The Spires of Albany

1820 small
Albany, 1820

During the height of a cholera outbreak in 1822, a resident of New York City took the occasion to escape the pestilence and travel to upstate New York. He wrote an account of his journey, entitled “Our Travels. Statistical, Geographical, Mineoralogical [sic], Geological, Historical, Political and Quizzical. Written by Myself XYZ etc.”  The anonymous author had little to say about Albany, through which he passed, but he did make this observation about the Albany skyline:

“The Albanians, seem to pride themselves on their steeples, of which they have a goodly number for the proportions of Churches. Nay, not content with the usual allotment of one steeple to a church, they have, egad! put a couple to one of their houses of worship. This “steeple-mania” hath albeit a good effect when viewed at a proper distance, and carries an air of importance, the spires being mostly built in a shewy style.”

And as his boat proceeded down the Hudson, the observer recalled a verse he had read somewhere:

“Long has proud Albany elate,

Rear’d her two steeples high in air;

And proudly boasts she rules the state,

Because the Governor lives there!”

Below are pictures of all of the churches whose spires the anonymous writer would have seen in 1822. Alas, only one of them is still with us, First Dutch Reformed Church, with its twin steeples, which elicited such surprise from the author.

Presbyterian, 1st Beaver + Pearl
First Presbyterian; Beaver & South Pearl; built 1796

Dutch Reformed, First

Episcopal, St. Peter's
St. Peter’s Episcopal; State Street; built 1803

Dutch Reformed, Second

Presbyterian, Second
Second Presbyterian; Chapel above Maiden Lane; built 1811
Evangelical Lutheran Church
Evangelical Lutheran; Pine & Lodge; built 1816


St. Mary's
Chapel & Pine; built 1820


Thanks to the Albany Archive Flickr Group, where most of these images can be found.

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