Continued from May 23, 2012
Mr. and Mrs. James Stuart continue their exploration of 1829 Troy, New York, climbing toward the summit of Mount Ida (most locals call it Ida Hill). He commends the view of the city, river and countryside, commenting that the land, covered in pine and cedar, was considered until recently to be infertile, but similar land nearby in Kinderhook has proved to be quite productive when managed well and manured properly.
Partway to the top their climb is interrupted by a fence, so they head for a cottage to request permission to continue further. The tenants prove to be fellow Scots who, like Stuart, arrived last year, but several months earlier. The Stuarts chat for a while with the Craigs, who had found work superintending the farm on the hillside for the owner shortly after their arrival here. It can't be an easy job, since the hill is mainly formed of clay - although Stuart doesn't mention the latter fact - but the Craigs are making a go of it. Later in the century the unstable clay will result in several landslides, reducing the overall size of the hill somewhats.
Sometime before exploring the hill, excuse me, mountain, and heading north to Lansingburgh, our Scotsman has made a few real estate inquiries and discovered that a 65 x 25-foot tenement building has recently sold for $4,000. Untempted, he and his wife climb back into their carriage and, after short ride, cross the Hudson on the twenty-year-old Union Bridge, an 800-foot covered wooden affair that had originally cost $20,000. Later it would also be known as the Waterford Bridge. They head inland a few miles to view the falls at Cohoes, which they missed seeing last year during their brief ride on the Erie Canal. He mentions seven locks in three-and-a-half miles and he should know - they had convinced him then that canal travel wasn't for James Stuart.
On his visit to Albany last year Stuart found the rooms at the Eagle Hotel to be rather meagrely funished, so he decides on a change, putting up at the boarding house run by Leverett Cruttenden, further uphill on Capitol Sqaure, where Lafayette had stayed five years earlier. Good enough for a marquis it proved equally satisfying to Stuart, who mentioned, "comfortable accommodation . . . and as good a tea and supper as we had seen anywhere." Best of all, "I was asked . . . for the first time in the United States, whether we preferred to sleep on a mattrass or feather bed."
Cruttenden stops by to chat with Stuart, who describes his host as, "a frank, John Bull-looking personage, very fond of Scotch songs and of Burns's poetry." Like the good Scotsmen they are, they discuss local prices, "A goose sometimes to be had for a shilling Sterling, and a turkey for two shillings."
The next morning Stuart - probably with future publication of his travels in mind - has a quest to take up again, his current holy grail, this year's annual report on Auburn Prison. Following the Ossining bookseller's suggestion he pays call on the office of the state's secretary of state. The great man (whom Staurt neglects to identify by name) is apparently not there, but a clerk fields Stuart's request. Albany's reputation for complicating the simplest of matters is not unearned; Stuart is told that all the copies have been given away. We'll follow up on his mission next time.
© 2012 David Minor / Eagles Byte