Readers of this blog may recall that Francisca Abarca—along with her tenants and two youngest children, Anna and Antonio—was the first South Mall-area resident to be displaced by the State. On July 12, 1962, a wall in her Hamilton Street home collapsed after the demolition of a vacant structure next door.
The 55-year-old mother of six was born in Puerto Rico and spoke only Spanish. Times Union reporter John Douglas interviewed her a couple days after the collapse of her home, with the assistance of her tenant, Lydia Balls, who helped translate. Like her landlady, Lydia was Puerto Rican.
Standing in front of the wreckage of her former home, Mrs. Abarca told the reporter that she was “in mourning.” The house at 228 Hamilton had been “the dream of her life,“ the first home her family had ever owned. After her husband’s death, Mrs. Abarca had been living on welfare in South Bethlehem. In 1960 her luck appeared to change, when a $4,000 accident settlement enabled her to purchase the Hamilton Street house.
At the time of the interview, Mrs. Abarca and her children were temporarily homeless, living, at taxpayer expense, at the DeWitt Clinton Hotel. “The hotel is nice,” Mrs. Abarca told the reporter, “but it is not a home.” And she worried that she would never again own a home of her own.
On October 1, 1962, less than three months after the demolition of 228 Hamilton, Mrs. Abarca and her children boarded a plane. The State’s payment for her lost property allowed her to pay off the mortgage on 228 Hamilton and return to Puerto Rico. We don’t know whether she was able to purchase another house.