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…

Lancaster Street Hullabaloo

A guest post by Sandra Pierce. Our thanks to Sandie for sharing her childhood memories with us. 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. I was only two years old, when they adopted me in 1957. Their…

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…

Man-on-the-Street Interviews, March 27, 1962

On March 27, 1962—the day news of the state appropriation became public—Knick News reporters Kurt Wachenheim and Edward Swietnicki walked the streets of Albany’s 98 acres to gauge public opinion. What they found was a mix of “elation, indifference, disappointment, and hope.” As a group, small business owners were particularly upset by the news. The…

The Catholic Union and the Eagle Theatre

Two generations of Albany children remember the Eagle Theatre, on the corner of Eagle and Hudson. It opened in 1926—a year before The Jazz Singer inaugurated the sound era—and remained in business for over thirty years. The theater was housed in an antebellum armory, owned by the Catholic Union. Akin to the YMCA, the Union…

No Down Payment

Reading in the New York Times yesterday about exploitative contracts for deeds to dilapidated houses in places like Akron, Ohio, we were reminded of a similar practice once prevalent in Albany. As in Akron, the seller was a corporation with considerable legal expertise—the firm of Sidney Albert & Irving Kirsch, now Tri-City Rentals. The buyers…

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…

Growing up on the “Street of Regret”

A guest post by Barry Levine. Our thanks to Barry for sharing his stories and family photos. I was six years old, when my family moved from Ballston Spa to Albany, NY in 1942. My father, Morris, found a war job in Schenectady, and we lived in a rented 3-room apartment above Dinty’s Tavern, on…

More about Mrs. Abarca

Readers of this blog may recall that Francisca Abarca—along with her tenants and two youngest children, Anna and Antonio—was the first South Mall-area resident to be displaced by the State. On July 12, 1962, a wall in her Hamilton Street home collapsed after the demolition of a vacant structure next door. The 55-year-old mother of…

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,…