says tables but as I said earlier they apparently have taken it out of the software selection. As a historian, I use city directories a great deal and it would be nice to be able to scan names, addresses, occupations and year directly into Excel columns by recognizing each word as possible cell content.

You select the language you want to scan in and the language you want it translated if different. You can also have the imported text read to you out loud while you are scanning. There are settings that have scanning tips and even a practice area for beginners.

The Scanmarker menu (widget) is stuck either on the left or right side of your computer and can be moved up and down but not freely anywhere on the monitor. I find that a nuisance and would like to be able to move it anywhere on the computer. Since my apps dock is on the left it makes getting to the settings icon difficult.  I have many folders on the right so it covers those up too.  Free the Widget!

As an archaeologist there are professional reports in different languages that I could benefit from if I could read them. It is no longer a problem.

The Scanmarker is entirely made of plastic and is very light. My only fear is dropping it and breaking it. It comes with a USB charging cable and carrying case. They are available in several colors. Free technical support.

Pick your color.

This is one of those must have devices. If you are a student it will help immensely when you are trying to take notes from your textbook.

Back to school special now for $115

Go to https://scanmarker.com/

 

 

 

All Aboard! Railroad Museum in Schoharie showcases a bygone era!

by Don Rittner

Ten minutes from Middleburgh, New York in the heart of Schoharie County is one of the largest railroad museums in the Northeast. The Schoharie Valley Railroad Museum contains several of the original buildings that represent two former railroad companies: the Schoharie Valley Railroad (4.38 miles) and the Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad (5.75 miles). Grandison N. Frisbie was first president of the SVRR and Jacob Vroman was first president of the M&SRR.

The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places and you can visit on the weekends from Noon to 4PM.

My colleague and I were given a tour by Andrew Muller who is Historical Curator of the complex. The complex is owned by the Schoharie Colonial Heritage Association.

Old photo of the Station House, engine and passenger car with waiting people. The two steam engines owned by the company were eventualy scrapped.

 

The original Station House.

 

 

The Station House is where you purchased your ticket and waited for the train. It is now full of artifacts.

The complex of buildings includes the Station House, Freight Shed, Engine House, Weigh Station, the Old Mill and the Creamery Building.

The passenger car, box car and flat car can be seen here next to the Freight station.

The floods from Hurricane Irene back in 2011 did a considerable amount of damage and several artifacts were washed away but the volunteers and staff have ben restoring everything since then. Aside from some water lines on some windows (6 feet high at least) you would not know they were affected. Schoharie County was devastated by Irene. You can see some of the devastation in this YouTube video:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RSVKPFQ8bKk

The passenger car was a former “Head” shop in the 60s and 70s before it was rescued.

Interior of the restored passenger car.

In 1974, the passenger car left the flats and made its way to the museum to be restored.

I particularly like the rolling stock. They have an original 1917 Delaware and Hudson wooden caboose, an 1891 wooden Passenger combine car, two boxcars and a flatcar.

In 1974, they transported the passenger car, the last remaining vehicle of the Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad, to Depot Lane from the Middleburgh flats where it had been since 1936.  For many years it was a “Head” shop in the 60s.They restored the 1891 passenger car (had no chassis). The passenger car was made by Troy’s Gilbert Car Works in Green Island.  The restored 1917 wooden caboose was donated to the organization by the Bridgeline Historical Society. The museum also includes a 1920 scale model of buildings, cars and terrain of the area served by the Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad.

The Depot and freight barn is full of artifacts from the railroading days. Old photos hang on the walls, exhibits and artifacts are everywhere. The caboose is in the engine house where you see a smoke exhaust and ash pit that they discovered later since it was boarded over. The mill building houses an annual antique show.

 

The Middleburg And Schoharie Railroad. This is M&S #2 at the engine facility in Middleburgh on August 20, 1936. Just a month before her abandonment. (Joseph A. Smith/Ken Bradford Collection). Photo from the Internet.

 

Andrew Muller is the Historical Curator of the complex.

 

The coal weigh station. John Fain operated it.

 

The Middleburgh Plum was so popular that an express car took 100 baskets a day to market. It suffered from Black Knot disease, a fungal disease that attacks plums and cherry trees.

The Middleburgh Plum.

 

 

The Middleburg And Schoharie Railroad. Here is the Middleburgh Depot but became a house after the railroad closed.

 

Model of the Middleburgh Station complex. Only the depot buildings survives.

 

The Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad was founded in 1867. The first Chairman of the railroad was Jacob Vroman and S.L. Mayham asd Secretary. David Becker was named President of the railroad in 1868. The railroad was constructed at a cost of $105,000. The Middleburgh–Schoharie Railroad served both as a major passenger line in the Schoharie Valley and as a transporter of industry.

One of the major crops were hops and were frequently sent via the railroad. The Middleburgh and Schoharie Railroad operated in conjunction with the Schoharie Valley Railroad, formed in 1874, which the museum represents also. They were separate companies but frequently used each other’s locomotives, equipment, and facilities and this railroad ran between Schoharie and Schoharie Junction.

Hop Press.

Exhibit on Hop growing in the valley.

The railroad’s last run was September 24, 1936. The Schoharie Valley Railroad continued operation until September 17, 1942.  The company’s two engines, the Pony (built in 1855) and Middleburg (built in 1895) were eventually scrapped.  The latter engine was made in Schenectady.

The Railway Express delivered the mail to and from the railroads. My father was the REA platform manager for Union Station in Troy, NY. in the 1950s.

 

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518-295-7505

Email: scha@midtel.net

Web: http://schoharieheritage.org/railroad.html

 

NOTE TO READER.  Ignore words in lighter blue and double lined in the text.  There is a bug in the software system.  By clicking it brings you an ad.  However the links to websites and reports are valid.

 

Washing away the sins of the past.

Is Political Correctness destroying history?

By Don Rittner

 

During the tenure of Dick Thornburgh as US Attorney (1988-91), curtains were rented to hide the bare-busted “Spirit of Justice” statue and her bare-chested male equivalent, the “Majesty of Law,” in the justice department’s “Great Hall.”

In 2002, under John Ashcroft, curtains were installed blocking the statue from view during speeches. Justice officials said the curtains were put up to improve the room’s use for television. Ashcroft’s successor, Alberto Gonzales, took the curtains down in June 2005. In 2007 it was revealed that Republican lawyer and Bush appointee Monica Goodling ordered the drapes that were placed over the partially nude Spirit of Justice statues during Ashcroft’s tenure as Attorney General. The department spent $8,000 on blue drapes to hide the two aluminum statues.

Above “Spirit of Justice. Below “Majesty of Law.”

The two cast aluminum statutes were commissioned in 1933 at a cost of $7,275, and were made by artist C. Paul Jennewein, who created 57 different pieces for the justice building. Jennewein, a German born American Sculptor, produced a number of sculptures for public buildings between 1923 and 1964. He made the New York State Seal in 1959 that is the front of the Court of Appeals building in Albany.

Here in Albany a 19th century mural titled, “The Genius of America” (also known as “The United States of America (1870)), a 30 foot long painting by French artist Adolphe Yvon (1817-1893) became controversial. It was placed in the State Education Department building’s Chancellor’s Hall in the 1950s and disappeared in 2000 after department staff, some of them African American, complained that the mural was offensive.

“The Genius of America”

The mural depicts angels, babies and women in togas, George Washington and a god of war, and a group of colonial “zombies” coming up from the grave. In the lower right corner a slave in loincloth is being held under the arms of a well-dressed white man in a grey outfit (was it a Confederate man?). Since no one could figure out if the white man was lifting the slave from oppression or the opposite, it was decided to hide the mural with a large drape in 2000.

In 2013 it was decided by the education department’s first African-American commissioner John B. King to show the mural one hour per month so the public can make up their own mind.

The mural itself was almost destroyed. Alexander T. Stewart (1803-1876) commissioned it for his Fifth Avenue mansion. Stuart was a department store magnate and his marble fronted department store on Broadway between Chambers and Reade Streets was the largest retail store at the time. This store known as “The Marble Palace” at 280 Broadway still exists and later his “Iron Palace” built in 1862 took up almost a whole city block near Grace Church from Broadway and Ninth Streets to Tenth Street and Astor Place.

Because of the size and weighing 600 pounds it did not fit so he had it delivered to the Grand Union, a hotel famous in Saratoga that he owned. The building was demolished in 1952 but before that the painting was offered to the State of New York for free.

Grand Union Hotel in Saratoga was to be the original location for the mural but it weighed too much. Image from Shorpy.

The French artist Yvon was admired by Napoleon III who commissioned him to paint battle scenes. He was the leading teacher of drawing at the École des Beaux-Arts (1863–83) and he had American students Christian Schussele, Alfred Wordsworth Thompson, William Sartain, and J. Alden Weir. Alexander Stewart commissioned Yvon to paint not only “The Genius” but also The Reconciliation of the North and the South (lost) in 1870. When looked at as a pair it is clear that Yvon’s depiction of the slave in The Genius had more to do with emancipation than slaved.

The recent move to tear down all statues that deal with the Confederate participation in the Civil War seems also a step backward. Many argue that rather than tear them down, use them as educational objects and place plaques or inscriptions that describe what they represent.

Who are we trying to protect from seeing them? Adults, who can reasonably be expected to understand the symbolism and meaning behind them (could be a stretch)? Children, those innocent minds that must be sheltered from the realities of past events? This so-called progressive Puritanism is setting the stage for repeating the mistakes of the past.

Up for destruction now are public murals that were painted in San Francisco by a New Deal-era Communist painter. It just happened that Victor Arnautoff, a Russian immigrant, is considered by many to be the most important muralist in the Bay area during the 1930s Great Depression era. His philosophy of “The artist is a critic of society,” is reflected in his work and it is not a pretty picture of American culture or values. His “Life of Washington,” a 13 panel 1600 square foot mural graces the walls at George Washington High School and was completed in 1936. It shows slaves picking cotton at Mount Vernon and a group of colonizers walking past a dead Native American. Oops. Accurate but not politically correct these days. So the School Board in San Francisco wants to spend $600,000 to erase his work. One of the commissioners, Faauuga Moliga, is quoted in the New York Times supporting the move because “kinds are mentally and emotionally feeling safe at their schools.” So he wants the murals to be “painted down.” The board’s VP Mark Sanchez, is quoted that covering them up is not an option because it  “allows for the possibility of them being uncovered in the future,” and destroying them represents “reparations.”

“Life of Washington.” From the Washington Post.

 

If we are to allow each generation to destroy the cultural reflections and understandings of previous generations then there is no history to compare whether the human race is staying static or evolving. To protect young minds from the realities of human history is to foster ignorance, to paint an unrealistic story of American culture, and in fact destroy any chance of understanding how we got to where we are today. Why WAS there a Civil Rights Movement? Why are Native Americans relegated to reservations? Why DID we fight a Civil War? If we are only to rely on textbooks and one “approved” story then we are destined to make all the same mistakes again in the future. Just read some of the history books from the South that deny evolution, or claim the Earth is only 6,000 years old, etc.

One in ten Britons does not believe the Holocaust took place. In France, 20% of those aged 18-34 said they had never heard of the Holocaust; in Austria, the figure was 12%. A survey in America in 2018 found that 9% of millennials said they had not heard, or did not think they had heard, of the Holocaust. Overall one third of Americans thought “substantially less” than 6 million Jews were murdered in the Holocaust. A survey showed that 70 percent of Americans believe people care less about the Holocaust than before.

In 2018 a new report titled “Teaching Hard History: American Slavery,” which was researched over the course of a year by the Teaching Tolerance project of the nonprofit Southern Poverty Law Center revealed:

 

  • Only 8 percent of U.S. high school seniors could identify slavery as the central cause of the Civil War.
  • 68 percent of the surveyed students did not know that slavery formally ended only with an amendment to the Constitution.
  • Only 22 percent of the students could correctly identify how provisions in the Constitution gave advantages to slaveholders.
  • Only 44 percent of the students answered that slavery was legal in all colonies during the American Revolution.

 

But this lack of teaching our history is not new. Diane Ravitch, a historian of education at Teachers College at Columbia wrote a piece in the New York Times about this very subject in 1985. Her concluding paragraph is alarming considering how ineffective our knowledge of history has become:

“Unless historical-mindedness begins in the early years, in the home and the elementary grades, in the books that children read and the television they watch, even these small steps will not be enough. The free mind, as Aldous Huxley dramatically reminded us, needs to know its past, to debate and discuss how the world came to be as it is, in order to know what to defend and what to change and how to resist imposed orthodoxies.”

(https://www.nytimes.com/1985/11/17/magazine/decline-and-fall-of-teaching-history.html)

Considering what is going on today in American politics, knowledge of American history is of utmost importance. Unfortunately, it may be that Mark Twain’s comment in 1885 holds true today: “Many public-school children seem to know only two dates–1492 and 4th of July; and as a rule they don’t know what happened on either occasion.”

We need reminders of our past mistakes so we don’t repeat them.

 

 

 

 

 

Gartel and Rittner’s Great Adventures (AKA Don and Laurence spend a sunny day on NYC’s High Line)

by Don Rittner

My long time buddy Laurence Gartel, better known as the Father of Digital Media Art, and I decided to walk the High Line in New York City on Sunday, July 28. The sun was out, the temperature was in the 90’s, and fluffy cumulus clouds floated overhead. It was Laurence’s first time and I have been there several times but I noticed some new art installations.

In 1934, an elevated railroad track, the “High Line,” hovering 30 feet above 10th Avenue in New York City opened for business. It ran from 34th Street to St John’s Park Terminal at Spring Street. Its purpose was to pull cargo through the center of city blocks back and forth between Manhattan’s largest industrial districts. It was sorely needed as 10th Avenue became known as Death Avenue due to the number of people killed by moving freight trains, even though beginning in 1850 people were warned of oncoming trains by the “West Side Cowboys,” men who wrote on horseback in front of the moving trains.

 

(See https://www.thehighline.org/history/).

Death Alley and the West Side Cowboys.

 

In 1980, the last railroad train pulled three carloads of frozen turkey along the elevated railroad tracks, no longer needed as the truck industry took over the job of transporting goods. Plans to demolish the High Line were thwarted when Chelsea activist Peter Obletz challenged the demolition in court. In 1999, Joshua David and Robert Hammond, residents of the High Line neighborhood began preservation efforts to make a public open space park for the almost mile and half (1.45 m) elevated abandoned train track.

The High Line is its prime.

Nine years later the section between Gansevoort Street to West 30th Street opened to the public. In 2011, 3.7 million people visited, and only half of them were New Yorkers. In 2015, 7.5 million people visited the High Line. I could not find stats for recent years. It is now a destination for anyone coming to the city. The views are incredible, the design, which includes flowerbeds, seating, and the use of the old rails, incorporated into the design, make it a one of kind urban park in the sky.

The old and new next to each other along the High Line.

 

You will see futuristic buildings next to 19th century warehouses, many now used for housing or art space. In many spaces the rails once used by the locomotives are incorporated into the design. There are gardens, patches of flowers, even a small area that is a mini forest. Seating with little jaunts off the main corridor let you look down avenues.

Gartel walking along the High Line through a small forest.

Water fountains are abundant (one did not work) and works of art from large cubes that spell LOVE, to murals on buildings, to a standing clock grace the walkway. A few vendors selling ice cream sandwiches ($5 to $8 a piece, pricey).

 

Zaha Hadid’s designed Futuristic condos (520 West 28th Street) along the High Line are not selling very fast but you can get the Penthouse for a mere $50 million. Gartel and Rittner standing in front.

There are eleven entrances to The High Line.  The wheelchair-accessible entrances, each with stairs and an elevator, are at Gansevoort, 14th, 16th, 23rd, and 30th Streets.   Staircase-only entrances are located at 18th, 20th, 26th, and 28th Streets, and 11th Avenue.  Street level access is available at 34th Street via an “Interim Walkway” between 30th Street/11th Avenue and 34th Street.

The Vessel. Try climbing it.

A new section called The Spur at 30th and 10th Ave was opened recently. The Spur was once the High Line section most in danger of demolition. Thanks to a group of committed citizens and community leaders, it celebrated its opening on June 5, 2019. The Plinth is the first space dedicated to a rotating series of new monumental contemporary art commissions. The first commission is a 16 foot tall Bronze bust of a Black Woman called Brick House that graces the new section. It was created by Simone Leigh. The sculpture’s head is crowned with an Afro framed by cornrow braids, each ending in a cowrie shell. Brick House is the inaugural commission for the High Line Plinth.

Looking down the Vessel from the top.

According to the High Line web site, “Brick House is the first monumental sculpture in Leigh’s Anatomy of Architecture series, an ongoing body of work in which the artist combines architectural forms from regions as varied as West Africa and the Southern United States with the human body. The title comes from the term for a strong Black woman who stands with the strength, endurance, and integrity of a house made of bricks.”

Brick House.

 

Walking north on the High Line you eventually walk into the $25 Billion “Hudson Yards,” a new recently opened 28 acre neighborhood of mixed use high rises, 100 shops, food, and a large work of art, actually the centerpiece of the yards, a copper clad spiral staircase called The Vessel (for now, to be renamed in the future).  An estimated 120,000 people each weekend visited in its first three weeks (March, 2019).

Inside the Vessel.

Imagined by Thomas Heatherwick and Heatherwick Studio, The Vessel is a focal point where people can enjoy new perspectives of the city from different heights, angles and vantage points. Comprised of 154 intricately interconnecting flights of stairs — almost 2,500 individual steps and 80 landings — the vertical climb offers remarkable views of the city, the river and beyond. It is free to climb it (elevator for handicap) but you do need a ticket. Laurence and I did climb the stairs in the ninety degree heat (we should have taken the elevator).

The Shed.

You can get a same day ticket or book a future date and can be reserved online here

https://tickets.hudsonyardsnewyork.com/webstore/shop/viewitems.aspx?cg=VesselTix&C=VesselAdm&_ga=2.153872760.1303174332.1564377343-427386048.1564377343

Two visitors enjoying the view.

Futuristic and beautiful are common words heard and one of the buildings is a giant new performing art venue called The Shed (not actually part of the Yards). It sits on immense set of wheels so it can move to the center to act as a weather shield when they have outside venues.

A view from the High Line.

Next time you get to the city be sure to visit.

 

New futuristic buildings can be found along the High Line.

Commissioned art works can be found along the High Line.

The Shed is sitting on large rollers in case of an earthquake.

Gartel and Rittner at the bottom of the Vessel.

A view in Hudson Yards.

Relaxing in Hudson Yards.

There are several food shops inside the Hudson Yards buildings. We did not eat here but we did find the name of this chicken place quite interesting.