William Hart's view of Albany in 1846 shows a growing, vital commercial center. About 50,000 people lived in Albany at the time and a large percentage of its citizens were Irish, along with a sizable number of Germans, Jews, Dutch, and New England Yankees. Lumber, stove manufacturing, and brewing were Albany's major industries during the 1840s, the successes of which were tied to the city's location on the Hudson River and the eastern terminus of the Erie Canal.
In the early 1840s, the Albany Hospital and the New York State Normal School (the forerunner of the State University) opened. They joined the Albany Female Academy, the Albany Medical College, and the Albany Academy (for Boys), partially visible in this painting. The old Capitol, designed by architect Philip Hooker, can be seen on the hill along with the Court House, St. Peter's and St. Mary's churches, and the Reformed Dutch Church, in front of the Sheridan Hollow. A still-wooded Arbor Hill is in the center of Hart's painting.
William Hart pursued a career in landscape painting following his apprenticeship with a coach maker. He also worked as a window shade decorator and a portrait artist.