are safe when the legislature is in session.” So said Mark Twain.
But Albany has always prospered while the New York State Legislature is in session. Especially our fair city’s hospitality industry.
The official records of the 1833 Assembly include an interesting table showing where each Assemblyman stayed while in Albany for the January session of that year. In the days before easy rail or automobile transportation, if you were going somewhere to do some work, you had to stay there until the work was done. Commuting was rarely an option, especially with the daily work of a Legislature. In fact, only one Assemblyman, Edward Livingston of the City of Albany, was able to stay at his home during the session. The rest stayed in hotels and other places of lodging. So where did they stay?
The most popular spot was The Mansion House, located on the west side of North Market, just north of State Street (later, 20 – 22 Broadway). Originally built in 1800 as the residence of John Maley, one of Albany’s richest citizens at that time, it had been purchased in 1828 by Nathaniel S. Skinner (who had been the proprietor of another hotel, also called the Mansion House), and converted into a hotel. It was considered the most up-to-date and well managed hotel in Albany. Twenty-three of the Assembly’s 129 members resided at the Mansion House during the January 1833 session.
Right across Market Street from the Mansion House was the City Hotel (one of several hotels of that name in Albany’s history). It consisted of four building fronts joined together and extended all the way back to Dean Street. Six Assemblymen boarded here.
Going a little farther up Broadway, those Assemblymen who wished to avoid ‘ardent spirits’ were able to board at The Temperance Hotel, at the northeast corner of North Market and Steuben streets. This building would be demolished in 1845 to make way for the Delavan House, a much larger hotel, also run ‘according to temperance principles.’ Eleven Assemblymen stayed here that January.
State Street was also a popular location for the visiting legislators. At the intersection of Market/Broadway and State was the Adelphi Hotel, which dated to the turn of the century. It was approximately where the Hampton Hotel building today stands. Sixteen Assemblymen stayed here. A bit farther up the hill was the American Hotel, at 100 State Street, which hosted nineteen Assemblymen. The old City & County Savings Bank building now stands on the site. Caleb N. Bement was one of Albany’s noted hoteliers, and not long after 1833, he purchased the American Hotel. Mr. Bement also had his own hotel on State Street before purchasing the American, but I have not been able to determine its location; however, seven members availed themselves of Bement’s Hotel. Finally, the Franklin House, at 136 and 138 State Street, was the temporary residence of three legislators.
Just off State Street, at 40 – 42 Beaver Street, was the Fort Orange Hotel, which housed five members. This building would later become one of the first homes of the Christian Brothers Academy. The Albany Coffee House stood at the northwest corner of Green and Beaver streets. This was one of Albany’s most ancient hostels, built before the Revolution, and originally called the King’s Arms. The Capitol Hotel would later be built on the site. One legislator roomed at the Coffee House.
Another popular area for the legislators to stay was the vicinity of the so-called Landing Place, later Steamboat Square. Perhaps this was the place for statesmen more concerned about making a fast exit than about proximity to their place of employment. The National & Columbian Hotel, which was just opposite the Landing Place, at 161 – 163 Market Street, hosted seventeen legislators. The Eagle Tavern, another Albany inn with ancient provenance, was at the corner of Market and Hamilton, and was the residence of three Assemblymen.
Of course, some lawmakers preferred to stay close to the Capitol (the Old Capitol, that is). The storied Congress Hall was at the corner of Washington Avenue and Park Place – about as close as one could get. Perhaps somewhat surprisingly, only seven Assemblymen stayed here. I wonder if just ‘leadership’ stayed so close, or if Congress Hall was pricier because of its location. But there were other Capitol Hill options – A.P. Loucks’ at 15 Washington, and Mrs. Lockwood’s at 30 Washington, at the corner of Hawk Street – each of which hosted three Assembly members.
Then there were the few oddballs, who did not stay in hotels. There was Edward Livingston of Albany, previously mentioned, who enjoyed the luxury of sleeping in his own bed at 55 North Pearl Street. Also, there were three members (two of them from Orange County) who stayed at 33 Dean Street. And one who boarded at 55 Chapel Street.
For a small city, Albany seemed to have quite a flourishing hotel industry in 1833, due in no small part, to the annual influx of legislators on the people’s business (and the people’s dime as well!). So while life, liberty and property may still have been in jeopardy, Albany’s hoteliers reaped the benefits.
I did a little map showing the approximate locations of all the hotels mentioned in this blog post. I used red for some of the numbers just to make them a little more visible.
PHOTO CREDITS: Mansion House picture from AIHA digital collection; all other images taken from Albany Group Archive Flickr site.