The Public Market in Albany


For most of the 1700s there was one public market location in Albany, on Broadway (known then as Market St.) between Maiden Lane and State St. For most of that century the market was merely a gathering place for vendors and buyers until an actual Market House was built in 1791. But by 1807, as a result of increased traffic and activity on Broadway, the Common Council ordered its removal and established three (3) markets: the North Market (about where the EnCon building is today), the South Market (Broadway between Hamilton St. and Madison Ave.) and the Centre Market near what is now Howard St. and So. Pearl.



DOver time all but the Centre Market fell out of use and the land of the North and South Markets was sold for other purposes. By the mid-1850s, as Albany grew, the public market was pushed back one block behind So. Pearl to Howard and William Streets and most of the vendors were wholesale sellers, crowding out smaller farmers.

As a result, an informal, unsanctioned farmer’s market developed on State St. just below the Capitol. But as construction of the new Capitol advanced during the Gilded Age, this market not only impeded rapidly increasing traffic on State St., but became an embarrassment to the City Fathers. Additionally, it was unregulated and there were complaints about hucksters and unfair dealings with buyers.



By 1884 a new municipal public market (for primarily farmers) was opened adjacent to the old market between Hudson, Beaver, and Daniel Streets.



In 1891, the J.B. Lyon Printing Co. constructed a large building at the back of the market and it became known as Lyon Block.




During the early part of the 20th century, as a result of the influx of immigrants as buyers and vendors (many small truck gardens and farms ringed the City), the public market was thriving, crowded every day and generating revenue for the City.

In the mid-1930s it was expanded down to Grand St. as part of a Depression public works project. It was about the same time Lyon Co. moved to Menands and mostly discount stores came to occupy the building.

By the 1950s the market space was used primarily for parking on week days and was really only busy on Saturdays, generating little revenue, as customs changed and people did most of their shopping in large bright and new shiny supermarkets. In 1962, the market and much around it was targeted as part of the “take area” for the new Empire State Plaza. By 1964 the market and the old Lyon Building were gone. And soon, all traces of a public market in Albany vanished.



Copyright 2021 Julie O’Connor

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