Albany’s D&H Building and How it Grew

3By the early 1900s the foot of State St., where it met the Hudson River, was “a tangle of mean streets and wretched buildings”. (Or, to use one of my favorite quotes from Tom Waits, “the corner of bedlam and squalor”.) And it wasn’t the only area of the city that could use some TLC. The gleaming Capitol and the new Education Building just made the shabby parts of the city look shabbier.

So then Mayor James McEwan and the Chamber of Commerce asked Arnold Brunner, a leading architect of the period, to come up with ideas for civic improvement. The results were collected in the 1914 book, “Studies for Albany”.

Although Brunner knew there was a continuing desire to secure a view of the Hudson River, he acknowledged that clearing the area would only provide a view of the railroad yard, commercial docks and wharves. He recommended obliterating this view with a plaza that would screen the industrial scenario.

5.1Marcus Reynolds, Albany’s pre-eminent architect, became involved. According to Wiki, Reynolds proposed a triangular park at the end of State Street with an a large L-shaped pier that would go north for three city blocks that would also support another park with a bandshell and docks for yachts and boats.* That design would have cost $1 million and was opposed by neighborhood groups as too expensive; concerns were also expressed about the problems of railroad traffic.

5Then the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) Railroad proposed to construct new offices in the location at the base of State St. (The D&H offices on the corner of North Pearl St. and Steuben, constructed in the early 1890s, were already getting crowded – the building is still on that corner.) The city had amassed land and it would be made available to the D&H, with a park accessible to the public in the front.

6.1Ultimately Reynolds designed a building inspired by the medieval Cloth Hall (a market and warehouse for the Cloth Guild) in Ypres Belgium.


But by the time it was completed it was already too small hold all the D&H staff. There it sat in 1915; about half of what we know today, but long enough to take photos and turn them into lovely tinted postcards (which is how today we know what it looked like then).


Another wing was connected for the D&H and finally a second tower was added to house the offices of the “Albany Evening Journal” newspaper owned by Bill Barnes, who was also the city’s Republican Machine Boss. The building was completed in 1918.



Over the years there were a number of other tenants including the “Albany Times Union”, and federal and state government offices. By 1970 the building was in significant decline. Then Chancellor of the State University, Ernest Boyer, announced in 1972 the University would purchase the building from the D&H and make it, and the old Federal Building on the corner of Broadway, the HQ of the State University. It was dedicated in 1978.




* The Albany Yacht Club had already constructed a new building at the base of Maiden Lane, so the city added a Municipal/Recreation Pier. Both survived into the mid-1950s.

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Julie O’Connor


Baerena Park, forgotten Albany destination


A forgotten day-trip destination was Barena (Baerena) Park, on an island in the Hudson River just south of Coeymans, a mere 12 miles south of Albany. (It was originally Barent’s Island, named after Barent Pietersen Coeymans who held the original patent dating back to the 1600s.)


7John N. Briggs, who operated ice plants along the Hudson and a coal business in Albany (and who later started the Atlantic Light & Power Company, which provided power to Coeymans, Ravena and New Baltimore), developed the island as a picnic area in 1879. In 1891 he renamed Barren (Baeren) Island Baerena Park. The park included docks, a covered dance platform (with a band and or pianist), a Ferris wheel (from 1893), merry-go-round, refreshments, rustic tables and benches for those who brought pic-nic baskets and an observation tower. It was widely touted as one of the most pleasant destinations on the Hudson.


4Baerena Park became immensely popular as a location for Sunday School picnics, church outings, fraternal organization parties, and just about any group excursion. Tug-drawn barges with such names as “Harvest Queen” (conveniently operated by Mr. Briggs), “The Andrew M. Church, and the “Empress” would depart from Albany, Troy, Catskill and Poughkeepsie. Locals would access the park via a steamboat ferry from Coeymans Landing.



The Park began to lose its luster in 1914 after a near riot broke out, as a young man “Fink” without a return ticket tried to board the “Empress”. Other hooligans in his gang then attempted to do the same. According to a report in the “Times Union” a deputy sheriff pulled his revolver and started shooting towards the ground to quell the melee. A member of the excursion group, the Maenner Society (a large German-American singing society), snatched the gun and started shooting at the aggressors, wounding one in the leg. (Apparently this followed a fight earlier during the day between members of the Sheridan Avenue and South End rival gangs.)

World War I put a damper on the Park, but the Baerena limped along – the site of occasional excursions.

A 1930 fire destroyed most of the principal buildings, including the dance pavilion, ladies lounge, and shooting gallery. The park never fully recovered, and some years later it became inaccessible from the river when the Hudson was deepened. It was still reachable by land from the west until around 1968, when the access road was closed.




By Al Quaglieri – from his Albany blog  Doc Circe Died for Our Sins

World War I and the Mystery of Albany’s Lady in Memorial Grove

4A century ago in 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, the Great War ended. The War defined a generation. For the first time fathers, brothers, sons and uncles had gone off to battle in a place faraway across an ocean. It was the first time technology – tanks, airplanes, and chemical weapons – had been used to kill.

In early 1919 most of the men from Albany returned from the brutal war.* Black soldiers Henry Johnson and Alfred Adams (both from Orange St.), who fought with the Harlem Hellfighters 369th “Negro” regiment returned, after having been awarded the Croix de Guerre by France. (Johnson was just recently awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously.)

But others did not. Approximately 75 men from the city of Albany were part of the 116,000 men who died during the War. (Parker Dunn** – Medal of Honor recipient- was one of those Albany men killed in combat.)

Albany, like other cities, towns and villages across the country, considered how best to honor those men. Some places erected traditional monuments which often took the form of a statue of a “doughboy” – the term for American soldier in World War I – or victory arches. Others established parks and spaces that would benefit the living. Albany took a different approach, based in part upon one of the forgotten aspects of the aftermath of World War I.

Military and government leaders refused to allow the American dead to be buried at home***. There would be no funerals and burials in family plots. Many men had been buried on the spot where they were killed. Others ended in huge military cemeteries in France. This horrified most Americans.

2Albany’s response was to create a memorial that resembled the peace and greenery found in a cemetery, dedicating the ground in the name of those who died.  It would be called Memorial Grove. By 1920 the City decided to use land it already owned, on the corner of New Scotland and South Lake, just south of the Dudley Observatory, west of Albany Hospital and opposite the newly built Troop B Armory. Families, especially the Gold Star mothers**** would have a place to go. It would be a calm and serene area, screened from the streets. In an area where there was not much development.

Today the land is mostly level, but when the Grove was established it was much different. There was a large hill and then moving down the slope was a “bowl” of sorts; a natural amphitheater. At the top of the hill was Observatory and the Grove, much larger than it is today, below. The grounds of the Grove were centered around the “bowl”. Oak trees (one for each man who died) were planted (planting trees in honor of those who died was a common post-World War I practice). The Grove was landscaped with azaleas, rhododendrons and poppies. There would be a “Mound” to represent the graves of those killed in the War. The Grove would be a memorial to “serve both the living and the dead”.

And this is where our Albany history becomes murky; we’ve tried to piece together the sequence of events as best as we can.

In late 1920 the U.S and the Allied countries relented and agreed to return serviceman’s bodies from overseas, which would allow them to be buried in family cemetery plots. This meant that the design of the Grove would change. In late 1921 the Albany Common Council appropriated $40,000 for completion of the Grove, with something other than “The Mound”. This is where the mystery begins. Common Council minutes indicate that the City Board of Contract and Supply was authorized to erect a monument/memorial in the Grove. But then the trail grows cold.

4.1 (2)There is nothing more in Albany official records and sparse detail in the newspapers of the time. A 1921 article refers to an “altar or a small monument” to be erected, inscribed with the names of those who lost their lives. Veterans groups wanted something else and opposed the plan. But at some point it’s clear the Gold Star Mothers became involved and played a major role in the decision making. The November, 1922 Armistice Day ceremonies in Memorial Grove include a “dedication of the laying of the foundation of the shrine”.


4.1What is unveiled on Armistice Day 1923 by the Gold Star Mothers is the statue of the lovely lady of the Grove that remains today. We don’t even know if she has an official name. She’s variously referred to as “Our Lady of Peace”, “The World War I Memorial”, “The Mother’s Monument” and “The Mother’s War Memorial”.



We know she was sculpted (and probably designed) by a very famous sculptor and stone cutter, Attilio Picarrelli. He was one of 6 brothers who were superb marble carvers in great demand in the early 1900s. While Daniel Chester French designed the Lincoln Memorial, the brothers cut the stone. The stones were cut so well, piece by piece, in their studio in the Bronx that when they arrived in Washington D.C. all the sections fit together perfectly. The brothers are also responsible for the beautiful lions, Patience and Fortitude, that flank the entrance to the New York Public Library. Of all the brothers, Attilio was the most talented and a remarkable sculptor in his own right. He was responsible for the Maine Monument in Central Park in NYC and the Fireman’s Memorial, also in NYC on Riverside Drive. (President Roosevelt award the Jefferson Medal to Picarrelli in 1932 for his contribution to American art.)

However, we still have no idea how he was selected and why the memorial took the form of the lovely lady, whether city funded and how much she cost.

8.2BUT, we do have pretty good evidence that we know who served as the model. Audrey Munson was called “The American Venus”; she was the model for at least 60 major sculptures by over 20 American artists including Picarrelli and Daniel Chester French. She was the “It” girl of American art in the early days of the 20th century. (There’s a new book, “The Curse of Beauty” that tells the story of Audrey, the world’s first “supermodel”.) If you look closely at those statues, you can see the resemblance to the Lady in the Grove. Audrey even appeared on U. S. currency- the Winged Mercury dime and the Walking Liberty Half-dollar. The names of those killed in World War I were never inscribed on the foundation behind the Lady in the Grove as originally intended (we don’t know why). But the base in back of a statue, referred to sometimes as the sarcophagus, reads, ” That the memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the world war may remain forever fresh in the hearts of a grateful people”.


9.1It appears there was a sense in the years after the statue was dedicated that she was not entirely sufficient as a memorial and we needed something more. In 1933 the City sponsored a competition for an additional memorial. A design for a large flagpole, inscribed with the names of the men from Albany who died in the Great War and embellished with symbolic Albany beavers was selected. The woman who won the competition was Gertrude Lathrop, an Albany native and well respected artist.***** Several years later the Fort Orange Post of the American Legion erected a new building on New Scotland Ave. and the Grove was complete.



10Today the Fort Orange post building is gone; demolished for the Psych Center circa 1970, as are most of the oak trees; and there haven’t been poppies in 80 years and the azaleas have been gne since 1969. The flag pole can still be seen on the corner. Off to the side is the Lady of the Grove, almost out of sight.



11 (2)For decades, into the 1980s, there were Veteran’s Day ceremonies in the Grove, but with the building of a multitude of monuments by the Empire State Plaza, their venue changed. But every Veteran’s Day you will find a memorial wreath placed in front of the the Lady of the Grove.

Despite her age, the Lady is is still beautiful – an example of womanly courage and fortitude in the face of the horrors of war. The sword, sheathed and pointed downward, denotes peace and is twined with laurels representing honor and glory. She holds a palm frond, representing victory.

We can find nothing similar in the country; although there are some Gold Star Mother monuments. there appears to be nothing like the Albany Lady of the Grove anywhere else in America. There are a few Gold Star Mother monuments remembering those from World War I, but nothing as beautiful as Albany’s Lady. She’s very very special; you should go take a look at her.

Another place in Albany where there should be an historic marker and she should be on the National Register of Historic Places.

And if you have any information about her, please message us so we can add to her story.)

*Several of the men from Albany died during the period 1918-1920 when an American force was sent to Archangel, Russia (north of Moscow on the Barents Sea) to fight the Bolsheviks after the Revolution.

** The bridge over the Hudson, the Dunn Memorial, is named after Private Dunn.

*** U.S. military leaders balked at a recovery effort. Initial estimates suggested that more than 70,000 men had been buried in temporary battlefield graves. U.S. allies, meanwhile, were horrified at the idea of Americans digging up their dead and shipping them home. The British government worried that its own people would demand the same for its more than 700,000 dead. French leaders envisioned ghoulish trains packed with bodies crossing their countryside, and argued that France had to concentrate on rebuilding, they banned removal of bodies for three years.

****During World War I the symbol of a service flag with a gold star was established, identifying families who had lost soldiers. Grieving women became known as “Gold Star” mothers and widows.

***** Gertrude was the sister of Dorothy Lathrop, the award-winning illustrator and writer of children’s books (we told you about her several months ago).

Thank you to Paula Lemire, Andrew Mace, Paul Nance and Rob Eaton who contributed to this article.

The Ten Eyck Hotel – the Grande Dame of State Street


The original Ten Eyck Hotel, which would come to dominate the skyline of downtown Albany for much of the 20th century, was built in 1899 at corner of State St. and Chapel St.

In the 1890s there were 3 major hotels in Albany. The Kenmore, the Delavan and Stanwix Hall. The Delavan on Broadway (where Lincoln stayed in 1861 on his pre-inaugural journey to Washington D.C.) was destroyed by fire in 1894. Stanwix Hall, on Broadway and Maiden Lane, was looking a tad shabby. It had been built in the 1830s by the uncles of Herman Melville, and while once a grand show place, was showing its age. The Kenmore on N. Pearl, established by Adam Blake (son of a former slave) was doing a thriving business under the new ownership of the Rockwell family.

But the Rockwells saw an opening in the market after the Delavan fire. Frederick, the Rockwell son, created a corporation that included James Ten Eyck, from one of Albany’s oldest and wealthiest families.They purchased the old Corning homestead on State St. and set to building the most modern and luxe hotel in heart of downtown Albany. Based on his experience with the Kenmore Frederick knew what guests wanted. Most importantly, it was guaranteed “fire proof” – the destruction of the Delavan – a hotel known around the country, had created enormous fear. (There had been deaths and many seriously injured guests and employees.)

2The “fireproof” Ten Eyck was an immediate success. It was 9 stories and designed to cater to the whims of even the most jaded traveler. The rooms and suites were airy and well-appointed. Want a room for your maid? No problem. Porcelain baths gleamed and towels were plush. There was a large ballroom and many meeting rooms to accommodate the conventions that flocked to the hotel. The lobby was spacious and comfortable, with a barbershop, hair salon, florist, telegraph office, and access to telephones. Scores of bell hops swarmed – ready to run any errand or fulfill the smallest of requests. Carriages transported travelers to and from the train station and Steamboat Square at no charge. The dining room and food was legendary – with specially made china and engraved silver plate with the Ten Eyck logo.



4Other large hotels were built on State St. over the next 10 years; the Hampton and the Wellington. They enjoyed success, but the Ten Eyck out shown them all. By 1914 it needed to expand, and the owners bought and demolished the Tweddle Building just below the Hotel, at the corner of State and Pearl. Within 3 years a new Ten Eyck Hotel building arose that, at 17 stories, dominated downtown for decades (the older, smaller building became known as the “Annex”). The Ten Eyck had become the sort of “modern” hotel we recognize today (except for the mini-bar). It had a new owner – the United Hotels Company that owned a string of upscale hotels across the country.



In the late 1920’s the Ten Eyck finally had some real competition with the construction of the DeWitt Clinton Hotel up the street at State and Eagle – opposite the Capitol. (Today it’s been renovated and is the Renaissance – owned by Marriott.) The two competed for the next 45 years, but it was the Ten Eyck that ruled downtown, surviving the Depression and thriving in World War II.


The Ten Eyck continued to be the destination of choice in Albany for presidents and the rich and famous. Because of its proximity to the Capitol Theater, just around the corner on Chapel St., guests included everyone from the venerable actors Cornelia Otis Skinner and Lionel Barrymore to George M. Cohan to Molly Picon, the Queen of Yiddish Theater. The Ten Eyck was mobbed by Stagedoor Johnnies when Flo Ziegfeld brought the beautiful bevy of girls in his Follies to Albany.



11.1In the 1950s it became a Sheraton hotel, was renovated and had bit of renewal. Still, the grand dame struggled to compete in the 1960s. The main restaurant, the Grill Room, was given a wacky amoeba shaped bar (so mid-century) and another bar became the “Dolliwog Lounge” (waitresses were the equivalent of Albany’s Playboy bunnies.) But then Sheraton Corp. bought the newly constructed Inn Towne Motel on Broadway. (The building is still there as a Holiday Inn Express – the swimming pool on the roof is long gone.)






All the hotels in downtown were suffering from competition from new motels on the outskirts of the City and the suburbs – the Americana on Wolf Rd. (now the Desmond), the Thruway Motel on Washington Ave. (demolished for a medical building) and several Howard Johnson Motels (the remains of one on Southern Blvd. still exists). The area adjacent to downtown had been gutted for Empire State Plaza construction, but that was insignificant compared to a dying downtown – commercial and retail development had moved to the suburbs, as was the case in many Northeastern cities. Steamboat travel ended 20 years before and no one traveled by train. (Albany’s Union Station would soon be closed.)

In a last gasp the hotel was purchased by a company from Binghamton and run by the Schine Corp. It was during this era in the late 1960s I stayed in the Ten Eyck for a NYS high school convention. It was shabby, but with room service; swanky to a 16 year old used to summer vacation motor court cabins. I snuck into the cocktail lounge; it seemed so “Mad Men” with a dash of 007-sophisticated and cosmopolitan. The men all looked like Don Draper or Roger Sterling – the women like Betty Draper and Joan Holloway. They were drinking Gimlets, Martinis and Manhattans in a world that would shortly become Woodstock, Boone’s Farm and tie dye.

Nothing could save the hotel. It closed that year in 1968 and remained a rotting hulk for several years until it was demolished, along with Albany Savings Bank (an Albany architectural gem). That block is now home to the some of the bleakest examples of 1970s architecture.. a Citizen’s Bank , the Ten Eyck Plaza Office Building and what it now a Hilton Hotel, about were the original Ten Eyck building would had been (more or less).


There is one last vestige of the venerable Ten Eyck (other than few pieces of random china or flatware that surface on eBay from time to time) and it’s not in Albany. If you should ever find yourself in Staunton Virginia, stop in the Depot Grille restaurant and you can see the massive 40’ bar from the Ten Eyck Hotel. (Don’t ask us how it ended up in Staunton, we haven’t a clue – but if you know, please tell us.)

Julie O’Connor

What was there? The NYS Education Building and West Capitol Park across from each other on Washington Ave.


The Education Building was started in 1908 and completed in 1912. The buildings on the opposite side of Washington Ave. were demolished for West Capitol Park in 1919., as well as the buildings that were actually behind the Capitol, within what is the Park today, on Congress St. and Capitol Place.

(Capitol Pl. ran between Washington Ave. and State St., parallel to the Capitol. Congress St. was a stub of a road, perpendicular to S Swan and the Capitol.)










Albany Public Market and Westgate Plaza: An Immigrant Success Story

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Giuseppi Nigro -age 24 – and wife immigrated to America in 1904. They hit the ground running. In 1905, the Nigro family opened a little grocery store at 114 Green Street. Six years later, it moved “uptown,” to a space on the city’s outskirts, at 652 Central Avenue. J. Nigro & Son watched their quiet neighborhood grow into a busy hive of commerce, and grew with it.

2In 1929, Nigro’s became Albany’s first WGY Food Market, also incidentally purchasing the first cash register from Henry Kass.

In 1933, Nigro bought the next door property (formerly home to a diner) and incorporated as the Albany Public Market (650-652 Central Avenue). (That building still stands, now Aaron’s Rentals.)



6Nigro had grander visions for his successful little supermarket, and in 1947 he broke ground for an ambitious new Albany Public Market at 711 Central Avenue.

The gigantic new airplane-hangar-sized store opened (October 26, 1948) with a barrage of local excitement. The superlatives weren’t mere hyperbole – it really was the “largest food department store in the world.” Boasting an unheard-of 22,000 square feet of floor space, a warehouse that could hold 70 freight carloads of food, its own bakery, and a three-acre parking lot capable of holding 1,000 cars, the complex was an immediate sensation. (Then-VP Frank Nigro expanded on the hangar idea, claiming the building – twice the size of Albany Airport’s largest hangar – would house two B-29 bombers with jet fighter escort.)



9130947012_aa38bf8af5_bA decade later, Albany Public Market would become the cornerstone business at the new (Nigro-owned) Westgate Shopping Center, with a store twice the size of the previous location.

Nigro coined the word “Westgate,”after reading a newspaper article about how Central Avenue (the Albany Schenectady Turnpike) was gateway to the West. Westgate Plaza was on the leading edge of mall shopping; despite it being entirely within city limits, it was, as a 1957 article said, “on the outer fringes of Albany.” Once again, it properly claimed the title of largest food store in the United States. The 711 Central Avenue hangar became King’s Department Store (and later on, OTB Teletheater/Nick’s Sneaky Pete’s, before it was razed to make way for Shop Rite).













Albany Public Market expanded over the next two decades, becoming the first largesupermarket chain in all of upstate New York. Constant advertising, smart publicity and clever promotions kept both Albany Public Market and Westgate Plaza highly visible to the shopping public. Every Albanian of a certain age remembers one stunt or another, be it Santa landing in a helicopter or a DJ broadcasting from atop the Westgate sign.



Albany Public Market was purchased by Weis Markets of Sunbury, PA in 1967, retaining the Nigros as directors and managers.

Eventually, the Nigros began concentrating their energies into lucrative real estate and banking operations. Best I can tell, Albany Public Markets ceased to be sometime around 1984-5.

From Al. Quaglieri’s Albany blog, Doc Circe Died for OUr Sins

Albany’s Potato Chip Empire


We were looking at pictures of Albany’s waterfront in the 1930s and saw a giant neon 20’ sign, “Blue Ribbon Potato Chips.” Whoa! We never heard of it and had to know more. What we found was a potato chip empire that provided jobs to thousands in the area for almost 50 years, and when that ended the company re-invented itself and was the fish and chip king of Albany for 20 years.

By the late 1890s potato chips (then known as “Saratoga Chips” where they were invented- Saratoga Springs) were all the rage; they were served in restaurants throughout the New England and Mid-Atlantic states. By 1890 recipes appeared in cookbooks and women’s magazines. They were introduced to America at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition in Chicago. But, as some of you may know, making potato chips is labor intensive and time consuming, what with the peeling and delicate slicing and precise frying. (In the current vernacular, a total PITA for busy housewives.)

Hmmmm….. But what if you could buy these yummy treats, pre-made in markets and grocery stores?

Enter the Walter brothers, Alexander and Alfred. One summer in Fairhaven, VT., they played mad scientists, trying to produce the perfect potato chip. They were so successful they started selling the chips in a shed in back of the Fairhaven train station. Within a year or so they decided to expand, looked over the border into New York State and saw Albany.

In 1902 the brothers opened the Blue Ribbon* Potato Chip factory at 4 Liberty St; one the first in the country. It was a success. The factory had an endless source of potatoes from surrounding farms and a large supply of labor (mostly women) who lived in the South End in the early 1900s. Because Albany was a railroad hub they could ship all over the Northeast. Within several years, the company re-located to a larger home at 51 -53 Liberty St.

But the potato chip market was limited. Chips were still a relatively expensive food; their production was labor intensive, despite some technology improvements. “Store bought” potato chips were a luxury because of their price, reserved by working people for special occasions. Why pay 50 cents for a pound of potato chips when you could buy 3 lbs. of lamb tongue for 25 cents?



3So, In 1925 the company (now only Alexander, since older brother Alfred passed away in 1922) made a bold move. It re-located to 13 South Lansing St., opening the first factory in the world devoted exclusively to potato chip manufacture. It had all the new equipment that speeded up the processes of potato chip production, from peeling to slicing to frying and packaging. The Blue Ribbon Chip brand thrived, in part because production costs were lower and more people could afford the product. Potato chips; no longer just for the rich!



attachmentBut by the mid-1930s times were tough. The initial years of the Depression saw an increase in sales. In 1946, Richard, son of Alexander said the company pioneered triple sealed, waxed wrapped packaging. “People thought we were crazy, but it was on this packaging that our volumes of sales was built.” Still new snack foods like Twinkies were created; there was growing competition in the potato chip market as new companies emerged. You can find AA Walter Co. ads in from the local Times Union newspaper in which they are offering for sale thousands (yes, as much as 6,000) of pounds of potatoes they weren’t converting to chips. The company tried diversification; around 1935 it introduced “Krinx” a candied popcorn, but it was hard to compete with Cracker Jack…WITH peanuts AND a prize.


Still in the late 1930s the country started to emerge from the Depression and sales rebounded. Then came World War II. The Walter Co. secured government contracts to produce potato chips for the troops and to stock cafeterias and canteens in manufacturing plants across the country. The factory ran two and sometimes three shifts a day. At one point, it produced 7 million pounds of Blue Ribbon Potato Chips in 9 months. It made dehydrated potatoes for K-Rations.

In 1948 the company moved out of the city and into a new and completely modern plant in Colonie on Railroad Ave., but it was sold the following year.


12In 1950, Richard and his mother incorporated another business called Walter Foods. It was primarily known for its fried fish (which, BTW, was awesome); there was also a catering business. The first location on Central Ave. grew to 3, with another on the corner of Hudson and Lark and a third on Madison Ave. between West Lawrence and S. Allen. Throughout the 1950s it dominated the market in Albany. In 1954 it started to produce potato chips, using the original Walter brothers’ recipe and made the old-fashioned way, by hand (awesome!). But slowly the business contracted (we think given the competition of McDonald’s and Burger King) and the last location on Central Ave., closed in the early 1970s.

The end of an era.


*Alexander was the breeder of award-winning pedigreed dogs; hence the name “Blue Ribbon” – the very best.

If you are interested in the history of the potato chip industry, please see either or

Fanny Brice and Albany; Before Nicky


Fanny Brice (born today in 1891) was first married to a man from Albany, not Nicky Arnstein. He was Frank White, who ran a barber shop at the Kenmore Hotel. Fanny met Frank was she was performing at the Empire Theatre on State St., in “College Girls” in a Columbia “Wheel” traveling burlesque revue in early 1910. He followed her to Springfield, Mass. and they were married there.

In later years she said she married Frank because “My God, he smelled so nice”. By late that year, Fanny was already headlining for Flo Zeigfield in the Follies. Fanny and Frank were divorced in 1913. I have yet to discover what happened with Frank.. although he continued at the barber shop for at least 25 more years.

In addition to the burlesque shows (not really what you might think of as burlesque today.. more like variety shows with lots of girls.. a semi plot and lots of leg), the Empire offered vaudeville shows,and even Yiddish Theater a couple of times a month with a company that traveled to Albany from NYC. The Empire started out as legit theater in the late 1890s.. with stars like Maud Adams and Ethel Barrymore. By about 1905 it found it couldn’t compete as audience taste changed,

The Empire was prime real estate at 100 State St, and was demolished in 1922 for the City Savings Bank.



A vision of Albany’s future, circa 1914; Get the flux capacitor

In 1912, architect Arnold W. Brunner was asked by James B. McEwan, then Mayor, to prepare studies for the improvement of Albany. The results were collected into a 1914 book entitled “Studies For Albany,” which I found on Google Books.

Much of what Brunner proposed was grandiose beyond belief, while other proposals were more practicable.

Here are some excerpts from that publication, which contains some excellent and rarely-seen photographs of Albany circa 1914.

Brunner was critical of the eastern end of State, where it met the river, in ‘a tangle of mean streets and wretched buildings.” Although he knew there was a continuing desire to secure a view of the Hudson River, he acknowledged that clearing the area would only provide a view of the railroad yard. He recommended obliterating this view with a plaza that would screen the industrial scenario. This eventually became what we knew as the D&H Building.

Stvdies for Albany

The State Street Pier, containing the Albany Yacht Club building, was deemed isolated and improperly proportioned.. Brunner redesigned the pier, suggesting concrete paving instead of green fields, and discussed the ongoing replacement of the old bridge that connected the Pier with Quay Street.

As for the waterfront, Brunner said, “The Albany water front had long been give up to commerce. Railways, steamships, factories and warehouses had siezed it and ruined it. Their activities were carried on in a slipshod manner without order or system, as may be seen in the accompanying photographs. The devastating ugliness of the old water front can no longer be endured.”

Brunner’s new waterfront would be one of “order and completeness.” He suggested elevating the railroad tracks and concealing them from view, a widened Broadway, freight yards screened away from view by walls and covered passages, and a uniform code of architecture, none of which came to pass.


Brunner thought the Rensselaer Bridge “awkward and aggressively ugly,”’ and a horrible introduction to Albany. “As we cross the bridge from Rensselaer,” he said, “we find the most deplorable state of affairs on reaching the Albany side, and we receive the worst impression of a neglected neighborhood. There is a dangerous grade crossing, bad roads and a complication of tracks, freight cars and unsightly warehouses. Nothing could be more shabby and unpleasant.”

The imposing structure he proposed was loosely based on the grand entranceways to Bordeaux and Barcelona. It would be high enough to hide the trains on the other side. It’s an amazing rendering.

Stvdies for Albany

Albany’s market place was an overcrowded mess. Brunner suggested expanding it eastward and installing a slightly elevated covered platform up to which vendors could pull up their trucks, and upon which shoppers could examine and purchase goods while being sheltered from the elements.

Stvdies for Albany

This was the name for that steep drop-off property between Dove and Swan, extending from Elk Street almost to Sheridan Avenue. Brunner proposed a walking terrace and esplanade with playgrounds and a vehicle scenic overlook.

This was the name for the three blocks between Lancaster and Chestnut, from Main to Ontario, which eventually became St. Mary’s Park. The recommendation was a sunken garden, with decorative flower beds, a fountain, trees, and pavilions.

Stvdies for Albany

Beaver Park, most of which was an unsanitary mess, would eventually become Lincoln Park. Brunner proposed an ambitious project incorporating an athletic field, a swimming pool, a children’s playground, and some monumental structures. There would be a broad flight of steps leading from the track to the top of the terrace; they would double as a grandstand. A pavilion would contain dressing rooms, baths, etc.

Stvdies for Albany

The swimming pool would have two parts, one for swimmers, and the other a children’s wading pool. “It is intended to secure the appearance of a natural lake with sandy shores and bottom and to provide all the delights of ‘the old swimming hole.’” At the lower end of the park would be a children’s playground, with wading pool, sand piles, slides, swings and a babies’ lawn “in front of a shady pergola for the mothers.”

Stvdies for Albany

A new bandstand was also recommended.

Stvdies for Albany

One of the few remaining old houses on the west end of the property was once the home of Dr James Hall, a noted geologist. It was to be remodeled and used for meetings and bad-weather recreation.


In time, much of what Brunner suggested for the park came to be.


Band concerts were popular here at the turn of the century, so a deluxe new bandstand was proposed, large enough to double as an open-air theatre for plays and cultural events.


From Al Quaglieri’s  blog Doc Circe Died for Our Sins

Everything Old is New Again – Open Air Movies in Albany

zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzIn the past couple of years open air movies in the summer have become a “thing”. That got us thinking, and we found that they aren’t a new idea – far from it. They’re actually a revival of a craze from the early 1900s.

The first successful movie theater in the U.S. opened in 1905. By 1908 there were at least a half dozen or so makeshift “nickel theaters” (Nickelodeons) on S. Pearl St., Central Ave., Broadway and N. Pearl in Albany. Others quickly followed, when traditional theaters like Proctor’s on S. Pearl, Harmanus Bleecker Hall (where the Albany Public Library is today) and the Albany Grand Theatre (where the O’Brien Federal Bldg is now located) started to show photoplays (films) as well. But whether they were simply store front operations or theaters with velvet seats, they all had one thing in common, they were HOT HOT HOT in the summer without air conditioning.

Enter the entrepreneur to meet the need. The open air theatre craze swept Albany as it did the rest of the country. Open air theatres were cheap money makers. Much less capitol required for startup than traditional theaters and they could be located in areas far more accessible to Albany’s growing population as it spread out in the western parts of the city, above downtown.

Here’s the list of open air theatres (or air domes as they were sometimes called).
The Avenue – Clinton and Judson (a/k/a Clinton Park)
The Beaver Airdome – Morton Ave. opposite Beaver Park (Lincoln Park today)- between Eagle and S. Swan.
The Bijou –Central Ave near Quail (said to be the most popular)
The Boulevard Airdome – Northern Boulevard (Henry Johnson) and Sheridan.
The Central – 94 Central Ave (originally an old livery stable with many large doors and windows it opened to become an “open air theatre”) between Lexington and Henry Johnson Blvd.
The Family – 12 Central Ave, just above Lark, about where the Fuze Box is now
Hamilton Park – A corner of Hamilton and Grand
The Hillcrest – 103 Second Ave
The Idle Hour Park – Second Ave. between Raymo and Hurlbut – The granddaddy of open air movies in Albany. It was started in 1910 by 2 enterprising employees of the United Traction Company. It was favorite among the trade union crowd.
The Open Air – N. Pearl and Columbia St. behind Lodge’s.
The Parkway – This was an indoor theatre with an attached open air theater, located in what is now Lark Tavern and laundromat next door)
And then there was the Regent Theatre on S. Pearl and Hamilton.. a marvel of technology, built in 1916. It was a combination indoor and open air theatre – it had six 12” x 12” opening in the ceiling that opened and closed via some sort of electric apparatus.

The venues were varied in terms of amenities and many improved over time. Some started with benches, a screen and a projector in a vacant lot. The Idle Hour had manicured lawns and flower gardens. It was “branded” by its red, white and blue and its fences were festooned with electric lights in those colors. Some were in a canvas tent; when the weather was nice the sides could be tied up to let in breezes, but could be closed. Others had brick walls. These theatres operated beyond the traditional months of May through September, and could be open as late as Halloween. The seating capacity varied – smaller theaters could accommodate only 400 patrons, while the Open Air Theatre on Columbia St. said it had room for 1,800 movie goers.

As the open air theatres thrived, they started providing piano and even band accompaniments for the silent films. Often young boys provided “sound effects” from behind the screen. Some offered concerts before the photoplays started. Concession stands offered ice cream, candy, soft drinks and pastries. In the chicest of the theaters, there were small café tables.

But almost as rapidly as the open air theatre craze started, it came to an end by about 1920, although some few managed to hang on. A number of factors lead to its demise. The novelty wore off. The land on which the theaters were located became too valuable for just summer entertainment and noise from the increasing numbers of motor cars and trolleys interfered with musical accompaniments and sound effects. And even through air conditioning did not become common in traditional theaters until the late 1920s, theater owners developed intricate and complex systems with huge fans and air exchanging devices to cool the air in the summer and lure customers back from open air theaters.

We’ve been unable to track down photos of Albany’s open air theaters, so we’ve provided some pictures of theaters across the country to give you an idea of what they probably looked like. In a couple of instances, we could readily identify the exact locations of the theaters in Albany, so we’ve also included Google map images to provide a sense of some of open air theatre locations.

zbijou prcotors l 1917 - 2282 1