A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Conclusion)

Update.  For the past couple of weeks, I’ve been working on turning an old wooden milk crate into a piece of waycool hanging art.  I removed the oak slats from the crate, sanded them down to bring out the grain in the planks, and stained the edges of the planks with black stain.

Here’s where we are at now.

Now I’m not going to leave this bare wood just sitting there and aging.  That’s not part of the project.  I need to make this thing look awesome.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Conclusion)”

A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part Two)

If by chance you followed my previous blog post … I acquired a vintage milk crate from the old Norman’s Kill Dairy, a historic Albany creamery.  Rather than just keep an old milk crate around – even though old retro wooden milk crates are kinda cool – I took some of the oak slats out of the crate, with plans to re-purpose them into a new artwork.  In the previous post, I removed the slats from their metal reinforced milk crate ribs, and I palm-sanded the front of each slat to expose the wooden interior.

Now for the fun part.

I need some more wood.  And by “need some more wood,” I have to apply the slats to some sort of wooden substrate backing.  Ergo … a trip to Silver Fox Salvage.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part Two)”

A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part One)

The Capital District’s consumer product advertising history often fascinates me.  So when an eBay auction came up that featured this old milk crate … I couldn’t resist snagging it.

Is that completely waycool?  Yes it is.  That’s an old milk crate from the Normanskill Dairy – okay, back in the day it was called Norman’s Kill Dairy, and it – like many local dairies and creameries in the area – used these porchside milk crates as repositories for milk and dairy deliveries.  If memory serves me correctly, there was a Norman’s Kill Dairy outlet in downtown Albany – I believe its exact location is now part of the Empire State Plaza complex.

I’ve had this crate for a while – and during that time, I tried using it as a convenient endtable, as a storage crate, as something, anything.  But there was something about this little crate that really interested me… not so much as function, but as fashion.

And like my “K-Chuck Cabinet” project last year, where I took a 1930’s radio highboy cabinet and upscaled it into a super-awesome hideaway storage cabinet, I wanted to upscale this milk crate into something artistic.

And thus began my first steps in achieving this lofty goal.

Continue reading “A Delivery from Norman’s Kill Dairy (Part One)”

Coins of the Rebellion: The Civil War currency of Albany merchants

I want to show you some historic treasures today.  It’s a window to Albany life from 150 years ago.  And it’s a nice collectible series as well.

Take a look at this.  This is an actual minted token from 1863 for a shoe store on Broadway.

And tokens like this were the norm in 1863 – not the exception.

During the Civil War, common U.S. coinage virtually disappeared.  Gold and silver were hoarded, and even copper coins were squirreled away for their metallic value.

From this came a rise in custom-stamped coinage, as private metallurgists struck copper tokens for merchants.  These Civil War tokens were coins with patriotic messages, and were used in lieu of actual currency.  The Civil War tokens, also known as “storefronts” or “storecards,” were produced between 1862 and 1864, when their similarity in size and composition to actual pennies caused the United States Government to pass laws prohibiting private coinage.

Some storefronts were offered by various merchants in lieu of currency, and these sovereigns have developed into their own collectable numismatic subgenre.

In Albany, there were several styles of storecards stamped between 1862 and 1864, including some with typeface variations.  Most of them were either made of pure copper or a copper-brass alloy, but there are some examples struck from lead, tin, and even melted into bronze.

civil-war-token-1aOne of the most common Albany Civil War Tokens is the Benjamin & Herrick Fruit Dealers token, which could be redeemed at their 427 Broadway store.  There are several variations on this token, as the most dedicated collector will examine how close the letter ‘F” in FRUIT is to the letters in “BENJAMIN.”

civil-war-token-1b

 

The reverse side of this token shows the address of redemption.  There are several different styles of this reverse as well, depending on the size of the numerals, and whether the “2” in 427 has an extra cedilla-like descending mark (as can be seen at right).

civil-war-token-12aAre you hungry for some coffee and spices?  Then you should head down to Exchange and Dean Streets and visit John Thomas’ Premium Mills.  There are several variations on this storefront coin as well, so keep an eye out.

civil-war-token-22aSometimes these coins may have a tiny hole punched through them; although there are several possible reasons for this type of modification, some sources say that the coins could be strung together on a string, or worn as part of a necklace or watch fob; other holes could have been made to test the coin’s metallurgic components.  Others may have been caused by stamping errors at the token manufacturer.

Of the Albany merchants with known Civil War minted tokens, only one – D.L. Wing – still has a building in downtown Albany, although the structure itself is an empty facility.  During the Civil War, D.L. Wing’s operations were housed at 318 Broadway – a different location than the D.L. Wing building currently on Broadway – and D.L. Wing’s Civil War storecards proudly offered “Union Flower” for their customers.

And by far the coolest of the Civil War token was one from Straight’s Elephantine Shoes, located at 398 Broadway – well, a parking lot is located there now.  Straight’s tokens featured a marching, boot-wearing elephant, and this figural token is extremely collectible, with good examples selling for up to $200 today.

The collectibility of these treasures ranges from common to nearly impossible to find.  While one can go on eBay and find several Benjamin & Herrick Civil War tokens for a low selling price, one variation – in which the token’s reverse contains the patriotic phrase “United We Stand / Divided We Fall” – is extremely rare, with prices ranging as high as $1,000 for a clean token with that phrase.

Although most of the tokens were stamped in copper, there were plenty of other materials used for these coins – including silver, brass, nickel, tin, and a copper-brass alloy.

The coins are about the size of a modern penny, and can easily be mistaken for a one cent piece.  In fact, the U.S. Government in 1864 actually passed a law that forbade the minting of storefronts and storecards.  The ones that survive today are treasures of a bygone time.

In addition to the private coinage, local merchants – as well as the City of Albany itself – issued paper scrip as the equivalent of currency.  This scrip was not backed by silver or gold, but was instead backed by the promise of local merchants to honor the face value of the printed document.

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These paper scrips were signed by C.J. Paige, Albany City Chamberlain, as well as by Albany Mayor Eli Perry, who in 1862 commenced the second of his three non-consecutive stints as Albany mayor.  Perry would later serve two terms in the House of Representatives in the 1870’s.

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Various printing companies lithographed these scrips.  The five cent scrip above was printed by Murray & Co. Exchange of Albany, while the ten-cent note came from Lewis & Goodwin, with offices at 452 Broadway.

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It’s amazing that any of these bills have survived to the 21st century.  The notes were printed on very thin oil-like paper stock, and there are indications that some of these scrips were counterfeited.

scrip-50

It’s hard to believe that in many instances, the City of Albany did whatever they could to provide more money for their citizens – by simply manufacturing more money!  Imagine if the City tried to do this today…

I hope you’ve enjoyed this little excursion into a little-known fragment of Albany’s history.  And who knows … maybe this might inspire you to combine being a numismatist and a Civil War re-enactor.

As for these pieces … I’ll hold on to them for a little while, and then when I get a chance, I’ll donate them to the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Who knows?  Maybe 150 years from now, someone else might want to do some research on these little treasures.

Especially that cute one with the marching elephant.

Continue reading “Coins of the Rebellion: The Civil War currency of Albany merchants”

A new life for Frontier Town in 2017?

Frontier Town, January 1, 2017. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller

Frontier Town, January 1, 2017. BlackBerry PRIV camera phone. Photo by Chuck Miller

You might have missed it when Governor Andrew Cuomo issued his recent “State of the State” addresses, but buried on page 102 of the adjoining “State of the State” budget report is a $32 million plan to revitalize what was once the Frontier Town amusement park into a new type of tourist attraction.

The plan would take the land on the Frontier Town campus and convert it into a “Gateway to the Adirondacks” tourist facility.  This would include a visitor’s center, a campground, an area for horseback riding, and a festival staging area.

The “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project also has the potential to revitalize tourism and recreation in the Adirondack towns of North Hudson, Newcomb and the surrounding communities.  Plus, with the recent State acquisition of the Boreas Ponds tract, a “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project would certainly boost job opportunities throughout the region.

I’m for this.  Yeah, we’ll never get Frontier Town back, and even if someone did try to revive the old amusement park, it wouldn’t be the same as it was in the past.  It just couldn’t be.  This “Gateway to the Adirondacks” concept makes so much more sense.

As a public service for those of you who don’t normally read Governor Cuomo’s budget reports, I’ve included pages 102-104 here in this blog.  They describe the “Gateway to the Adirondacks” project, its future and its goals.

Oh, and if you DO want to read all 383 pages of Governor Cuomo’s budget plan, here’s a link to keep you entertained over the weekend.

Proposal: Create Master Plan for “Gateway to the Adirondacks” at Northway Exit 29 in North Hudson

The Frontier Town theme park was built in the Adirondacks in 1952. For more than four decades, this entertainment destination was a boon to the local economy, drawing visitors from across the country to the town of North Hudson. But since 1998 when the theme park was closed, this site at Exit 29 of the Northway has sat dormant. As a result, local jobs, restaurants and lodging have all but disappeared from this once thriving Adirondack community.

In 2016, recognizing a critical need to invigorate the economies of these Adirondack communities, Governor Cuomo challenged the Open Space Institute and five neighboring Adirondack towns to collaborate with the State to design a blueprint for a new recreation hub at this location. In 2017, that challenge will be met and a new world class recreational experience will be realized through the establishment of state, local and private partnerships led by Governor Cuomo to invest up to $32 million to create the Gateway to the Adirondacks.  The new hub will include:

  • A DEC campground and day use area along the Schroon River;
  • An equestrian camping and trail riding area, similar to DEC equestrian camping and riding facilities at Otter Creek and Brookfield, which are drawing visitors from throughout the eastern United States;
  • A Visitor Information Center to introduce visitors to the world class recreational opportunities in the Adirondack Park;
  • An Event Center with tourist accommodations and facilities for hosting shows and festivals;
  • Interactive exhibits in historic structures highlighting the past, present, and future of the Adirondack forest products and local food industries; and
  • Areas designated for commercial business development including those which provide food, lodging and amenities for visitors and those which can grow at this strategic location along the Northway corridor.

As a first step, the Department of Environmental Conservation will acquire a conservation easement on approximately 300 acres of land with support from the Environmental Protection Fund. This will allow construction of the public and equestrian camping and day use areas. Paradox Brewery will also be investing $2.8 million to expand its operations at the site thanks in part to $200,000 in incentives from the Empire State Development Corporation.

Governor Cuomo’s goal is to promote and increase the economic vitality of the towns connected to this North Hudson location.  Transforming this site into an attractive destination will link local and regional resources and provide year round recreation opportunities and services for multiple uses, users and businesses.  The Gateway site will welcome, orient and connect visitors to trail networks, recreation destinations and businesses in the Adirondack Park.  Drawing visitors to North Hudson to connect with premier opportunities for hiking, biking, horseback riding, snowmobiling and boating. This, coupled with commercial business development, will revitalize communities and help transform this region.

Wow.

This will be big.  And much needed.

But even though all this is on the table… I just ask Governor Cuomo for one thing when his people work on this project.

Just save something from Frontier Town.  Revitalize the Main Street facade.  Restore the old chapel.  Something.  Just as a reminder of what Frontier Town used to be for generations of families who originally visited North Hudson and the Adirondacks for a day trip or for a weekend.

As much as it means to preserve New York’s beauty and majesty…

Let’s just save a small piece of New York’s history while we’re at it.

BUILT 2016 is coming…

One of my favorite charities during my late-year “Charity Season” is Historic Albany Foundation, and their BUILT: Albany’s Architecture Through Artists’ Eyes auction and fundraiser is an event I totally treasure.

BUILT is an amazing charity event, in which Albany’s top artisans create breathtaking artwork and imagery inspired by the architecture – past and present – of the Capital City.  And it’s all available for purchase and bid.

From Historic Albany’s Facebook page about the event.

BUILT promotes awareness of Albany’s built environment and raises funds for preservation efforts. For the past 13 years we’ve used our annual art exhibit & silent auction to highlight the issue of vacant buildings in Albany. With BUILT, we extend this artistic lens not just on vacant architecture, but onto Albany’s entire BUILT environment. A portion of the proceeds from the reception and art sales will benefit the Foundation’s programming and technical services.

In 2015, we had 80 artists submit close to 200 works of art. We are constantly impressed by the caliber of artwork that is part of the show and we encourage any and all artists to submit once the call for art is released.

And with that in mind, BUILT is currently calling for new and unique artwork that showcases Albany’s brilliant architecture and vibrancy – oh, and this year, they’re also including art that showcases the architecture of Schenectady and Troy as well, as part of Historic Albany Foundation’s collaboration with the Breathing Lights art project.  BUILT’s prospectus can be viewed by visiting this link.

Nipper's Flip Side
Nipper’s Flip Side. Nikon Df camera, Nikkor 80-200 f/2.8 lens. Photo by Chuck Miller.

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Oh, and how’s this for super-coolness… the prospectus has one of my entries from last year, Nipper’s Flip Side, as one of the art examples!  Yes, the photo I took with the RCA dog atop the Arnoff Moving and Storage Building (the former RTA Warehouse), as shot off a reflection in a street puddle.  I blogged about taking that photo in this post.

If you plan on entering BUILT, you should get your pieces ready.  This is one of the best showcases of the Capital Region’s artisans and craftspeople, and it also affords buyers the opportunity to purchase these artworks – and those purchases will help preserve our area’s most beloved and endangered buildings and architecture.

So here’s the deal.  Read the prospectus, look for your three best pieces that represent the visual excitement and wonder of Albany, Schenectady and Troy, and submit them to BUILT.

You’ll be glad you participated.

Trust me on this.

L-Ken’s sign, restaurant, demolition began today

I knew it would happen.  It was only a matter of time.

But when I received a message from one of my loyal blog readers, I knew I only had a few moments to act.

Background.

I had just put the finishing touches on this morning’s blog, when I received a comment on one of my other blog posts.  It was Dave.  And his message:  “They tore down L-Ken’s Drive-In today.  Go buy the sign.”

Well, I didn’t have enough money to buy the sign – heck, if I did, that sign would have been in the Town and Village years ago – but I did have enough time this morning to race over to Colonie and see if it was true, that L-Ken’s Drive-In was on its last heartbeat.

Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Demolition worker begins removal of chef logo from L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And the sign – the last remaining example of Googie advertising on Route 5 between Albany and Schenectady – was now being disassembled by Town of Colonie construction workers.  As I arrived, a worker in a cherry-picker had already loosened off the RC Cola sign from its moorings, and was now carefully removing the plexiglass waiving chef from the sign itself.

“Hey, you!”

It was another Town of Colonie construction worker, looking directly at me.

“Yes?”

“This is a hard-hat area only.  If you want to take pictures, you need to step back.”

I took a few steps back.

“More steps.”

Great.  I’m playing Mother May I with the Town of Colonie public works department.  I look around.  There are no other photographers or interested parties nearby.  If I don’t get these shots… no one will.

I took a few steps back.  I also stayed along the sidewalk and used as much technical acumen that my BlackBerry PRIV could achieve.

Construction worker removing L-Ken's chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker removing L-Ken’s chef panel. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And slowly, surely, the construction worker removed the panel.  I wached as another worker manipulated the cherry-picker basket to bring the panel safely to the ground without it shattering into a million pieces – either the sign, or the construction worker.  Safety first.  It is a hard-hat area, after all…

A couple of construction workers took the panel and hauled it over to a flatbed.

“Hey!” I called to them.

They looked up.

“Hold the sign up, I’ll get your picture.”

And sure enough…

Construction workers with piece of L-Ken's sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction workers with piece of L-Ken’s sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

I swear that chef sorta looks like a caricature of Mario Cuomo.  Doesn’t he?

Anyways, the cherry-picker construction worker tried to examine if the next piece of the sign – the rotating hot dog that had “DRIVE-IN” and “SNACKS” in neon tubes – could come down.  But it was bolted together in such a way that other pieces of the sign had to be removed beforehand.

The workers moved their equipment to the other side of the sign, and the cherry-picker started to remove the second chef sign.

Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
Construction worker confirming the removal of the sign. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

And within minute, that sign was removed as well.

Demolition on the L-Ken’s sign will continue throughout the day, I expect.  At 7:30 a.m. this morning, this was all that was left of the sign that once brought generations of fried food lovers to this little corner of Central Avenue.

L-Ken's sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.
L-Ken’s sign, July 26, 2016. BlackBerry PRIV camera. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Wow.  Just wow.

I know the sign had become an eyesore over the years, but there was some faint hope that maybe someone would restore the sign or declare it a landmark or restore the sign or buy the property or restore the sign or restore the sign.

At this point, though… all that’s left are memories once again.

And I suspect that the next time I visit this little corner of Central Avenue…

The sign will be gone.

I’ll still have memories of L-Ken’s – including those based on photos I have taken.

Like this one from 2014, in which I re-animated the sign with digital colored neon.

Re-lighting L-Ken’s. Nikon Df camera, Vivitar 19mm f/3.8 lens, and a little electronic paint job. Photo by Chuck Miller.

Or this restored L-Ken’s sign with its original ice cream cone replacing the garish real estate advertising sign.

L-Ken's Drive-In Updated Sign//embedr.flickr.com/assets/client-code.js

Yeah, L-Ken’s is now officially gone.   The sign will vanish.

I’m sad to see it go.

But I’m glad I was around when it was there.