Exploring the Historic Beauty of New York's State Capital

Sunday, February 26, 2023

 Sometimes the neatest discoveries are right at our fingertips, or in this case, right in one's own backyard.  All it takes is some free time, motivation and sense of exploration to open our eyes to treasures we overlook in day-to-day life.  That's was the case a couple weeks ago when we headed out, me itching to capture some great photos.

  In the absence of snow cover in the rural spaces we typically escape to, that day we found ourselves in the heart of our state capital, John's hometown, Albany NY.  Having spent 27 years of his life living in Albany and over three decades working in Albany, John is pretty familiar with all the city has to offer.  I, on the other hand, a declared country gal, was not as familiar with all the beauty there was in this history-rich city.  Come along as I take you on a little guided tour of our state capital.

Just a reminder, a large percentage of my photo captures are taken from the passenger seat of our car, often while moving, occasionally pulled over - in this case at redlights or double parked.  Our first pull over was at the D & H Building, now SUNY System Administration Building.

The masterpiece of architect, Marcus T. Reynolds, this Flemish Gothic style architecture commemorates the original Dutch settlement of the City of Albany.  The building cost $1.25 million to build in 1918.   Though formerly the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Company, SUNY took over the building in 1972. The weathervane on top if the building, a replica of Henry Hudson's Halfmoon, is 8 ft tall.

Below is the Albany Trust Company, 35 State Street at the corner of Broadway, built in 1904.  Marcus T. Reynolds was also the architect of this beauty.  Added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1973. 

Next we drove past City Hall...Designed by famed architect Henry Hobson Richardson, the construction of City Hall was completed in 1883. Albany City Hall has been acclaimed by critics as one of the most beautiful buildings in America and was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1972. The architect included in his design a magnificent tower standing 202 feet tall, crowned by a 50 square-foot chamber opened to the city below. William Gorham Rice first suggested a carillon for Albany in 1918, as a monument to the soldiers who had given their lives in World War I. A campaign to raise money for the carillon began in 1926 and within a few months over 25,000 citizens had contributed $45,000. The nine-year project culminated in September 1927. Albany City Hall for photos of the building and carillon tower.

We then made our way past the State Education Building. Completed in 1911 but not dedicated until 1912, this building formerly also housed the NYS Museum. I, in fact, visited this museum as a child and remember the Cohoes mastodon and Indian dioramas. It's hard to find the words to describe a place this exquisite, truly one of Albany's most beautiful buildings especially with the sun lighting it up like it was on this picture-perfect day.  Interesting fact....the columns provide no structural support  and are only there for aesthetic beauty.

We traveled up Elk Street and several other streets in the city and discovered so many stunning and colorful row houses.  Just look at this door!  

As much as I loved these buildings and would have loved a tour of the inside of any of them, the parking situation gave me anxiety and confirmed that city life is definitely not for me.  

 Below on Lodge Street is St. Mary's Roman Catholic Church.  According to Wikipedia.....Built in the 1860's, it is the third church to house the oldest Catholic congregation not only in the city, but in all of upstate New York. Upon completion of the tower in 1894, the church was wired, making it the first church in Albany to have electric lighting.  In 1643, Albany was still the small Dutch colonial outpost of Fort Orange. That year, visiting Mohawks brought a French captive along on one of their visits. He was a Jesuit priest, Isaac Jogues, who had come to them earlier as a missionary. Anticipating that Jogues would likely be killed by his captors, Arent van Curler helped the priest to escape, hiding him in his barn until a deal could be reached and the Frenchman put on a ship to take him downriver to New Amsterdam. This event is the earliest recorded presence of the Catholic Church in Albany. Jogues would later return to the Mohawk Valley, and three years later, he and two other missionaries were killed by the Mohawks at Auriesville. They were all later canonized by the church as three of the North American Martyrs. In 1797, the city donated to the church the property where Jogues had hidden on his escape, and where the parish has been located ever since. The cornerstone was laid shortly thereafter.

Not as well preserved but with equally as much (or more) popularity is the Central Warehouse Building.  Built in 1927 as a refrigeration warehouse, this building is 11 stories tall and boasts 40,000 square feet of space.   The building was abandoned in the early 1990s and has been a popular topic of conversation and controversy for city officials and prospective buyers ever since.  Aside from the deteriorating conditions and graffiti, the thing I found most interesting was the 'State of the Union' symbol in pieces which can be seen in the lower left quadrant of this first photo and enlarged later.  Anyone know the story behind it?

Erected in 1889 on the corner of Bassett & Franklin Streets, Public School Number One (below) cost $30,000 to build.  It had 13 school rooms with an enrollment of 414.  Although the building still stands, it is missing its attractive crenellation.  Photos online showed how ornate it looked back in the day.

And then there's that famous canine, Nipper, the RCA dog sitting proudly at 991 Broadway atop the RCA building.  Four ton of fiberglass and steel, and sitting 28 ft tall for over a half century.
Probably everyone recognizes this one - the Palace Theater at 19 Clinton Avenue.  The Palace Theater was originally built as an RKO movie palace. Construction took place from June 1930 to October 1931, when it opened it was Albany's largest movie theatre. (Wikipedia) In 1940, The Palace was sold to FAST Theatres. In 1960, the theatre underwent a $250,000 renovation and seating capacity was reduced to allow for more comfortable seating. In 1969, the theater was not profitable and closed.  Not long after, the theater was purchased by the City of Albany for $90,000.  Today it is the home of the Albany Symphony Orchestra and hosts over 150 events a year with a seating capacity of 2844.  It's almost impossible to believe the beauty of the interior from the fairly modest exterior.  

Above is the Lake House in Washington Park, an oasis for city dwellers and downtown employees.  Below is the NYS Capitol.  

Above is part of the Albany College of Pharmacy, formerly Christian Brothers Academy, my dad's alma mater. In 1937, CBA was accredited as a military academy by the United States government. The De La Salle Road campus on University Heights, featuring the Georgian Colonial school building, was opened in September 1939 in time for the school's eightieth year. and remained in this location until 1998 when the school moved to a 126 acre campus in Colonie.  (Wikipedia)

Below is the tower room of St. Peter's Episcopal Church at 107 State Street.  The church's foundation was laid in 1859 and finally the tower was completed in 1876.  For some fascinating information about the design....https://www.stpeterschurchalbany.org/tower-room/

Below, the United Traction Company building on Broadway,  was built in 1899 and designed by Marcus T. Reynolds. Horse-drawn trolley service began in Albany in 1864. The vehicles were operated by the Albany Railway Company, which began to introduce electric trolleys in 1890. In the 1930s United Traction gradually began to switch from trolleys to buses. The last one was taken out of service in 1946. The company remained in the building until 1950. After later financial struggles, it was one of several private bus companies absorbed into the new, public Capital District Transportation Authority in the early 1970s. The building is the sole reminder of the company's existence today. (Wikipedia) John's grandfather, Rudolph Kraft, worked for the United Traction Company, first as a handyman as noted on the 1930 census and later as an electrician in 1950. It was fun seeing places John's ancestors worked and lived, especially family who he wasn't lucky enough to know.

Next, the Hinckel Brewery Company, built in 1880.  One of many Albany breweries of the time, Hinkel was the only brewery to use a refrigeration system. The brewery continued to produce beer for almost two more decades until Prohibition, which like most breweries across the country, was a death blow. The Hinckel Brewery shut its doors in 1922.  Today the building is an apartment complex. http://alloveralbany.com/archive/2018/06/06/frederick-hinckel-and-the-hinckel-brewery

This is just a small glimpse of the incredible history and architecture of our state's capital.  Although I'd seen many of these structures in passing, it was fun photographing them, their features close-up and researching each one to learn a little about Albany's rich history. I think for the most part, we all tend to travel away from home when in search of adventure and this blog reminded me of the many cool things to be discovered right in our own backyard.  I hope it will inspire you to get out and explore your local towns, villages and cities.  I bet there's something to be learned and cool things to discover.
One of the reasons for our downtown exploration was to locate some homes that John's ancestors lived in back in the day, mostly in Albany's south end. It was disappointing that all but two of them are no longer there.  Another reason to plan a trip soon and revisit your hometown for a trip down memory lane.  Thanks for coming along on Life As I See It where it's always fun to collect moments and make memories.

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