St. Andrew’s Society: Bettering Upstate NY for 200+ years

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Were it not for the striking metalwork atop the door on a four-story brownstone, the structure at 150 Washington Ave. in Albany, NY, would have gone unnoticed in a city full of beautiful old edifices.

In the grillwork is a bronze cast of St. Andrew, one of the Twelve Apostles, carrying a cross amid leaves and branches, on a block. The image stands in front of a banner which bears the words “St. Andrew’s Society”.

For more than 200 years, the St. Andrew’s Society of the City of Albany (NY) has aided people near and far, from denizens of the New York capital to inhabitants of the distant Scottish Highlands.

The society was begun in November 1803 when 41 “Scotchmen,” as they called themselves then, met at the corner of State and North Pearl streets in Albany to found the city’s St. Andrew’s Society, named for the patron saint of Scotland.

At the time Albany was a frontier settlement, with just 5,500 residents.

The founders were merchants, physicians, clergymen and politicians, men who sought to begin an organization for “social and benevolent purposes.”

“They enjoyed life, but they could not stand still when fellow Scots were in need,” according to information found on the society’s website.

The society’s motto is “Relieve the Distressed.” In its first 100 years, it concentrated on immigrant Scots who needed help to find shelter, money and assistance in finding work.

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Old Round Church: A curiosity in heart of the Green Mountains

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The Old Round Church of Richmond, Vt., is unusual for a number of reasons:

  • It is the believed to be lone surviving 16-sided wooden meetinghouse in the United States;
  • When it was originally constructed more than two centuries ago it was home to five different Protestant denominations, all of which would meet every Sunday, each sharing the two-story wood frame structure;
  • It was built at a cost of $3,000; when renovations to the structure were complete in 1981 the price tag was $180,000; and
  • The church was rumored to be built in a circle so that the devil wouldn’t have a place to hide.

The Old Round Church was constructed in 1812-13 by William Rhodes. Rhodes was a native of Claremont, NH, which was home to a 16-sided brick church, similar to what would be erected in Richmond, located in the western foothills of Vermont’s Green Mountains on the banks of the Winooski River.

Rhodes was no novice craftsman: He built several covered bridges in New England, a number of houses, and was also a blacksmith.

Construction was funded by sale of pews, most of which were purchased by Congregationalists. The other denominations which used the church in its early decades were Baptists, Methodist, Universalists and a group described as “Christians.”

The structure was built in the Federal style. Rhodes was able to give the structure an appearance of light, delicate walls by hiding the 16 large corner posts behind 32 interior sides, making the inside seem much more round than the outside.

The building is topped by a sixteen-sided roof with a two-stage octagonal bell tower.

Because of the unusual design, much of the flooring, which was fitted around pew boxes, is hand cut, with some of the planks up to 24 inches wide and many cut at 45 or 60 degree angles, to enable them to fit with adjacent planks.

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Sword of first Citadel graduate coming home after 153 years

Charles Tew sword

A Civil War sword that belonged to the first graduate of The Citadel, a Confederate officer killed at the Battle of Antietam in 1862, will be returned to the Charleston, SC, school by a Canadian group.

The sword, which belonged to Col. Charles C. Tew of the 2nd North Carolina State Troops, has been missing for 153 years, since Tew was killed Sept. 17, 1862, during the bloodiest single-day battle in American history.

It is being returned by the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation of Ottawa, the charitable arm of the 33 Signal Regiment of the Royal Canadian Corps of Signals, Canadian Army.

The sword was placed in the care of the 33 Signal Regiment in 1963 but was positively identified only recently as belonging to Tew. Members of the regiment worked very hard to unravel the mystery of the sword after it was “rediscovered,” according to the 33 Signal Regiment Foundation.

“We’re delighted to return this most important artifact,” said Michael Martin, chairman of the 33 Signals Regiment Foundation. “As this is the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War, we believe it is only fitting to see that the sword is returned to the hands from whence it came.”

Tew was not only the first individual to receive a diploma from The Citadel, which was established in 1842, but he was the first honor graduate and the first president of The Citadel Alumni Association, according to Lieutenant Col. David Goble of The Citadel.

Tew, a native of Charleston, was one of the first 20 cadets initially admitted to the new South Carolina Military Academy, now known as The Citadel.

He graduated first in his class in 1846, becoming both the first graduate of the school and the first honor graduate.

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Researchers close in on solving American chestnut blight


The American chestnut once dominated Eastern North America, with the total number of trees estimated at 4 billion a little more than a century ago.

They were the prevailing species in many areas, particularly in the Appalachia region, where 25 percent of trees were chestnuts.

“Entire communities in Appalachia depended on the chestnut for everything,” said Marshal Case, former president of the Asheville, NC-based American Chestnut Foundation. The nonprofit has been leading the effort to re-establish the trees.

Chestnut trees were integral to everyday life in Appalachia and were known as “cradle to grave trees,” Case told National Geographic.

“Craftsmen made baby cradles and coffins from the rot-resistant hardwood. The trees were also used to build houses, telephone poles, and railroad ties,” he said. “Wildlife thrived on the trees, which each year produced bumper crops of nuts.”

The American chestnut was dealt a near-death blow with the introduction of Chinese chestnuts into the New York Botanical Gardens, now known as the Bronx Zoo. The Chinese chestnut brought with it a blight that, while it didn’t affect its carrier, was devastating to the American chestnut.

First identified in 1904, the blight, a fungus, infected and killed about 99.9 percent of the American chestnuts from Georgia to Maine and west to the Ohio Valley within 50 years.

New shoots often sprout from the roots when the main stem dies, so the species has not yet become extinct. However, the stump sprouts rarely reach more than 20 feet in height before blight returns.

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Museum under scrutiny regarding noted work


Delaware museum officials desperate for cash have removed one of their prized paintings from their walls but remain tight-lipped about the work’s future.

Winslow Homer’s “Milking Time,” among the Delaware Art Museum’s most treasured works, disappeared from its wall and collections database earlier this month, shortly after the museum announced that it would sell as many as four artworks to repay its construction debt and replenish its endowment.

Museum officials have declined to confirm whether the 1875 oil painting of rural Americana is among works to be sold over the next few months, according to the News-Journal of Wilmington, Del.

However, museum and art experts say the change is suspicious and likely indicates the painting will be sold, the publication added.

“Milking Time” is considered a landmark painting by Homer, regarded as one of the greatest American painters of the 19th century.

Homer, the renown landscape painter, created “Milking Time” in 1875 while living on a farm in upstate New York.

“Milking Time” is a “landmark painting for him,” according to Kathleen Foster, who curated an exhibition of Homer’s seascapes for the Philadelphia Museum of Art in late 2012. The Philadelphia museum owns four Homer works, including one of his most famous, “The Life Line.”

“Milking Time” was painted during a formative time in Homer’s career, a period in which he was searching for an identity as an artist, according to the Christian Science Monitor.

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Presbyterian Church retains old-time glory

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Lancaster’s Old Presbyterian Church retains the simple architectural beauty inherent in many 19th century brick structures.

Constructed in 1862, the Early Gothic Revival-style edifice is believed to have been the first brick church built in South Carolina’s Lancaster County, and its graveyard holds the remains of many of the area’s early prominent residents, in addition to several men who were killed or died during the War Between the States.

The Old Presbyterian Church was constructed on the site of the town’s first Presbyterian church, begun in 1835. The extant church’s walls feature handmade brick, stuccoed and scored to resemble stone.

The church features a Basilican plan, with a gallery along the sides and back of the sanctuary and an arched pulpit apse. Its interior includes hood moldings over the arches, cornice brackets with pendants under the gallery and round wooden columns supporting the gallery.

At the very end of the Civil War, troops under Union Gen. William T. Sherman occupied a large house just up the street and horses were stabled inside the church.

The structure was the house of worship for Lancaster-area Presbyterians until 1926, when the growing congregation moved to a new church on nearby Main Street.

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Pissarro works making news outside art world

Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning

A streetscape by Camille Pissarro brought more than $32 million earlier this month, more than four times the previous record for a work by the Danish-French impressionist.

Pissarro’s “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning,” a view of Paris painted in 1897, was sold by Sotheby’s in London.

The oil on canvas was part of industrialist Max Silberberg’s collection. Silberberg was forced by the Nazis to sell his artworks in the 1930s and later died in the Holocaust.

Silberberg’s collection also featured works by Manet, Monet, Renoir, Cezanne and van Gogh and was regarded as one of the best pre-war collections of 19th and 20th Century art in Germany, according to the BBC.

“Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” was returned to Silberberg’s family in 2000. It had never before been sold at auction.

The previous record for a Pissarro painting was set in 2009, when “Le Pont Boieldieu Et La Gare D’Orleans Rouen, Soleil” sold for about $7 million. A quartet of the artist’s works entitled “Les Quatre Saisons” brought more than $14 million in 2007.

The new owner of “Boulevard Monmartre, Spring Morning” requested anonymity.

Another Pissarro painting has also been in the news recently.

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