In July 1963—a year after South Mall demolitions began—Times Union reporter William Kennedy stopped in Charlie Milham’s Grill, on the corner of Madison and Mosher, to hear what area residents and business owners had to say about the State’s redevelopment plan.
Phil Milham, a brother of the owner, was tending bar that day. Behind him hung a sentimental tribute to Mother, placards commemorating Prohibition’s repeal, a newspaper clipping about Dan O’Connell’s 77th birthday—along with photos of the bar in its heyday, just before World War II. Back then, the tavern featured live music and dancing. The crowd was “two deep at the bar. You couldn’t get in the place.”
Milham told Kennedy about his brother’s plan to move the business to 151 S. Pearl, site of Milham’s Ready-to-Wear Women’s and Children’s Clothing. “You got an established trade, but what are you gonna do?” he explained. “You can’t turn around and fight the law. I hope it’s for the best for everybody in time. I’m a hundred per cent for improving the city…. But, where are all these people going?”
One answer came from 62-year-old Peter Vedder, who sat at one end of the bar. He had lived most of his life in Albany’s South End and was now preparing to move out of the apartment he shared with his daughter, son-in-law, and grandchildren. “We were supposed to move last Friday,” he told Kennedy. “We got the house torn up and everything packed up. We got to go out now and move into a place on First Street that looks like a pigpen. My daughter’s been up there all week cleaning up the place. She and her husband, they didn’t get what they wanted. They looked all over, and that’s the only place they could find.”
His companion—a “swizzled lady with hennaed locks,” who refused to give her name—was less complacent, “Pretty soon this is going to be a ghost city…. Every time they tear down a building, they make a parking lot out of it. If money is so scarce, where are they getting all the cars to park?”
Stopping by one of the parking lots, Kennedy spoke with manager Otis H. Houting, who declared, “If they keep tearing these buildings down, and those stores, there won’t be any need to run a parking lot here.”
Asked what he thought about the South Mall, Houting replied, “Ya never can tell. They might build some buildings here in a couple of years or so. You never know what the hell they’re going to build.”
Header photo: The empty lot at the corner of Hamilton and Green streets, a few blocks away from Milham’s Grill, March 1963. Used by permission of the Times Union.