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Positively Upstate: The history of Albany Rural Cemetery

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All cemeteries tell stories …

And with 130,000 people buried here … Albany Rural in Colonie has a lot!

“This is Maj. Gen. Phillip Schuyler ... Whether it's a president who's buried here, or mayors or governors or family members, the interest in the cemetery is phenomenal,” said Historian Paula Lemire.

And increasing, thanks to its new history tours … welcoming groups of more than 100 people each month to learn about its stunning collection of statues, monuments and mausoleums.

And it's not just one tour guide.

“The first one we did this year, we had 12 re-eanactors in costume, or period attire as they call it, stationed at different gravestones throughout the cemetery. So we have Civil War soldiers, Steven Van Rensselaer, we had Chester Arthur.”

Lemire says the first tour sold out in a day and a half. So they added more, each a different focus. It could be war, a settlement … and yes, even Broadway.

“Lately (Schuyler) has become very popular, because he was the father-in-law of Alexander Hamiliton, who was married in the front parlor of the Schuyler mansion to Phillip's daughter Eliza.”

In fact … Lemire says since “Hamilton,” another grave gets visited a lot -- Peggy Schuyler's, one of the daughters.

“Sometimes I'm walking up there and I will find coins, flowers, even notes addressed to Peggy.”

President of the board of trustees Tony Esposito says the tours are a way of bringing cemeteries back to what they were created to be … parks.

You may not know this but at the time it was built in 1841 … this was a place where people came to walk, picnic and bring their families.

Esposito wants to revive that role.

“The cemetery is a very sacred, ground but it's also a place where the community can come in and enjoy in the middle of the Capital Region -- 400 pristine, beautiful acres.”

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