Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Preliminary History -- 118-120 Washington Ave.

Compiled by Elizabeth P. Griffin

I recently visited the Hall of Records and researched the history of the buildings located at 118 and 120 Washington Avenue. I used both the Assessors Rolls and City Directories to determine the dates the buildings were built, the builder and how the buildings were used over the first forty years from the dates of their construction.

I had very little time and think it would be very useful for others to check my work and expand on my research to better understand who occupied and owned the buildings from 1870 to 1930, a time when Washington underwent tremendous social, political and architectural change. What is unique about these buildings is that they are rare survivors of Washington Avenue's early labor and industrial history and date from 1830s and 1840s, before the block became fashionable for grand mansions.

The following are a few dates and milestones of the buildings and their first owners:

  • 1830-31 C R Wooley, cooper, is listed in the City Directory as a Cooper on Washington Avenue (see Colonial Williamsburg's website for a description of the coopering trade.)
  • 1831-32 C R Wooley, cooper, is listed in the City Directory at 104 Washington Avenue (It is not clear if that is the same address as 118 as there were very few addresses at that block of Washington and addresses were often changed when streets were undergoing growth and development. Checking the Assessors Rolls should clear this up.)
  • 1832-33 Collins R Wooley is listed in the City Directory at 118 Washington Avenue.1844-45 Collins Wooley is listed in the City Directory as a cedar cooper at 120 Washington Avenue and 118 Washington is now listed as his residence. I believe he built 120 Washington for his shop but need time to cross refrence this with the Assessors Rolls.
  • 1850-51 Wooley & Harris cedar cooper are listed in the City Directory at 120 Washington Avenue and 118 Washington is again listed as Collins Wooley's residence.
  • 1854 Eliza. Wooley is listed in the City Directory as a widow who resides at 118 Washington. Collins is not listed from this date forward and most likely died the year before leaving behind his wife Eliza., sons William, Jesse and daughter Eliza. Wooley & Harris are still listed at 120 Washington Avenue.
  • 1865 Eliza. Wooley, widow is listed in the City Directory at 118 Washington Avenue and Harris & Cooper disappear from the Directory. In fact 120 is not listed at all but in the 1866 Assessors Rolls CR Wooley is listed as owning 118 & 120 Washington Avenue, three story brick. Both addresses are assessed as the same property. (It is not uncommon for the deceased head of households name to continue to appears on the Assessors Rolls for a number of years after their death.)
  • 1869 Eliza. Wooley does not appear in the City Directory and likely died in 1868 when she was listed at 118 Washington Avenue. Jesse Wooley, who was most likely a son and also resided at 118 the year before is now listed as a boarder on Eagle Street.
  • I did not have time to look further to see who became the new owner in 1870.

Jumping ahead to 1933, the year Albany's City Directories list buildings by address, the addresses are listed as one building named the Ripin Duguid Building and have a mix of commercial tenants and boarders. More research is need to determine when the building was named and who owned the building during that transition.

Uncovering the history of laboring Albanians and their families is difficult and time consuming because very few records exist that document their work and lives. These buildings are an exceptional tie to a past that illustrates how working families acquired property, established businesses, expanded their holdings and operations and worked together as a family unit to provide mutual support for a collective benefit.

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