Everyone knows (and if you don’t, you should) that the massive, beautiful SUNY Administration building sprawled across the plaza along Broadway at State Street was, when built in 1915 by Marcus Reynolds, the headquarters of the Delaware and Hudson (D&H) railroad. (With a little bit of Evening Journal headquarters thrown in.) But fewer than twenty years before that, the D&H occupied far less capacious quarters at the corner of North Pearl Street and Steuben Place. The building still stands, right across from the Steuben Athletic Club.
In 1891, Brandow Publishing’s “The New Albany” gushed about the new D&H building. “Comparisons may be odious, but people will make them for all that, and the policy of the D.&H. stands in striking contrast with at least one other road which enters this city, and enriches itself at our expense. . . Whenever opportunity offered, its officers have come forward cheerfully and willingly to assist in a substantial manner any enterprise likely to benefit the city of Albany.” It’s unlikely that little poke at the New York Central caused Cornelius Vanderbilt to spit out his caviar in anger, but there’s no question the D.&H. ultimately left a bigger legacy in the capital city.
“One of the most striking instances of its enterprise and public spirit . . . is shown in the erection of a building for the general offices of the company . . . directly opposite the elegant structure of the Young Men’s Christian Association, and on one of the most conspicuous and commanding sites in the city.” The railroad had its sights set on Broadway, near the steamboat landing, but could not make it work, and the YMCA found itself needing to sell this property in order to start the Harmanus Bleecker Library.
“Such a building would be a credit to and attract favorable attention in any city in the state. Its erection is warranted at this time by the fact that the present quarters of the company, on Maiden Lane, are entirely inadequate, their business having increased four-fold within the past decade, and bidding fair to increase as much more before the close of the century. The ever growing popularity of the summer resorts to which this road is the only route, the development of the Dominion of Canada, and its inevitable closer connections with the commercial interests of the United States; the sure and steady demand for the great coal product of Pennsylvania – these are factors which denote, with absolute certainty, the successful future of the D.&H.”
The writer predicted that the new building would stand “forever as a monument to the enterprise and progressive spirit of a great railroad corporation.” No question those words would apply, but not to this nearly forgotten building along Pearl Street. Just so, it wasn’t long before those same factors of success would render this handsome pile wholly inadequate, and the D.&H. would turn again to the site on Broadway they had originally fancied, resulting in one of Albany’s most distinctive landmarks.