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…

Hoax or Hope?

We are grateful  to Grant Van Patten for sharing his memories and photographs with us and to Sinclair Broadcast Group for permission to use footage from WRGB’s 1962 documentary. On the evening of Saturday, July 14, 1962—just days after the first South Mall demolition—WRGB TV, Channel Six, aired a half-hour documentary called The South Mall…

King Rockefeller’s “Camelot on the Hudson”

In honor of the Legislative Correspondents’ Association annual show tomorrow night, we thought we’d set the scene for an earlier show, the association’s 71st in 1971. The play that year was a Camelot spoof, starring the A.P.’s Charles Dumas as King Laughsalot Rockefeller and Charles Holcomb of Gannett News as T. Merlin Hurd, the king’s…

“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…

Whose Extravagance?

Acting on a tip a few months ago, we contacted architect Daniel Pratt. At age 22 in 1970, he was a draftsman for the Buffalo architectural firm, James, Meadows & Howard, which designed the Legislative Office Building. Dan’s job was to draw the interior office spaces, even though many interior wall frames were already in…

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…

Rocky’s South Mall Tour

In May 1962—as Democrats scrambled to find a candidate to run against him in November—New York State Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller arrived in the Capital District for a whirlwind pre-election tour. Over the course of three days, he shook hands, slapped backs, signed autographs, and even danced with the queen of the Senior Citizens Ball….

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…

Hardhats and the Microskirt

Elke Sommer, the German actress who played opposite Paul Newman, Peter Sellers, and James Garner in popular 1960s films, donned a microskirt and a hardhat in August, 1970, to tour the South Mall construction site.  As the “Teutonic temptress” made her way among the 2,000 ironworkers, operating engineers, cement pourers, and other construction workers, she…