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There is no better way to see America than on foot. And there is no better way to appreciate what you are looking at than with a walking tour. Whether you are preparing for a road trip or just out to look at your own town in a new way, a downloadable walking tour is ready to explore when you are.

Each walking tour describes historical and architectural landmarks and provides pictures to help out when those pesky street addresses are missing. Every tour also includes a quick primer on identifying architectural styles seen on American streets.

English explorer Henry Hudson, sailing for the Dutch East India Company on the Half Moon, reached this area in 1609, the furthest point north that he led his expedition. The Dutch settlement that followed was strictly about commerce - mostly beaver furs shipped out of the trading post of Fort Orange that would wind up on trendy European heads. The beaver was so all-important that when it came time to name the village that grew on a small plateau by the Hudson it became Beverwijck, the Dutch name for the luxuriously pelted rodent. When the British took over New Netherlands in 1664 the name Beverwijck was changed to honor of the Duke of Albany. In 1686 Albany was formally chartered as a municipality by provincial Governor Thomas Dongan and is today the longest continually chartered city in the country.

From the beginning Albany has been a center for transportation. During the revolutionary War it was such a prize that on February 28, 1777 Lt. General John Burgoyne submitted a plan to the British ministry called 'Thoughts for Conducting the War from the Side of Canada." The ultimate goal was to sever the American states along the Hudson River by moving on Albany. It became the basis for British military strategy, a plan that was blown up by the American victory in the Battle of Saratoga that October, one of history's most influential battles.

After rotating among several towns Albany was made the permanent capital in 1797 and when America's first super highway - the Erie Canal - opened up the country's interior in 1825 Lock #1 was located north of Colonie Street. At the time of the next census, Albany was the 9th largest city in the United States. Furs and lumber and iron and cattle all flowed through Albany's port in great abundance. In 1831, some 15,000 canal boats tied up at city wharves. By 1865, there were almost 4,000 saw mills in the Albany area and the Albany Lumber District was the largest lumber market in the nation. There was beer, too, brewed by descendants of the Dutch settlers. Beverwyck Brewery, originally known as Quinn and Nolan was the last remaining brewer from that time when it closed in 1972. And books. Other than Boston no other city produced as many books in the 19th century as Albany. Industry would eventually scatter away from the city and today's economy is driven by the government machine.

Albany has a rich architectural heritage with representative buildings from nearly every period of America design - beginning with Dutch Colonial looks from the early 1700s. The city grew up the slope from the Hudson River and we'll start our walking tour at the top, in the midst of a complex of modern American buildings that did not arrive without a whiff of controversy...

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