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…

Nixon in Albany, Rocky in Washington?

Our thanks to Scott Christianson for bringing this story to our attention. 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…

Gerry’s Gamble Pays Off

Our thanks to Gerry and Mary Dwileski for their help with this post. 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…

Old 79

Our thanks to Jennifer Lemak and Miriam Sumner for their help with this post. 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….

A Letter to Mayor Corning

Our thanks to Mike and Anita Mullen for their hospitality and their help with this post. On April 5, 1962 Elinor and Leo Mullen sat down to write a letter to Albany Mayor Erastus Corning 2d. They had read on the front page of the morning’s Times Union that the City had obtained a temporary…

The Waitress at the White House Restaurant

Our thanks to Gail and Danny Bahlatzis for their help with this post. We also wish to thank Angelo Kontis and Dean Karlaftis for inviting us to St. Sophia Greek Orthodox Church and introducing us to Gail and Danny. Two years ago, we discovered a cache of South Mall negatives at the New York State…

Scene from a South Mall Bar

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…

The Big A

Our thanks to Debbie, Greg, and Mickey Sherman for their help with this post. 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 Typewriter Guerrilla and the Billion-Dollar Hot Potato

Our thanks to Scott Christianson for his help with this post. 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. Over the course of several months, he moved up the journalistic ladder from copy…

Our Name Means Shoemaker

Our thanks to Angelo Kontis for his help with this post. 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,…