Famed for Friendliness (First Methodist and the Inner City Mission Part I)

The congregation of First Methodist Church had long prided themselves on their welcoming atmosphere. Its letterhead proudly proclaimed that it was “famed for friendliness”, and its church bulletin urged visitors to feel “welcome to worship with us” and to “spend a few moments at the close of the service in greeting. At this time the…

July 4, 1976

The Empire State Plaza opened to the public, July 1-4, 1976, during an era of fiscal austerity. Then governor, Hugh Carey, was a critic of Nelson Rockefeller’s priorities and excesses, particularly when it came to Albany’s futuristic new capital complex. Nevertheless, Carey and his administration took responsibility for ensuring that the Plaza would become a…

Wally’s Vision, from Clay to Concrete

“It is hard,” said Wallace K. Harrison, the chief architect of the South Mall, quoting Italian engineer Pier Luigi Nervi.  Harrison wasn’t referring to the tons of concrete poured for the structures; instead, he was referring to the numerous design and construction complications faced by the architects and engineers of the South Mall.  He believed…

Every Day an Earthquake

Monday, November 25, 1963, a day of mourning after the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, provided a brief respite from the noise and dirt of demolition. “No clouds of dust, no crashing sounds rose from the South Mall demolition area,” Dick Weber observed in the Knickerbocker News. The following day, demolition resumed. And conditions…

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…

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…

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…