Researchers Linda Stanley and Ellen Manning began work on the draft for this manual ten years ago for the Bureau for Historical Services, a progenitor of the Albany County Hall of Records They gathered data on the many sources available for research and on interpretation of information for building histories. Bob Arnold has been supportive of this project from its inception and without his guidance this material may have been lost. He witnessed increased usership of archival records and the diversified reasons for their use as people came through his doors. Bob felt the time was right to publish this useful tool and make it available for wider use. Tested. in practice by student volunteers and compiled originally by those exceptional researchers, Inside Outside will prove very handy for many people for a long time to come. My special thanks to Doug Sinclair who, without hesitation, provided me with artwork for the cover and assistance in proofing text. John Merrill generously helped with technical assistance and guidance in putting the book together. I want to thank several staff members for their support on this project: Annette M. Ward for data entry, Steven Lynch and John Sarkissian for photographs; and Jane Gundiach for proofreading. I want particularly to recognize the owners of 208 Lancaster Street, Neil Cervera, Jr., and 420 Broadway, William J. Coulson, Inc., for their permission in allowing use of their buildings as examples in this manual.
Barbara Ruch Albany County Archivist August 1986
Who were they? Where did they come from? How many of them were there? How did they make their livelihood? How long did they utilize the structure? These questions answered, are the history of a structure's occupancy and help explain original construction, modifications, or additions to the building. Answered, they may help the property owner qualify for tax incentives, restore a property to a given period in time, discover in part the lost history of unknown, figurative ancestors, or permit sensitive adaptive reuse. Finally, especially important in Albany County, in the City of Albany, the answers help to develop a sense of place, in the building, the neighborhood, the region. In our often restless and mobile society, a sense of community, of belonging, combats insecurity and inculcates civic pride.
Among the happiest and most practical uses of historical records are those by homeowners and property developers. They employ the recorded legacy of this community's builders, its citizens,and of the creators and preservers of historical records, and from that legacy create a sense of place. The story of an individual structure that is pieced together often reflects that of our community. What makes it different from other places? What makes it the same? In the research of a given building or in writing the history of a city or county, these questions are the essence of historical inquiry.
Robert W. Arnold III Executive Director, Albany County Hall of Records Director of Public Records, City of Albany Albany County Historian 1986
Researching the history of a building signals personal investment in the property. With investigation, the property loses its anonymity. Records may reveal a long, dynamic and sometimes surprising pattern of change. The researcher not only recovers relevant data from ordinary records but, as information is pieced together, the property owner personally may be caught up in discovering the unique history of the structure, and find changes not discernible by casual observation alone.
In the last decade, the historic preservation movement fostered appreciation of Albany's special ambiance. The old building stock appealed to owners who saw value in the city's vernacular architecture, designed by local architects. As important as monumental structures, vernacular buildings frequently are more illustrative of the general development of a given neighborhood. Accurately placing buildings in historical context through research went hand in hand with restoring their facades; historic data supported decisions on what architectural features or ornamental details were original, and assured architectural integrity during restoration.
Existing along with the City of Albany's large collection of Victorian building stock is its immense collection of public records documenting Albany's built environment. The Archives of the Office for Public Records, City of Albany/ Albany County Hall of Records holds a most comprehensive collection of source materials and makes direct, unprocessed information accessible to the public. This manual provides step by step procedures for use of this information in compiling a written building history.
Barbara A. Ruch Albany County Archivist