Famed for Friendliness (First Methodist and the Inner City Mission Part I)

The congregation of First Methodist Church had long prided themselves on their welcoming atmosphere. Its letterhead proudly proclaimed that it was “famed for friendliness”, and its church bulletin urged visitors to feel “welcome to worship with us” and to “spend a few moments at the close of the service in greeting. At this time the…

July 4, 1976

The Empire State Plaza opened to the public, July 1-4, 1976, during an era of fiscal austerity. Then governor, Hugh Carey, was a critic of Nelson Rockefeller’s priorities and excesses, particularly when it came to Albany’s futuristic new capital complex. Nevertheless, Carey and his administration took responsibility for ensuring that the Plaza would become a…

Wally’s Vision, from Clay to Concrete

“It is hard,” said Wallace K. Harrison, the chief architect of the South Mall, quoting Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi.  Harrison wasn’t referring to the tons of concrete poured for the structures; instead, he was referring to the numerous design and construction complications faced by the architects and engineers of the South Mall.  He believed…

Every Day an Earthquake

Monday, November 25, 1963, a day of mourning after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, provided a brief respite from the noise and dirt of demolition. “No clouds of dust, no crashing sounds rose from the South Mall demolition area,” Dick Weber observed in the Knickerbocker News. The following day, demolition resumed. And conditions…

Selling the South Mall

On March 30, 1962, the Times Union editorial board urged readers, who harbored “doubts” about the wisdom of the State of New York’s plan to seize and redevelop the South Mall area, to “drive slowly—or walk—up and down these once proud streets. Then decide for yourself.” The implication, of course, was that anyone who viewed…

Double Parking while Black

On Memorial Day evening, 1962, Samuel Clark was double-parked in front of his mother’s Jefferson St. home. With his sister, Thelma Wilson, he was unpacking picnic gear from a family excursion to Six Mile Waterworks, when a police cruiser screeched to a stop, dangerously close to Thelma. Alarmed, the two siblings complained to Patrolman Paul…

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?

We are grateful  to Grant Van Patten for sharing his memories and photographs with us and to Sinclair Broadcast Group for permission to use footage from WRGB’s 1962 documentary. 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…

Big News!

You haven’t heard from us in awhile, in part, because we’ve been busy writing grant proposals. And we just learned that that work has paid off. We’ve been awarded an NEH Digital Humanities Advancement Grant to begin designing a website on urban renewal in Kingston, Newburgh, and New York City–as well as Albany. This new…

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…