The Church of the Holy Innocents

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Holy Innocents Church (Episcopal), on the corner of North Pearl and Colonie St., was built in 1849 by the prolific English architect Frank Wills. It was built in a style called Gothic Revival”. (By way of comparison, Notre Dame was built in the original Gothic style.)

Wills (who wrote the definitive text “Ancient Ecclesiastical Architecture” in 1850) built a number of churches and chapels across the United States. They all draw on the elements of the great English Gothic cathedrals – Lincoln, Salisbury and Canterbury. Holy Innocents is unique because it included a seperate “Lady Chapel” (dedicated to the Virgin Mary) adjacent to the main church building. Because it was surrounded by the a small garden, it had and has the feel of an English country parish church.

Holy Innocents was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1978 (We believe it’s the second oldest extant church building in Albany – the oldest would be St Mary’s on Pine St.)

But it’s fallen on hard times over the past 20 years while vacant. In 2015, while it was owned by Hope House, a residential recovery program founded by Fr. Howard Hubbard (before he became the Albany Catholic Diocese Bishop) part of the church collapsed. In late 2016 the church was acquired by a local developer. Based on recent asessments and photos it appear to continue to deteriorate since that acquisition. As a result it was placed on the 2019 Historic Albany Foundation “Dirty Dozen” list of Albany’s most endangered historic structures. There are fears it will simply end up as one more Albany demolition.

Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
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Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
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Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
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Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin
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Holy Innocents Church 3/19 – credit Ian Benjamin

(My grandmother’s family were Holy Innocents parishioners from 1870 to the early 1940s, so the old pics you see are from my personal collection. We love those altar boys. Grandma is the tall girl in front of church entrance and the somewhat goofy, albeit almost always cheerful, young man in the surplice is Grandpa, who was the organist at Holy Innocents from the early 1920s to early 1940s. That’s where they met – at Holy Innocents – and there’s a whole wacky courtship story I will save for another time.)

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Easter Sunday Holy Innocents

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Mae Kiernan & Catherine Vail – Holy Innocents c. 1918
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The Demise of St. Paul’s; Demolition for the Empire State Plaza

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Blandina Dudley came from an early Albany Dutch family and married Charles Dudley who eventually became a U.S. Senator from New York State.  When he died, he left her a very wealthy widow, probably one of the richest women in the State in the early 1840s.  She was a woman of great philanthropy. Her greatest achievement was donation of the funds to establish the Dudley Observatory in Albany in 1856, one of the first in the nation.  Her other good works included donation of half of the cost for erecting a new building for the Third Reformed Church on Lancaster Street between Swan and Hawk Streets, to be known as the Dudley Reformed Church.

Since 1837, the church had been at Green and South Ferry Streets, but “frequent floods swept over this section of the city during spring freshets,” and they decided to move to the west, where the filling and grading of the Ruttenkill ravine had recently opened a new and desirable neighborhood.

In May 1861, with construction nearly complete, disaster struck: within two weeks four city banks failed. Funding for the church disappeared, and Third Reformed was forced to abandon the project. They remained on Green Street until 1914, when the congregation moved to 20 Ten Eyck Avenue, where they still worship today.

Third Reformed Church’s tragedy created an opportunity for another city congregation in crisis. St. Paul’s Episcopal was also planning to move up the hill, from its location on South Pearl Street. They had selected a site, hired an architect and obtained funding for a new church, when the same banking crisis destroyed their plans. Because they had already begun negotiations for sale of the old building, the congregation feared that they could become homeless. A year later, they were able to buy the unfinished Dudley Reformed building from the builder, modify it for Episcopal liturgy, and move there by 1864.

St. Paul’s was to worship on Lancaster Avenue for a century, forced to leave when the area was leveled for construction of the South Mall*. The congregation was able to take some of the windows to the new building on Hackett Boulevard, and the New York State Museum rescued the church’s pulpit, but many of the contents of the building were sold at auction.

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The congregation’s pleas to spare St. Paul’s “as a spiritual and aesthetic center in the midst of the new State Building” were rejected by planners. But whenever we walk through the Empire State Plaza, we envision the former Dudley Reformed Church building, neatly tucked between Agency Buildings 3 and 4.

  • St. Paul’s was one of  4 churches demolished  to construct the Empire State Plaza; the others were St. Sophia’s Greek Orthodox Church (which re-built on WHitehall Rd.);  the Church of the Assumption) which re-built in Latham and  the First Methodist Church, whose congregation with Trinity Methodist in Albany on Lark St.

By Paul Nance from his blog, Grains Once Scattered

Child’s Hospital

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Child’s Hospital in 1884. The tall building in the background is St. Agnes’ School. The separate building to the right, and the rear of the main building are parts of St. Margaret’s Home.

Do you remember the fine old building that stood on the northwest corner of Elk and Hawk Streets from 1890 until 1960? If so, you probably also remember that you (or a sibling) were there to have tonsils removed. For Albany children in the first half of the twentieth century, Child’s Hospital was the place for tonsillectomy. In 1950, Child’s set a tonsil-pulling record: 102 pairs in a single month.

The hospital’s name requires some explanation. You might reasonably think it was called Child’s because most of its clients were children, but that is not the case. Nor was it named for a wealthy Mr. or Mrs. Child who endowed it. No, Child’s Hospital was named for the order of Episcopal nuns who ran it from 1874 until 1949: the Sisterhood of the Holy Child Jesus.

The Sisterhood, founded in Albany’s Cathedral of All Saints in 1873, also ran St. Agnes School and St. Margaret’s Home for Babies. All of these institutions were located on the north side of Elk Street, between Hawk and Swan. When it was founded, Child’s Hospital was the only hospital for children between New York, Montreal, Boston and Buffalo. While it was affiliated with the Episcopal diocese, Child’s services were offered without regard to religious affiliation, and many services were offered free of charge. In addition to routine patients, Child’s Hospital also served children who needed long-term care for chronic conditions.

The Sisters’ trio of institutions on the corner of Elk and Hawk began to break up in the 1930s. In 1932, with several of the buildings threatening to slide down into Sheridan Hollow, the diocese offered to sell all three buildings to the State. The State declined that offer, but St. Agnes’ School moved to Loudonville that same year, and St. Margaret’s Home moved to the former Alms House site south of New Scotland Avenue in 1936. The hospital, however, remained on Elk Street until 1959, when the Episcopal diocese again offered to sell the property to the State to build a much-needed parking lot. The State accepted this offered, and the diocese chose to move the hospital near to St. Margaret’s, creating the new Good Samaritan Center off of Hackett Boulevard.

Child’s Hospital closed its Elk Street building in summer 1959, and the building was demolished in August 1960. The new Child’s Hospital, on Hackett Boulevard, received its first patient on October 23, 1961.

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Child’s Hospital, from a watercolor by Edwin W. Becker. The section to the left was the Sisters’ residence. [image courtesy Pruyn Collection, Albany Public Library]