#UAlbanySummer: Graduate Student on Mission to Decode Albany’s 800 Street Names

University at Albany graduate student Erik Schilmmer is on a mission to decode the meaning behind all 800 street names in the City of Albany. His research includes streets on UAlbany's Uptown Campus. (Photo by Jason Agyekum '16)

ALBANY, N.Y. (July 1, 2015) – University at Albany graduate student Erik Schlimmer believes the City of Albany has a largely undiscovered aspect of its urban history and has made it his mission to find the answers – all 800 of them.

This summer, Schlimmer, a resident of Troy, N.Y., is launching a long-term project to decode the meaning behind all of Albany’s 800 current street names. He plans to unveil his findings in a book titled, “Capital Cobblestone,” after conducting approximately four years of research.

“I’m the type of person where I notice things that most would probably just look over,” Schlimmer said. “Driving around the Capital Region, I kept coming across these interesting streets and wondering how its name originated. Behind every street name is a story. It’s now my job to discover what that story is.”

An MSW student in UAlbany’s School of Social Welfare, Schlimmer specializes in “place names.” He has authored two books already, including “History Inside the Blue Line,” released in 2014, and “High Peaks History,” which will be available New Year's Day 2016. These publications document the histories behind the names of more than 300 sites within the Adirondack Park.

*Erik Schlimmer’s research project is just one of the exciting opportunities available to UAlbany students this summer. Share your experience by posting your internship, research, study abroad or volunteer work photo to Twitter or Instagram using #UAlbanySummer by Aug. 3, 2015, for a chance to win a gift card. Be sure to include your name, class year, position and company/location.*

Erik Schlimmer 2
Schlimmer plans to unveil his findings in a book titled, “Capital Cobblestone,” after conducting approximately four years of research (Photo by Jason Agyekum '16)

However, Schlimmer says the Capital Cobblestone project brings about new challenges. A native of Chestertown, N.Y., his familiarity with the Adirondacks was an advantage when writing the first two books. A larger challenge is the sheer number of streets in Albany.

"When I write books about the Adirondack Mountains, I know exactly what sources to consult, what historians to speak with, and who to enlist as fact-checkers. When it comes to urban
history, the landscape is uncharted territory to me,” Schlimmer said. “I’m going to be relying heavily on residents of the Capital Region – past and present – to offer me answers.”

He is tackling the project methodically, currently decoding streets that pay homage to “flora and fauna.” Such streets include Chestnut Street, Ash Street, Sparrowhill, and Warbler Way. Other streets pay obvious tribute to historical figures such as George Washington, Henry Johnson, and Clara Barton. Schlimmer is also decoding the meaning behind several street names on UAlbany’s Uptown Campus including Carillon, Great Dane and Tri-Centennial Drive.

The project may be expansive, but with the help of Capital Region residents, Schlimmer is confident he can discover the majority of street name origins. He has created a Facebook community – “Capital Cobblestone Project” – where he keeps members updated and invites input concerning street name histories. He also is working with local Albany historians who are offering to lead him in the right direction.

“We have well documented history of Albany in other aspects, including architecture, prominent politicians, and local personalities. However, after consulting with local historians, they’ve never heard of anyone decoding street names,” Schlimmer said. “It is important for local residents to understand the history behind the street names in their city.”

To learn more about Schlimmer’s project or to send him a street name tip, please visit the project’s official Facebook Group or email [email protected].

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About the University at Albany
A comprehensive public research university, the University at Albany-SUNY offers more than 120 undergraduate majors and minors and 125 master's, doctoral, and graduate certificate programs. UAlbany is a leader among all New York State colleges and universities in such diverse fields as atmospheric and environmental sciencesbusiness, public health, health sciences, criminal justice, emergency preparedness, engineering and applied sciences, informatics, public administration, social welfare, and sociology taught by an extensive roster of faculty experts. It also offers expanded academic and research opportunities for students through an affiliation with Albany Law School. With a curriculum enhanced by 600 study-abroad opportunities, UAlbany launches great careers.