Walls Have Ears

image001WALLS HAVE EARS

(produced for the web thanks to Jennifer Wells)

This volume has been assembled by his friends and neighbors in tribute to the memory of Giles Yates van der Bogert, and in the con­viction that his occasional writings are worth preserving in permanent form. Cues, descendant of one of the oldest families in the Schenectady region, will be recognized as the “young archi­tect” in his account of “The Stockade Story.” Born and brought up in the old Stockade dis­trict, Giles moved away long enough to com­plete his education at Williams College and the Architectural School of the University of Penn­sylvania, then to set up an architectural prac­tice in Albany with Henry Blatner. In the early 1940’s he came back to downtown Schenectady, establishing his own firm and a home at the renovated 27 N. Ferry St. with his wife, the former Mary Easton.

In his profession, Giles pioneered progres­sive design and construction techniques through­out the Capitol District. At the same time, he retained and developed his love for the early traditions of the Stockade in building and in community living. While he worked to organize a group of amateur painting enthusiasts, he was discussing, particularly with lawyer Ernest Cohen and Union Professor Philip Stanley, plans for rehabilitating the historic homes of the area. It is largely the story of these homes and these projects which he tells here.

The man we glimpse behind these pages is truly the Giles we knew in our living rooms and on our sidewalks: the forward-looking archi­tect, the backward-looking historian, the racon­teur, the genial and generous friend, the com­munity leader. We miss only the cohesive prin­ciple which bound the strands of his activities together. The love of the old and the enthusi­asm for the new did not exist in conflict within him. His historical sense provided him with a perspective, enabling him to see the Dutch pio­neers, the encroaching English, and the follow­ing revolutions in taste and fortune as adding ever new contributions to the area’s heritage.

In this broad view, the Twentieth Century must inevitably add its insights and techniques if the heritage is to retain its vital continuity. The building of the new, which each previous era had insisted upon in its time, becomes the obligation of the present to the future. There­fore, to Giles restoration of the old was a prime interest; mere imitation, a dead end. He felt that tradition should be continually restored and re-animated, not artificially reproduced.

For Giles, the architecture of the Stockade district offered a live and vivid history of New York architecture from its earliest days. It held its interest for him, as it does for us, because it retains its vitality, because it is not an em­balmed architecture, like that of Williamsburg. It lives, and we live in it; it moves with a con­stantly changing life, its renewed creativity en­hancing its historic charm.

The pieces included in this volume are, in the main, those which enlivened issues of the community Association’s paper, The Stockade Spy, 1961-1965. There, as here, the columns were often illustrated with the line drawings of Werner Feibes, architectural associate in the firm of van der Bogert, Feibes and Schmitt. “The Stockade Story” appeared in the October, 1968 issue of The American Institute of Architects Journal, and we are indebted to the American Institute of Architects for permission to reprint it here. “Samuel Fuller, The Master Builder of the Mohawk” is taken from the manuscript of an address delivered to the Society of Architec­tural Historians. J.M.B.