Monday, November 30, 2009

The James Farm

For the past couple of years, I've used a little shortcut that runs parallel to Delaware Avenue between community garden behind the Hackett Middle School and the McDonald's parking lot on Holland Avenue. I've used it more since Walgreens opened next to the McDonald's over the summer.

And whenever I've passed through this quiet "cut," I've always had this feeling that there was something about the place. I wasn't sure exactly why I felt that way...until this past week.

I knew that William "Billy" James, the founder of a very prominent New York family and grandfather of novelist Henry James, owned property in the area of Delaware Avenue.

A young Irishman, James settled in the still predominately Dutch city of Albany in the late 18th-century and eventually owned a farm close by what his literary grandson called "the far-off Beaverkill." His farm stood close to what is now the intersection of Delaware Avenue and Providence Street, just across from the Lincoln Park tennis courts and only a few yards south of the gully which contains the last remnants of the Beavekill.

About a week ago, I was running an errand on Delaware Avenue (and resisting the urge to go explore the gully again). I paused to take a photo of the street sign on Providence Avenue...and that's when I made the connection. The wooded shortcut picture above was once part of the James' farm.

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