The South End
Traditionally, but not without much discussion, the "South End" is a term used to describe the flood plain pasture land located south of Lydius Street, east of South Pearl, and bordered by the original southern boundary of Albany. "The Pastures" was identified as a community landmark in the Albany municipal charter granted in 1686. Shortly thereafter, that acreage was reserved to the Dutch church. As early as 1698, it was located on a city map. From then on, it frequently was referred to as "the Pastures." The entire plot was deeded from the Dutch Church to the city in 1815. Today, the term "South End" is much more encompassing - covering both sides of South Pearl Street (maybe almost all the way west to Delaware Avenue).
The purpose of this exposition is to describe the southeastern corner of the original city of Albany in its pre-industrial context - namely the settlement and development of the area south of Lydius Street (today's Madison Avenue) and below (east of ) South Pearl Street. We offer a public program that focuses on a particular aspect of the initial settlement of the South End!
The detail shown here is from a very faint copy of engineer's map made by Evert Van Allen in 1818. You might click on key landmarks including Schuyler Mansion, the South Pearl Street residence of Captain Samuel Schuyler, Lydius Street, the Beaverkill, the ferry, the tip of Castle Island, and South Pearl Street. The maps made by Surveyor General and later South End resident Simeon De Witt during the 1790s also are of interest but far less detailed.
Philip Schuyler erected an elegant and grand mansion on the side of the hill at the end of the last French & Indian War. At that time, it overlooked an unbroken expanse of pasture land that belonged to the Albany Dutch Reformed Church. The map on the right shows the so-called "Pastures" with each lot or parcel numbered and available for sale.
Already in informal use as a pastureland, "the pastures" were deeded to the city of Albany in its municipal charter in 1686. The following year, Domine Dellius negotiated the transfer of fifty acres of the land to the church in payment for a debt.
At some tine during the era of the American Revolution, newcomer William Charles was butchering meat where the path to Schuyler Mansion cut across the Beaverkill in the vicinity of today's Arch Street. By the end of the century, his son George Charles was operating a "tannery" in that locale.
The first ward assessment roll of 1799, showed a number of very marginal residences located east of what became South Pearl Street. Two distinct sections of the first ward census for 1800 showing concentrations of "all other free persons" probably were living in this area as well.
It appears that the actual settlement of this area began with the distribution of the estate of General Schuyler following his death in 1804.
By 1810, Afro-Albanian South End pioneer Captain Samuel Schuyler had settled on South Pearl Street and was acquiring adjoining lots. From then to the present, South Pearl Street was developed as the "main street" of the South End. Despite being at the mercy of the annual spring flooding of the Hudson, the area became densely inhabited by actual residents and utilized in a range of industrial applications.
This offering will be expanded to cover the early years of the South End in better detail. However, much has been written and posted on this neighborhood from then to today as it served as a first home to several waves of newcomer groups.
Sources: The reigning primer on the South End was the major ambition of the late Virginia Bowers. She chose to focus on the German immigrant population of the neighborhood. After that, Internet sources abound: Start with Wikipedia or Google it.
Detail from a city map made by city surveyor Evert Van Allen in 1818 that includes the definition and numbering of the lots in the South End. Copied from a Photostat of the original in the City Engineer's Collection" at the Albany County Hall of Records.
first posted: 7/10/09; last revised 8/4/16