Saturday, November 07, 2009

More From Downtown

This is not meant to be an inventory of Albany's building stock, but I can't resist taking pictures of the buildings around town. Many of them are pretty, others are the backdrops of memories. Albany was the first city in my life and while it's not the biggest, brightest, or most beautiful of the cities I've come to know, it will always have a special place in my heart.

The Home Savings Bank building, erected in 1927.

I suppose home towns are like that. You either can't imagine being anywhere else or you can't wait to get out. I'm somewhere in the middle. I couldn't wait to get out, either, but I've always come back to visit. And I visit as much with the place as I do with the people I come to see.

A window washer at work.

Whenever I'm here, I have to go downtown and walk around. I will drive to certain neighborhoods just to see them, how they've changed or how they haven't. I'll walk into building lobbies if I can, go into churches that I've never set foot in (which is harder and harder to do because they're mostly locked up against vandals these days).

A downtown corner deli.

I like getting off the freeways and taking the old roads through the former industrial areas of Albany and the neighboring cities like Watervliet, Cohoes, and Troy. Many of the old factories, armories, and mills are still standing. Some are empty, others are in use. And the old brick houses still stand and serve. Apartments, row houses, mansions. All in various states of repair or ruin, most still lived in by somebody.

The old and the (relatively) new.

My training in architecture and city planning probably have a lot to do with the way I look at buildings and cities. It's been my observation that a bad economy can be good for a city, at least in the short term. Fast development will wreak havoc with an urban place. In the rush to build, a city can lose its identity. Buildings, streets, and neighborhoods can change drastically or even disappear altogether.

Contrasting window styles.

It's happened here, but to a much lesser extent than larger eastern and southern cities (we'll talk about the big downtown state office building project from the 60s and 70s later). Maybe one day these older, smaller cities will have their renaissance. Maybe one day climate change and the changing energy situation will make these northeastern river towns viable again. They're still here, waiting.


  1. I've really enjoyed your posts on Albany. Your love for the place shows. I've only ever driven through but maybe next time I'll stop and visit for a spell.

  2. Albany looks quite interesting.

    One of the disappointments of Sydney is how few of the older Central Business District buildings have been retained.

  3. My hometown was situated in such a way that, depending on which direction I took, in two hours I could be in New York or Washington or Atlantic City.

  4. tornwordo, thanks! I don't think Albany can compete with Montréal, though. ;)

    victor, it is amazing to me that we frequently have to fight to preserve some things, be they buildings, parks, or animal species.

    starman, that sounds like it might be somewhere near Philadelphia...

  5. Delaware, Actually. New Castle.


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