Category Archives: Albany

The Wellington Hotel and Its Musical Owner

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We’ve shown the top postcard before, but thought it would be nice to put together these three postcard views of Albany’s famous Wellington Hotel, the longest survivor of the grand hotel era in the Capital City. It started as a small hostelry on State Street with only 17 rooms, when it was bought in 1911 by a musician who had played in hotels and on steamboats and then decided to try his hand at the hotel business. That was Claude J. Holding, who expanded the Wellington to 200, then to 400 rooms. His July 24, 1949 obituary in the Times-Union said that ‘”he gained wide recognition when he established the first ‘built-in’ garage in this section of the country. The innovation permits hotel guests to enter an elevator immediately upon leaving their cars.”

The expansion of the Wellington was big news in 1914, with the Times-Union saying it would compare favorably with the classiest apartment hotels in New York city. “It will be one of the most modern apartment hotels in the country, lighted throughout with electricity, equipped with electrical elevators and with running hot and cold water in every room. The breakfast and tea room which will be situated on the main floor of the Howard st. part of the building will be elaborately decorated and elegantly furnished and will be one of the daintiest and most attractive places for dinners in Albany and vicinity. The present dining room will be converted into the offices of the hotel. The present reception room will be altered and redecorated. There will be an elevator in the new and old parts of the building. The aim has been to make the hotel strictly fire proof in every detail. In the Howard st. part there will be 103 rooms, and 50 additional rooms will be afforded by the ‘L’ making the total number of rooms in the hotel about 200.”

Claude J. HoldingClaude was the son of a famed orchestra leader named Willis Holding, who was the music master at the Ten Eyck Hotel; Claude started playing with his father’s orchestra before he was 12. He played violin and viola on the steamboats between Albany and Kingston, and studied under Richard Arnold, master of the New York Philharmonic, who made Holding a member of the Arnold Sextet. He was a member of theater and operatic orchestras and “played in the band at performances of Maude Adams when she starred in ‘The Little Minister.’” While he gave up the music profession for hoteling, he did continue to conduct the YMCA orchestra for many years.

Claude was also active as a founder and president of the Albany Society Council, trustee of National Savings Bank, president of the Albany Auto Club, member of the Chamber of Commerce, legislative chairman of the New York State Hotel Association, director of the New York State Chamber of Commerce, director of the American Automobile Association, and member of the Fort Orange Club. He was 74 when he died. One of his sons, Reynolds Holding, took over after that, and eventually sold out to the Carter hotel syndicate,  “a chain outfit from New York,” as columnist Edgar Van Olinda put it.

After endless stops and starts to redevelop the Wellington and its neighboring buildings, the Berkshire Hotel and the Elks Lodge, the Wellington and its annex were finally taken down, leaving only its facade fronting a new development. The site is now taken up by a parking garage for the Renaissance Hotel, which is what they’re calling the DeWitt Clinton these days. The garage survived on Howard Street until very recently, but was finally demolished to make room for the new Capital Center.

Wellington Hotel Street ViewOn the left side of this Street View you can see the reworked facade of the Wellington, not quite the same as in its glory days, but way better than it was for many years.


Lincoln Park Pool

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Lincoln Park Swimming PoolA grand view of Albany’s Lincoln Park swimming pool. As the city grew, the old public baths proved insufficient to meet the need, and in the 1920s there were some short-term stabs at providing swimming facilities, including the Rocky Ledge wading pool and what appears to have been a swimming tank in Lincoln Park. By 1930, this rather grander pool was completed, and it has remained in operation ever since. From the Albany Group Archive, another view, from its opening year:
Lincoln Park Swimming Pool  July 4 1931  albany ny 1930s

The Delaware and Hudson Building (and Evening Journal)

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D&H building at night
On the one hand, this is such a common Albany view that we hardly think about it. On the other hand, who gets tired of looking at the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Building, the headquarters of what was once one of Albany’s great railroads? And on the third hand, it’s the D&H Building at night, with the trolley loop in front of it, The Plaza, ringed in trees and lights. This was architect Marcus T. Reynolds’s crowning achievement, completed in sections starting in 1914-15 and finally done in 1918. The structure to the right is actually the Albany Evening Journal building, built for the newspaper founded by Thurlow Weed in 1830 but which would only last until 1925. The photograph is a little fanciful in its lack of trolley tracks, or trolleys. Everyone who remembers that they shipped off to war from this building is, unfortunately, wrong – although there was a freight terminal just north of it behind Dean Street, this was never a railroad station, just a rather grand office building.

The building the D&H occupied prior to this one still stands on North Pearl Street.

Another undated card from the Tichnor Collection at


The Court of Appeals

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Still mining the Tichnor Collection from, with this lovely postcard view of the New York State Court of Appeals building on Eagle Street, just north of City Hall, across Pine Street. For those not familiar, this is the highest court in New York State’s court system (those imbued with common sense are usually surprised to find that state Supreme Courts are the lowest level of state court — but are supreme over local courts). This stretch of Eagle Street is just a touch off the main routes, and some people are surprised to find this and the county courthouse (just visible to the left) tucked away in a quiet setting across from Academy Park.

Originally, this was built as the State Hall. State courts then were housed in the Capitol (the old one). Besides the much smaller old Capitol, the State also had offices in the Old State Hall at the corner of Lodge and State. Lack of space to a push for a new ace and concern about fire destroying records led to the push for construction of this new State Hall, and local architect Henry Rector was commissioned to design this building, which opened in 1842. (Time has been unkind to Rector’s work, with the only other surviving example being a row of houses on Westerlo Street in the Pastures.) It originally housed the state chancellor, Register of Chancery, the clerk of the Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court, as well as the attorney general, the auditor, Erie Canal appraisers and commissioners, the comptroller, and the state engineer and surveyor-general. The Court of Appeals remained in the Capitol, and stayed there when the new one was built as well. However, a need for better court space led to a renovation and the Court of Appeals moved in in 1917. A second, much more extensive renovation, was completed in 1959, including a replacement dome and rebuilt foundation. Another round of renovations took place beginning in 2001, again replacing structural elements of the dome, but this time also adding on to the building.

In Waite’s “Albany Architecture,” Anthony Opalka writes that the marble for the building was quarried by inmates at Sing Sing Prison, down the Hudson River at Ossining.


Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception

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Cathedral Immaculate ConceptionThis postcard view, likely from the 1930s or so like the others we’ve been showing, shows the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception in Albany, on Eagle Street at the southwest corner with Madison Avenue. While of course there is no Cultural Education Center towering over it from behind, there’s an amount of license in showing a cleared grassy area up Madison Avenue, because in fact that stretch of Madison was packed with the usual three-story Albany row buildings, as you can see:

madison and eagle 1920s albany ny (Cathedral of the Immaculate conception of left)

Construction began on the cathedral and the cornerstone was laid in 1848, with the dedication in 1852. it was designed by Irish immigrant Patrick Keely, who designed something like 500 churches, many in the industrial towns of the northeast. Reportedly, it was only the second cathedral dedicated in New York (St. Patrick’s in NYC being the first). The Troy Daily Times reported on the dedication:

Solemn Dedication of the Albany Cathedral

According to previous arrangement, this imposing ceremony came off on Sunday, and was deeply interesting. It commenced about 9 o’clock A.M. There were two Archbishops, five Bishops and about one hundred Priests who officiated on the occasion.

The dedicatory service was performed by Archbishop Hughes, of New York. The clergy formed in procession from the two Sacristies on either side of the grand altar, and passed through the middle aisles to the front of the Cathedral outside, where the ceremony properly commenced.

After the appropriate prayers with the first blessing of the New Edifice were ended, the procession moved round the whole edifice, the clergy chanting the Miserere, and the dedicating Archbishop sprinkling the Cathedral with holy water as the procession moved round – using the prayers appropriate for the occasion.

Returning to the place in front of the Cathedral, the Solemn Entry was made. After the Archbishop had three times knocked at the gates of the main entrance, the clergy sang the Litany of the Saints, emblematic of the solemn entry into Heaven – the Temple not made by the hands of men …

During the Pontifical Mass, Archbishop Hughes took his throne, where he sat with this attendants until after the gospel, when he took off his mitre and cape, and ascended the pulpit, (also but temporarily erected,) in front of the sanctuary … He first alluded to the disappointment in the absence, by unexpected sickness, of the Archbishop Purcell, of Cincinnati, who was to have preached the dedication sermon, whose place he was now unexpectedly to fill.

He complimented the congregation at the early completion of so noble a structure, and quoted it as an evidence of the zeal and influence of their first Bishop, and his venerable clergy, and of the union also that existed betweeen the pastors and the flock.

He also highly complimented the architect and builders, and made allusions to the Right Reverend Bishops of Montreal, Bogota, etc,. who had honored the occasion with their presence …

This imperfect and hurried sketch does nothing like justice to the grand occasion, or eloquent extemporaneous discourse in any way, but may give an idea of the imposing solemnity of the occasion, and of the  joy that seemed to fill all hearts. There were present about from 4000 to 5000 people. Service will hereafter take place regularly at the Cathedral Church.

Dedication, as was often the case, did not mean completion; the spires were not complete in 1852, and the chancel had not been built. The north tower was completed in 1862, and, appropriately, Meneely bells from West Troy were hung. The south spire didn’t come until 1888.

While the cathedral was outside the area that was taken for the Empire State Plaza, its parishioners were not.  In addition to robbing the church of a neighborhood to serve, it is reported that the years of construction next door did damage to the cathedral building and rendered its pipe organ unusable. The cathedral did survive, however, and extensive renovations took place in the first decade of this century, with a reopening of the church in 2010.

The Capitol’s Grand Staircase

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Capitol Grand StaircaseAnother postcard from the Tichnor Collection at “The Grand Staircase” is something of an understatement – this is the New York State Capitol’s Great Western Staircase, also (and probably better) known as The Million Dollar Staircase. But, of course, it cost much more than that, at an estimated $1.5 million. With 444 steps (which Hoxsie used to climb with regularity, for both business and pleasure), it took 14 years to complete, making it one of the speedier parts of the Capitol’s construction. This postcard really doesn’t begin to do it justice, though it does seem to show it in a time when it was still naturally lit by skylight (which it is once again, but with electric lights as well). The stonecarvers were given tremendous license, and as a result it is one of the most incredibly ornamented structures you will see on this continent. If you’ve never seen it, just go inside and look – you don’t need to be on a tour to wander the Capitol freely (though there are now metal detectors at the doors). If you can’t, take a look at this collection of photos from Northeast Architecture.

The Post Office and Courthouse

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Post Office, Albany, NYThis postcard from the Tichnor Collection shows what was once known as the “new” post office in downtown Albany. According to the Federal General Services Administration, a new post office was first authorized in 1930 with a $3.325 million allocation “to purchase a site and construct a new federal building in Albany, New York, to house a post office, courthouse, and custom house.” The following year, this site on the corner of Broadway and Maiden Lane was chosen, which necessitated the demolition of a number of buildings on Broadway and Dean Street (which technically still runs behind the building). The new structure was designed by local firm Gander, Gander & Gander in 1931, and the cornerstone was laid August 18, 1933. The building opened in 1934. “The building had an exterior bridge connecting the nearby rail station with the post office, which occupied the entire first two floors” – meaning not Union Station, but the freight warehouse of the Delaware and Hudson Railroad, which was located on Dean Street adjacent to the D&H Headquarters. The building was known as the Post Office or the Courthouse, depending on why you were going there, for many years until 1988 when the building, already on the National Register of Historic Places, was named in honor of James T. Foley, the son of a politically connected cockfighting promoter, who served as a federal court judge for 40 years.


The building is an understated Art Deco beauty. As the GSA website says,

The facade, which faces west on Broadway, contains two entrances, each topped with an eagle that is more than eight feet tall and carved from a seventeen-ton Vermont marble block by New York City sculptor Albert T. Stewart, who also received the commission for the building’s frieze. Artist Benjamin Hawkins created ornate aluminum screens titled Departments of Government located behind the eagles. The screens contain stylized motifs representing the Departments of Navy, Agriculture, Labor, Army, Post Office, Commerce and Revenue, as well as images of the courts, thirteen stars representing the original colonies, and the New York state seal. A bas-relief frieze encircles the building on three elevations: the west facade contains images of postal service activities, the north elevation shows customs duties, and the south elevation illustrates the mission of the courts. To make the carvings visible to street-level viewers, Stewart created figures approximately eight feet tall and executed at a depth of nearly three inches.

Typical of the Art Deco style, the architects designed an opulent interior. Six marble types, including St. Genevieve Golden Vein, Rose, Champlain Black, Eagle Grey Tennessee, Eagle Pink Tennessee, and Verde Antique, are used on the richly appointed interior walls and floors. Ceilings are ornate plaster with medallions and stepped molding covered with aluminum leaf. Entrance vestibules lead to public lobbies with marble walls. Marble mosaic medallions are inset in the north and south lobby floors. A gilded plaster ceiling medallion of the United States Seal is centered in the lobby and framed by step moldings covered with aluminum leaf and gold stars.

Marble pilasters divide the main lobby into nine bays, each articulated with a ceiling mural. Artist Ethel M. Parsons painted the oil-on-canvas murals in 1935, depicting each of the seven continents as well as the North Pole and the United States. Interspersed with the murals are plaster plaques by Italian artist Enea Biafora Portraying famous Americans, including Abraham Lincoln, Benjamin Franklin, and George Washington, as portrayed on the earliest U.S. postage stamps. With the exception of the murals, the ceiling is covered with aluminum leaf. Four original black marble writing desks are centered in the main lobby.

Throughout the building, in both public and private spaces, intricate wood inlay designs adorn the ceiling and wall trim. Each of the five floors contains two elevator lobbies with adjacent public staircases. The stairs have treads and landings of Eagle Grey Tennessee marble with Champlain black marble risers. Cast-aluminum railings, also designed by Biafora, contain stylized motifs related to the functions of the building, including an airplane and scales of justice.

The murals are probably what most of us miss most about easy access to the building’s lobby – there were worth the trip. The post office left the building in 1995, with most of its sorting functions transferred out to the suburbs and the remaining functions accommodated by a joyless little space on the bottom floor of a parking garage on Hudson Street, which no one looks forward to going to.

Maiden Lane below Broadway 1930s albany ny

In this view, looking east down Maiden Lane, the bridge to the D&H freight terminal is visible, an essential feature from a time when much intercity mail traveled by rail.

The Capitol Flag Room – or, War Room

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Capitol Flag Room, or War RoomThis postcard, also from the Tichnor Collection at, depicts what was then called the Flag Room of the New York State Capitol in Albany. Even when this postcard was made, it doesn’t appear that battle flags were on display here … they may have already been moved out into the eastern entry hall  to the Capitol, where they suffered for decades. Some have now been conserved. In Hoxsie’s memory, this space was always called the War Room, so named for its ceiling murals depicting significant conflicts in New York’s history. Like the flags it once held, this space suffered mightily for a long time, essentially consigned to use as a storage space until it was restored during Governor Pataki’s administration. It is now used for various historical exhibits and is officially designated as the Governor’s Reception Room, but we’re not buying that moniker.

We’d love to know what the marker on the pedestal used to say. It’s not quite legible in any of the versions of this postcard that we’ve been able to find.

Looking Up State Street

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Looking up State StreetWe’re not sure of the date of this postcard, probably somewhere in the 1930s, but what’s interesting is how little has changed. The Plaza in the immediate foreground no longer extends State Street around the area where buses and trolleys congregated, and the Hotel Ten Eyck, the tall building halfway up the hill on the right, has been replaced by the Hilton Hotel tower. The tall tower behind the low buildings on Broadway is still there.  Of course, a couple of other newer skyscrapers would now block the view up the hill a bit from here, but the major figures are still there. On the right, what was called the Federal Building and the Post Office (which it was before it moved into the adjacent building on Broadway) still stands, freshly cleaned we’re told, and is part of the SUNY headquarters, which also took over the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Building from which this view was made. Just beyond that, on the other side of Broadway, with the curved front and dome is the First Trust Company Building, showing the design of Marcus Reynolds from about 1904.

On the left, a row of commercial buildings that still stands today. The corner building is best known as the long-time home of Coulson’s newsroom. The two buildings to the left were locations for a paint business called Stoneman’s – the big oval sign proclaims “Country Gentleman Paints.” They started as a sailmaker and ship’s chandler named Matthew G. Stoneman in 1848. They also went by the name “Painteria.” To the far left, across the small opening of Beaver Street stands the Argus Building, once home to Albany’s Argus newspaper and general printer/publisher. Up the hill, on the left side of State Street you can see the lovely top of the Municipal Gas Company building. And, of course, straight up State Street, the Capitol, beyond which is the Alfred E. Smith State Office Building (which helps date this as post-1930).

Paul Nance provided us with some interesting history on the tall block of ugly on the left side of the card, The Beaver (so named for its location on Beaver Street, one can hope). He said, “Another significant change since the 1930s is the absence of 9 Beaver, the 13-floor brick hulk on the left side of the image. The so-called Spite Building had no access to the top three floors (“elevator plan to be submitted later,” according to the architectural plans), since their only purpose was to block the view from the Hampton Hotel’s rooftop garden. Notice the light showing through the top floors: the opening were windowless, providing a home for pigeons. The building was finally demolished in 1969.”

(As before, this postcard comes from the Tichnor Collection at

Another very similar postcard from the same era is in the AlbanyGroup Archive.

The Dunn Memorial Bridge

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Dunn Memorial BridgeHoxsie’s going to show you some pretty pictures for a little while. We came across a huge trove of local picture postcards from the Tichnor Collection at, a Bay State resource that knows no borders, apparently. This is a lovely print of the “new” Dunn Memorial Bridge connecting Albany and Rensselaer, in its lifted position to allow one of the Hudson River Day Liners (presumably) through.

We’ve written about the Dunn a number of times before, of course. It was first proposed to replace the Greenbush bridge in 1927, when the original bridge was 45 years old, and its draw span was considered a hindrance to the growing traffic coming up the river and needing to cross from Rensselaer. For a minute, there was talk of a tunnel. But it wasn’t to be, and on August 19, 1933, a new bridge, still with a lift span to accommodate river traffic, was opened – the practical steel bridge you see here. It remained the only motor vehicle crossing at Albany until 1968, when the Patroon Island Bridge opened. This Dunn Memorial was replaced by the next new Dunn Memorial Bridge in 1971.

A few details from the postcard. This, of course, is the Delaware and Hudson Railroad Building, the headquarters (not a station) of the venerable railroad, and now the headquarters of SUNY.
Here, the Cathedral of the Immaculate Conception, not yet shadowed or dwarfed by buildings of the Empire State Plaza. The Alfred E. Smith State Office Building appears prominently, with the roof of the Capitol visible just past the ship’s smokestack. In reality, there would have been smoke. Everywhere.

As a reminder, the Dunn Memorial is named for Albany’s other Congressional Medal of Honor winner, Private Parker Dunn of Morton Avenue, who was awarded the Medal of Honor posthumously after the First World War. Here’s his citation:

“When his battalion commander found it necessary to send a message to a company in the attacking line and hesitated to order a runner to make the trip because of the extreme danger involved, Pfc. Dunn, a member of the intelligence section, volunteered for the mission. After advancing but a short distance across a field swept by artillery and machinegun fire, he was wounded, but continued on and fell wounded a second time. Still undaunted, he persistently attempted to carry out his mission until he was killed by a machinegun bullet before reaching the advance line.”