Many knew Mae Carlson as Albany’s rooming house queen, but I called her Mamay— Mother Mae, as I grew older. Bill Costigan, I called Dad.
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.”
On September 8, 1968, Gov. Nelson A. Rockefeller returned to Albany, after a 3-week vacation and a summer spent campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination. He ran as a liberal, during an era of urban upheaval, and (for the second time) lost the nomination to former Vice President, Richard M. Nixon, who promised “law and order.”
When we reached out to South Mall construction workers last year, we were surprised that the first response came from Mary Dwileski, the wife of a carpenter. Since then, we have conducted oral histories with many men who worked construction at the South Mall and have come to realize that this first contact was not so strange.
Beginning with missionary Charlotte (Neely) Resper’s 1927 revival meeting at Union Missionary Baptist Church, Albany’s First Church of God in Christ is rooted in Mississippi and the Great Migration, when millions of African Americans left the rural South for Northern cities.
On April 5, 1962 Elinor and Leo Mullen sat down to write a letter to Albany Mayor Erastus Corning 2d.
Two years ago, we discovered a cache of South Mall negatives at the New York State Archives. Among them were several candid portraits of people who once lived and worked in Albany’s lost 98 acres. We’ve identified some of these subjects but most remain nameless.
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…
On March 31, 1962—4 days after the State of New York seized Albany’s 98 acres— the Knickerbocker News “Night Owl” column reported that Ambassador owner Marvin J. Sherman and his regular customers were “thinking of forming a Citizens Society to Exempt the Ambassador” from demolition.
Fresh out of college and newly married, Scott Christianson—an aspiring investigative reporter and former hometown football star (Bethlehem Central)—took a job at the Knickerbocker News in the summer of 1969.
Hudson Shoe Rebuilders was more than just a shoe repair store. It was also a variety store, selling inexpensive socks, shoes, shirts, and other sundries to residents of Albany’s rooming house district. At the back of the store, Greek immigrants could find cheese, olives, and oil imported from their native country.
Like most of the roughly 400 businesses that once served the 98 acres, Kenneth Hunter’s pharmacy was a neighborhood institution. In business for over thirty years at the same location, he filled thousands of prescriptions for the area’s residents and served sodas to two generations of children.