We Try Harder

On August 1, 1961, the Temporary State Commission on the Capital City held the first of two public hearings on Albany’s rehabilitation. (Eight months later, of course, the Commission would approve Gov. Rockefeller’s plan to demolish 98 acres in downtown Albany for the South Mall.) The hearing, held on a sweltering night in the un-air-conditioned…

Hoax or Hope?

On the evening of Saturday, July 14, 1962—just days after the first South Mall demolition—WRGB TV, Channel Six, aired a half-hour documentary called The South Mall Project: Hoax or Hope? We found what we think is the only extant copy of the documentary in the papers of Grant Van Patten at University of Albany’s Special Collections department.

A First Foray into Coding

Beginning in 2014, when we started blogging about the South Mall, we were convinced that combining images and individual narratives with the changing map of Albany would help us construct a broader narrative of how urban renewal transformed our city. Of course, we didn’t have the skills to build such a website. And we still…

King Rockefeller’s “Camelot on the Hudson”

In honor of the Legislative Correspondents’ Association annual show tomorrow night, we thought we’d set the scene for an earlier show, the association’s 71st in 1971. The play that year was a Camelot spoof, starring the A.P.’s Charles Dumas as King Laughsalot Rockefeller and Charles Holcomb of Gannett News as T. Merlin Hurd, the king’s…

A Hudson Avenue Symphony

In the mid-1940s, my family and I lived in an apartment at 273 Hudson Ave., across from the Melody Inn, during an era of live music and lively crowds, described in William Kennedy’s O Albany!

“M-G-M Monumentality”

Five months after Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller unveiled plans for Albany’s new State office complex, an unsigned review in Progressive Architecture (P/A) criticized the design as suffering from “M-G-M monumentality”: Half a cantaloupe sliced on the bias, a croquet wicket with avoirdupois, an upside-down orange half from a Kraft salad, and four little towers and…

The Labor Leader

For 13 weeks in the spring and summer of 1970, 600 sheet metal workers, members of Local 83, went out on strike. All of the other unions that made up the Albany Building and Construction Trades’ Council had settled with employers before their contract expired, but the sheet metal workers’ local held out.


Two Families, A Shared Story

The Radrizzi and Strong family stories have been intertwined for almost a century—beginning before they became neighbors and lasting long after their block of Jay St. was demolished.

Home of the Irish Potato, Part II

The first part of our story emphasized continuity: Over several decades, William F. Ryan Sr. built a produce business that his son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren have carried on to this day. The second part of this story is about change.


Home of the Irish Potato, Part I

Ryan’s Farmers Market is an Albany institution, in business for over a century and still run by the same family. In 1901, 24-year-old William Frederick (Willie) Ryan began selling produce with his brother, Jimmie.


A Sad Discovery

While searching for a photograph of The Point Grill, we discovered something unexpected. We had been looking for a four-story, mixed-use building with an impressive mansard roof on the corner of Eagle and Daniel streets, kitty corner from the Catholic Union. Instead, we found a single-story, flat-roofed commercial structure. But looking closely, we noticed that…

You’re Fired!

Of the more than 90 prime contractors and hundreds of subcontractors at the South Mall site, only one was ever fired by the State of New York: The Foster-Lipkins Corporation, builder of the Corning Tower and the Swan Street Motor Vehicle Building. The contractor’s performance on the 44-story tower was, at times, dangerous and embarrassing.