The Corner of Broadway and Hudson

One of the more significant street corners in American History is the intersection in Albany where Broadway meets Hudson Avenue.  This is the site of the old Stadt Huys where in 1754 representatives from several colonies met to discuss the Albany Plan of Union.  This group, known as the Albany Congress, consisted of a few famous men from the time, but the most famous of all was Benjamin Franklin.

Coincidently this site, 23 years later, was also the location where the Declaration of Independence was first read in public.  Albany was a critical hub during both events.  In 1754 Albany was the edge of the wilderness.  In 1776 Albany was the center of the Northern Army’s efforts to repel the British Army, which was attempting to cut New England off from the rest of the colonies by seizing control of the Hudson River.

Reading the Declaration of Independence in Albany had a galvanizing effect on the people who heard it.  Remember, Albany was under siege from all sides in the summer of 1776.  The British had swept over Long Island and Manhattan, and occupied New Jersey downstream.  They had just taken control of Lake Champlain to the north – a critical highway for troop movement from Canada.  And the Iroquois were allied with the British just to the west.  Albany was in a precarious position on July 19th when the Declaration was read.

In 1876, according to The Friends of Albany History, a ceremony commemorating the centennial of the reading happened in this spot:
 “Before a gathering of “two or three thousand” Albany residents, the tablet, which was covered by an American flag, was unveiled by Visscher Ten Eyck (Matthew Visscher’s grandson.) The tablet’s reveal was greeted by hearty cheers from the crowd, patriotic songs, chimes from the steeples of nearby churches, and a 100-gun salute.”
Tonight, almost 141 years since that ceremony, 241 years since the Declaration was read in this spot, and 263 years since Ben Franklin led the Albany Congress to draft the Plan of Union, I had a couple of pints across the street from the commemorative plaque and stone that marks the site.  There are many people in history whom I’d like to have met, but Ben Franklin is high on that list.  Since I can’t have a drink with him having two pints with a nod to history will have to be close enough.

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