Wednesday, November 04, 2009

Along The Waterfront

Albany is the last navigable port on the Hudson River north of New York City. Ocean-going vessels dock in Albany: cargo and military. Passenger ships used to ply the waters between Albany and New York, but no more.

The Hudson, looking south from a public dock at the waterfront park.

The Erie Canal begins here and, when it was new, it was the gateway to the interior of the United States. Then the railroads came and the canal's importance diminished. There's not a lot left of the old waterfront, once bustling with ships heading south and lumber coming down from the north. In the 1960's, when the Hudson was polluted and nobody wanted anything to do with the river, a huge freeway was built along the waterfront effectively cutting the city off from the water.

Looking north toward the Adirondacks.

In recent years, as the Hudson became clean again, citizens renewed their interest in the shoreline. But the freeway is a huge scar and barrier, and it's not going anywhere. City leaders built a waterfront park and a big pedestrian bridge to cross the freeway. They added public docks and some tourist attractions. It's better than nothing and gives folks some limited access to the river right downtown.

The tower of the old Delaware & Hudson Railroad building, now headquarters of the State University of New York.

I enjoy walking around down there, around the tiny streets that once hustled and bustled in the nineteenth century city. It was a town of big politics, big commerce, gambling and gangsters, and all the glamor and grit that went with it. Albany was a big town back then, and growing. There's not much left to remind us of those days. It's a very different city now, older and worn, tired, quiet.

A glimpse of the state capitol on the left; a church spire on the right.

The old downtown train station was closed in 1968 and what little railroad activity that remained was relocated to the left bank of the Hudson. The historic turn-of-the-century building was subsequently saved and converted into a bank in the mid-1980s.

Albany Union Station (center) now cut off from the rails and the river by an interstate highway.

Suburbanization in the 1950s and 60s took a lot of the middle class population out of town. With them went the stores and the restaurants, the jobs and the offices, the hustle and the bustle. But the old town is not dead, and there are signs of life to be seen, if you look carefully.


  1. Isn't it interesting how much of the older buildings reflect our European heritage?

  2. Interestingly "Starman", as I was reading and looking at the pictures I wast thinking "this doesn't look at all like France".
    I have never been to Albany or New York State but I remember that Walt once wrote that if he would have to come back to live in the States again, it would be Albany. I wonder Walt if you still feel that way. I realize that your family and a lot of your friends live in this area, so that would influence your choice.

  3. I have such fond memories of my very first time in Albany last October. The colors, the buildings, the whole thing.....and your pictures have reminded me of that trip.

  4. I've never seen Albany, but I always like a waterfront and old (by U.S. standards) stone buildings :)

    p.s. Is the World Series over yet? *LOL*

  5. Nadège, if we did have to go back to the States for some reason — if the dollar really crashes, for example — I think I'd rather live in or near Albany than in the so-called Sun Belt. The south has been so over-developed and over-built, and I would want to live with air-conditioning. Upstate New York is just beautiful.

  6. Walt, I have such great memories of Albany. It was great to see the silent city again.


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