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…

“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

Our thanks to Hank Landau and his colleagues for their help with this post. 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…

Two Families, A Shared Story

Our thanks to Tonia Skinner Hannemann and Leah Strong Schenkel for reaching out and sharing their stories with us. 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. It all began when Ethel Strong, a Yiddish-speaking…

Home of the Irish Potato, Part II

Our thanks to Mike and Mary Ryan for their help with this post. 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 is about change, the events that prompted the…

Home of the Irish Potato, Part I

Our thanks to Mike and Mary Ryan for their help with this post. 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. Their shop at 104 Hudson Ave. was on…

You’re Fired!

Our thanks to Dean Herrick for his help with this post. 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…

An Alternative Plan for Albany

All over Albany recently invited us to write a brief alternative history of the South Mall. This is the real story behind that fiction. On March 28, 1962—one day after the State of New York appropriated 98.5 acres in downtown Albany—the City’s planning consultant, Isadore Candeub, denounced the State’s action at a luncheon hosted by…

Return of the Queen

Everyone in Albany knows the story of Princess Beatrix’s 1959 visit to our city. It has become an origin story of sorts, representing the end of an era and the beginning of a “new Albany.” Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller’s decision to clear and redevelop 40 city blocks (98 acres) was reportedly sparked by the ride…