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Kingston Point Park circa 1900

Kingston Point Park circa 1900
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River Breezes and Floating Palaces

In the late 1800s Albany was crowded.. really, really crowded. Imagine the population of Albany today, crammed into about a third of the current land area. Most of the residents lived in the South End. (Development in the Pine Hills was just starting and residential areas were pretty much non-existent in the Delaware, Whitehall and New Scotland neighborhoods.)

Summers were hot and dirty, with few places to escape the heat and crowding. There was Washington Park, created in the 1870s, but construction on Lincoln Park (then called Beaver Park) wasn’t completed until 1898 (and looked nothing like we know today). There were no playgrounds (they were an early 20th century innovation). Small parks and picnic groves existed outside of the city, but in the absence of public trolley lines they were accessible only by horse and carriage. One of the few options was a boat ride on the Hudson where people could escape to the upper decks and feel any breeze that was coming off the River and the mountains of the Hudson Valley.

By the 1880s the Hudson River Navigation Co. dominated Hudson River passenger traffic between New York city and Albany and stops in between. One of these stops was Kingston Point. After a delightful 4 hour boat ride down the Hudson to the Point passengers could spend several hours walking in shaded groves and picnicking, and then return to Albany.

By all reports it was a glorious trip. In the late 1800s the Hudson River steamers were floating palaces, accessible to anyone who could pay ae $1.00 (sometimes there were special excursion rates of 75 or 50 cents and there were group discounts.) If you didn’t want to lounge on the top of the ship you could move to a below deck with open windows and watch the scenery from a comfy wicker chair. Some of the Day Line ships had as many as 14 parlors or salons; there was always a ladies parlor. Carved wood paneling ran throughout the ships and fine art adorned the walls; the carpets were deep and the furniture plush. Professor Holding’s Orchestra played continuously.

If you wanted to impress your girl you could pay an additional $2.00 and eat in the dining room with crisp white linen tablecloths and silver-plate. In 1900 you might have your choice of chicken croquettes, broiled blue fish or prime rib with peach pie and vanilla ice cream for dessert. But if you were traveling with your family, a Sunday school or any other group there was a refreshment stand where you could purchase an ice cream, lemonade or root beer. Out of sight, away from the eyes of the “drys” men could find a saloon for a beer or a whisky and a smoking parlor.

The embarkation point for the boats was Quay St. at Hamilton, Steamboat Square, within walking distance of most of the South End and some trolley lines ran from other parts of the City.

The Kingston Point trip increased in popularity in the 1890s. By 1896 the Navigation Co. invested money in a new dock and station with large waiting rooms and a second floor with open air piazzas.

The next year an enterprising shipping and railroad magnate from Kingston, Samuel Croykendall, created Kingston Point Park on 12 acres west of the River. The Park had a magnificent landscape with shade trees and winding brick paths that caught the breezes off the River. The admission cost was nominal; most revenue came from the concessions. There were a variety of rustic houses, benches and tables scattered around the grounds. It was a cool oasis where families could have picnics, listen to a concert at the bandstand and take a rowboat out on a manmade lagoon. The Park included a casino, large theater, merry-go-round, Ferris wheel, dance pavilion, penny arcade, shooting gallery, photography gallery and a small sandy beach. It was entirely family oriented. No alcohol was sold or permitted on the premises.

The Kingston Point Park trip quickly gained popularity and the Navigation Co. increased the number of excursions; boats ran daily. The Oriental Hotel was built on a small bluff overlooking the Park. Families could stay for brief vacation out of hot Albany and the men of the family could find a bar with a place for a drink while their families explored the Park on their day trips.

Park attendance climbed; in 1903 average daily attendance reached about 3,000 in the hot summer months; just prior to World War I peak attendance was about 8,000/day. Most of attendees came from the Albany boats, although the Park was gaining favor with the residents of New York City and its northern environs. The Navigation Co. built the Day Line Ticket Office on Broadway in 1907 (currently housing the Hudson Harbor Restaurant) and new larger docks and a waiting room in Steamboat Square in 1918. Both remained accessible to the people of the South End and other residents of the Albany as the City expanded with more trolley lines.

Over time the Park changed; a baseball field was added, there was a fireworks display some nights, the dance pavilion was destroyed by fire. After the 1909 Hudson Fulton celebration the replica Robert Fulton “Clermont” ship was placed in the lagoon. In the mid-1920s the Park was purchased by the Navigation Co. (it purchased other parks in Indian Point and Bear Mountain at about the same time). By the 1930s, it had lost part of its former glory, but still remained an Albany destination. Trips stopped with World War II and the last regularly scheduled trips by Day Line stopped in 1948.
Date: 2018-01-14 02:04:42

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