The Pruyn Collection of Albany History at Albany Public Library is a treasure trove of information about the leaders, citizens, buildings, governments, events, and history of New York’s capital city. The collection includes documents about urban renewal, the South Mall construction, city and state government, and African American history.
Albany Public Library’s digital collection on New York Heritage contains a small sample of our local history holdings. The full Pruyn Collection includes thousands of books, photographs, city directories, newspapers, documents, census records, city council minutes, maps, and more. We invite you to visit the Pruyn Collection of Albany History, which is housed at Albany Public Library’s Main Library at 161 Washington Avenue.
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Albany Public Library Sub-collections:
Commercial Streets of Albany
The Commercial Streets of Albany includes of photographs and drawings that capture the businesses and industries of New York’s capital city. Images in this collection document Albany’s downtown, which stretches north and south from the banking and government offices of State Street along the commercial, retail, and industrial spaces on Pearl Street and Broadway. Other locations, including many along Central, New Scotland, and Western Avenue, are featured in this collection, composed mostly of photographs taken in the early 20th century. Before it had any European inhabitants, the place Albany occupies was a site for trade and transportation of goods by American Indians. In this way, the land Albany’s streets are laid out on was commercial before those streets had names, boundaries, and addresses.
The Religious Albany collection features photographs and drawings of churches, convents, parish houses, and other religious buildings in the city of Albany. The buildings span many architectural styles and religious denominations, and many photographs show the interiors of these remarkable buildings, some of which no longer exist. In many cases, the ornate interiors of the buildings are visible. Although not all the photographs are dated, they appear to be from the late 19th and early 20th century.
Residential Albany, New York
This collection is composed of photos and illustrations of streets and structures where people lived, from small apartment buildings and mansions in Albany’s oldest neighborhoods to single family houses in the newer parts of Albany. Houses made of brick, stone, or wood and in various architectural styles are represented here, as are the street scenes that surrounded them. Sometimes the sign on the front door tells us who lived there or an advertisement on a nearby sign gives us a view of what the people who lived in these locations saw on an average day. Automobiles, trolleys, and people show up in many of the photographs, and zooming in on these subjects can reveal details otherwise missed. The majority of the images date from between the late 19th century and the mid-20th century.
Urban Renewal in Albany, New York
“A Bicentennial of Albany Views: 1963-1967 and 1974-1975 Compared” is an album of photographs and captions that was handmade in 1976 by Florence L. Powell, a historical research assistant for the city of Albany. Powell’s album is composed of before-and-after pictures of the Clinton Square area of Albany (where Broadway and North Pearl Street meet Clinton Avenue) during the urban renewal era. The photographs document the demolition of buildings, the reshaping of streets, and the construction of Interstate 787 and the Leo W. O’Brien Office Building. The captions contain background information on the history and people associated with the places pictured, as well as Powell’s assessment of the effects of urban renewal on Albany.
Views of Albany Collection
Views of Albany draws from our collection of 1,500 black and white photographs. These photographs are mostly from the early 20th century, especially 1920-1950. Views of Albany helps us see the homes, churches, businesses, weather events, transportation, streets, and people of Albany's past. When one takes the time to look closer, many clues to what life was like in Albany in the past are revealed. NY Heritage, a powerful digital tool, makes these closer looks possible.
This collection consists of yearbooks from current and former schools in the city of Albany. Our physical collection of yearbooks is housed in the Pruyn Collection of Albany History and can be accessed by the public. In an effort to better assist Albany Public Library patrons who frequently seek out high school, college, elementary school, and parochial school yearbooks, we are now accepting donations of yearbooks from current and former schools in the city of Albany. Yearbooks should be in good condition but can have signatures and messages written in them. Please drop off your yearbook donations during normal library hours at the first floor circulation desk, the basement reception desk, or the second floor reference desk of the Main Library, 161 Washington Ave., Albany NY. For more details please contact the reference department at 518-427-4303 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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