North Pearl and Columbia Streets in the 19th Century

Of late, I’ve been absorbed by the discipline of stereoscopic photography – creating three-dimensional images with film prints, and using some sort of viewer or printing technique to recreate the 3-D effect.

The other day, I came across a vintage Albany-themed 3-D stereoview card from the “American Scenery” series, and although the print is somewhat faded, and the color tinting is rather amateurish, I thought I would share it with you.

I’ve come across stereocards before, but I’ve never seen one before that was hand-tinted.  And right away, there are plenty of clues as to what the photographer tried to capture here.

On the bottom of the right-sided image, you can see the words “1997 Looking Up Pearl Street From Columbia Street, Albany, N.Y.”  Of course, you certainly could have figured that out by seeing the towers of the First Church in Albany in the distance, couldn’t you?  Yeps.

But that image is kinda small to view.  So how about I re-scan the image, and just crop it to the one stereo photo that’s clearer and has more contrast?

The one on the left, of course…

In doing this, now we have more historic artifacts in view.  You can clearly see the “99 cent store” sign that’s attached to the electric pole, as people walk past the intersection of North Pearl and Columbia Streets.  The people in the street are more defined and clear; the people on the sidewalk are blurry and ghosty, as if nobody bothered telling them to hold still for the camera.  And as for the “99 cent store” sign … could it be a sidewalk advertisement for the building next to it, which may … or may not … be Lodge’s Department Store?

I can make out a couple of businesses in this picture – on the right side of the street is a store called Pemberton’s.  In the building where the Bayou Cafe is today, you can make out what look like signs for a pocket watch shop and a dentist.   The left side of the street has a sign that says “HAIR” on one of the buildings.  Whether that’s a wig shop or a barber is beyond me right now.

The streets are cobblestone, and outside of a single buckboard wagon, there’s not a single stitch of traffic on North Pearl Street.  Yeah, try taking that picture at 5:00 p.m. today.  You’ll probably get run over by someone trying to flee Albany on their way home.

This is a fascinating little photo card.

I’m going to need to investigate it some more.

Of course, if there are any Albany historians who want to take a crack at this and offer some historic background…

By all means.  Fill me in on what you discover.

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