Who was the first mayor of Troy?
Hint: He has a street named after him.
Nothing, huh? Need another clue?
He served as an aide-de-camp to Gen. George Washington in the Revolutionary War and earned a personal commendation for valor from the general; was the first sheriff of Rensselaer County; and later, as mayor, he tangled with Gov. Dewitt Clinton—and battled to a draw.
Need more info?
His family dates back to the 1600s in America; he was born in the Hudson Valley, in Marbletown; as mayor, he convinced Emma Willard to move her school to Troy. In other words, he was a true “founding father” of what would come to be known as the Collar City.
Still don’t know?
Don’t feel bad. When Troy city historian Kathryn Sheehan recently hosted a trivia contest at a local festival, no one came up with the name either. Though, she says, some people did express the feeling that they ought to know.
The answer is Col. Albert Pawling, for whom the avenue is named. He’s buried in the neighborhood, too, in historic Old Mount Ida Cemetery. (You can’t miss it: He’s on the creek side, and his grave has three markers.) Troy native and University at Albany junior Adam Sanzone is spearheading an effort to make sure everyone knows who Pawling was, by erecting a statue of him in a small park at the beginning of Pawling Avenue.
The mission statement of the Col. Albert Pawling Statue Project reads, “We are honoring the past to educate the future, while creating community spirit through public art.”
“This has been my dream since I was 16 years old,” Sanzone says.
Sanzone and fellow committee member (and Rensselaer County Legislator) Gary Pavlic are sitting in the dining room of the Sanzone family home on Pawling Avenue. Built in 1869, it’s the house he grew up in; its elegance speaks to the legacy of Troy’s 19th-century prosperity. Their enthusiasm for the project is infectious.
Pawling, Pavlic says, “is a really good role model as a politician.”
This project, Sanzone says, is a way to both honor Pawling’s legacy and give Trojans something to look to for inspiration.
The statue itself will be bronze (the foundry that will cast it has already been selected, and is in Vermont), 7 feet tall, and perched on a 3-foot base in a small park on the south side of Pawling Avenue. It will be clearly visible to both vehicle and foot traffic—a lot of cars drive through this busy intersection—and organizers hope it will serve as an entrance marker to the neighborhood. The concrete foundation, which was donated by the city of Troy, has already been poured and is a sturdy 8 feet deep. The city has provided landscaping and installed benches for visitors; the only thing missing is the statue. And to erect the statue, Sanzone and the committee need to raise the money; next up is the Col. Albert Pawling Gala at Franklin Terrace on June 26. The total cost of the project is $68,000. “We’re already closing in on $15,000,” Sanzone says.
* * *
The first phase of the project is complete. The design for the sculpture and base is finished, and busts of the statue’s head have been made.
One striking thing about the design is how realistic it is: It looks authentic to the 19th century. Another striking aspect is how much it looks like the only surviving image of Pawling. No one knows how tall Pawling was; his face, however, is familiar from the unsigned portrait that now hangs at the Rensselaer County Historical Society. And the 3D rendering of this portrait is remarkable.
There was an open competition to become the project’s designer, and 11 artists from across the United States and Canada applied. The winner, however, was found right here in the Capital Region. Halfmoon resident Patrick Pigott is renowned for his toy designs, and his work on TV and movie properties—including Star Wars collectable items.
(While he hasn’t met George Lucas, Pavlic says, Pigott has visited Skywalker Ranch. And the prosthetic legs he gave a figure of Boba Fett later were incorporated into the Clone Wars TV show. Pavlic adds, “That is the quality of his talent.”)
His goal, Pigott says, was to create a statue that Col. Pawling would recognize, and be able to relate to. This was exactly what they were looking for, too, say Sanzone and Pavlic.
It was a great help, Pigott says, that the portrait of Pawling is so good. When used as the basis for the 3D model, the proportions in the painted image turned out to be correct.
Pigott shares the enthusiasm of Pavlic and Sanzone: “I enjoy doing toys and collectables,” Pigott says, “but I love history. I was so excited when this opportunity came along.”
* * *
Everyone agrees that Sanzone is the driving force in this effort. Gary Pavlic says it all springs from “Adam’s passion for history.”
“I started to become interested in history in middle school,” says Sanzone, adding, “My dad’s a history teacher.” (His father, Thomas Sanzone, serves as the statue committee’s treasurer.) Sanzone is working toward a double major at the University at Albany: one, of course is history, while the other is political science.
“He’s very interested in history and government,” says Troy City Councilman Ken Zalewski (District 5), “Adam did an internship with the city council.”
In fact, Sanzone’s interest was behind the creation of the internship. The councilman first met Sanzone when the latter joined the Albany Bombers hockey team (of the Gay Hockey Association) around 2010; Zalewski coaches the Bombers. When Sanzone inquired if the city council offered internships, Zalewski said no—and recognized what a great idea it was.
“It’s really great to see a young person getting involved [in civic life],” says Zalewski.
For Sanzone, the immediate task is fundraising. “My biggest problem right now is school,” Sanzone says, because it’s hard to balance the statue project with taking classes. But Sanzone is finding that balance; while he does have a summer job lined up, his focus until the fall will be on next week’s Col. Pawling Gala, followed by another event planned for later in the summer, and then an effort to branch out the committee’s fundraising beyond Troy. “We will be pitching corporations,” he says, for support.
There is also an effort being made to turn the land on which the statue will sit into an official city park, to be called the Colonel Albert Pawling Memorial Park. There are some legal issues to be resolved before this can happen, but, Sanzone says, the outlook for this is positive.
His immediate goal is to reach the $20,000 mark by the time he goes back to UAlbany. The long-term plan is to complete the project in time for the bicentennial celebration of Pawling’s appointment as Troy mayor, which will be on April 15, 2016. (Fun fact: All mayors in New York state were appointed by the governor in the early 19th century.)
“It’s really hard,” Sanzone says, but he’s confident that with hard work, everything will turn out fine. And in the end, residents of Troy will have some great public art—and fascinating history—to experience.
The Col. Pawling Gala will be held June 26 from 5:30 to 8:30 PM in the Franklin Terrace Ballroom (126 Campbell Ave., Troy). Tickets are $50. To RSVP, please call 867-5047 or e-mail email@example.com.
Updated: An earlier version incorrectly state that Pawling was the first sheriff of Troy. He was first sheriff of Rensselaer County.