In February of 1796 English actor Joseph Jefferson made his New York City debut in The Provoked Husband . The year ended with the debut of Victor Pellesier's opera Edwina and Angelina. It would be another 29 years before Italian opera would be performed in the city. Construction had also begun this year on the Park Theatre, on a site now occupied by Park Row. In between the two performances, the city managed to keep busy. Inventors John Fitch and John Stevens continued with their separate efforts to devise watercraft powered by steam, drawing a few curious onlookers to the shores of lower Manhattan's Collect Pond. Construction on the City Hotel, begun two years earlier, was completed. Members of the Methodist Episcopalian Church formed their own congregation, the first black church on the island.

As the arts began multiplying in the city, the political scene became quieter, with the transferral of the state government to the new capital at Albany. Representatives would find life a bit more primitive up toward the other end of the Hudson. A public water corporation was formed there this year, empowered to construct a water works. Nothing came of it. Meanwhile the new transplants had to suffer the local well water, water that was, in the words of Peter Kalm, a visiting Swedish naturalist in 1748, "kept in cellars, in order that the slime may subside." Yum! But the reorganization of the state government continued. The legislature divided ehe state into eight legal districts. Each district was assigned its own attorney general, except for the New York City District. A $15,000 loan was made to the Western Inland Company for improvements to the state's waterways. And a state road was opened, connecting Whitestown, in Oneida County, to Geneva, in Ontario County, passing through the Cayuga County town of Auburn.

The road was important, as land promoters were now redoubling their efforts to sell off their vast holdings. The possibility of a British-Indian invasion by way of Canada and the territory south of Lake Erie a few years back, had threatened to drive many settlers out of the region. Sales had almost ground to a halt, but peace was restored at last and they were expected to regain momentum. Three foreign tourists made their way from George Washington's Mount Vernon to Canandaigua, where they called on Thomas Morris, son of financier Robert Morris. He brought the three men, the exiled Louis Philippe of France, Duc d'Orleans, and his younger brothers to see the Falls of the Genesee. And our friend Charles Williamson and his new towns were bustling. William Kersey and James Edie began publishing the Bath Gazette and Genesee Advertiser . An academy was founded at Geneva. And the comparatively palatial new Patterson Inn, on the future site of Corning, provided unexpected amenities to prospective land buyers. Over 3,000 visited the area this year.

For Classical ninety-one five, this is David Minor


© 1998 David Minor / Eagles Byte