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…

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…

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…

A Hudson Avenue Symphony

A guest post by Jack Guthy. Our thanks to Jack for sharing with us the lost soundscape of his childhood home. In the mid-1940s, my family and I lived in an apartment at 273 Hudson Ave., across from the Melody Inn, during an era of live music and lively crowds, described in William Kennedy’s O…

“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…

An Alternative Plan for Albany

All over Albany recently invited us to write a brief alternative history of the South Mall. This is the real story behind that fiction. On March 28, 1962—one day after the State of New York appropriated 98.5 acres in downtown Albany—the City’s planning consultant, Isadore Candeub, denounced the State’s action at a luncheon hosted by…