Sunday, November 15, 2009

Behind The Plaza

When the Empire State Plaza was built, a large section of old Albany was destroyed. But the neighboring streets and their houses remind us of what was lost. After the plaza was done, and through the 1980s and 1990s, a lot of the area west of the plaza, between it and Washington Park, underwent a renaissance of sorts.

Brownstone row houses, renovated and lived in.

Many of the old townhouses were rehabilitated and people started moving back into downtown. Many of the buildings became law offices or housing for legislative staff from other parts of the state. But still, the buildings were being preserved. My Aunt Jean bought and lived in one of these houses for a few years in the 1980s.

Brick townhouses on a side street.

The main street through this neighborhood is Lark Street. Just outside of the historic downtown, a section of Albany's north-south streets are named for birds. There's Hawk, Dove, Eagle, Swan, Robin, Quail, Partridge, and Lark, to name some. Lark became the focal point of this reinvented neighborhood.

Beautiful stone stoops and wrought iron railings line this street.

Shops and restaurants popped up along Lark, as did several gay bars. Albany's Gay and Lesbian Community Center is located nearby, as is an office of Planned Parenthood (which has been there for at least thirty years now). The neighborhood has declined again recently, and is a shadow of its recently former self.

State Street townhouses facing Washington Park.

But the fact that the buildings and townhouses have been preserved is a good thing. The neighborhood will come back again, I'm sure. Evidence of this is the renewal program now under way in an adjacent neighborhood along Madison Avenue, between Washington Park and the Medical Center. New residential development is under construction as is the same kind of preservation of old buildings that happened on Lark Street.

A Lark Street intersection, paved with old cobbles.

It's all very good, as far as I'm concerned. In these times, with the rising cost of energy, good comfortable city living needs to be available as an alternative to the high cost suburban model. We need to learn to live well in cities again. And the old northeastern cities are ripe for redevelopment and renewal.


  1. I have really been enjoying your picture tour and history of Albany. It has caused me to look at our city in a different way and your photos bring out a beauty I miss most of the time through my own eyes. I can't lie and say, given the chance, I wouldn't leave for a better brighter place, but I also have to admit there is a beauty and charm to Albany if you know where to look, despite the feeling that it seems to be gasping for breath and struggling to survive and thrive.Thanks for showing me my home in a different light.

  2. I can say the same thing about the city of St. Louis, Sean-- that you have to know where to look. I wonder if it's the same in most of the mid-size "big" cities in our country. Our city is so spread out, and there are large residential areas that are really run down, but, there are also many large pockets that are continually being renovated, and are appreciated by large groups of folks.

    Walt, great posts! Honestly, you've done such a great job of showcasing all that seems to be right with Albany-- they ought to hire you to put together their website, or a brochure :))


  3. Such a perfect area. So pretty, charming, and all of that. I hate when these nice areas get overrun, not taken care of, and the money that used to be there disappears.

  4. Albany looks very attractive in your photos. Not down-at-heel at all.

  5. WOW!! Beautiful shots, as usual. Reminds me of Dublin! Take care, Leese

  6. sean, I'm glad you're liking it. And I really appreciate your comment, since that's exactly why I like to take and share pictures. No two people see things the same way!

    judy, if only! ;)

    alewis, it does make us kind of sad. It's worse when they're places you've know for a while.

    jean, I suppose I should do the flip side and take pictures of the groady stuff. Maybe next trip.

    leesa, thanks! Welcome back!

  7. Looks really cute. It almost has a European look about it.

  8. evol, very northeastern US. Washington DC is full of neighborhoods like this.


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